The real truth on weight loss.
I’ve touched on this topic previously, however I’m revisiting it as weight loss is a common goal from most people looking at improving their health.
How to lose weight is a question I get every day.
This is a really tough question to answer, as I love exercise. Exercise has wonderful benefits to your health and overall life…. But may not be the best at achieving weight loss…..
To demonstrate the evidence, there is a very good literature review published in Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases:
Here is a basic summary of the findings.
Exercise guidelines for health – may not be enough for weight loss.
Pedometers and wearing able activity trackers have gained large popularity over the last decade – with the improvements in technology making them cheaper to own, more accurate, and accessible to most with inbuilt trackers in smartphones. This popularity for activity tracking has grown from studies that have tracked peoples activity levels, and it has been found that people whom are highly active (10,000 or more steps per day), have reduced health issues.
If we use these guidelines and aim for 10,000 Steps a day, the research notes only minimal weight loss, with approximately 2 kilos of weight loss or less.
So how does the guideline of 30mins of activity most days (4-5x/wk) fit?
Studies have found that the 30 minutes a day most days strategy has no significant effect on weight loss even if you increase your exercise intensity to be running instead of walking!
This points out that these kinds of step or daily activity guidelines for health are actually not enough when looking at weight loss.
Higher intensity exercise will help lose weight, right?
When comparing exercise at high or low intensity, it has been shown that the benefit, or the amount of weight you lose, is actually the same whether it’s high or low intensity (if the calories that you’re burning are equal).
What this means is that you cannot exercise for less time with higher intensity and expect better results, which is a common misconception.
Lifting weights helps turn fat into muscle….
Completing weight training alone, without any other types of exercise*, doesn’t help us lose any body weight. And no fat doesn’t magically turn into muscle.
*I guess you’ve got to argue that perhaps that’s because resistance training helps to build muscle, so you gain muscle weight – but simultaneously lose fat – so your body weight doesn’t really change
Adding in Resistance exercise WITH aerobic activity, may have greater health benefits than aerobic activity alone, like reducing blood sugars, improving bone, and increasing muscle mass (stopping our functional decline as we age), however as previously mentioned, adding resistance to our aerobic activity doesn’t really change your body weight.
How can you lose weight?
Studies looking at higher than recommended exercise have shown that if you’re trying to lose weight just by exercise without changing food, exercise needs to be at least 225 minutes per week (45mins x5/wk, or exercising 30+ mins daily), or aiming for 400 to 700 calories per training session. this is a huge volume and a lot more than the recommended activity guidelines for health.
Why doesn’t exercise help?
Common sense would suggest that the more you do the better your results, however there is a phenomenon called “weight compensation”.
For a lot of people, higher amount of exercise increases your appetite and make you consume more fatty foods which therefore blocks and interferes with any successful weight loss.
The reality of it is – weight loss comes from food changes and restricting calories.
Why bother with exercise then?
The benefit of exercise and adding it to calorie restriction, is that exercise can help increase the total amount of weight lost, than diet alone, but it also prevents weight regain, – with studies showing that those whom remain active keep their weight off!
Weight loss may be minimal with exercise, but there are greater benefits from exercise, which I believe are more important than any weight loss, and that is the improvements of being active to your health.
Exercise creates changes to the body that food changes can’t do. Being active improves your fitness, reduces the fat that’s actually within your organs (dangerous fat tissue called visceral fat**), reduces your risk of having issues such as cardiovascular disease (heart attacks/strokes), diabetes, cancer and even death.
** actually – there is some research that has shown that diet doesn’t change your visceral fat levels – this only occurs with exercise! https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/obr.12406
Although exercise doesn’t make a huge change to your weight loss – it will surely make you a hell of a lot healthier, give your more fitness, and enable you to live a great and longer life.
The take home message:
- To lose weight – eat less, and/or eat better.
- Exercise will slightly increase the amount of body weight lost and help keep it off.
- Exercise will make you fit and healthy – even if you don’t lose weight.
If you are looking at maximising your weight loss – the best thing you can do is get yourself a qualified dietitian. With their support and guidance – you are sure to succeed.
If you are lucky enough to live in South Australia, and are looking for a great dietitian – get in touch with the team at Fresh Nutrition.
Posted in: Exercise