energy balanceIn my experience as a fitness professional, I could say that most people who join a gym do so in the hopes of changing their looks, and weight-loss is certainly one of the most common fitness goals out there. Even though regular physical activity is definitely an important piece of the equation, when it comes to slimming down, exercise alone may not be enough. This means that everyone trying to shrink their waistline should pay close attention to their diets.

To comprehend how weight-loss occurs, one must first understand the principles of energy balance. The set of chemical reactions that happen in our body is called metabolism. Metabolism is the balance between the energy that comes in through the food we consume and the energy that goes out through our daily activities. However, according to the law of conservation of energy, energy cannot be created or destroyed, only changed in form. For the human body, this means that whatever energy we consume but do not burn is stored as fat.

The good news is that the reverse is also true, which means that to promote weight-loss all we need to do is to create an energy deficit (burn more than we consume), right? Not so fast. The problem is that for evolutionary reasons, the human body became very good in storing energy but not so efficient in getting rid of the surplus energy (aka fat). But don’t get discouraged. I’m not saying that losing fat is impossible; I’m just saying that it may require a little more effort than you previously thought.

For our body, conserving energy stores is a way of surviving through times of famine (even though it is not very likely that it will happen nowadays). In order to force our body to use fat deposits, we must create a demand for this energy. That’s where physical activity comes into play. Regular exercise is the most efficient way to burn extra energy, but in order to use the fat deposits you also must restrict the amount of energy coming in, and that’s where most people get out of track.

The reasoning behind this principle is simple. The body tends to use energy that is readily available. If you keep consuming a high-calorie diet, your body will use the energy from food, not from your energy stores (meaning that the fat around your waist will not be touched, no matter how many hours you spend on the treadmill).

Bottom line is: if your goal is to shed kilos, you need to combine exercise with a healthy low-calorie diet. And how many calories you should consume? Well, for specifics on this subject, you will need to wait for our next article. Meanwhile, focus on eating fresh instead of processed, homemade instead of restaurant and take-away foods, and lean and low fat instead of full fat varieties. This small piece of advice can help you control your energy intake without having to count calories.

Carla Torres is an AIF Master Trainer based in Rhodes, NSW. Her mission is to promote exercise, proper nutrition and healthy habits as a way to empower individuals to make decisions leading to better quality of life.