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Nutrition When You Can’t Gym

by | Apr 6, 2020 | Blog

Gym closures…. it’s not fun!  I don’t consider the service I provide to be anything like the public gym model they had in mind when the decision was made to shut down gym, indoor sports, fitness centres, and Pilates studios, etc.

I see a lot of comments from friends and others online about their concerns now that they can’t get to their usual workouts and equipment.

I’ve been supporting my members since this announcement to stay focused on their fitness goals and approach them in a new way.  We’ve stripped back our training plans to basics and are already seeing the benefits of that.

Yeah, we’d love to get back to our heavy barbells and the squat rack, and our Metafit and PWR sessions.  But we can’t right now.  We need to do the right thing by the entire community at this time.

Fortunately, being a nutritionist, I’m able to educate my clients to help them to feel less stress over not getting their usual training in.

One way I do that is to outline the most important contributing factors to fat loss OR gain:

Your Fat Loss (or gain) is determined by “The energy equation” being – Your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) vs How much you eat!

Yeah right, we know this, so how can you feel better about not working out when you’re doing fewer workouts??

Your TDEE is made up of:

70% BMR (what you would burn if laying down all day) – what the body needs to function.

20% incidental movement..…  Not just steps and walking.  Your incidental movement includes your posture, fidgeting, picking things up, getting up from your desk, bending down, shopping, cleaning…. I’m personally unable to hit my usual steps target now working from home and increased time at the computer.  So, I’ve taken off my fit bit, and changed my daily steps goal to “1 hour of cleaning per day”.  I also try to get out for a walk if time permits, but I’m not hung up on hitting my steps so much. 

5-7% of BMR – digestive processes.  The energy you use to digest food and absorb nutrients.

3-5% Daily exercise.  So, why bother working out?? Your workouts are MOST important for building and maintaining lean muscle tissue, your mood, fitness, and strength to name a few benefits but in my opinion, we need to stop viewing exercise as the main tool in fat loss.  We simply can’t do enough of it to increase this ratio substantially, even when not in lockdown!  Many of us try, and often what happens is, we increase exercise, fatigue levels increase and often appetite goes up…. leading us to ***consume more food*** and negate the energy deficit we attempted to create by overtraining.

So, how can you apply these principles to your lockdown scenario? 

  1. Keep a written food diary that also includes notes on how you feel, your sleep quality, stress levels, etc.  This will help you to determine the “non-hunger” based eating you’re engaging in, and the types of foods you can aim to reduce that will be substantially increasing your energy intake.  Think junk food/portion sizes of main meals etc.  Self-awareness is the key to change. 
  2. Get up as much as possible for any reason.  Try not to sit for too long.  Get out for an enjoyable walk if you can and take in some sunshine and some different scenery from the house.  Listen to music, a podcast or audiobook.  Please note, that I do not mean “walk 20km daily so you can eat more”.  That’s falling back into the misuse of exercise trap!
  3. Eat lots of veggies!  Frozen, fresh, salad/steamed, whatever you can get.  Remember how you used to complain about having no time to eat healthy or meal prep?  Now is your chance.  And for most people, including a cup or more of leafy green veg or salad in each meal helps to trigger the satiety hormones…. so you feel fuller for fewer calories.  Try it in conjunction with reduced junk snacking, at the very least, you’re going to get in more micronutrients.   Win/win.
  4. Have you thought about your protein intake?   Minimum recommendations are 0.8g per kg of body weight daily.  Try to include a source of lean protein each meal – Meat, fish, dairy, eggs for example.  (If you are plant-based, you’ll need to include a wide variety of plant-based foods daily to bump up your protein, it’s a little easier to hit with relatively small quantities of animal products).  High protein diets consistently outperform others in terms of fat loss success.  Not only that but ensuring you get enough daily protein supports your immune system. 

So WHY do so many people incorrectly try to increase exercise to lose fat?  Because it’s what we’ve been taught, it’s a bit of an industry standard and it does often work in the short term. This leads us to draw incorrect conclusions about the role of exercise and fat loss. However, more often than not, overtraining for fat loss is not sustainable.  I see far too many people who have rebounded from this method.

Once you understand this, you will start working out because you LOVE it, and what it does for you – Not as punishment for eating.

Need more help, or have questions?  Get in touch!

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