When strict diet & strenuous workouts don’t work

A tale of two women.

One achieved better lifestyle. Disconnected her self-esteem with her body and her weight.

While the other one fell into the dieting trap and ended up with an injury and weight gain.

What went wrong?

I totally understand how it feels like to workout like a slave for nothing. I used to workout harder than anyone in the gym. And still not see any change in my body.

A few weeks ago I received this question:

“In order to loose weight, do you need strenuous workout like running & weight-training? Or any form of workout for an hour regularly does the job?”

It’s a great question. And before I reveal the optimal amount of workout best for you… let me be upfront: weight loss does NOT depend upon workout.

It’s a big statement but give me a minute.

Workout is an artificial attempt to burn calories. But it’s not the only one.

Let’s back up and start from the beginning.

You probably already know weight loss depends upon ‘Energy Deficit’. You have 24 hours in a day and every second of the day you’re burning energy.

The question is – are you burning the stored energy or not? While we know workouts and dieting burn fat (stored energy). But what about strenuous workouts topped with dieting?

“If you do more, will you see faster results?”

This is an interesting case. Because the results are surprising.

But first, is workout the only way to burn calories?


Chess players have been known to burn up to 6,000 calories a day during the tournament. This is because mind burns 20% more calories than muscles.

This can’t be measured by any smartwatch. Because there’s no change in heart-beat.

In short, workouts aren’t the only way to lose weight. But what about strenuous workout? How does that impact your fitness? Here’s the full story:

“I have a lot of hormonal imbalances and I have been juggling with this weight to lose. For the last month, I have been crazy about losing weight…following a 1100 kcal diet and walking for 40 minutes at 5 am. Cycling for 30min at 8:30 am. Yoga for an hour at noon. Strength training for 40min at 5 pm.

And to my surprise, I GAINED 5 KGS (11 lbs) in a month and have got a tennis elbow and a pain in my calf muscles because of which I am doing nothing for the last 5 days.

So now, I’m in a total dilemmatic stage about the right way to lose weight… what works? I don’t understand. Only thing I understood with this injury is I should not be overstretching myself.”

There’s something big going on here.

When it comes to fitness only three things matter.

a) Nutrition
b) Activity
c) Recovery

What’s wrong here?

Most people are led to ignore the third phase. And when we over-train – we MUST over recover.

Take a piece of food and cook it. What happens when you overcook it? It goes bad. It’s useless.

Why recovery is important?

Every day there are numerous small wear and tears in the body. For example, when you workout, your muscles undergo damage that heal back when you sleep.

But when those damages accumulate and aren’t fully healed? Sooner or later, something gets ugly. You might experience:

  • You’re easily irritated
  • Losing motivation for workout due to constant exhaustion
  • Decreased immunity so you’re falling sick more often
  • Decline in performance and you’re not enjoying your workout sessions
  • Injury – some muscle group give up and might needs weeks or months of rest
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Trouble sleeping or early wakeups
  • Food or sugar cravings
  • Lower metabolism due to decreased thyroid hormone
  • Constipation
  • Hair loss
  • Feeling cold
  • Mood swings
  • Brain fog or poor concentration
  • Disrupted sex hormones (irregular or missed menstrual cycles)
  • Weight gain

Like me, you must have experienced at least one of these symptoms. It is frustrating and confusing to understand where’s the right balance.

What’s the problem with extreme dieting and strenuous workout?

The problem is when you’re overweight your body is under a lot of stress and inflammation.

And workouts flame the fire.

Add to this dieting. First, your mind is way too smart. Dieting sows the seeds of future binging episodes.

Coming back to low calorie diets, the lower you go, the harder it chokes your body of nutrients and healing materials. When survival becomes a priority, recovery takes a back seat. Because recovery takes nutrients. Right?

Over time when recovery is ignored, the weakest link in the body snaps.

In the worst case scenario – which is common – your metabolism goes down (not up). Unfortunately, this means compared to others, your body is burning less and less calories during rest.

That’s why doing more can backfire.

My mentor Dr. John Berardi shared this story of a woman where her weight went up by a few pounds on a particular day.

She was doing ‘everything right’ but still her weight went up.

As you might expect, she went on a guilt trip. On top of that, she was terrified of putting anything in her mouth and in frustration decided to hit the gym even harder.

Luckily, she received timely guidance and stuck to what the coach recommended.

Initially, it was hard for her to resist NOT to overstrain but after a week of ‘eating more and doing less’ she lost 3 lbs (1.5kgs).

A few months later, she lost 10 lbs (4.5 kgs) and looked amazing. People would come up to her for fitness tips.

So ultimately, what can you learn from this?

While you’re the expert of your body… here is what I learned.

I’m strong. But I need to stay connected with myself & my body. I need to practice the art & science of fitness. Before I decide on the tactics of movement – weight training, yoga, swimming, I need to understand the principles of fitness.

What’re some of the principles I learned?

  • Mind over matter.
  • It isn’t about workout – it’s about enjoying moving your body.
  • Finding nutrition that works for you and your life.

So what’s the optimal amount of exercise?

Truth is everyone is different. So your sweet spot depends on what works for your life.

But generally speaking 10-30 minutes a day for workout along with leading an active life works for beginners.

Your workout can have HIIT sessions, cardio, and weight training. Apart from being as much active as you can be.

What’s next? While you’re the expert of your body, coaching can help you create accountability and consistency.

Occasionally I take on a few clients whenever there’s space… checkout our Boss Girl Nutrition coaching page.

Leave a Comment

Join "Get fit India" Movement

Our mission is to help you divorce the diet-culture and discover strength & beauty within. And create a culture of fitness in India. Are you ready to become our ambassador...