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Exercise Might Not Help Lose Weight


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An interesting article. I will have to look into this more, but I do think that what you eat matters WAY more than how much exercise you get.

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A new book offers startling findings about human metabolism.
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How does Pontzer know? He studies the Hadza people of Tanzania, hunter-gatherers who walk for miles every day foraging for food. They’re incredibly physically active, moving more in a day than most Americans do in a week, so Pontzer and his colleagues were sure they’d be burning a crazy amount of calories. Yet when the researchers measured how much energy the Hadza burned, it turned out to be the same amount as sedentary urbanites in the West.

The more I read and learn on this stuff, the more I think it is what you eat that matters more. Also, it's really really hard to eat a lot of calories in fresh foods than it is when you get fast food. A big steak may have 800-1000 calories, but it keeps you full way longer than the burger from Wendy's. 

I do think exercise is good for overall health biomarkers. There are a few studies done showing that when you adjust for other factors, those who exercise will have less likely chance for heart disease and other health issues. Just being overweight, doesn't mean you will have the same risks as other people who are overweight if you get exercise. 

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Exercise burns less calories than people think it does, so when it comes to losing weight, yea it doesn’t do as much as you’d think. Exercise with a bad diet < good diet with no exercise.

However, exercise builds muscle, so it can make you look more fit even if your weight hasn’t necessarily changed much. Body recomposition is going to make you look better than simply losing weight.

When people tell me they want to lose weight, I always ask them what their goals are, because if they start hitting the gym hard and putting on muscle, they might not see a change on the scale at all. That can be demotivating if they’re using the wrong criteria to evaluate progress.

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2 minutes ago, billchao said:

When people tell me they want to lose weight, I always ask them what their goals are, because if they start hitting the gym hard and putting on muscle, they might not see a change on the scale at all. That can be demotivating if they’re using the wrong criteria to evaluate progress.

I always base my weight loss on how my cloths fit. I noticed my size 36 pants/shorts are less snug as they use to be. 

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Just now, saevel25 said:

I always base my weight loss on how my cloths fit. I noticed my size 36 pants/shorts are less snug as they use to be. 

That or measuring with a tape measure is definitely better than standing on a scale.

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1 hour ago, billchao said:

Exercise burns less calories than people think it does, so when it comes to losing weight, yea it doesn’t do as much as you’d think. Exercise with a bad diet < good diet with no exercise.

However, exercise builds muscle, so it can make you look more fit even if your weight hasn’t necessarily changed much. Body recomposition is going to make you look better than simply losing weight.

When people tell me they want to lose weight, I always ask them what their goals are, because if they start hitting the gym hard and putting on muscle, they might not see a change on the scale at all. That can be demotivating if they’re using the wrong criteria to evaluate progress.

A wise man once told me "You can't out-train a bad diet." 

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I don’t exercise to lose weight. I exercise to stay fit and get stronger. When I was bike racing, I was about 30 pounds less than I am now.

To lose weight then, I reduced my calorie intake to get down to my race weight. Then once down, I maintained the weight by balancing intake with calories burned.

Also, when doing exercise, especially endurance, your metabolism stays elevated after you stop and stays higher for hours. So you continue to burn more calories. The philosophy back then was to eat a large breakfast then eat smaller amounts the rest of the day. 

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Sounds like my last year and a half or so.  I'm finally coming to terms with that I'm overweight (this might be apparent on recent swing videos;  I don't remember the last one I posted to TST, maybe I should go back to making that thread a diary).  That term might be a little loaded, but tough love is welcome.  I'm 5'8 or 5'9 (it's inconsistent) and last I measured, 170 lbs.  I am not particularly muscular at the moment (PR bench is 135 lbs).  Funny story, if you look back at the 2008-era "goals for the year" threads, you'll find me saying I wanted to gain weight (I was hovering around 135 lbs in and around that time).  

There were parts of the past year and a half where I got some good exercise in.  First 10 weeks or so of 2020, I was very good about getting to the gym three mornings a week.  About two months ago, I finally bought and set up a home gym (more than just the few small adjustable hand weights and single medicine ball and some stretchy bands I had at home).  I've been good about doing strength exercises since then.

Over the past five years, I've been pretty good about going for long walks ... except when I got busy (and work goes in cycles), it was first on the time chopping block (TV should have been instead).  So there were times I'd walk 50 miles in a week and other times I'd only walk five miles every other week (and that was golf).  

School year ended a week or so ago.  I decided, especially with how busy the last term was, that I'd focus on eating better and getting back to exercise.  I've taken my bike out for a ride three times (about 6-8 miles each time, although each time I had to walk about a third to half a mile uphill at some point).  I've gone for some good walks too (eight miles yesterday!), not including golf (where I will continue to walk whenever I can).  I'm also going to be watching my calorie intake and am going to get back to keeping vegetables (I love carrots (not baby carrots) and celery) in stock as a default snack.  

I need to figure out how many calories are in the alcohol I drink and limit that a bit more.

Anyway, I'm going to focus less on the number on the scale because I am trying to build some muscle.

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I dropped 60 pounds a few years ago and have kept it off entirely by focusing on diet. The most exercise I ever did during the weight loss was to walk a bit. It is definitely the largest factor in weight loss but I am sure that I would be healthier if I also exercised more than I do. 

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3 hours ago, boogielicious said:

I don’t exercise to lose weight. I exercise to stay fit and get stronger. When I was bike racing, I was about 30 pounds less than I am now.

 

^This.

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At the end of the day weight loss will only come from calories out > calories in.  Which is why you sometimes see fat professional athletes in sports like basketball or football.

 

I do believe that a person should never look at losing weight as a goal in itself, rather the goal should be getting fitter, which means less body fat.  Muscles help in that because they burn more calories, which is why gymming is so important

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10 minutes ago, pganapathy said:

At the end of the day weight loss will only come from calories out > calories in.  Which is why you sometimes see fat professional athletes in sports like basketball or football.

I do believe that a person should never look at losing weight as a goal in itself, rather the goal should be getting fitter, which means less body fat.  Muscles help in that because they burn more calories, which is why gymming is so important

To some degree yes, but your body likes homeostasis. So, it will start to lower your metabolism to the point where weight loss stagnates. Yes, if you go extreme, you can lose a lot of weight and  muscle in the process. 

Dieting Statistics: What the Research Says About Diets (marciapell.com)

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Here are a few statistics to show what the research says about dieting.
65% of people who successfully complete a fad diet will end up gaining all of their weight back that they lost.
95% of diets fail and most will regain their lost weight within 1-5 years.

Our bodies will do what ever it takes to not feel like we are starving. Drastic, or long term fat loss will signal to our bodies that we need to regain that weight. 

Also, certain things we eat also cause high inflammation and hormonal responses that can trick our body into storing more fat. Certain thing we eat will cause spikes in triglycerides in the body which is a higher indicator of heart disease than cholesterol, regardless of calorie counting. 

Its a bit more complex if you want to be healthy at a lower weight. 

Then throw in genetics and the whole equation goes bonkers. 

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12 hours ago, saevel25 said:

To some degree yes, but your body likes homeostasis. So, it will start to lower your metabolism to the point where weight loss stagnates. Yes, if you go extreme, you can lose a lot of weight and  muscle in the process. 

Dieting Statistics: What the Research Says About Diets (marciapell.com)

Our bodies will do what ever it takes to not feel like we are starving. Drastic, or long term fat loss will signal to our bodies that we need to regain that weight. 

Also, certain things we eat also cause high inflammation and hormonal responses that can trick our body into storing more fat. Certain thing we eat will cause spikes in triglycerides in the body which is a higher indicator of heart disease than cholesterol, regardless of calorie counting. 

Its a bit more complex if you want to be healthy at a lower weight. 

Then throw in genetics and the whole equation goes bonkers. 

Youre technically right about the homeostasis but this really isnt a factor that most people will have to ever worry about. Generally speaking you have to go into pretty low bf% and diet extensively for the body to really start regulating your metabolism. One thought behind recommending diet and exercise is to maintain that metabolism as well.

The way diet research gets interpreted nowadays is somewhat skewed. A very common phrase thats keeps getting repeated is along the lines that dieting doesnt work because you will just gain the weight back afterwards. But this is an extremely flawed analysis.

Diets work. The problem is that once people reach their goals they tend to think they can go right back to the eating the same things they did before the diet. The issue however, is that this is likely again them over eating significantly. In reality when people finish a diet they should pull up a RDI calculator and not go over that figure.

 

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5 hours ago, Alx said:

The way diet research gets interpreted nowadays is somewhat skewed. A very common phrase thats keeps getting repeated is along the lines that dieting doesnt work because you will just gain the weight back afterwards. But this is an extremely flawed analysis.

Is it flawed? 

Its a simple math problem and a simple question. Did you gain the weight back that you lost. If so, then the diet failed. 

5 hours ago, Alx said:

Diets work. The problem is that once people reach their goals they tend to think they can go right back to the eating the same things they did before the diet. The issue however, is that this is likely again them over eating significantly. In reality when people finish a diet they should pull up a RDI calculator and not go over that figure.

Is that how it works? They really sit down and think, "Hey you know, I reached x amount of weight, now I should start eating like I used to?"

I don't think you give enough credit to our bodies and how much the body can control our actions. By actions, I mean our conscious decision making process. 

In the end you are saying that 95% of the people who gain the weight back sat down and consciously thought that what they were doing before hand would be a good thing to go back to. I think that no one thinks that at all. I think most people just let the body control their subconscious actions and which tells them they been losing weight for to long. 

 

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On 7/7/2021 at 12:13 PM, saevel25 said:

To some degree yes, but your body likes homeostasis. So, it will start to lower your metabolism to the point where weight loss stagnates. Yes, if you go extreme, you can lose a lot of weight and  muscle in the process. 

The whole "speed up" (or slow down) your "metabolism" thing is a very murky topic and is quite confusing to me. I'm an MD, and I don't ever remember learning that the "metabolism speeds up" under x, y, and z conditions, or whatever. Metabolism was explained as a group of chemical pathways used to 1) generate energy for bodily functions, either from calories we ingest, or liberated from tissues (typically glycogen stores and lipid stores), or 2) store energy when faced with excess caloric intake. We learned that the metabolic pathways chosen and the rate of the reactions were all reactive phenomena, based on what we put in the machine and how active we were. We were never taught that we had any sort of metabolic thermostat, which somehow could be turned up and down to either burn more calories or less. I am not sure how it would function anyway. If you could speed up metabolism and, say, liberate more ketone fuel from fat, but you are not increasing activity to actually use the fuel in your muscles or organs, where does it go? Pee it out? Burn it up and generate heat? I don't know. I know my professors would have told me "it doesn't work that way." 

I think what may happen to people who diet for long periods of time is that maybe they change their behavior in subtle ways that they don't notice, with the net effect of using less energy. 

But I don't know. Maybe metabolic rates DO fluctuate independently of demand in some way. I went to med school in the late 1980s, and I don't keep up on this kind of basic science. But even if metabolic rates do change independent of demand, I'm pretty sure that demand is still the _most important_ thing driving metabolic rate.  

I've been "lucky" in that I do not gain weight easily. The approach I have always used for dieting and nutrition includes the following principles (and they are my principles, I'm not saying they are all equally supported by scientific studies or necessarily applicable to everyone):

1. Losing weight means calories out >> calories in. Yeah, ok, maybe the metabolic rate can change, but in general, you can't change this basic rule.

2. Over eating is way more important than under-exercising. If you want to lose weight, or inches, or whatever, eat less. My favorite way is periodic starvation (i.e., one meal or two meals a day, spread wide apart).

3. Exercising way more than you like to is counterproductive. 

4. "Fitness" is overrated. Exercise burns calories and builds muscle (or aerobic capacity) yes, no doubt, but it also causes wear and tear on the skeletal system. People who are "ripped" pay a price for that physique. 

5. Don't be afraid of food. It's one of the essential pleasures of life. Pay money for high quality food and eat well and eat things you enjoy. Worrying too much about the details of, say, your macronutrient mix (no carbs, low fat, whatever the fad may be) is a needless worry. 

Edited by Big Lex
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28 minutes ago, Big Lex said:

The whole "speed up" (or slow down) your "metabolism" thing is a very murky topic and is quite confusing to me. I'm an MD, and I don't ever remember learning that the "metabolism speeds up" under x, y, and z conditions, or whatever. Metabolism was explained as a group of chemical pathways used to 1) generate energy for bodily functions, either from calories we ingest, or liberated from tissues (typically glycogen stores and lipid stores), or 2) store energy when faced with excess caloric intake. We learned that the metabolic pathways chosen and the rate of the reactions were all reactive phenomena, based on what we put in the machine and how active we were. We were never taught that we had any sort of metabolic thermostat, which somehow could be turned up and down to either burn more calories or less. I am not sure how it would function anyway. If you could speed up metabolism and, say, liberate more ketone fuel from fat, but you are not increasing activity to actually use the fuel in your muscles or organs, where does it go? Pee it out? Burn it up and generate heat? I don't know. I know my professors would have told me "it doesn't work that way." 

I think what may happen to people who diet for long periods of time is that maybe they change their behavior in subtle ways that they don't notice, with the net effect of using less energy. 

But I don't know. Maybe metabolic rates DO fluctuate independently of demand in some way. I went to med school in the late 1980s, and I don't keep up on this kind of basic science. But even if metabolic rates do change independent of demand, I'm pretty sure that demand is still the _most important_ thing driving metabolic rate.  

I've been "lucky" in that I do not gain weight easily. The approach I have always used for dieting and nutrition includes the following principles (and they are my principles, I'm not saying they are all equally supported by scientific studies or necessarily applicable to everyone):

1. Losing weight means calories out >> calories in. Yeah, ok, maybe the metabolic rate can change, but in general, you can't change this basic rule.

2. Over eating is way more important than under-exercising. If you want to lose weight, or inches, or whatever, eat less. My favorite way is periodic starvation (i.e., one meal or two meals a day, spread wide apart).

3. Exercising way more than you like to is counterproductive. 

4. "Fitness" is overrated. Exercise burns calories and builds muscle (or aerobic capacity) yes, no doubt, but it also causes wear and tear on the skeletal system. People who are "ripped" pay a price for that physique. 

5. Don't be afraid of food. It's one of the essential pleasures of life. Pay money for high quality food and eat well and eat things you enjoy. Worrying too much about the details of, say, your macronutrient mix (no carbs, low fat, whatever the fad may be) is a needless worry. 

Thanks for posting. FWIW, when I was bike racing my resting heart rate was around 45-48 BPM as compared to 58-60 now. I was pretty lean at 8-10% body fat at that time. What I did notice was after a ride, my heart rate stayed somewhat elevated for a few hours after. It was thought at that time that this was where the extra calories were burned and not just the calories during the ride. Could this be what they are referring to as elevated metabolism?

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3 minutes ago, boogielicious said:

Thanks for posting. FWIW, when I was bike racing my resting heart rate was around 45-48 BPM as compared to 58-60 now. I was pretty lean at 8-10% body fat at that time. What I did notice was after a ride, my heart rate stayed somewhat elevated for a few hours after. It was thought at that time that this was where the extra calories were burned and not just the calories during the ride. Could this be what they are referring to as elevated metabolism?

I don't know....it's complicated, and I am by no means an expert in this topic. But yes your biking example could be something that creates excess caloric burning in excess of the actual skeletal muscle expenditure. But it's still actual metabolic work, it's not calories just being vaporized into the air. 

There are a few things to remember: About 65-70% of the calories we burn every day are "couch potato" calories, they are the minimum amount needed to keep us conscious and keep all of our organs alive. So with exercise, we are really only talking about changing a portion of what our metabolism serves. In a typical person, the liver, brain, and muscles each account for about 20% of our total calories. So again, exercising or using more muscle activity is only affecting a portion of a portion of our total calorie use. So for this tribe of people to be way more active than a city dweller but burn about the same number of calories is not as much of a reach as it may seem on the surface. Not to me, anyway. And maybe all that activity, all their lives, makes their muscles much more efficient (needing less fuel, etc.), further reducing the apparent disparity. 

I read the article posted, but not the actual study he was reporting on in the article. 

This kind of article is click bait IMO; at the very least, the headline is. 

Let's face it, we over eat, most all of us. That's the main thing going on. We all have to figure out our own way of changing that, if we want to weigh less. 

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22 minutes ago, boogielicious said:

Thanks for posting. FWIW, when I was bike racing my resting heart rate was around 45-48 BPM as compared to 58-60 now. I was pretty lean at 8-10% body fat at that time. What I did notice was after a ride, my heart rate stayed somewhat elevated for a few hours after. It was thought at that time that this was where the extra calories were burned and not just the calories during the ride. Could this be what they are referring to as elevated metabolism?

I loved biking when I was in my 30s. I never raced, but I would ride with a couple of friends, one of whom loved to race. I was living in TX then, and he used to go to Wichita Falls for a race called the "Hotter than Hell 100" in the middle of the summer. 🙂

It was one sport that seemed to be easy to me for some reason, in that I could just naturally do better than some people who trained in it and took it much more seriously than I did. I am not thick and muscular at all, but I must have enough muscle mass and favorable proportions for generating pedal power. 

But I couldn't stand the saddles and getting perineal numbness (YIKES), and my neck hated it too) 

Curious - when you were that lean, did you eat differently than you do now? If so, how? Did you have different appetite and cravings, etc.? 

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54 minutes ago, Big Lex said:

I loved biking when I was in my 30s. I never raced, but I would ride with a couple of friends, one of whom loved to race. I was living in TX then, and he used to go to Wichita Falls for a race called the "Hotter than Hell 100" in the middle of the summer. 🙂

It was one sport that seemed to be easy to me for some reason, in that I could just naturally do better than some people who trained in it and took it much more seriously than I did. I am not thick and muscular at all, but I must have enough muscle mass and favorable proportions for generating pedal power. 

But I couldn't stand the saddles and getting perineal numbness (YIKES), and my neck hated it too) 

Curious - when you were that lean, did you eat differently than you do now? If so, how? Did you have different appetite and cravings, etc.? 

I watched what I ate and drank very little alcohol. My diet was very DASH like with more protein for breakfast and lunch and carbs for dinner before a race. It took a couple of years to get down to race weight though and lots of miles. But I also caught colds a lot. I crashed a few times and broke my collarbone during training. Then my son was born and the racing became less important.

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