Fit and fine by Kamal Singh CSCS: Can you out-train a bad diet? – brunch feature


That is a question I get asked all the time – “I don’t like to diet, can I just exercise my weight off?” There would be variations of the above query – but the import would be the same – different types of exercising over dieting for fat loss. In fact, the media promotes this type of thinking by showing how if you eat a gulab jamun or two, you would have to workout for one hour to “burn it off”.

To put it simply, it is not possible to only exercise and become lean without cutting down food intake. Let me back this up with some numbers. Though please realise human bio-chemistry is lot more complex than plain old calories in and calories out, this simple math will do fine for all our purposes of fat and inch loss.

How many calories in a samosa?

Since it is the season to be merry, let me spoil your fun by asking how many calories are there in a samosa or a jalebi or a chocolate doughnut? And I know of enough people who have had those one after another. So here goes

Samosa has about 262 calories
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Samosa – 262 calories

Jalebi – 440 calories for 100g

Chocolate Doughnut – 437 calories

Chew on those numbers for a while, pun not intended. Eating 1,000 odd calories of highly palatable calorie-dense food is very easy and can be done without breaking a sweat. But if you had to go into a 1,000-calorie deficit, how much exercise would you need to do? Not easy at all. In a 30-minute workout – jogging/ yoga/ strength training, an average gym-goer burns about 250 calories. If they are fit enough, then this can be extended to 45-60 minutes, may be burning 450 calories. Thus, at least two hours of work out would be needed. Do let me know how many of us can work out for two hours every day.

One kg equals 7,700 calories

If the goal is to lose 1 kg per week. Then a daily deficit of 1,000 calories is needed. Attempting this deficit by exercise alone is a fool’s errands and it is a good way to get an overuse injury, compromise your immune function, wrecking your health in the process. You can not out train a bad diet.

The Intelligent person’s guide to fat loss

Follow these steps to make your fat loss journey as smooth as possible:

•Clean-up you diet – eliminate junk foods – pizzas, burgers, desserts etc.

•Reduce portion size.

•Add more protein to your diet – vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian sources of protein – like soya, paneer, meat, chicken, eggs etc.

•Stop all snacking between meals, even if the snack is labelled “fat free”, “diet” etc.

•Have your tea or coffee without sugar. Stay away from juices and sodas.

The above steps will kick start fat loss. The aim is to lose fat and maintain muscle mass, that’s why protein intake is increased while cutting calories. I recommend adding a 30-minute full body weight training session thrice a week. If you do not have access to a gym, then doing push ups, squats, planks at home is the way to go.

After a couple months of diligently following the above programme, fat loss will start to plateau. Now is the time to add 30 minutes of cardio – fast paced walk, cycling, jogging three-four times a week. This should re-start the fat loss again.

Now is the time to add 30 minutes of cardio – fast paced walk, cycling, jogging three-four times a week
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To conclude

Thus the answer to the question, whether fat loss is possible without controlling food intake is an unqualified no. Creating a calorie-deficit through diet is faster and easier than doing it through exercise. Only dieting does not work as exercise helps increase metabolic rate and helps maintain muscle mass, which otherwise be lost while reducing calories. Now go and do it!

Kamal Singh is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist who has been coaching for 15 years

From HT Brunch, November 29, 2020

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