To lose one pound you need to run 1,310 miles or otherwise burn 250,000 to 300,000 calories. At least that was the experience of ultra-long-distance runner Dean Karnazes when in 2006 he ran 50 marathons in 50 days -- one in each of the 50 states. Although he burned 5,000 to 6,000 calories a day -- enough to lose more than a pound each day -- he chose to consume a similar number of calories in order to maintain his weight / his strength for the long run. Specifically, the muscular, 5-foot 8-inch tall Karnazes went from 154 pounds on September 17, 2006 to 153 on November 5th. Running three to five hours a day for seven weeks he lost just one pound.
Likewise for Australia's Yiannis Kouros, who holds 154 World Records for running distances of 100, 150 and 300 miles and longer: in 2005, at age 49, he broke his own record for miles run in a 6-day race when he totaled 643 miles. Yet, he never loses any weight during these colossal runs unless he chooses to AND sometimes even gains weight.
Then there are the 350-pound linemen in professional football, who, although they get plenty of exercise, overeat in order to maintain their size (their ideal weight is more likely closer to 220 pounds) so they can protect their quarterbacks and keep their jobs.
In recent research, scientists at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, studied women who were exercising more than three hours per week. They found that these women were losing just half the weight they were expected to lose based on the number of calories they were burning. It seems that since they started the exercise program, they had inadvertently increased their calorie intake, too.
The plain and simple truth of it is that you can spend your life at the gym or wear out one pair of sneakers after another like Karnazes did and not have much in the way of fat loss to show for it unless you address the calories-in side of the equation.
Here is what you can do to make sure all that exercise is not for naught:
- Before you start a program to lose weight you need to align your desire to lose and keep the weight off with your belief that you can lose the pounds and keep them off. You can do this by making list of all the benefits you will enjoy and read and study it several times a day until you feel excited and joyous anticipation concerning your improved lifestyle -- the new, lighter version of you (see The Real Reason You Put the Weight Right Back On -- parts 1 & 2).
- Keep a log of everything you put in your mouth until your new, healthier eating habits are well established
- At the start of each week write out a detailed menu for the week (including snacks).
- Prepare your snacks/lunch the night before and keep them easily accessible
- Eat four or five small meals/snacks each day that each include a protein source, healthful fats, a fruit and/or vegetable, and a complex carbohydrate. For example, peanut butter on apple slices or tuna fish salad on whole grain bread with a salad.
- Have one splurge day per week when you can eat anything you like. This will remind your body that their is no "famine" so it doesn't need to slow your metabolism and horde the fat. Also, occasionally you'll overeat on this day and feel bad. This will remind you how much better you feel eating more sensibly.
If you wish to lose weight faster and maintain your new body more easily, then EXERCISE! However, exercising without watching your food intake is like running on a treadmill, no matter how hard you work out -- no matter how long you exercise -- you're not going to get anywhere.
Ed Mayhew , speaker and author of Fitter for Life and Fitter After 50