When I was stationed in SC, I used to go to the big gym on base every morning when we didn’t run unit PT. Almost from the very first time I went there, I noticed that there was always a very overweight woman walking on one of the treadmills. Though I didn’t know her, she was a very nice person and was always motivated and friendly to everyone, even to my grumpy ass 0500 version. As far as I could remember she never missed a day, at least not any day that I was there. She always walked hard and fast for a solid hour and it was obvious that she was determined to lose some weight. You couldn’t help but admire her efforts.
Not long after I got there, I deployed to Iraq for a year. When I got back, I went to the gym early one morning. There, walking hard and fast on the treadmill was the same woman. However, it didn’t seem to me that she had lost an ounce during all the time I was away? She looked just as big as ever. After some small talk (I didn’t question her about her diet, just mentioned it was nice to see her again, etc.). I had no reason to believe that she missed any gym time during the time I was away, so I was pretty sure her problem was the same issue I’d seen many times before and since: That being that despite her everyday workouts, she didn’t follow a good diet.
The fact is many people who exercise on a regular basis mistakenly assume that because they exercise a lot, they don’t have to really watch what, or how much you eat. At times I have been guilty of this myself. Yes, lots of exercise allows you to eat more and not gain weight, but it’s been my experience that most people will overestimate the amount of calories that they burn during exercise and greatly underestimate the amount of calories that they eat. Add to that the way exercise stimulates your appetite and it’s no wonder that even people who work out a lot can’t lose or maintain a healthy body weight.
For example the amount of calories in a McDonalds Big Mac meal (Big Mac, Coke and Fries) is approx. 1200 calories. To burn that off by running, the average sized person would have to run a ½ marathon, over 13 miles. Very few people can (or will) run that much on a regular basis and that’s just one meal. Not to mention that a fast food meal like that is very poor nutritionally. Another aspect of this that if you develop the habit of eating a lot, when you stop or reduce your exercise to any great degree, you will have a very hard reducing your big eating habit along with it. This is a very common occurrence in the military when people come off periods of hard military training like: Boot Camp, Ranger school, ITS, etc. They eat like escaped convicts during training (as they need it), but after they graduate they will often continue this habit and gain unwanted weight. It’s an old story in the Marine Corps for an overweight kid to lose 20-30lbs in boot camp and graduate looking great, then gain half of it back during boot camp leave?
The bottom line is that in the battle of diet vs. exercise, diet will always win as it’s much easier and takes a lot less time to eat a big meal, than it does to exercise it off. Like they say; “You can’t outrun a bad diet”. The point of all thus is that while exercise and a good diet are both very important for health, fitness and maintaining an optimum bodyweight, eating the good food in the right amounts is more important. Especially for people who rely on their bodies for their livelihood. So don’t make the mistake of thinking that a good hard hour of PT every day is a free pass to eat non-stop for the next 23. When I was in the Infantry the motto was Lean, Mean, Green and Hungry makes the Grunt fight harder. Still makes sense.
Be safe always, be good when you can.