You faithfully work out at the gym. You bike or run. You take exercise seriously, and think you’re doing everything right. So why aren’t you seeing progress on the scale? Why are you still struggling to lose the same pounds and inches? If you’re scared that you’re just stuck with the extra weight no matter what you do, here’s some good news. You might be inadvertently sabotaging your success because you don’t know these 5 big fat-burning facts about exercise.
FACT 1: Many of the machines lie! You are not burning as many calories as you think you are.
Did you know that some pieces of gym exercise equipment are notorious for overestimating the amount of calories you’re burning? The University of California at San Francisco’s Human Performance Center found that elliptical trainers were overestimating the number of calories burned by a whopping 42 percent! Treadmills, stair climbers and stationary bikes also overestimated by 13, 12 and 7 percent respectively. If you’re planning your food consumption based on these faulty numbers—and think you’re eating fewer calories than you’re burning–you could be in trouble.
FACT 2: Your inner calorie-burning calculator might be off, too.
It’s not uncommon for people to underestimate the number of calories they take in and overestimate the number of calories they burn. But mistakes in judging the calories you burn when you’re running, biking or doing other freestyle exercises might be due to miscalculating your rate of intensity.
For example, if you weigh 180 pounds and you think you burn 1000 calories off during one hour of riding your bike at an average of 10 to 12 miles per hour–think again. You only burned 490 calories. In fact, you would have to double to 16 to 20 miles per hour, to 980 calories. Know that these calorie estimates can still be high due to a number of factors. If you like keeping track of calories, begin by estimating those you burn during exercise on the low side.
FACT 3: Slow and steady loses the race.
Studies have found that interval exercise plans, like those in the Miracle Interval workouts, are more effective at improving insulin resistance—and thus weight loss–than steady state exercise. Too often people keep exercise either steady-easy or steady-hard every single day. But scientists have found that if you include short, higher effort intervals, followed by recovery, not only do you improve your physical fitness, you also improve insulin resistance. Think of it as “training” for your insulin receptors and your muscles. By combining Miracle Intervals with other well-planned exercise sessions, you improve your body’s ability to convert the food you eat to useful energy rather than storing it as fat. Keeping it steady could actually slow down weight loss.
FACT 4: Your body can get “bored” and slow down.
If you’re doing the same exercise regimen day after day, your body might adapt in ways that can make your fat-burning less efficient. So mix it up and vary your routine. First of all, the same old routine can get boring and make you less motivated to work out. Second, as you gain fitness, your body becomes more efficient at using calories for exercise. Mixing up your routine can keep workouts interesting, challenging and fat-burning. For example, if you work out four or five days a week, make a schedule for variety: Day 1, run or bike; Day 2, work with free weights; Day 3, run or bike; Day 4 take a class or do a sport—and so on.
FACT 5: Binge exercising will slow you down.
The typical binge-exerciser is also a binge-eater. Do you skip weekday exercise activities and then flog yourself with physical activity on the weekend? Is this routine followed by extreme hunger? Is that hunger followed by uncontrolled consumption of high carbohydrate foods for two or three days? The chain reaction from weekend binge exercise sessions can defeat all of your hard work.
FACT 6: Eating before a workout doesn’t energize you.
There’s a common myth that to power through a workout you need to eat carbs first in order to keep your energy up and avoid a drop in blood sugar. But studies show the opposite. Not only did those who exercised in a fasting state not experience a drop in blood sugar, they actually performed better and burned more fat. I’m not saying never eat before a workout—just that you should understand that it’s not necessarily productive. This is especially true for low intensity workouts or those lasting less than 90 minutes. During your workout, keep water on hand, but forget the gels, sports drinks and energy bars. They won’t improve your performance and will undermine your fat-burning process.