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Are you out-eating your training?

6am: Coach Personal Training Client

8am: Teach yoga

9:30: Teach Bootcamp

11am: Coach Personal Training Client

Lunch break: Walk/Jog 45 – 60 minutes while listening to a favorite podcast

3pm: Coach Personal Training client

You’re looking at what used to be my schedule 5 days a week for a couple of years. I was doing 3-4 hours of exercise per day, and I loved every aspect of teaching, coaching others, and participating.

The problem was that I wasn’t getting leaner or stronger, and my body fat increased. How did I gain body fat while being so active and working out so much?

It was simply that I was out-eating my training, which is something I see happen a lot with my female clients who exercise frequently but then struggle to lose body fat.

In theory, lots of exercise makes sense, right? If some is good, we think that a whole lot will surely be better. But that almost never works for anyone who isn’t very advanced in the ability to manage hunger and appetite.

“Well, I worked out earlier today, so I deserve a few glasses of wine, chips and hummus or an ice cream snack.” Does this sound familiar?

Here's the main point, exercise can be deceiving. It typically doesn’t burn as many calories as we’d like to believe it does. Additionally, most people that exercise 5-6 times per week are still considered sedentary because they are almost completely inactive during the time that they aren’t working out.

All of this isn’t to imply that you shouldn’t be fueling well for your training. You most certainly should be, especially if improving your performance and enhancing your recovery is important to you. But it is a warning to be mindful of packing in extra calories above and beyond what your body actually needs, just because you feel like you deserve it.

If you find yourself struggling with this, my suggestion is to do short and intense strength training sessions, 3-4 times per week, along with a lot of non-exercise movement. Walking is great, around 7k-10k steps a day. This amount of activity will allow you the time to practice developing your eating skills to better control your appetite.

So that you don't get that 'hangry' feeling, it's okay to get in some post-workout replenishment in the form of a small serving of protein + a small serving of starchy carbohydrate. Here are a couple of ideas for post-workout mini-meals: half of a scoop of protein powder with water, and 1 slice of sprouted bread toast, or berries and low sugar greek yogurt.

It’s important to develop nutritional maturity.

A trainer or program can promise fat loss all day long, but if the workout

sessions are too frequent, too long, and too intense, chances are high that it’s going to increase hunger and appetite to the point that it’s difficult for a person to navigate.

What matters most for fat loss is the ability to regulate calories-in without having to white-knuckle your way through each day due to hunger brought on by too much/long/intense exercise.

Work on finding the sweet spot. Work out to build muscle and burn fat, and get adequate fueling.

In my experience working specifically with women, the sweet spot is strength training about three times per week doing sessions with intensity for 30-45 mins, and then including a whole ton of non-exercise activities such as walking, cleaning the house, or doing yard work on workout days and on recovery days.

The take-home: Keep workout sessions the right amount of time and intensity to elicit a response, but not too long or so frequent that hunger and appetite are difficult to manage well. And add a small post-workout mini-meal.

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