I have a friend, Kathy Duran-Thal, who is a dietician in Dallas. She loves to say that, “Your feet cannot outrun your mouth.” In other words, it takes a whole lot of exercise to burn all the calories you can eat in just a matter of minutes. I was reminded of that last weekend.
For the past several years I have served at the host of the live television broadcast of the Dallas Marathon. This year’s race will be held on December 14th and because of all sorts of street construction the course has been dramatically altered from years gone by. In order to get a feel for the subtle nuances of the new layout I cycled the course on Sunday with my good buddy, Kevin Spivey, who also serves as the producer of the broadcast. Now while riding a marathon is much easier than running one, it still was a pretty decent workout.
After returning home and grabbing some lunch I then spent much of the afternoon helping my son-in-law move furniture and boxes from a house into a storage unit. For over three hours we were climbing up and down stairs, carrying heavy loads to and from the house to the car and then from the car into the storage unit. It was hard work, especially on the heels of a fairly long bike ride. Between the ride and move I got pretty close to six hours of pretty strenuous physical activity.
After dinner that night I felt guilty that I had not taken my dog, Emma, on a walk or run that morning. She’s a seven year old black Lab that LOVES to go to the park, chase squirrels, and sniff to her hearts delight. I always try to make sure that Emma gets at least two workouts every weekend. Since I had skipped that morning I grabbed her leash and we took a brisk walk around the neighborhood. We were gone about 15 or 20 minutes so I’m guessing we probably covered a little over a mile.
For the past several months I’ve been wearing an accelerometer, one of the so-called “wearables” that tracks my activity and sleep. There are all sorts of brands available. The space is exploding because the technology has really evolved. FitBit is by far the market-share leader but there are all sorts of quality options. I wear an UP by Jawbone, primarily because that’s what many of my colleagues use and we can monitor each other’s activity. This comes in handy if we want to talk smack or encourage one another.
After Emma’s walk I decided I was pretty much out of gas. I sat down, turned on my phone, hit my “UP” app, and waited for my wrist device to sync with my phone. When my totals popped up it indicated I had logged 21,259 steps for the day (The technology automatically converts the cycling mileage into steps. As a general rule, and I do mean general, every four miles on a bike equals about one mile of running or walking). Because of stride variance everyone is a bit different but there are approximately 2,000 steps in a mile. My accelerometer estimated I had covered the equivalent of about 11.7 miles for the day.
When I initially activated my accelerometer I entered my gender, height, and weight so the device also automatically gives me caloric estimates; both calories burned at rest (“resting burn”) and calories burned while active (“active burn”). For the day it showed I had burned 1,582 calories just living and another 1,505 calories through activity for a grand total of 3,087 calories expended. Now these numbers are not by any means 100% accurate but they are pretty close so for the sake of discussion let’s assume they are a pretty fair estimate.
We also need to keep in mind that I ate that day…a banana with peanut butter before my ride plus a hearty lunch and dinner. I estimate I probably consumed about 2,400 calories through food and snacks.
So let’s do the math. I ate 2,400 calories and burned 3,087 calories so the difference was obviously a negative 687 calories…I burned more than I ate. Since there are no more than 3,500 calories in a pound (see 1/6/14 post) that means that for the day, at the most, I lost 1/5th of a pound…despite “exercising” for somewhere around six hours. That’s why my friend Kathy says, “Our feet cannot outrun our mouth.” I easily could have eaten another 500 or 600 calories and would have actually gained weight for the day despite six hours of activity!
This just reinforces what the science shows, and what we’ve talked about in the past…If you want to lose weight you need to really focus on caloric restriction (i.e. how much you put in your mouth). However, once you reach your target weight, if you want to keep it off, you must be physically active on a regular basis. I meet people all the time that insist they can just “sweat off the pounds.” To them I say, with a slight smile: Good for you!