Calories.  We just can't stop thinking about them...

How many we eat, how many we think we SHOULD eat, how many are in a particular meal... whether that is a good or bad amount.....

And of course how many of them we can 'burn off' during exercise...

If only it was as simple as that.  Balancing a ledger of energy intake and expenditure.

Energy in = Energy out.

Writing it a little more correctly may look more like this:

Calories eaten + (insulin resistance) + (carbohydrate load) - (undigested food) = BMR (basal metabolic rate) + (thermic effect of food) + NEPA (non exercise physical activity) + exercise

Now that's just a made up formula, but hopefully it helps us see that it's not as simple as the first example.

Also.....I've got bad news - exercise doesn't burn a lot of calories.

The average CrossFit workout is going to burn 250-350 calories.  Compare that to the 2500-3500 calories we consume per day from food.

That's right, a bout of exercise burns around 1/10 of our energy intake each day.

So if it was all about burning more energy than you take in, you better talk to your boss, find out how much leave you have accrued, and get busy.... cause you have got a LOT of exercise to do.....!

It's important that this concept is well understood, even if not physiologically, then at least conceptually.  Otherwise it's easy to doom yourself to a daily check in of calories burned, of hours exercised, of sweat shed, of pain endured, and grams gained and lost on the scale.

It's a big part of why in some people we see resistance, whether sub-consciously or overtly, to skill practice, to strength work, to warm ups, mobility and short conditioning pieces.  They don't feel like they are doing the right things, or enough of the right things, to burn all of the calories....

Exercise is not the primary driver for fat loss or muscle gain.

Nutrition is.

But, we can use exercise to determine whether weight gained or lost is comprised of muscle or fat.  Whether muscle gained is functional (makes you stronger) or non-functional (makes you bigger).  Exercise can get you better at your sport, help you sleep better, improve mobility, rehab injury, prevent injury and sure, if it's once in a while, exercise will make your body less prone to storing the calories from a sub-optimal meal as fat, but it's not a formula you should rely on.

The below isn't really a formula, but it's better than thinking of the two factors as being at odds with each other.  And it's better than thinking that more exercise and more calories burned is the right thing to do.

Darren Ellis