One of the biggest questions that fitness professionals get is, “why am I still fat?” This question is often followed by, “I’ve done this, this, and this, but I’m still fat.” The thing about fat is that it’s not easily fooled. It knows you and has been with you your entire life. You’re not going to be able to trick it into going away. Fat loss takes time and consistency—weeks and months strung together in order to get results. What I want to talk to you about today specifically in regards to fat loss is “the exchange.” This is the “if I do this during my workout, then I can treat myself to this after my workout.”
I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but there is no exchange.
Let’s say that you do cardio for forty-five minutes and burn 400 calories, but afterwards, you go and have your favorite number-two at a fast food restaurant. That’s 680 calories that you’re putting in, for a net gain of 280 calories. This is why the exchange doesn’t work.
So often I hear people say “that’s why I do this—so that I can have this.” Unfortunately, what you do in the gym will have little to no effect on your ability to cheat with your food. However, a good diet will have a profound effect on your training, your recover from workouts, and the amount of energy that you have. You can’t out-train a bad diet.
Let’s just look at a couple of things: Many people amp up their cardio workouts when they are trying to lose weight. Cardio workouts were never intended to make you lose weight. The goal of these workouts is to make your heart and lungs stronger. Because of what these workouts do to your metabolism, there is a calorie burning effect. However, this doesn’t mean that you can go out and eat and drink whatever you want. The calorie burning effect that you get from a cardio workout is not enough for significant fat loss or body composition change. And for this reason, you can’t use a cardio workout to make up for bad food choices. You just have to work on having better habits. The habits that got you where you are will not get you where you want to go. Just doing cardio or running won’t fix it, especially as we get older.
We need to replace the bad habits with good habits that will allow us to reach our goals.
The next thing I want to look at is weight workouts. It doesn’t matter if they are done slow and methodically, or as a metabolic workout with little to no rest. At the end of the day, the goal of weight workouts is to build muscle and gain strength. A byproduct of these workouts is that it takes more calories to maintain and move muscle around. By the same token, muscle is dense, so it takes up less space on your body. You will look smaller compared to someone who weighs the same but has less muscle than you and more fat. So while weight workouts will change the way you look, you can’t expect these workouts to counteract bad food choices.
The big point to all of this is that change is difficult and it takes work. Fitness is no different. I’m not saying that you can’t drink, but a glass or two of wine every night probably won’t help you out if you really want to get lean. Going out to restaurants is nice, but going multiple times a day and letting someone else have control of your calories is probably not a recipe for success. In order to achieve the goal of losing weight or getting leaner, and staying that way, you need to have that moment where you say “I’m not going to live like this anymore.” That’s when you will start to make lasting change. Commit to making a change and making new habits, instead of sticking with “the exchange,” which leads nowhere.