I want to eat a lot. How should I work out?
March 26, 2014 3:45 PM   Subscribe

What kind of exercise regimen can I get into that will allow me to/require me to eat a lot?

I like to eat a lot. I also like to exercise. I also would like to not gain body fat. What sport or exercise would be good for me to get into?

I have heard that weight lifting requires a lot of calories. Anything else?

Specific and science-based answers encouraged, for example: something specific like, "Swimming for 1 hour a day, for the average-build person, uses roughly x-calories, so you could probably eat y amount more per day without gaining weight, according to Z study."

BTW, I have no concerns about the quality of my diet: I'm a pescetarian, I don't eat fast food or drink soda at all, I eat little packaged food and moderate quantities of desserts once or twice a week. I love whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables. I'm basically just talking about sheer calories here: I love cooking and eating and want to be able to have an enjoyable experience eating a lot of food without gaining weight.

(Anon because I find it pretty dumb and embarrassing that I'm asking this question.)
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
According to this chart, running (pretty fast, 5.5 minute miles) still burns the most calories, but fast ax chopping comes in at a close second. So maybe switch to wood heat in your house?
posted by Lutoslawski at 3:50 PM on March 26, 2014 [5 favorites]

Run, a lot. Running for an hour at fairly high speed burns over a thousand calories. I do this habitually and have trouble eating enough to maintain weight, since replacing those calories requires the equivalent of an extra full meal every day. If you don't go for running, cycling will also make you ravenous, although it requires about twice the time commitment for the same calorie burn.
posted by killdevil at 3:50 PM on March 26, 2014

Anything you do a lot of. Swimming for 4 hours a day. Running 15 miles. An ex of mine would go on a 60+ mile bike ride every weekend then come home and ravenously eat everything in the house and immediately afterward be all "where are we going for dinner, I'm hungry," where he would then proceed to eat all of the food in the restaurant. He had almost no body fat.
posted by phunniemee at 3:52 PM on March 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

Another vote for running as much as you can stand. In addition to the calorie-burning efficiency raised by posters above, it is the easiest thing to just pick up and do, so it is useful to develop the capability and habit of running to facilitate quick cardio exercise wherever, whenever. Swimming might actually be better if you are already near water, but if not I wouldn't worry about trying hard to find a pool.

As for weight lifting burning lots of calories... I think it does proportional to the amount of time you spend with the weights actually in the air, but that is a relatively small portion of the time it takes to do a workout if you are being careful enough to avoid injury. However, building muscle will increase your resting burn rate, so it could be useful in that regard.

But definitely start running!
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 3:56 PM on March 26, 2014

A running coworker of mine who trained for a marathon last year tells me that one you hit 40 miles per week of running, that's where you can eat whatever you want. That works out to 5-6 miles per day.

Also anecdotally, I never, ever had any luck with exercise (biking, swimming, walking) as a method of losing weight or being able to eat whatever I wanted. Diet was the only thing that determined my weight. Exercise seemed to make literally no difference at all. But I was not a runner (tried it, don't have the knees for it).
posted by rabbitrabbit at 3:59 PM on March 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Be aware, however, that your body adjusts. I have been a distance runner my whole life, and after awhile, your body gets really efficient at holding calories, even when you're active all the time. Age does this, as well, so as you get older, you'll retain more calories than you expect.
posted by xingcat at 4:02 PM on March 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

If I was you, I would mix some HIIT in with your other exercise. Notably it has an impact on your resting metabolism such that you will burn more calories in a resting state than you would otherwise.

Something like this:

3 HIIT sessions a week (this will not be fun, but it is over fairly fast)
2 weightlifting sessions
maybe some steady state aerobics after the HIIT in case you havent puked already.

Even at that you will not be able to eat whatever you want. Very unlikely you can out-exercise a shite diet.
posted by jcworth at 4:08 PM on March 26, 2014

I don't see how anything could possibly compete on an hour-for-hour basis with swimming in water as cold as you can stand, because not only do you have to do all that mechanical work, you have to maintain your body temperature against the immense heat conducting power of a water bath flowing past almost bare skin.

Michael Phelps, for example, claims 12,000 calories a day, and the water he swims in is quite warm (not to mention that he's very efficient), which is almost 2.5 times the calorie expenditure usually attributed to lumberjacks.
posted by jamjam at 4:20 PM on March 26, 2014

You need to lift heavy a few times a week, in addition to burning calories, to make sure that your body has the necessary stimulus to build muscle, rather than fat. If you want to get really complicated about calorie intake, training, partitioning, muscle gain vs. fat gain, etc., there is a ton of information on Lyle McDonald's website. If you want to take a simpler approach, especially if you haven't done serious weight training before, you can probably just get a copy of Mark Rippetoe's Starting Strength and go that route for at least the first six months before you start playing around with calories and stuff. If you decide you really want to get into lifting weights, I also recommend the articles from the fine folks at Lift Big, Eat Big.
posted by infinitywaltz at 4:27 PM on March 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

Start training for a marathon.

When my mileage starts to creep up during the two to three months before running a marathon....well, I eat everything in sight, and I still struggle to NOT lose weight. Plus, running makes you feel great. So you can eat a lot and really enjoy the food you're eating.
posted by barnoley at 4:50 PM on March 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Specific and science-based answers encouraged

If you want real-deal numbers to work with, then I think your first step is to get a DEXA scan to find out your body's current composition to more accurately know your base caloric needs. Then, it's pretty trivial to go to any fitness-related site and use their calorie-expenditure calculators to get a ROUGH idea of what YOUR particular body will burn per hour of particular activity.

Of course, exercising like a beast might increase your appetite in a way that matches/outpaces your upped caloric burn rate, resulting in a net fat gain, so...

Also, if you are considering lonnnnnnng cardio as a way to deplete your tank, factor in the likelihood of stress injuries sidelining you at some point, during which time you'll have to dial back the cals to not gain during your healing time.
posted by nacho fries at 4:52 PM on March 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Cycling. I think it's easier to burn a lot of calories cycling than it is running, simply because running is more physically punishing. It would be brutal to attempt to run a marathon every day, but you could burn a marathon's-worth of calories on your bike every day, if you had the time.

I have gone out with friends to eat after a long ride, and we would finish our food before the waitress had even finished bringing it all out. So we'd order more.

I would definitely encourage you to mix it up with exercises that work your upper body, exercises that works on flexibility and agility, that sort of thing.
posted by adamrice at 4:59 PM on March 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I would do lifting. As you build more muscle and lift more and more weight you will burn more and more calories with each workout. The issue with cardio is as you get better your body becomes more efficient at the activity and you actually burn less calories than someone starting out, unless you're packing on the mileage (and thus length of workout) to compensate. With lifting your workout can stay the same length of time, just with weight increases.
posted by Anonymous at 5:17 PM on March 26, 2014

I swam 2500 yards before work, ran 2-5 miles at lunch, and rode 20-30 after work for a period of a month while trying to win a family Biggest Loser contest. I was eating 5000+calories per day and *still* lost eight or nine pounds that month.
posted by notsnot at 5:42 PM on March 26, 2014

Nthing lifting-- I could, /had to or I would die, put away a gallon of whole milk in 2 days on top of everything else I was eating (115 grams of protein) when I was lifting consistently (3x a week or more). FWIW I am a pretty tiny female person with a normal appetite when not lifting.

Additional idea: my S.O. hiked a well-known long distance hike and while doing so could eat the entire world and then some. I'm talking about a single meal of 5 Big Macs, a 20 piece chicken tender, and three McDonald's apple pies. This required hiking 25-50 miles a day, every day, and at the end of it he'd lost 50 lbs. I acknowledge that such mileage/time commitments may or may not be practical for you.
posted by Temeraria at 5:57 PM on March 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I tree planted for a couple of summers and the best thing about it was the amount of food I could eat. Dinner each day would easily be three full plates of food plus dessert. One plate would usually be just mashed potatoes with lots of butter. It was the best! I couldn't keep weight on.

I'm currently on a get fitter and into better shape program and your question works for me as well. One of the reasons I want to get in shape and exercise more is so I can just eat whatever and not worry so much about it. I think of it as being a bonus to look forward too.
posted by Jalliah at 7:46 PM on March 26, 2014

Definitely cycling. It may not burn as many calories as running or swimming but doing a 3 hour bike ride is much, much easier on your body than 3 hours of running and is infinitely more enjoyable than 3 hours swimming laps (personally speaking).

Weight lifting is great but if you eat a lot you'll put on both muscle and fat. You'll need to go through a "cutting" phase if you want to show off those new biceps underneath.
posted by talkingmuffin at 9:08 PM on March 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Whatever you do, be careful about learning the proper form for what you're doing, and have a healthy training regime.

So you don't blow out your knees or something.
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:31 AM on March 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Agreeing with the cycling people. I think running, swimming, and cycling are the best answers overall, but the thing about cycling -- as others have said -- is that you can do it all day. Start cycle-commuting to work, if it's an option; go on a few 10- to 25-mile rides during the week to train, and one day each weekend, do a long ride of 50-100 miles. (Find and join a cycling club to keep yourself motivated and make it a social activity.) If you do that, you should definitely be able to eat more food and maintain weight. (Indeed, you'll have to.)

There's not much that's more fun than coming home from a daylong bike ride, plugging your cycle computer into your PC, and learning that you just burned 4,000 calories or more.

P.S. This is not really a scientific study, but I had a cycling friend tell me that the average person should consume about 300 calories per hour in snacks while on the ride. This sounds about right to me from my experience: if you'll be riding for more than a couple hours, you need to keep feeding yourself so that you won't bonk. Unfortunately, the things that are most convenient and effective to eat during a ride are hardly gourmet: mostly sugar-rich energy bars, bananas, trail mix, and that kind of thing. (Though I did know one woman who packed slices of homemade quiche into her jersey pockets.) Still, even after on-the-bike snacking, you will be running a calorie deficit and will get to indulge in a bigger than average dinner afterward...and maybe even a nice large brunch the next day.
posted by toomuchkatherine at 12:24 PM on March 27, 2014

Ehehehe. Yes, I would heed sebastienbailard's advice.

I used to run 9 miles 2x / week. And then I killed a knee and decided I shouldn't run anymore; now I do HIIT 3x / week and I feel just as "carved", bodily, despite eating whatever horrible things I want.
posted by batter_my_heart at 1:02 AM on March 28, 2014

People are talking about the most efficient forms of exercise, but I think phunniemee has it right: what matters most is finding something you're happy to do a lot of. If the most efficient form of exercise isn't your jam, that doesn't mean you have to always restrict your diet.

Personally, when I was doing pilates and barre 6+ times per week, I could eat absolutely anything I liked. For a long time that included McDonald's for breakfast and Five Guys for dinner. (I was a size 2.)
posted by schroedingersgirl at 5:05 PM on November 11, 2014

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