You’ve done it. I know I have. And I should know better than anyone that it’s not a good approach. I hear it from clients and friends all too often. Sometimes it goes a little something like this, “I’ll just run 4 miles tomorrow to burn off those extra 2 pieces of pizza”. Other times it comes off with a bit less of an optimistic tone. “Well now I’m gonna have to work out for like 2 hours to off set this food baby”.
We’ve all been there. And we’ll all likely be there again at some point. My goal for this post is to highlight some of the important key points to keep in mind when the accidental binge episode happens.
So to answer the question to the title of this post, it’s technically a ‘yes’, but only if you’ve been blessed with bad ass genetics. And even then, at some point down the line, it’s gonna catch up to you be it from a weight standpoint or a health standpoint… or both. So while a few gifted people out there can maintain an awesome physique with very little effort, the rest of us just can’t outrun a crappy diet. So I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news. But then again, I’m only reaffirming what you already know aren’t I? I know this because most, if not all, of the folks reading this are pretty health conscious. You try and eat healthy foods. You have a gym membership and go for long walks and bike rides. Seems that you ought to be at a different weight than where you are, right?
Well what I often find after really digging into people’s lifestyles is that we think we’re doing pretty well when in reality it isn’t all that good. I like to use grades in school as an analogy to diet and lifestyle habits. So, take for example you eat well and exercise 80-90% of the time Monday through Friday until around noon. I use the noon on Friday as a cutoff because let’s face it, you’ve zoned out by then and are already out the door, either physically or mentally. Now if you do the math on that you find that about 33% of your 7 day week is Friday at noon until Monday morning. If you don’t exercise on the weekends and you eat like a 6 year old (mac and cheese, pizza, ding dongs, hot dogs, etc), then I think we can all agree that…you chose poorly (Indiana Jones reference anyone?). So again, 1/3 of your week sucked. If that’s the case and you were in school and took an exam, of which you missed 33% of the questions, then you would receive a 67%, right? So yeah, you guessed it, you just got a “D”.
So that brings us back to how we think we can out exercise a poor diet. Even though you might be doing plenty of exercise, diet just plays the bigger role. Not having an extra piece of pizza is just a whole lot easier than going out and running 4 miles. And the kicker is that here is where it gets even more interesting. I’m willing to bet that some of you have had success in the past by “outrunning” your diet. And certainly metabolism plays a big role there, but that’s played out. What you aren’t being told is that your body is really freaking good at adaptation. So let’s put it this way… think back to when you first started lifting weights or running (or whatever activity it is that you dig). You were pretty damn sore during the early stages weren’t you? But after a while that soreness went away. Sure, as you mix up your routine you’ll occasionally get sore again, but I’m willing to bet what made you sore back then doesn’t make you that kind of sore today. And this is because your body adapted. And that is an adaptation that is very tangible… because it hurts!
But there are other adaptations going on at the cellular level that don’t hurt and therefore, are not tangible. You see, the more times you go out and run those 4 miles to “burn off” that piece of pizza, the better your body gets at being efficient over the course of the 4 miles. And in the world of fat burning, you want to be as inefficient as possible. Bottom line here is that over time, you think you’re burning 4oo calories when in reality it might be closer to 250-300 calories. Man, I’m just full of good news today, huh?
Well I’d like to take this last section to address something that really grinds my gears. You just said those last few words in your head in Peter Griffins voice. And if you didn’t you just went back and did, didn’t you? Be honest. But seriously, one of the many things about the fitness industry that drives me crazy is the thought of needing to burn off that pizza/doughnut/pie/etc. We put exercise in this tortuous light. You know those stupid articles that tell you just how long you’d have to swim at a brisk pace to burn off just 1 Dunkin Donuts raspberry filled donut. Or how many times you’d have to climb the steps at the Empire State building to erase the piece of cheesecake you had at the Cheesecake Factory.
Well for starters, I think it is important to realize that of your total daily energy expenditure, exercise is a really small piece of the pie (pun intended). I mean for most of us it is probably in the range of 10-30%. The vast majority (75% ish) is burned just by our bodies doing what they do. Our lungs contract and expand. Our heart pumps blood. Our kidneys help filter that blood. Our brains are working (although some people I’m not so sure of sometimes). You get the idea. So that’s the first takeaway that I think should be recognized. The other is that…
Exercise should be viewed as FUN! Not freaking torture or retribution! So instead of slapping yourself on the wrist for having eaten a bit too much and deciding that you now have to suffer through a grueling workout, just let it go, man. Yeah, you maybe had too much. Own up to it and learn from it for next time, but don’t hate exercise because of it. After all, what’d exercise ever do to you other than improve virtually every marker of health in your body? I say make it fun. And make your food fun too, just don’t get too carried away with it. Alright, I’m hopping of this box of soap and getting my butt to the gym…. because I want to.