On Tuesday, I wrote about weight loss. Specifically, what I learned about the best diet for weight loss at the recent Fitness and Health Bloggers Conference. Today, I’d like to expand on that post and compare it to the very different strategies required for weight loss maintenance. Indeed, weight loss and weight loss maintenance are two very different beasts.
To summarize my previous post;
“To lose weight, worry less about macronutrient composition (fats vs. carbohydrates vs. protein) and more about cutting calories. None of the popular diets are superior to all others when it comes to dropping pounds. Choose a nutritional plan that you can follow until the weight is off. And a little exercise won’t hurt.”
If you read the post, you’ll remember that the focus was on restricting calories, rather than on increasing activity. Of course, movement and exercise are important for other reasons (improved cardiovascular health, injury prevention, mood elevation, to name a few), but for those who have lots of weight to lose, portion control and caloric restriction are key.
To lose weight –>> eat less, move a little
But what about once the excess weight is lost? Should you continue to ‘diet’? Will you need to count calories for the rest of your life? What role should exercise play in the maintenance of weight loss?
According to recent research, exercise is more important than caloric restriction for weight loss maintenance. In order to keep the weight off, you need to incorporate 30-60 minutes of physical activity into your schedule, most days of the week.
Of course, we’re all familiar with the saying “you can’t out train a bad diet”. So continuing to focus on reasonable size portions of the healthiest foods you can will go along way to keeping the pounds at bay :).
However, increased activity requires you to up your caloric intake. Not by a lot; perhaps a couple of hundred calories more per day than you were consuming during your weight loss phase.
To maintain weight loss >> eat a little more, move a lot
Why such different strategies? It’s all about the numbers.
Each of the following ‘treats’ equals about 500 calories:
- grande Starbucks Cookie Crumble Frappuccino
- 9 Oreo cookies
- 1 large bagel plus 2 Tbsp Skippy peanut butter
- small, butter popcorn at the movies
Yet to burn 500 calories through exercise, you’ll need to spend anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes exercising (calories burned through exercise depend on a number of variables including weight, sex, age, muscle mass and exercise intensity; the more you weigh, the harder you work and the manlier your are, the higher your rate of calorie burn. Not fair, but that’s the way it is).
For many overweight people, sustaining exercise for long enough to burn 500 calories is physically impossible. And most of us, regardless of weight, would rather skip the cookies than head to the gym 😉
As the pounds come off, it becomes harder and harder to shave calories from the diet.
In fact, most nutritionists recommend not letting daily calorie intake fall below 1 200 calories; not only is it hard to stick to such a low calorie diet without experiencing intense food cravings and extreme lethargy, over time, your metabolism may even slow down, making it harder to lose weight and keep it off once you return to a higher calorie intake
So how to keep the hard-earned lost pounds at bay? Up your level of physical activity and eat a little more!
Near daily exercise will not only burn calories, it will build muscle and stimulate your metabolism to burn calories at a higher rate. You’ll need to up your food intake by a bit; the only way to know how much is to journal both food and exercise and pay attention to how your clothes fit!
What’s the bottom line? Lose weight by eating less and moving a little. Maintain the weight loss by eating a little more and moving a lot! Need some workout ideas? Visit my free workout library!
Have you lost a significant amount of weight and been able to sustain it long term?
What tips and strategies did you find most helpful?