Can Exercise Trump a Bad Diet?

Many people push themselves hard at the gym and work out until they drop, only to come home and wolf down donuts, cake, cookies, and chips. Does that sound like a smart plan to you? Can any amount of exercise trump a bad diet, or are you just doing yourself a disservice by telling yourself, “It’s okay, I worked out today, so I can eat this”?

The sad truth is that NO amount of exercise will trump a bad diet. If you realized just how much work it took to burn calories, you’d understand just what goes into burning fat and getting in shape.

The average person burns around 2,000 calories per day. These calories go toward keeping your brain, heart, and organs functioning, seeing, breathing, moving, and working. On the days when you work out, your energy expenditure increases. With regular exercise, your natural energy production increases, as your body is burning more calories in preparation for your exercise.

But have you ever considered how easy it is to eat 2,000 calories? Most people can do it in a single meal! Hit any Chinese buffet, order a large meat lover’s pizza, or chow down on two or three plates of pasta, and you’ve pretty much reached your 2,000-per-day mark. And that’s in just one sitting! Imagine how much more you could eat in a single day if you’re not careful. Thanks to the high-fat, high-calorie foods available EVERYWHERE, it’s easy to eat close to 3,500 calories in a day without trying.

How many calories do you burn each time you hit the gym? An hour of jogging burns from 300 to 600 calories, depending on your size, weight, and speed. Turn up the pace a bit, and you’ll still only burn 500 to 800 calories. A full-intensity weight training session may burn as much as 1,000 calories if you keep your heart rate above 125 BPM, but that’s easier said than done. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever crack the 1,000 calories-per-hour mark, no matter how hard you push yourself. The human body just isn’t designed to sustain such intense energy expenditure.

No, the average person will burn around 400 to 700 calories per hour of workout, and that’s pushing hard. So, if you burn 700 calories in your workout and another 2,000 thanks to your metabolism, that’s a solid 2,700 calories per day. If you eat right, you can lose a good deal of weight over time. Only consume 2,200 calories each day, and your body will be forced to burn the other 500 calories from your body fat.

But that’s a big “if”. It’s so easy to overeat without realizing it! No matter how strict you think you’re being with your diet, you’re almost guaranteed to consume additional calories unaware. Think of the calories in the oil you use to cook your meals, the dressings you put on your salad, even the extra ingredients in your sandwich! All of these things add up to a lot more calories than you’d expect.

Even the most cautious people end up eating more than they think. If you’re not being careful with what you eat, it’s incredibly easy to go way over the recommended calorie intake mark. You’ve worked your butt off at the gym, but your eating habits cause you to overeat. All of your hard work will be for nothing, and you’ll still end up gaining weight. Sounds dramatic, right? It may be, but it’s close to the truth. There is no way an exercise program can trump a bad diet, and the only way that you’ll lose weight is by watching your diet AND exercising.

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