Q. I started an exercise regime that says I should eat more than I normally do so that my body will burn the calories to lose the weight. The exercises are weight training and cardio and last about 45-60 min per day/ 5 days a week. Is it true that we should to eat more to burn more? I’m have been on the program for 90 days with minimal weight loss.
A. I wish you’d written about 89 days ago because I’m afraid you’ve been given some bad information. Simply eating more (or eating more frequently) does not cause your body to burn calories at a faster rate than it otherwise would.
(See also: Metabolism Myths)
Here are a few strategies that may help your body to burn calories at a faster rate–but as you’ll notice, there are some rather significant details that your plan failed to mention:
Eat more protein. Eating more protein can increase the rate at which you burn calories. The change probably won’t be dramatic enough to result in any noticeable weight loss, however, unless you also decrease the total number of calories you eat. (For best results, I suggest cutting back on calories from starches.)
For more on the effects of protein on weight loss, please see this episode of my podcast: Protein and Weight Loss.
Build muscle with strength training. Muscle is more metabolically active than other types of tissue. So increasing your muscle mass can help you burn more calories throughout the day. However, many people imagine this effect to be a lot bigger than it actually is. Adding a pound of muscle to your body could help you burn at most an extra 30 calories a day. (Over the course of a year, that would add up to three pounds.)
Avoid very low-calorie diets. There’s one other situation where eating more can increase your metabolic rate. If you’ve been on a very low-calorie diet for an extended period of time, your metabolism may have slowed to compensate. Eating more will help reset your metabolism at a higher rate–however, you will probably also gain weight.
Eat Less, Move More to Lose Weight
If you’ve been exercising 5 hours a week for 3 months, and your workouts are reasonably challenging, I bet you’ve made some great strides in terms of your fitness and strength. Count that a success!! “And even if you’re not losing weight, if you’re losing inches where it counts, don’t change a thing. If, however, you’re not losing weight OR inches, it might be time to make an adjustment in your food intake–and that adjustment should be to eat less, not more.
For some advice on how to eat less without feeling hungry, see this episode of my podcast: How to Eat Less without Feeling Hungry.