A common mistake made when trying to lose weight is focusing only on exercise and not on diet. What you eat makes a huge difference in weight loss and maintenance. In order to lose weight, you must be in a calorie deficit (take in less calories then you need to maintain your body weight.) I often hear clients, friends, and family complain that they have started exercising and end up gaining weight. How frustrating!
If you run or have tried to run, you know the time and energy it takes to run a 5K, 10K, half marathon, or marathon. Running a mile burns on average 100 calories.
Here are some examples of how much food you could eat to equal the calories burned at a race:
5K (3.1 miles): 2 Reese’s peanut butter cups and 1 cup of 1% milk (310 calories)
10K (6.2 miles): An order of cheese quesadillas and 1 lite beer (620 calories)
Half marathon (13.1 miles): A thick burger, medium French fry, and 20 ounce regular soda (1310 calories)
Marathon (26.2 miles): 5 slices of supreme pizza and 20 ounce regular soda (2620 calories).
Do you see how easily you can overeat and surpass your calorie needs while exercising? Do not view your new exercise regimen as a free pass to eat whatever you like. You need to eat healthy foods and watch your portion of splurge foods. If you are trying to lose weight and you exercise enough to burn 300 calories but then consume 300 calories as a reward, you will not lose any weight even though you are moving more.
Tips to keep your diet in check:
- Eat every 3-4 hours. Do not go too long without eating and end up overeating due to extreme hunger.
- Keep a food record. Write down everything you put in your mouth. You can use online food journals at www.sparkpeople.com or www.fitday.com to help you count calories.
- Eat healthy foods. Fill up on low calorie fruits and vegetables. When you have a splurge food, keep the portion size small (a fudgescicle vs. a bowl of ice cream for example).
- Do not use increased exercise as an excuse to overeat. You are putting time into exercise. Don’t waste that time by eating too much at the end of the day.
Focus on food first for successful weight loss. When you add in exercise, continue to mind your calories. Less food + More Activity = A recipes for success.