A common expression of getting in shape is, “Nutrition is 70% of your results”.
What does it mean to get in shape? This can mean a number of things, from performance to general health; but in the context of aesthetics, getting in shape mainly involves two things:
1) Building or maintaining muscle mass
2) Losing fat mass
I’ll focus on losing fat mass.
Diet is everything when it comes to losing fat.
- The major calorie-burning “furnace” of your body are your internal organs (brain, heart, liver, kidneys, lungs). This is an automatic process as long as you are alive.
- Skeletal muscles (the muscles that move your bones) are much less metabolically active (about 5 times less per unit of mass). Even adding pounds of dry muscle to your frame is not an easy feat.
- The difference is when your muscles are active (as they are when you are exercising or moving). However, there is still a practical limit unless you’re an Olympic athlete and assuming your body doesn’t break down from overstress or injury.
It’s a numbers game
- I’m 5’11–my body would require about 1750 calories a day just to stay alive.
- If I add in exercise/activity, I can probably increase this amount by 750. To illustrate, that’s 75 minutes at a moderate pace on an upper/lower body elliptical (10 calories per minute).
- So that’s 2500 calories over a 24-hour period, or just a little over 100 calories per hour. This is my Energy Expenditure.
- There are about 3500 calories stored in one pound of fat.
- Fat cells are dynamic–at any moment, they’re either storing or releasing energy (until they’re completely depleted, at which point you are technically starving).
So what’s the best way to shrink my fat cells?
- Remember, your body burns most of its calories just by staying alive.
- Exercise contributes an additional amount, but not much.
- It’s super easy to consume calories. For example, a “medium” bag of Pretzel M&M’s contains approximately 14oo calories. For someone my size, that would blunt fat-burning for 14 hours (100 calories/hour) or would require 140 minutes of cardio activity (10 calories/min.) just to break even.
Diet is everything. Effort, big or small, is always rewarded. Sometimes, the resistance to not take that bite far outweighs the time you would lose if you did or the amount of exercise you would have to do to compensate.