Shedding fat is a great reason to exercise

There are many reasons to exercise: for stress reduction, fun, body sculpting, to gain stability and balance, to limber up, to gain strength, improve in a sport, rehab from an injury, improve your cardio and therefore your health, and the list goes on.

Many people start up an exercise program with the idea to lose body fat. This is a good idea but it can be a little bit tricky because you want to get enough calories to prevent muscle wasting and yet not so many that you store them as additional fat.

One of the most common mistakes that I’ve witnessed in all the years of training people with their exercise and nutrition is that initially people try to starve themselves for fast weight loss. It doesn’t work! You need energy to work out and you will lose more metabolically active tissue — muscle rather than fat doing that approach.

Inadequate calorie consumption also doesn’t allow the body to repair adequately after a workout if somehow you manage to power through on sheer will power.

The timing is the important issue. The calories consumed right before a workout or during a workout will be the ones that are consumed first for energy. This is because that energy is still in the bloodstream or in the muscles and liver where it is readily available. Once that is consumed for energy, the body turns to the fat stores.

So, because an hour workout burns about 400 to 500 calories and if you take in a big sugary drink right before the workout, you really never get to the stored fat reserves.

It is important to ensure that you take in adequate amounts of protein as well. Most people in North America do not have a problem with getting enough protein. The amounts needed for a 150 pound person is only about 3 to 4 ounces of protein in order to avoid muscle loss. The only people who may have difficulty getting this amount are those who are on special diets or sometimes the elderly who may not cook or consume meat or other high protein foods because of the cost or because of the bother.

A sensible amount of fat to lose in a week is about two pounds. This means a deficit of 7,000 calories a week or 1,000 a day. How you achieve that deficit is best accomplished by a combination of 500 calories spent on an hour’s workout and a reduction of 500 calories from the diet daily.

Obesity rates in the U.S. have hit new all-time highs. Obesity leads to heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol levels, cancer, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea and gallstones.

So going at this slowly with a view to the long term rather than starving and trying for a quick fix is the approach to take. Making these lifestyle changes will also stick if you go slowly and adopt a lifestyle that you can live with rather than adopting a program that is not sustainable.

Restricting the caloric intake too severely always backfires. Severely restrictive diets can led to muscle loss, dehydration, kidney infections, development of gallstones and loss of periods for young women.

One of the most widely used measures of appropriate weight is the Body Mass Index, or BMI, which is a ratio of your weight to your height. The problem with the BMI is that it doesn’t take into consideration what your body is made out of. Are you heavy because you are fat or are you heavy because you are muscular?

A better way is to get your percent body fat measured by a fitness professional who knows how to take those measurements. Then you know where the fat is and how much is there. Working with a professional to help you set up a tailored program that suits your needs and lifestyle and that takes a sane approach is always the key to long-term success.


Jane Riley is a certified personal trainer, adviser and behavior change specialist. She can be reached or (808) 212-8119 and


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