Many people ask me what's most important when trying to lose weight. They ask after many frustrated hours spending time in the gym, 'burning off' calories of poorly chosen food, and stressing all the while about their lack of progress. Let's de-mistify this process.
The phrase 'you are what you eat' is very true. The nutrients you put into your body (or lack of) will be evident in your body composition. If you are eating fatty, empty calories, your body will reflect this. If you are eating lean meat and vegetables, your body will reward you with a leaner physique. While diet plans can be constructed uniquely to each person depending on their goals, the principle is true. Let me re-iterate: You WILL not lose weight by busting your butt at the gym and eating 'whatever you want'. It won't happen.
When you exercise, your heart starts pumping and blood circulating. The nutrients you have eaten that day will end up in your bloodstream, and when your blood starts pumping and micro-tears from working out start to occur, the blood rushes into the area of injury to repair itself. The nutrients in your blood help aid healing and your muscle tissue becomes stronger. Any extra nutrients not being used by your body will end up being stored later for energy (fat). If there is an excess of fat going in, it will continue to be stored once the energy (calories) you need from your food are used up in daily activity + exercise. Bottom line? What you put in your mouth is the MOST important component to weight loss.
Resting is often the most overlooked component to weight loss. After a diet that is healthy, your body needs time to repair itself after working out and daily activity. When you don't get enough rest, your body becomes stressed and lots of other chemical processes begin to happen. Stress raises your cortisol levels, which in turn raise your estrogen levels, and your body begins to do what it was designed to: store energy (fat) for the future. When you constantly stress your body through too much activity (over-exercising), your body begins to do what it was designed to do: protect itself from future injury by shutting down some body processes in order to ensure the basic survival processes occur. When your body is in the 'storage' state, it is no longer burning excess stored energy (fat) and becomes less able to repair itself. It's in emergency mode. How do you keep your body from becoming dormant and kick it into a fat-burning machine? Get adequate rest.
Exercise is vitally important to your body for multiple reasons. It keeps your muscle tone strong, which supports your skeletal system and keeps you vital and active. It reduces stress. It keeps your heart healthy and strong. It challenges your muscles to tear and repair themselves, which causes muscle growth. There are more than likely 100 other benefits of exercise. Exercise is absolutely important when it comes to weight loss because it keeps your blood and your nutrients moving throughout your body and accelerates the fat burning process in your body. However, as stated before, exercise alone will not give you the results you want with weight loss. If you miss a day at the gym, the most important things still apply: eating well and getting rest. Exercise is the icing on the cake.
Exercise also doesn't have to be prolonged and overly strenuous. Depending on your goals, a 15 minute brisk walk might be all your body needs to keep your body in fat-burning mode. Evenly spaced, regular meals also are the MAIN impetus for your body to maintain its fat burning mode.
It is the combination of all three of these things that make a healthy body and a toned physique.
Be sure to consult your dietitian and trainer for the best plan for you. Trainers do great work in the gym, but training alone will not build the body you want: make sure to find a knowledgeable dietitian that has a portfolio of success stories to help you with a meal plan that will give you great results.