Did you know that exercise alone will not make you lose weight?

23 04 2010

I am sure that you have heard before or even said it yourself.  “I have been exercising consistently for a month and haven’t lost any weight.”  Losing weight involves eating fewer calories than you burn.  So, it would make sense that exercise will make you lose weight because it causes you to burn more calories.  However, our bodies like to maintain homeostasis.  This means that your body wants to stay where you are.  With moderate exercise, certain hormone levels increase.  One in particular, ghrelin, signals to your brain that you are hungry and need to eat.  So, your body naturally responds to exercise with an increased desire to eat and compensate for the calories you burnt.  If your goal is weight loss, then when you exercise you need to follow a detailed plan to control for calories you consume.  Research is showing that the elevation in appetite hormones is more pronounced in women.  So, ladies have to work extra hard not to overeat and cancel out their caloric deficit.

An exception to this is when exercise is intense.  Interval training seems to be more effective at fat loss than steady state exercise.  An example of interval training would be:  On an exercise bike, pedal as hard as you can for 20-30 seconds and then go slow for 1 minute.  Example RPMs would be greater than 100 for the sprint portion and 50-65 on the recovery portion.  This style of training can be done on the elliptical, stair climber, and treadmill.  On a track it could be sprinting the straight-aways and walking the curve.

In a recent study conducted in an energy-metabolism lab, researchers had a group of volunteers spend an entire day sitting.  Then they repeated the experiment with the same volunteers but had them stand all day.  When the participants stood, they burnt hundreds of calories more than when they were seated.  One of the most positive finding was that with the increase in calorie burning, there was no increase  in their blood levels of ghrelin or other appetite hormones. Standing, for both men and women, burned multiple calories but did not ignite hunger. The lead researcher concluded that if you want to lose weight, you don’t necessarily have to go for a long run. “Just get rid of your chair.”

© Randy Bird, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS and Randy Bird Sports Nutrition, 2010.

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