|I wish I knew the origin of this image!|
Using the above example, let's say the daily exercise burns around 300 calories, which is fantastic; the food reward at the end, well that large ice cream equals 430 calories. What just happened here is that you consumed 130 calories more than you burned during your exercise session. At first you will not notice the 130 calories but over time those calories add up, 3500 calories equals a pound, that extra 130 calories a day means a pound of weight gain monthly or 12 pounds a year. The other part of this issue is that if the food reward theory is in effect during exercise you can bet that it carries over to the entire nutrition for the day. If you don't believe me then think back to a time when you sat in a group meal, I bet you heard someone say, "I got a good work out today so I can afford to eat more." The problem with that is they aren't just eating more for one meal but each meal all day long. Keeping in mind I am not talking about athletes, who do consume a lot of calories, but discussing the average individual with the average body type who struggles to maintain a healthy body weight.
It starts with the ice cream reward at the end of exercise, then a dessert after a large dinner and a late night snack before bedtime. People sometimes spend their basal and earned exercise calories over and over again during the day, thinking that if they exercise it gives them free reign in their eating, WRONG! If you look at the nutrition and exercise equation like a balancing budgets then you realize that you can only spend a dollar once, more than that and you risk going into debt. Each day your body gives you a budget of calories to use, if you exercise you earn extra calories. If you are conservative (don't consume your daily requirement of calories) your body goes to the bank and withdraws calories to cover expenses, in this case the bank is your fat stores, hopefully. If you overspend (over consume calories) your body saves the extra calories in the bank, again your fat stores. The goal is to keep a balanced budget and maintain a healthy weight over time which is the ultimate situation for anyone both financially and physically. (*please see note below)
If you were to go to a financial planner trying to get yourself out from under the pressure of a lot of credit debt your financial planner would tell you to tighten up your budget, trim out unnecessary expenses and learn to live lean until you can get your debt paid off, some suggest paying in cash. It is the same approach to losing weight; you can apply those same rules to your nutrition:
- Tighten up your budget: Try tracking your nutrition for a week or longer to see where you spend your calorie dollars. Most people guesstimate their daily calories intake and most often they guess low.
- Trim out unnecessary expenses: Once you have an idea where your calories are coming from then you have a better idea of what you can eliminate: cut out sugar, soda, late night snacks, 2% milk instead of whole, the list is endless.
- Learn to live lean: Eating at home instead of eating out not only saves your nutrition calories but it will also save actual cash. Home cooking costs less and tends to have less sodium, fat and sugar (if you cook it that way at least.) Make your own lunch, brew your own coffee and eat breakfast before leaving the house.
- Paying in cash: If you budget 1500 calories and log your nutrition you will see exactly where you stand during the day, doing so helps you to decide exactly how much you have left in calories dollars to spend.
* Please note that when trying to lose weight it is not recommended to lose more than 1 pound a week, which equates to 3500 calories weekly or a 500 calories daily deficit, it is best to achieve this by reducing your daily intake and by increasing exercise. Also, just like you have to spend money to make money you have to eat to lose weight. All too often people try to lose weight by cutting their daily intake dramatically, this starts a viscous cycle which the body responds by storing body fat. I have talked with more than one person who had reduced their intake dangerously low, they were malnourished and still gaining weight. According to the ACSM the lowest calorie intake (for sedentary individuals) for women should be 1200 calories, the lowest for men is 1800 calories, if you exercise this number needs to be adjusted.