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The missing link in weight management

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Training every day does not a six-pack make and nutrition isn't the 90% everyone says it is.

In fact, there is a lot less sexy facet of our daily lives that are so often overlooked when trying to manage weight, be it gaining or losing.

Now hear me out, because this is always a great way for me to get yelled at when I'm presenting (after all, I can't recall any meme that says "20% Training, 80% diet - with a little asterisk at the end linking to a disclaimer) but it's true, in fact when fully analysing diets of those failing to manage their weight, several things occur many times in "the research" (The research in this instance is vast, and a few study links have been added at the bottom of the article for those interested, as "The research" is so often used as a "look at how smart I am with no actual backing up of my statements, just take my work on it, for I read "the research", but you can quite literally throw any keyword around this topic into a scholarly search engine or library search and pull up plenty of information.. I digress...)

So, what is seen in "the research" is that people massively underestimate the importance of their day to day activity and the impact it has on their daily energy requirements, many people also massively over-estimate and over-recall how active they actually were and so so many people (even those trained to actually record the data themselves) have a habit of under-recording and also underestimating how much they have eaten.

This occurs for many reasons - some quite literally forget within seconds of eating (this is actually referred to as food amnesia) and is why any good coach will work on mindfulness practices with you, meaning, getting you more involved with your food through either planning it in advance, preparing it, making it from scratch, experimenting with it (get your mind out of the gutter) and taking pretty photos of it for Instagram.

If you aren't consciously invested in your food you pay less attention to it, even if asked to record everything you eat, as you eat. Now, we aren't concerned (today at least) with the "why" this happens, merely that it does happen.

a lot.

The other major piece of the puzzle is overall activity levels.

You MUST get a handle on how active you are from day to day.

Our daily energy expenditure against our daily energy intake is one of the easiest to manipulate variables the effect our body composition.

Within that, we have certain specific actions that might also effect composition, such as strength training, carbohydrate and protein intake preserving lean tissue, hypertrophy training encouraging lean tissue growth and so on, but in its most simple form for weight management, the in vs out calculation still holds true.

So, If your sole focus is on eating right and hitting the gym, you are missing a huge piece of the puzzle as far as weight management goes.

You are also overlooking the easiest to manipulate variable - How much we move around.

Our energy expenditure for different activities is dictated by the intensity (vigorous or light or uphill walking for example), how long we do these activities for (walk the dog for 20 minutes or an hour) and how much we currently weigh (our body weight).

Weight is the largest influencing factor in our energy requirements at rest, which then plays into the energy our body uses to do anything (we are moving more mass around for any given activity) It's more significant (in terms of what we should be paying attention to, not in a statistical sense) than the amount of muscle tissue we carry.

Helping someone go from leading a relatively sedentary lifestyle, especially those with low-intensity jobs such as office workers become more active, through walking, or even taking part in a yoga class a few times a week can make a huge difference.

If we looked at an average 80kg woman, whose resting energy expenditure may be around 1800kcal per day (the energy required to maintain weight whilst doing no other activity) and we did a "high-energy spin class" we could see a daily energy intake requirement of around 2400kcal.

But as soon as we look at adding in, an hours light walking for example (roughly 288kcal) or a few hours of housework (348kcal - frequent stairs were taken, light loads carried, changes of height whilst moving) we can see how daily energy starts to really add up.


This is why it is so important as a coach especially when working with clients to not only be aware of the time spent in the gym but the active lifestyle of the person you are working with.

A traditional approach to gaining muscle, for example, would look at energy requirement and the energy from the spin class and weight sessions, if you consider this 80kg woman in the example is also doing the housework and dog walk, your attempts at adding in calories for muscle gain could be too few.

In contrast, a sedentary individual doing only the spin class could be losing weight quite slowly, when you could easily add in a few hundred more calories of low-impact aerobic activity a day to greatly, over the period of a week, increase weight loss from body-fat.

Next time you are analysing your weight gain/loss success, do not forget to look at your own activity levels and account for this as-well.

If you are interested in looking at activity diaries or similar, drop some comments below and get the discussion going.


Out of interest reading:

Martin, C.K., Heilbronn, L.K., Jonge, L. De, Delany, J.P., Volaufova, J., Anton, S.D., Redman, L.M., Smith, S.R., Ravussin, E., Corby, K., Heilbronn, L.K., Jonge, L.D.E., Delany, J.P., Anton, S.D., Leanne, M., Smith, S.R. & Ravussin, E. (2007) Effect of Calorie Restriction on Resting Metabolic Rate and Spontaneous Physical Activity. 15 (12).

Stice, E., Palmrose, C.A. & Burger, K.S. (2015) Elevated BMI and Male Sex Are Associated with Greater Underreporting of Caloric Intake as Assessed by Doubly Labeled Water. Journal of Nutrition. [Online] 145 (10), 2412–2418. Available from: doi:10.3945/jn.115.216366.generate.

Gaba, A., Zhang, K., Moskowitz, C.B., Boozer, C.N. & Marder, K. (2008) Harris-Benedict equation estimations of energy needs as compared to measured 24-h energy expenditure by indirect calorimetry in people with early to mid-stage Huntington’s disease. Nutritional Neuroscience. [Online] 11 (5), 213–218. Available from: doi:10.1179/147683008X344129.

Segal, K.R., Gutin, B., Nyman, a. M. & Pi-Sunyer, F.X. (1985) Thermic effect of food at rest, during exercise, and after exercise in lean and obese men of similar body weight. Journal of Clinical Investigation. [Online] 76 (September), 1107–1112. Available from: doi:10.1172/JCI112065.


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