It seems it’s happened again—the inclement winter weather has reduced the amount that you regularly exercise, and the savory holiday meals followed by decadent desserts have packed your body with some unwanted stuffing. We are still far from the time of year when we can hit the trails or spend extra time outside in the long daylight hours we enjoy in June. The problem is this: during the winter many people develop a positive caloric balance; put simply we are taking in more calories than we are burning. So in order to combat this unfortunate and predictable phenomenon, I offer the following solutions and seek to dispel some common myths.
If you haven’t already noticed, the messiah (Atkins) of the “low-carb” craze is dead of a cardiac arrest and his company is bankrupt. Unfortunately, many of his followers will likely suffer similar fates over the next decade, due to the tremendous stress they have placed on their livers, kidneys, and cardiovascular systems. The weight loss that seemed so easy on such a diet has proven fleeting and dangerous. To put it simply, carbohydrates are our body’s substrate of choice for energy production. Therefore carbs should constitute the mainstay of our diets, comprising 60% or more of total calories. It is important to know that not all carbs are created equal and the glycemic index is a great resource for understanding which types of carbs to eat. I recommend that this year you focus your dieting energy on learning instead. A great book to get you up to speed on nutrition is Eating Well for Optimum Health by Dr. Andrew Weil. Dr. Weil’s simple message here is that dieting is little more than a “band-aid”; the solution to the weight-loss problem is a lifestyle of healthy eating and physical activity.
Here is some very motivational information about exercise. When you exercise, i.e., elevate your heart rate, you are burning calories! The higher you elevate your heart rate the more calories you burn. Even better news: the longer you keep your heart rate up and the higher you get it, the more oxygen debt you create. Fortunately oxygen debt is not like credit card debt—we want it! We repay our oxygen debt by turning a higher resting metabolic rate over the next 24 hours. So the message here is that the more frequently you participate in cardiovascular activity, the more calories you will burn when you are sitting around the rest of the day. Another beneficial type of exercise for fat loss is resistance or weight training. When you build more muscle tissue, you increase the amount of metabolically active tissue in your body. This means that you will burn more calories because of the increased lean tissue in your body, which needs calories to burn. Lastly, everything counts! A brief walk down the block with your dog, ten minutes on the elliptical when you don’t have time for an hour, or that dance or yoga class that you have been considering. Just do it!
The Bottom Line
Keep in mind that lifestyle is truly the key to healthy weight management. Only the combination of a healthy nutrition plan and sufficient levels of exercise will allow you to maintain a healthy body composition during your lifespan. If you think you are doing everything right, but still not losing the weight, it may benefit you to have your resting metabolic rate measured. A resting metabolic rate test tells you how many calories your body needs each day just to keep you alive. Knowing this number is often the key to reducing your body fat and excess weight, because it allows you to eat appropriately for your metabolism instead of “dieting.” Now I’d say that’s a smarter and healthier approach to weight management.
Steve Conant M.S., HFI, CSCS is the regional chapters committee representative for the Northwest Chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine. Locally, he is a founding partner of Advanced Training & Sport Conditioning, Inc. and a leader in the fitness industry. Contact him at [email protected]
Gold's Gym Military Fitness Boot Camp
Still looking for motivation to shed those extra pounds? Need a little peer pressure? Jennifer Leiva, a certified personal trainer at Gold’s Gym, has a solution. Leiva, who spent five years in the Marine Corps, offers an intense six-week Military Fitness Boot Camp to get “enlistees” into shape. Training is conducted indoors when it’s cold outside, but as the weather turns warmer, participants head outdoors for team building, relays, running, low-impact exercises, sprints, military drills, carries, and crawls! The camp averages about 10-12 recruits per session and so far, over 50 people have participated. The program is designed for all ages and fitness levels, though parental consent is necessary for enlistees under 18. Enlistees receive an initial assessment, meet with a nutritionist at the beginning of camp, then have a final assessment. Jenn, along with trainer Minde Erickson, stresses that boot camp will provide a serious cardio workout. Members and nonmembers of Gold’s Gym are welcome. Military Fitness Boot Camp is $229 for the six-week program and includes a tee shirt. Pick up enlistment papers (application) at Gold’s Gym, 1605 West Main in Bozeman. Contact Jennifer at Gold’s Gym, 522-7777, for more information on starting dates and times.