I just returned from the amazing Fitness & Health Blogger’s Conference (FHBC) and I have so much to share with you (thanks to MeYouHealth for sending me!). Conference attendees, hosted at the beautiful and innovative Anschutz Health and Wellness Center in Aurora, CO, were able to spend hours listening to and asking questions of highly regarded experts. I felt privileged to talk one-on-one with researchers from the University of Colorado Medical Campus about cutting-edge fitness and health information.
While this is a primarily weightlifting blog, I would be remiss to neglect the subjects of weight loss and nutrition. I discuss these here because although some people are obviously strong and fit yet have more body fat and are satisfied with that, many, many people struggle with losing weight. And we know that in order to see muscle definition and become a mean, lean hard body, you need to reduce body fat.
But there’s massive confusion out there about what works. That’s why the expert speakers at FHBC are so passionate about getting the science-based facts out there and hope we bloggers will do that as well. Weight loss and obesity are complex subjects, so here I’ll share what the experts said about calorie reduction and exercise.
Losing the Weight: Calorie Reduction Works
Everyone knows you have to reduce calories to lose weight – energy intake needs to be less than energy expended. But according to Dr. James Hill and Dr. Holly Wyatt, physicians and clinical researchers at The Center for Human Nutrition, University of Colorado School of Medicine, there is a new paradigm – losing weight should be tackled very differently from keeping the weight off.
For weight loss, cutting calories should be your primary focus, according to Hill and Wyatt, instead of trying to exercise it off. It’s been shown that creating an energy deficit of 500 to 1,000 kcals per day is most effective for losing weight. When it comes to losing weight, most people find that cutting 500 kcals per day is easier than burning off 500 calories in an hour of exercise every day. This might be because their level of conditioning is low, plus it’s not a lifestyle to exercise that frequently.
You definitely need exercise to be fit, however, and burning calories during exercise can aid in weight loss. Your best exercise plan for weight loss, according to Dr. Inigo Milan, also a researcher at CU, is to do endurance-type exercise 3 to 4 times per week, resistance training 1 to 2 days per week, and 1 to 2 days off. You can make one of your cardio days an intervals session.
Does what you eat bear any importance in weight loss? If you read any number of diet books you would be led to believe so. But according to Hill and Wyatt, the bottom line is the number of calories you eat, not the composition of your diet. Low-fat diets do work better because people on high-fat diets tend to eat more, but studies show that there is not one particular diet that works any better than another. In fact, the best diet for you is the one you’ll stick to.
Keeping it Off: Exercise is the Star
So how do you keep the weight off? Hill and Watt say that’s where exercise comes in. Dr. Wyatt recommends 60 to 90 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity exercise most days of the week. Sound insane? I thought so too. But Dr. Wyatt points out that most people have trouble maintaining a reduced calorie diet, and that’s why they fail. They may have learned healthier habits while losing (if they took it slow), but continuing a restricted calorie diet is both unpleasant and infeasible for most.
That’s why exercise becomes the crucial component after the weight comes off. Perhaps you won’t need quite that much exercise to maintain your weight after your metabolism has returned to a healthy state. Once your metabolism is healthy you can also eat whatever you want – including carbs – if you continue to exercise. Exercise is the “one thing we can do to fight aging,” according to Dr. Hill, so it can’t be a bad thing to get copious amounts.
What Type of Exercise Works
I asked this question of Dr. Hill and Dr. Wyatt because I was curious about their opinions of the benefits of resistance training (of course). Their response was that it’s the quantity of exercise that’s important, not necessarily the type. Although it’s not clear why, they both said that resistance training is beneficial to weight maintenance, however, so it’s important to integrate 1 to 3 days per week.
My favorite take-away from this discussion was from Dr. Hill: “If anyone tells you weight loss is easy and simple, run the other way.” And Dr. Wyatt added, “Obesity is hard too. Choose your hard.”
Even if you only need to lose 10 pounds, you should understand the science behind what you’re doing. Otherwise you could be setting yourself up to be disappointed, and subsequently, unmotivated if the weight comes back. There’s much to cover when dispelling myths about weight loss – more to come!