Exactly How To Increase The Number Of Kilojoules You Burn Daily

Just use this simple equation...


Women's Health |

Struggling to lose weight? If you’ve been sweating it out on a regular basis and the scale has barely budged – or worse, it spiked – you can probably blame an imbalance of two key weight-loss players: kilojoules in (how much you eat) and kilojoules out (how much you burn). What looks simple on paper gets tricky in practice, because a crazy-hard sweat session not only incinerates kilojoules and revs your metabolism, it can also up your hunger quotient in the process. Luckily, a few quick tweaks are all you need to make sure your workouts are helping – not hurting – your kilo-shedding efforts.

Sweat By Numbers

Sorry to break it to you, but your last über-tough workout probably didn’t torch nearly as many kilojoules as you thought it did. “People grossly overestimate how many kilojoules they burn during exercise, especially when they think it’s high intensity,” says human kineticist Dr Eric Doucet. It doesn’t help when your boot camp instructor says each class blasts 4 000kJ (a total exaggeration) or you check the counters on cardio machines (ellipticals have been reported to overestimate expenditure by 42 percent).

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“Estimating kilojoule output can be an inexact science,” says dietician Georgie Fear. That’s because it involves factors like age, weight, body temperature, metabolic rate and hormonal changes (to name a few) that are complicated, difficult to track and ever-fluctuating. Many cardio machines, for example, only factor in age and weight – and are calibrated for men. What’s more, at higher intensities, or as the machines get older, the readouts may become less accurate.

Instead of sticking to numbers, monitor your intensity by focusing on your perceived effort – how difficult the workout feels. In the weights area, the last few reps of every set should be tough to finish (if they’re not, bump up the weight or number of reps). During cardio workouts, add short bursts of speed to shock your body and spike your burn, suggests human kineticist Dr Mark Gorelick. After warming up, speed up to your near all-out max effort (it should feel unsustainable) for 30 seconds, then slow to a conversational pace for three minutes. Repeat six times. Too easy? Adjust both the sprint and recovery to one minute.

The Kilojoule Conundrum

If you’ve been logging loads of kilometres or you’re a gym regular and you still aren’t seeing changes, it’s time to take a closer look at your diet.

Moderately active women typically need a ballpark of 7 500 to 9 000kJ a day to maintain their weight, says Fear. To drop kilograms, you’ll need to shave anywhere from 1 000 to 2 000kJ a day from that total. Seems simple, right? Not quite. After exercise, adrenaline and endorphins are flowing, giving you that familiar post-workout high. In this elated state, women often feel they deserve a post-workout treat or can splurge on a high-kilojoule lunch.

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Case in point: in a study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, Doucet and his colleagues found that university students consumed up to three times more kilojoules than they burnt during an earlier workout. Researchers think people may be less mindful of what they’re putting into their mouths (as long as it’s tasty). Not only that, many women also reward their gym efforts by being less active the rest of the day (by, say, not taking the stairs or spending more downtime on the couch): in a 2011 study, women burnt nearly 300 fewer kilojoules during the day after doing a hard workout compared with days they didn’t hit the gym.

Even if you can resist the reward mentality, how you feel after working out – exhausted, drained, possibly ravenous – can reinforce the idea that you burnt a ton of kilojoules and your body needs more fuel. Just take a look at the spread of goodies offered at the end of a five kay. Grab a sarmie, a banana and an energy drink and you’ve just cancelled out your kilojoule burn. While serious athletes need pre- and post-workout kilojoules to offset their demanding training, the average woman has enough glycogen stored in her muscles and liver to power her through a workout. Translation: step away from the energy drink, gel or jelly beans. You don’t need them after an hour at the gym.

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That doesn’t mean post-workout eating is entirely off-limits: kilojoules after a workout can be a solid investment, says Fear: “They can help with muscle recovery and restore glycogen supplies so you won’t reach for sweets later.” If necessary, beat exercise-induced hunger pangs with an 800kJ snack (a mix of carbs and protein, like half a lean chicken sandwich – minus mayo) within 30 minutes of exercising. Just remember to figure the kilojoules into your daily count – not in addition to it.

The Perfect Balance

Once you’ve synced up your diet and workout, be patient – successful kilo shedding takes time. “Fat loss and weight loss don’t always go hand in hand,” says exercise physiologist Dr Ben Hurley. While endless cardio and a restrictive diet might lead to the fastest drops on the scale, you’re often losing fat, water weight and muscle mass. The combo of cardio, weight training and healthy eating might mean slower losses, but you’ll likely ditch flab while building good habits that you can maintain over time – meaning you’ll look hot for years to come.

Cardio Recalculation

The kilojoule-burn counts on some cardio machines can be pretty inaccurate. To help combat this, increase your goal burn by 30 percent, suggests exercise physiologist Laura Streeper. So if you go to the gym with the intention of burning 1 200kJ, aim for 1 600kJ instead.

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