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Extreme Dieting and Endless Cardio is NOT the Road to Being Fit!

November 28, 2016

Hey Ladies! Let’s talk about what you lose out on when eating these low calorie diets!

ONE: You lose out on building muscle.
Guess what, the more muscle or lean mass we have, the more calories we burn!  WHO WANTS TO BURN MORE CALORIES? 

TWO: You lose out on burning fat.
In fact, the more calorie deficit your diet, the more fat you store.  YIKES! 

Here's the deal, if you only have a goal to lose weight, to see the number on the scale move down, you may be misinformed. 

Yes, we can eat very little and move more and you may see the number on the scale move down.   However is this what we are really looking for?  Or, even worse, you can eat very little and move more and NOT see the scale go down like you planned for it to.  

When a new female client comes to see me, there are 3 common goals I hear first.

"I want to lose weight"
"I want arms like yours (meaning, they want muscle definition)
"I want to lower my body fat"

Most of the time, these same ladies think eating a very low calorie diet (sometimes lower than their BMR) and doing a bunch of cardio is the way to go.

Here's where a job as a trainer gets challenging with these folks. We need to change their mindset and change their behavior.  

As females, we need to decide between these two choices:

  1. Would we rather be lean, strong and live a long healthy and vibrant life  OR
  2. Would we rather see a low number on the scale, be "skinny fat" and have no energy to enjoy the beauties of life. 

I CHOOSE A FOR SURE!  I am sure this is what most would choose and what most would want their fitness and nutrition goals to be.  Now we need to educate them on how to get there! 

YOU WILL NOT gain muscle and YOU WILL NOT burn body fat, eating only low calorie diets and only doing cardio. 

Without getting too scientific, muscle is built by tearing down the tissue (strength training) and then repairing and building the tissue with calories that we consume.  The word “calorie” has gotten a bad rep to those trying to lose weight.  Calories are actually a good thing!

Calories as carbs

They provide energy.  Energy necessary to have quality workouts. Such as, lifting weights, interval training and endurance workouts which are all necessary for a balanced fitness routine and a healthy lifestyle.

Calories as protein

Protein is the building block for muscle hypertrophy and repair.  If you are doing strength training and not getting in adequate protein, you will not see the true benefits, nor will you be maximizing on your body’s ability to burn fat.  

Calories as fat

Fat keeps our hormones functioning properly. The hormones, leptin and insulin, come to mind right away.  Both of these hormones control whether our body burns or stores fat. Eating fat, actually helps us burn fat.  Now is also a good time to mention, eating fat is not what makes us fat.  It's the sugar, processed carbs and toxic food that make us fat. 

This brings me back to the BMR I mentioned above.  There is an amount of calories our body burns at rest in a 24 hour period. It is called Basal Metabolic Rate or Resting Metabolic Rate (BMR).  We don’t just burn calories when we move.  There is energy required for the maintenance of normal body functions and homeostasis at rest. We burn calories during processes and functions such as digestion, muscle repair, cell regeneration, organ function and hormone production.   This is where the statement the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn at rest comes from.  There are calculations to determine your RMR or BMR.  I have the opportunity to use an InBody machine to help me guide clients with this number.  This calorie calculation is not always considered to those who are just looking to lose weight.  Without enough calories, our body tends to go into "survival mode" where it holds onto fat to protect itself.

Don't get me wrong, there may be instances where restriction of calories may be more than necessary, say to a fitness competitor or a morbidly obese person.  However, even then it is not a lifestyle, as it is temporary.  

In conclusion, we must focus on what we really want out of our fitness and wellness journey.  We can live a strong, lean life, full of energy or a weak; or a low energy routine that sucks the life out of us.  We need to fuel our bodies appropriately and focus on whole, quality foods that promote muscle and ignite our body into a fat burning machine!

Knowledge is power!

Jane Jakobsen is a NCSF Sport Nutrition Specialist. She got her BA in Kinesiology from Cornell College. Follow Jane on Instagran at  @chiseled1 or like her Facebook page: Chiseled: Your Health and Wellness Advocate.

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