Corinne Austin | Personal Training

Exercise & Calorie Counting

Fitness and fitness products are often victims of overglorified and sensationalized sales tactics. Pragmatic headlines don’t sell, but sexy ones do. That’s why we so often hear of new fitness trends and fitness products which ‘blast calories’ – because we’re all searching for that miracle product or service which will undo our poor nutritional choices and habits. However, when you consider the number of us who struggle to meet our weight loss goals, perhaps the practical, straight-up approach is what we actually all need to hear.

To put it bluntly, exercising should not just be about counting calories or calorie burning. For many gym members, the focus is on calorie expenditure and this is something that drastically needs to change. Yes exercise burns calories, but if that’s our main point of focus then we sadly neglect to pay tribute to all the other wonderful benefits of exercise. If you’re someone who regularly justifies eating a muffin or a pie by saying you’ve been to the gym or for a run, then I suggest you rethink your approach to your own personal fitness.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t treat yourself sometimes – all things in moderation right? One muffin can’t undo a gym workout, but it won’t compliment it either. Nutrition should compliment your gym sessions and aid in recovery, but it won’t negate the benefits you gained from that exercise session.

Here comes the practical truth – exercise should be about developing all components of an individuals fitness: strength, cardiovascular, flexibility, stability, speed, power, general health, and injury and disease prevention. Exercise should contribute to the overall physiological and physical functioning and efficiency within our bodies. The number of calories you burn as a result of exercising regularly should be considered a natural by-product of you exercising; it shouldn’t be the selling point. The stronger and fitter your body is, the more calories it will naturally burn.

Measuring calorie burn can also be very misleading. For example, an hours walk may burn 300 calories, but a 40 minute bootcamp session can also burn 300 calories. In this instance, because of the different physiological energy systems used, the bootcamp is not only more time effective, but because it’s likely to incorporate strength training and high intensity drills, the actual caloric output from the session will be much greater than the walking session. I’m not suggesting that walking is not beneficial, I’m just trying to help you to understand why counting calories is not always as accurate as you think or believe.

The bottom line – focus on your overall fitness. Coupling other parameters and improvements of your health and fitness with energy expenditure readings can be very useful in tracking and comparing your exercise sessions over time. But avoid making energy expenditure and calorie counting the be all and end all.

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