Blog Archives

The Truth About Exercise

Gym-HellWhether needing to lose weight or just desiring to be a little leaner, the advice is the same. Eat less, exercise more! Simple,, right? Well it seems not and looks like we’ve all been pretty well brain washed by the propaganda put out by the media and governments alike. It’s time to reveal ‘the truth about exercise’ and it’s role in weight loss.

Adding aerobic exercise to a restrictive diet rarely works for the long-term shedding of fat….ever wondered why?

There is no doubt that exercise can be beneficial for general health and well-being.  Resistance exercise will also enhance the strength and appearance of your body but fat loss?

Exercise-for-weight -lossWatch television shows such as Obese: a Year to Save My Life or the biggest loser and the like, you will come away with the notion that the best form of exercise for fat loss is “aerobic” activity that is any form of exercise that can be sustained for long periods: running, jogging, cycling, walking, body pump. zumba.  The theory is that exercise will increase the amount of calories burned by the body and that this combined with a restrictive diet will result in weight loss, this is of course wrong as shown by BBC 2 Horizon programme – The Truth About Exercise.

This conventional wisdom is yet another diet myth and certainly needs challenging. The following review Long Term Effectiveness of Diet plus Exercise versus Diet Only For Weight Loss takes into account several studies and concludes that in each case, regular exercise (specifically including aerobic exercise into the diet plan 30 minutes for 4 -5 day per week) had only a tiny impact, a total average additional fat loss of no more than 1 kg over the year per person.

Let’s look a little deeper.  Take 30 minutes of jogging at a good steady pace.  This will burn 300 calories over the half hour.  Surfing the internet over the same period of time will burn approximately 50 calories.  The additional calorie burn through physicalPaleo-diet-and-exercise activity is therefore 250 calories per day and over the week, 5 days of exercise equates to 1,250 calories.  Hoping that each calorie burnt is fat and hoping too that the additional exercise will not make you hungry and eat more and noting that to lose one pound of fat you have to burn 3,500 calories: over the week you will have lost a third of a pound of fat.  Is the trade-off worth it?

However one of the most obvious problems for losing weight through aerobic exercise is the fact that the exercise itself can bring on hunger.  Go home from the gym and eat a couple of digestive biscuits or drink a pint of beer on the way home and the hard work is undone.  Many others are caught in the trap of using food as a reward following effort and it can be hard to break free from this habit particularly if the exercise is not something you would choose to do.

Prolonged exercise can increase your stress levels which will lead to increased levels of the stess hormone cortisol in your body.  Raised cortisol levels will predispose the body to fat gain.  Look out for a new post we are currently writing on the effect of raised cortisol levels on the body.  Finally, pushing yourself aerobically at the gym can be exhausting particularly if you are very overweight.  The natural consequence of which is that you will be more sedentary during the day than you might otherwise have been and give yourself more opportunities to eat (if sitting in front of the television is one of your eating triggers).

Wait a minute…look at any marathon runner or long distance cyclist: they’re not fat!  Exercise must make you thin!  Well no..current research suggests that those of us who are more naturally fit and lean are more likely to take up these sports..kind of obvious really?  Some of us accumulate fat first and then become more sedentary thus the effort of running a marathon is less appealing.

Aerobic exercise is terrific for elevating mood and will help reduce the risk of chronic disease.  It is not however advocated for fat loss.

So there you have it, the truth about exercise and weight loss. Did you know that there is a form of exercise that is genuinely effective for fat loss?  What do you think this it is?

Advertisements

Little and Often

grazing-dietThis is a great question we received on Saturday……does eating little and often encourage fat loss or benefit your health?

Let’s cut to the chase: No!

This dietary “gem” relates to conventional dietary wisdom favoured by health and fitness establishments who suggest this eating little and often will help you keep your metabolism up and stoked and thus increase your fat burning possibilities.

Running alongside this dietary myth is the idea that if you eat less than once every three hours, your body goes into starvation mode and your metabolic rate slows down causing you to store more fat.  Kind of like a hibernating bear…..

Let’s review the science: our metabolic rate is determined by the energy required to keep our cells alive and functioning in good order.  This is our basal metabolic rate and remains at a constant level.  It will increase if we gain weight as we have more cells requiring energy but if our weight is constant then we will still burn this amount of calories throughout the day through existence and routine alone: not eating or eating does not affect that; it is simply the amount of calories that we require in homeostasis.

And not eating: does it slow down out metabolic rate?  The science says a definite “no” – for example, in a study putting people under starvation conditions for three days they saw no drop in metabolism and in fact saw a slight increase in metabolic rate after 36 hours of fasting (starvation)  and slightly higher again after 72 hours….

In another study at the Pennington Biomedical Research Centre, men and women who fasted every other day for a period of 22 days, experienced no decrease in their metabolic rate.

This confirms that our metabolic rate does not decrease at all when we don’t eat for three days and confirms that eating little and often to keep your metabolism up is not necessary as it doesn’t drop in the first place!

But you are right: so far we have only demonstrated that not eating does not slow our metabolism…what is the affect increased eating has on weight-loss: does it increase our metabolic rate and does it reduce muscle loss?

In a study using participants at a healthy body weight (BMI between 18 and 25), individuals were compared eating three meals a day with those eating one meal a day at the same calorie levels (although not focusing on calorie restriction) but instead at maintenance levels not intended to cause weight-loss (but to study the effects of decreased meal frequency) actually found that eating one meal a day decreased body fat levels by 1-2kg over the 8 week experimentation period.  There was no change in body fat for the three meal a day group.  The fact people lost body-fat from eating the same number of calories in a single sitting rather than across three meals shows that eating more frequently has no advantage.

In anther study using 16 obese individuals divided into two groups and comparing 6 meals a day against three meals a day with the same calorie consumption for 8 weeks found there was no difference in weight loss between the two groups and no signs of increased metabolism from the higher frequency meal group.  There was no difference in lean muscle preservation either, the muscle loss was exactly the same too: the hunger levels; and satiaty were similar showing that eating more often does nothing to improve the sensation of fullness.

Comments we have received on this subject illustrate the pitfalls of eating in this way: one client in particular confirmed what common sense would dictate: small meals are never enough and the opportunity to overeat is therefore ever present.  Another client remarked that this advice came from body builders – now wait a moment, surely a body builder’s objective is to bulk up and what’s your objective with fat loss……counter intuitive when you start thinking about it?  With no practical advantage to fat loss and a practice more akin to cattle, we urge you to quit grazing, go back to basics, heed the advice above (and Prince Charles)  and eat when hungry and stop when you are full.

Once again:  The little and often myth is busted!

%d bloggers like this: