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Exercise Alone Isn't Enough to Lose Weight

Losing weight is tough, but it can be done. You just have to be smart enough to read past the headlines.

On Sunday, August 9th (2009), TIME Magazine published an article titled, "Why Exercise Won't Make You Thin." The headline grabs your attention, but it isn't accurate. What it should have said is, "Exercise Won't Make You Thin, if you pig out after your workout."

Three things have to happen for someone to get in shape.

1. You have to watch what you eat. Your food must have a proper mix of protein, carbohydrates and fat to give you the fuel you need, without overloading you with calories.

2. You need to engage in some form of cardiovascular exercise to burn fat and strengthen your heart.

3. Your body must be stressed with some sort of resistance training program to build and strengthen your muscles.

Like a three-legged stool, if you take away one of those things, your body won't be balanced and it can be challenging to get in shape.

Let's pretend you're a couch potato, you're 50 pounds heavier than you should be, but your weight remains stable. If you suddenly started exercising 30 minutes a day and kept everything else in your life the same, you would lose weight. The extra calories burned during your exercise would be the reason.

But it's not that easy. Exercise makes us hungry. Several studies have shown that WITHOUT A PLAN, the average person will eat 100 more calories than they burned off in the exercise session. Over time you'll put on muscle, but you'll also gain weight.

In the TIME Magazine article, the author complained that after years of exercising, he still had "...gut fat that hangs over [his] belt." He then goes on to tell us WHY he still has a gut by saying, "But like many other people, I get hungry after I exercise, so I often eat more on the days I work out than on the days I don't."

If you want to lose weight, you have to create a calorie deficit. You must either eat fewer calories or exercise more calories off than you take in. Rewarding yourself with extra food on days you exercise defeats the purpose. That's the real problem.

Since exercise makes us hungrier, how can we eat less?

First, you must learn exactly how many calories your body needs every day. The most accurate way to do that is to take a test that measures your metabolism. It's typically called an RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate) test and you can have it done at your local hospital or with portable devices available from your health club or personal trainer. Without that number, you're just guessing at how much you should be eating.

Second, you have to plan what you're going to eat. To lose one pound a week, you need to do one of the following: Eat 500 calories a day less than your body uses, burn 500 calories a day more through exercise, or a combination of the two. It's imperative that you make a calorie menu based on your individual requirements.

Third, you have to eat five or six small meals or snacks a day. Keeping your body constantly nourished helps prevent the "famished" or "starving" feeling many people get that causes them to indulge in empty calories.

Fourth, one of those meals or snacks MUST be within 30 minutes after a workout. It should be higher in carbs and protein, lower in fat. The goal is to give your muscles the fuel they need to repair themselves and eliminate that craving to eat extra calories after exercising.

You can get the body you've always wanted, but it requires some prep work. If you're overwhelmed, hire a professional who can help you. People who don't plan what and when they eat must continuously fight temptation, hunger, and a "gut that hangs over [your] belt."

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CAUTION: Check with your doctor before
beginning any diet or exercise program.