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Yeah, you heard me (or, read correctly).

Stop trying to lose weight by grinding out another 30 minute session on the Elliptical.

Stop thinking that a “quick 5” around the park is going to help you lose those pesky 10 lbs you want to get rid of

Stop believing that “more cardio” is the secret to getting leaner.


You ask me in your head as you read this. “You’re a dummy and know nothing about losing weight.”

“Hold on,” I say confidently, out loud, as I type this blog post. “Let’s do a little thought experiment.”

First off, I own a gym and train people for a living, so this is even antithetical to my business, at first glance. But stay with me.

Let’s say you go for a 5 km jog (3.1 miles).

You’re a 35 year old guy who is getting ready for the Great Race. It’s a 30 min run and you burn 591 calories (I used MapMyRun’s calculator to figure out a guess. I assumed he was 6 feet tall and 215 lbs).

Fantastic. You had a great run – got outside – and got moving. However, let’s talk about the food you could eat afterwards. Obviously, you’re going to eat during the day, but generally with extra work comes an increased appetite.

How about a nice treat? A bag of Peanut M&M’s – 250 calories – 42% of what you just burned (I love peanut M&M’s, which is why I chose them).

How about a Vanilla Latte Venti Nonfat – 250 calories with 44 g of sugar (normal recommended amount per day is 25 g for an adult).

Feeling like a hero and want to get some Chipotle? Let’s do this.

Chicken, Rice, Beans, and Guacamole in a bowl? 775 calories

That’s 131% of what you just burned.

The Wrong Approach

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love Chipotle and all of it’s delicious goodness. And I’m known to enjoy a slice or four of pizza from my local pizza joint.

But what I’m saying is: if you’re not paying attention to how much you’re eating, it’s way easier to overeat than it is to out exercise your over-weight-ness (a technical term). There must be a balance.

And unfortunately, at every turn, exercise is promoted as the weight loss drug that it isn’t.

Let’s look at the wrong approach.

Typically, as I see it around the community, a few years will pass with gradual weight gain. Twenty extra pounds have been added to your frame and you, all of sudden, are confronted with the fact that your clothes are uncomfortable and don’t fit like they did anymore.

“I’ll just start running,” you tell yourself. “I’ll slim down in no time.”

But here’s where it gets complicated. Roughly 3500 calories are stored in each pound of adipose tissue (body fat). To lose a lb a week, there must be a deficit of 3500 calories over the week between your food consumption and your exercise / movement practice.

So, if that same runner (35 year old guy) ran 3x per week, 1773 calories would be used for the exercise (I multiplied the 591 calories x 3) over the week. That’s just about a 1/2 lb of fat.

If everything was held constant, that would be 20 lbs lost over the next 10 months. A fantastic weight loss program if I do say so myself.

But, how much has that person been eating each day?

An extra 250 calories each day would, literally, zero out any net loss the running would give the person. 250 extra calories each day for a week equals 1750 calories in excess.

It’s a slight edge. A decision made that has no immediate consequences but gradually adds up in effect. But it can add to the reasons why exercise isn’t the method for weight loss.

Exercise is Awesome

Exercise is awesome – don’t get me wrong. I own a gym and believe that more people need to move more often. This includes myself, who is currently sitting at a desk writing this article.

Exercise is perhaps the best “Drug” we have against things like cancer, high blood pressure, cholesterol, poor sleep, attention, energy, and mood. And, it’s free. It doesn’t take fancy equipment to go hiking around the lake or to do 100 burpees for time.

And changing body composition cannot happen without stress being imposed on a human body. You cannot grow muscle and improve your composition (the dreaded phrase “Toning your muscles”) without stressing the muscle fibers.

However, it’s a terrible weight loss “drug” for exactly the reasons I outlined above.

Exercise must be a part of your health plan. Just like you’re visiting a financial planner to plan for retirement and looking at your overall financial picture, we must consider your health in a broad sense – not just how many sets and reps of bench press you did or how much running you did over the weekend.

It must include your food intake, food composition, portion control, stress management, sleep management, mobility work, supplement game, mental discipline, and the proportion of movement to sitting and non-movement.

A Better Approach

The Better Approach to losing weight begins with a vision of where you want to go.

What do you want to do? What do you want to look like? Do you want to lose body fat and how much?

Let’s say you want to lose 20 lbs of fat. That would be an incredible burden off of your body (your joints, your cardiovascular system, etc). In fact, I would set a long term, big goal of getting a certain body fat percentage. That’s, in fact, a healthier approach to tracking your body composition. It’ll tell you when you’re losing fat and keeping muscle and vice-versa.

So, let’s say you want to get from 25% body fat to 20% body fat (this would be for a guy – the equivalent for ladies would be from about 35% to 30%). A great example of what that change would look like visually can be seen here.

For the 35 year old guy who is 215 lbs, let’s assume he has 25% body fat and wants to get to 20%. That would be a change of 54 lbs of fat on his frame to 43 lbs of fat on his frame. That’s 11 lbs of weight loss.

A simple rule of thumb is 1-2 lbs of weight loss each week for keeping muscle while losing fat. That means, for one lb of fat loss, a deficit of 3500 calories each week.

At this point, there are two roads to choose from.

You’re at a fork in the road.

You can:

  • Calculate your daily calorie intake, track your daily intake, and make small adjustments at a time until you ease yourself into the ideal routine.
  • Calculate your daily calorie intake, create the ideal meal plan, track your daily intake, and make small adjustments as you find what works for you.

So, you can either take what you’re doing now and adjust it to your ideal caloric intake, or you can start with a blank slate and build from the ground up. Both are good options and most people do well by making small adjustments that will stick in the long run rather than changing EVERYTHING all at once.

But it depends on the kind of person you are.

However, both situations require you calculating the number of calories you need at the end of the day.

So, here we go. Let’s crunch some numbers.

The first thing we need to figure out is: what he needs to maintain his current status, aka his TDEE.

His TDEE is factored from his BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate).

There are multiple ways you can figure this out. One is the Harris Benedict equation, taking into account the basic shape of the person.

The next way is the Katch-McArdle equation, which takes into account your body fat and therefore your lean mass. This is a little more accurate to determinate your BMR than the Harris-Benedict Equation.

For the Harris-Benedict Equation, we can take all of his stats and figure out his BMR. For ladies, click the link I’ve included to see the equation.

Harris Benedict BMR = 66 + ( 6.23 x 215 lbs) + ( 12.7 x 72 inches tall ) – ( 6.8 x 35 years old) = 2081.85 calories

Katch-McArdle (this is a unisex equation, both guys and girls can use this) = 370 + (21.6 * (215*75%/2.2)) = 1953.18 calories **you need to calculate the BMR using kilograms, which is where the 2.2 comes in.

The difference is roughly 130 calories. From here, we can take the BMR and multiply by an “activity level”. You can figure out yours by looking at the the wikipedia page here. For our dude, the activity should be 1.375 considering he’s working out 90 minutes a week with running.

That would bring his total Daily Energy expenditure to 2685 kcal.

From there, we can reduce the amount of calories he will take in by 500. If you add the 500 calories over seven days, you get 3500 calories equaling one pound of fat lost a week.

That brings our total calories to 2185 calories per day.

Now, we’ve got to determine our macro-nutrient composition. Macros are energy for your body (this is a grossly simplified definition, I understand), and they are defined as protein, carbohydrates, and dietary fat.

Each macro-nutrient is a building block to your nutrition and, upon digestion, triggers a number of hormones to be released. Each macro-nutrient also yields a certain number of calories per gram.

Protein and Carbohydrates yield 4 calories per gram.

Fat yields 9 calories per gram.

Typically, a ball park figure is:

Protein requires about 0.8 grams of protein per lb of body weight. Fat require a minimum of 0.3 grams per lb of body weight. And Carbohydrates make up the remainder of calories left over.

For our example guy, our macro requirements are:

  • Protein = 215 * 0.8 = 172 grams of protein
  • Fat = 215 * 0.3 = 65 grams of protein
  • Carbohydrates = (2185 calories – (172*4 + 65*9))/4 = 228 grams of carbs

What does all this mean?

Well, for most people, these grams of macro-nutrients have no context. In other words, 20 grams of protein means nothing to most people.

But, 4 oz of burger mean a lot. That’s a quarter pounder, baby!

So, who’s going to translate this for you?

There are some stellar online programs like MyFitnessPal and “Eat This Much” that can help you track or plan out all of these numbers. You put in what you’re eating, how much, and you get your macro profile laid out for you in a brilliant pie chart.

You can also track your own numbers by looking at the nutrition label and weighing and measuring and keeping track of all of the numbers yourself.

And, obviously, if you’ve read all of this and thought “I don’t have the time to teach myself all of this” then you can give us a ring. We’ve got a nutrition program called the “TakeDown Challenge” where we walk you through all of these steps and help you lose weight over 4 weeks.

In fact, we’ve helped many men and women lose 15-25 lbs in 4 short weeks.

I’m not saying this to impress on you how great we are. I’m saying this to impress on you that there is a system for this that is proven and can help you navigate this seemingly confusing topic.

Fill out our “Free Consultation” form on our home page and we’ll talk about this very thing.

Thanks for reading.

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