6 Truths About Exercise and Weight Loss

Weight loss and weight management are our biggest fitness motivators. Many people are frustrated however; when after months of exercise classes, miles on the treadmill, and lifting the equivalent of the Empire State Building they still haven't lost an ounce. Sure, they're stronger, leaner and look better in their clothes, but the scale hasn't budged. So, what's the truth about exercise and weight loss?

1) Truth: Exercise helps you burn more calories. If you also consume fewer calories, you'll lose weight. That's a mathematical fact, but you have to burn at least 3500 calories to lose one pound.  If the average half-hour spent on the elliptical trainer burns about 350 calories, it will take at least ten half-hour sessions before you lose a pound.  If you're not diligent about consistently burning at a higher rate than you consume, you won't lose weight. Exercise can eventually lead to weight loss, but it takes a lot more exercise than you think.

2) Truth:  Muscle weighs more than fat.  The more you exercise, the more muscle you build.  Eventually, that muscle will replace fat, but muscle mass weighs more than fat.  The more muscle mass you develop, the better tone and muscle definition you'll notice.  You may not see a smaller number on the scale, but you'll probably need a smaller number when it comes to choosing new clothes.

3) Truth: Muscle burns more calories than fat.  A pound of muscle burns about six calories per day during rest.  A pound of fat burns only two.  Once you've worked out long enough to convert five pounds of fat into five pounds of muscle, the difference that muscle will burn is only about 20 calories more per day. That's a little more than the calories in a teaspoon of sugar.  

4) Truth:  The more calories you burn, the more you want to consume.  How often have you said, "I can drink that grande caramel macchiato with whipped cream?"  I just worked out."  That's called exercise compensation - the psychological trick we play on ourselves to justify eating more. If we do that too often, we might as well toss those hard earned, exercise-burned calories straight out the drive-thru window. 

The best way to avoid sabotaging your weight loss efforts is by keeping an honest food journal and calorie count.  Mark down every bite, sip, slurp and nibble.  It all adds up and if you're not careful, they'll add unwanted pounds.

5) Truth:  Exercise makes you calorie-efficient.  The more you exercise, the stronger and more fuel-efficient your muscles become.  They don't need to burn as many calories per workout as they once did to achieve the same goal.  That is, unless you dial up the intensity, duration, distance and weights you use in your fitness routine and switch activities frequently. Keep your muscles guessing and working hard to increase their caloric needs.

6) Truth: There's more to exercise than meets the eye.  Even if you don't see a smaller number on the scale your body still benefits from exercise in ways you can't see.  Your heart, lungs, blood vessels, bones, brain, muscles, nervous and immune systems all work better with regular exercise.  Countless studies prove that exercise does the whole body good.  Watch what you eat and stay true to your fitness goals.