Yoga in the park

Springtime, Exercise, and Your Livea Plan

Missy O., B.S. Nutritional Science

Congratulations, you’ve decided it’s time to embark on a journey to a healthier version of yourself! You’ve made the commitment to change your eating habits and focus on a better overall lifestyle. Most likely, you’ve at least considered adding an exercise regimen to the routine especially now that Spring is here and we can get outdoors! It’s a common assumption that exercise will only speed up one’s weight loss, so often times people jump into a new meal plan and exercise routine all at once. While physical activity is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, there are things to consider. It isn’t necessarily as simple as the more of a good thing, the better. If you are exercising on your Livea plan, you’ve most likely had a conversation with your consultant about how to temper your workouts, to ensure that exercise is a compliment to your Livea plan, rather than a hindrance. Even if you have had these conversations, it may not be clear as to why we’ve asked you to scale back the workouts that you were previously doing, or asked that you wait to implement a new exercise routine. Let’s talk more about the whys behind these recommendations.

Oh, the Burn

First, it’s important to keep in mind that when you’re eating to lose weight, you are in a calorie deficit. Although this calorie deficit is in a safe range, it can still take your body some time to adjust. If you immediately add exercise to the mix, especially if it’s of a high intensity, you are increasing that calorie deficit. Not only could this make you feel run-down and low energy, it could also slow down your progress. Participating in high volumes of anaerobic activity, or high intensity interval training can result in too extreme of a calorie deficit, which may cause the body to look to other tissue like muscle as a fuel source. This can result in a loss of muscle mass rather than body fat. An extreme calorie deficit can also cause increased hunger, making it more difficult to follow your Livea plan, as well as potentially causing damage to your metabolism. During the weight loss phase of your program, your plan is specific to your BMR, or basal metabolic rate. We are taking into account your regular day-to-day activity, but nothing overly strenuous. Trust that this plan is designed for your caloric needs and heed the advice that you are given from your reputable lifestyle consultant.

Your Relationship with Exercise
Something that I frequently hear when a client is recalling food choices, is, “I ate (insert off-plan food), but I did (insert exercise) that day,” with the assumption that the physical activity somehow cancels out the additional calories or the unhealthy choices. Not only does this mindset treat exercise like a punishment, it also establishes the paradigm – I can eat more because I had a really good workout, or I need to exercise harder or longer because I ate an indulgent thing. As part of a healthy lifestyle, healthy eating and exercise should be mutually exclusive. Even if exercise could be used as a tool for offsetting poor food choices, it would require much more vigorous workouts than the average person is doing. You’ve probably heard it before, but just a friendly reminder, YOU CAN’T OUT-EXERCISE A BAD DIET! Moving your body should be an enjoyable experience, not a punishment for other choices that you’ve made. Just as the goal is to build a healthy relationship with food, we also want you to have a healthy relationship with exercise. When physical activity becomes the payment for eating, that relationship is becoming toxic. Setting weekly goals for your exercise plan will help ensure that you’re not only staying active, but also avoiding excessive exertion.

Strength Training
Now let’s talk about strength training. As you start to feel healthier and more energized, you may decide to up the ante on your fitness program. Weight lifting and other types of resistance training are necessary for maintaining muscle mass and bone density, but that doesn’t mean you have to go for the gold during the weight loss phase of your journey. In fact, excessive strength training while in a caloric deficit can actually cause your progress to slow or stop all together, and may even result in the loss of muscle mass. If your goal is to increase muscle mass, it’s best to wait until you’ve met your goal weight and are moving into the lifestyle phase, at your maintenance calories. Although it is not technically impossible to build muscle while eating for weight loss, it requires a level of discipline that many fitness professionals haven’t even mastered – think nothing but chicken and broccoli for the duration of your program…yikes! If this feels discouraging, just keep in mind that we can help you focus on your fitness goals as soon as you reach your goal!

Recommendations
So, what is the appropriate time and intensity of physical activity when you are trying to lose weight? There isn’t a one size fits all answer, so it’s important to keep your consultant informed about your current level of physical activity. For the first 4-6 weeks of your plan, we advise you to scale back the time and intensity of your current workouts by 50%. Once your body is acclimated to your program, it is best to not exceed the CDC’s recommendation of 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity, aerobic exercise (1). Moderate intensity implies that you are working at 50-60% of your max heart rate. (Max heart rate can be determined by subtracting your age from 220. For example, if you’re 50 years old, your max heart rate is around 170; 60% of that would be 102 beats per minute.) If you don’t wear a heart monitor, a great way to gauge moderate intensity is by your ability to carry on a conversation without getting out of breath. A brisk walk or a moderate-resistance bike ride, 3-4 times per week could be a great addition to your current routine. Even some low-impact strength training with resistance bands or light weights can be a nice compliment. Just keep in mind that your efforts should be about 50-60% of your max, and as always, listen to your body and keep your lifestyle consultant informed about your activity level.

As you consider your goals for building a healthy lifestyle, physical activity should definitely be a part of the equation; however, it’s important that you follow the guidance from your lifestyle consultant as it pertains to exercise. Our goal is to make sure that you are as successful as possible on your Livea plan; there’s a reason why we ask you to follow the plan a specific way, and if you follow this guidance, you will be successful. Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint (quite literally); you don’t have to make every lifestyle change all at once. Take this time to really focus on healthy eating habits. It may sound cliché, but trust the process and you will meet your goals in due time.

Resources

  1. “Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2022.
    https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/resources/recommendations.html