Exercise for Weight Loss

Just as exercise is beneficial for a plethora of reasons, people tend to have their own reasons as to why they choose to exercise. Some people say they exercise so they can eat more, some enjoy doing it, some do it to prevent chronic medical conditions, and most of my clients do it to boost their weight loss.

For those of you who are trying to lose weight, exercising goes hand in hand with making dietary and behavior changes. Something I notice about my clients who include exercise in their weekly routine is that they are less likely to overeat at their meals because they don’t want to feel uncomfortable when they go out to exercise. Also, they are less prone to grazing throughout the day because they have a better sense of their hunger and fullness cues.

Energy balance

Let’s talk numbers. In order to lose weight, you need to take in less calories than you burn, creating a calorie deficit. On average, a deficit of 500 calories per day will promote one pound weight loss per week. You can create the deficit by decreasing calorie intake from your diet and burning calories from your daily activities. Not only does exercise help you burn additional calories, studies(1) show that people who exercise consistently, maintain their weight loss over time. Also, the more you exercise the more muscle you build and muscle burns more calories at rest than does fat, adding to your calorie deficit.

Food to fuel your exercise

Even though you need a calorie deficit to lose weight, it is still important that you make sure to get in enough food in to fuel your exercise routine. This will help to decrease muscle fatigue and enhance your athletic performance. Beyond your calorie needs, a good balance of all the macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fat) is essential.  

  • Carbohydrates –  supply glucose to fuel muscles, which helps maintain normal blood glucose concentrations during exercise.
  • Protein – help build, maintain, and repair muscle tissue. In particular, consuming protein soon after ending resistance training promotes muscle repair and builds muscle mass.
    • Protein requirements for those who seek to maintain lean tissue while restricting energy intake to lose weight or body fat  are 1.2 – 2 gm/Kg per day.
  • Fat – is a great energy source at rest and during exercise (refer back to the last blog entry for a description on fat burning exercises.) It also helps deliver fat soluble vitamin such as vitamin A, D, E, and K. Saturated fat (found in animal products such as butter, cream, and high fat red meats) should be limited and trans fat ( found in processed snack foods) avoided.

Ten tips for nutrition and exercising:

  1. Choose whole, high-fiber grains as your carbohydrate choice (100% whole wheat breads and pasta, brown rice, etc.).
  2. Choose lean proteins (pull skin off chicken, trim visible fat, and do not fry) and low-fat dairy items.
  3. Increase intake of healthy fats (peanut butter, nuts, seeds, flaxseed, olive oil, salmon/tuna) and decrease intake of saturated fats (fried foods, baked/packaged goods, and white, thick, creamy sauces/spreads).
  4. Increase non-starchy vegetable intake at meals and snacks.
  5. Use the plate rule for portion sizes (¼ plate carbohydrate, ¼ plate protein, ½ plate vegetables) .
  6. Consume 3 meals and 2 snacks throughout the day (choose a meal or snacks every 3-4 hours).
  7. Do not skip meals and stop eating when you feel satisfied.
  8. Decrease intake of sugary drinks, candy, refined white flour products, and sugary desserts.
  9. Limit alcohol intake.
  10. Try to choose “lighter fare” options at restaurants and grilled options at fast-food establishments.


  1. American College of Sport Medicine. Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise.  2009;41(2):259-471.

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