beyond calorie burning

Most people know plenty about the idea of energy balance, calories in - calories out. What many don't fully understand, despite the millions of diet and exercise resources out there, is that exercise is an inefficient and sadistic way to work at day-to-day energy balance.

Remember that time when you huffed and puffed, strained and dripped sweat on some exercise contraption and 30 minutes later your face dropped as it reported that you burned 340 calories? You stepped down deflated, wondering if the stupid calculation accounted for boredom and hustle.

The bad news is that 340 was probably ball park accurate. And your body would have used almost one third of that to simply maintain itself on the couch. So all you profited from the disciplined effort was a measly 250 calories, and you blew nearly half of that by tasting your friends energy drink and eating two of those purple tootsie roll things.
= at least 90 minutes on the treadmill

Thirty of your limited minutes on this earth, plus preparing and driving to and from the gym, all for 150 calories? As the band Switchfoot said, we were meant to live for so much more than burning out on machines that accomplish little more than calorie burning. Or something like that.

Don't get me wrong. Activity is better than inactivity. Jogging, biking, Zumba, and elliptical...ing all pay dividends for your cardiovascular and mental health. And if you enjoy endurance activities or compete at them, have at it. The claim here is that these forms of exercise are not nearly as important as most people think for the purposes of energy balance.

Without sounding too sophisticated, not eating crap is clearly the most efficient and effective way to achieve the energy deficit required to lose weight and get in shape.

The good news is that all the time on the treadmill or stationary bike or elliptical isn't necessary. The bad news is that there will be no more weak excuses about not having time to get in shape.

Before marching over to your local gym under dark of night with torch and pitchfork, please know that exercise is important, but maybe not in the way that you thought. Exercise signals the body to retain muscle when it's dealing with a calorie deficit.

The body knows that muscle is costly, metabolically speaking. When you take in less calories than you expend, it's the first thing to go. Yet having more muscle means that the body burns more energy every second of every day which in the long-term means that you can eat more burritos without tipping into calorie surplus.  Besides, muscle is functional and looks good and is the root of all awesome.

farmers walk  !
 Now, which of these two activities sends a bigger and better "signal" for your body to retain muscle as you cut a slight calorie deficit? Which requires more time to effectively "get in shape?"

recumbent bike (zzz)
It has been shown that endurance exercise on top of a calorie deficit causes only a slight retention of muscle and decreases bone density as compared to cutting calories and doing no exercise at all. Meanwhile, all those who regularly lift relatively heavy things are enjoying diamond-like bone density, enjoying each others company over meatball subs while riding the train to Awesomeville.

So in summary, you can devote much of your life to learning how to properly take in calories and then burning those calories or you could try:

1. Be active. Find physical work that you enjoy or is productive, basically anything that doesn't involve computers or TV or video games.

2. Lift heavy things for 30 or 60 minutes, including a little corrective/prehab type work, two or three times per week.  **Do this in order to build and retain muscle so that you're not caught on the treadmill of more and more exercise and less and less food just to maintain energy balance.**

3. Eat foods that are minimally processed. Load up on vegetables (if you have to) and lean protein. Loosening the diet about once a week supposedly helps both psychologically and physiologically. So live a little too.

Local to Mechanicsburg, I would suggest the knowledge and accountability over at http://www.synergyfitnesspt.com/
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