Well, even though it's not officially summer here in Boston, the 90+ temperatures of the last few days have brought back that summer feel. Suddenly, Snowmaggedon 2013 is a distant memory and everyone is now in beach mode.
To that end, I've noticed a trend with those who want to lose weight or "tone up" (biting my lip as I absolutely abhor that term). These two mistakes often go hand in hand, and a little awareness can go a long way.
So what are they?
1. Overestimating the amount of energy you burn.
Let's get one thing out of the way: burning energy/calories is tough work. In fact, whenever a treadmill or a bike claims that I just burned X amount of calories, I really have to laugh. Somehow, the machine - which knows nothing besides my rough bodyweight (sometimes) - is able to determine my metabolic rate, without my age, bodyfat percentage, and a host of other factors. Talk about an estimate!
Plus, it's natural for us to overestimate the amount of calories we burn because we want to think what we're doing is effective. While people usually associate 1 mile of walking or running with burning 100 calories, that estimate can vary pretty wildly depending on the person. Unless you're in a lab (or are, in fact, bionic), it's impossible to determine how much your burning throughout the day or even during a workout.
Anecdotally, I've still yet to see someone who burns more than a few hundred calories when they workout for less than an hour.
2. Underestimating the amount of energy you take in.
Here's the other mistake I tend to see: thinking you can eat an entire pizza by yourself just because you worked out (confession time: okay so, at one point that was me). Often times, it's hard to realize how easy it is to overeat and to put more energy in your body than you're burning (a recipe for weight gain). While I could talk about this point until I was blue in the face, here's a great video I stumbled upon a few years ago which helps to further my point....with pizza.
While I don't mean to malign my favorite Italian dish, you start to get a picture of why certain attempts to lose weight can be unsuccessful.
To further that point, while nutrition after you workout is important (fancily called peri-nutrition), having a reasonable point of view is also important. If you want to lose weight or "tone up," you don't need to go crazy with shakes and meals right after you workout. While you should eat something small (that includes protein and carbohydrates!), if you've only done 2-3 miles on the treadmill or elliptical, there's no reason for you to be slugging back a 300-500 calorie "replacement" bar or shake.
Furthermore, when you eat processed food after you workout, it's harder for your body to gauge when it's full, or when it needs more energy. When in doubt, the old lesson still rings true: eat whole, natural foods, and your body will take care of itself.
Yes, I realize you want to think you workout as hard as an Olympian....but even they don't burn as much as they may think, and they still have to be careful with what they consume. This fact may be a tough pill for you to swallow, but realize that it's probably the truth.