This is just all we need, isn't it? Here we are, working on the ellipitical or walking around the neighborhood, counting our calories or carbs and offsetting our food with exercise so we can lose weight. And now TIME Magazine comes along and tells us that's not the deal at all.
Other than the fact that the couch potatoes among us now have a fun new reason to say "See, I told you I could exercise by using the remote control alone," the rest of us are probably groaning. Maybe it took us a while to accept exercise as a regular part of our lifestyle. Maybe we don't really enjoy it, but we're trying to lose weight and we knew it was part of the process. Exercise affects your metabolism, which affects your calorie-burning, right? Exercise builds muscle, which uses more calories than fat, right? And to lose weight, we hear it over and over and OVER again: Diet and exercise. Diet and exercise. Diet and exercise. The two might as well be married.
OK. I'm getting over my tantrum now. The point of the article is not to say that exercise is useless; exactly the opposite, in fact. Exercise is important and vital for a strong, healthy body. The point of the article was to say that it's not necessarily integral to weight loss.
Here's some evidence. 45 million of us belong to health clubs, paying an enormous $19 billion a year. And yet more and more of us are overweight than ever.
Here's an excerpt from the article:
""In general, for weight loss, exercise is pretty useless," says Eric Ravussin, chair in diabetes and metabolism at Louisiana State University and a prominent exercise researcher. Many recent studies have found that exercise isn't as important in helping people lose weight as you hear so regularly in gym advertisements or on shows like The Biggest Loser...
"The basic problem is that while it's true that exercise burns calories and that you must burn calories to lose weight, exercise has another effect: it can stimulate hunger. That causes us to eat more, which in turn can negate the weight-loss benefits we just accrued. Exercise, in other words, isn't necessarily helping us lose weight. It may even be making it harder."
My eyebrow is raised. It does make sense, and I am hungrier on days when I exercise than I am on days when I don't. But I am still skeptical. What about building muscle to burn more calories?
The TIME reporter anticipates my concerns. He goes on to explain.
"The muscle-fat relationship is often misunderstood. According to calculations published in the journal Obesity Research by a Columbia University team in 2001, a pound of muscle burns approximately six calories a day in a resting body, compared with the two calories that a pound of fat burns. Which means that after you work out hard enough to convert, say, 10 lb. of fat to muscle — a major achievement — you would be able to eat only an extra 40 calories per day, about the amount in a teaspoon of butter, before beginning to gain weight. Good luck with that."
I am beginning to listen.
"All this helps explain why our herculean exercise over the past 30 years — all the personal trainers, StairMasters and VersaClimbers; all the Pilates classes and yoga retreats and fat camps — hasn't made us thinner. After we exercise, we often crave sugary calories like those in muffins or in "sports" drinks like Gatorade. A standard 20-oz. bottle of Gatorade contains 130 calories. If you're hot and thirsty after a 20-minute run in summer heat, it's easy to guzzle that bottle in 20 seconds, in which case the caloric expenditure and the caloric intake are probably a wash. From a weight-loss perspective, you would have been better off sitting on the sofa knitting," the reporter writes.
So what to do? Exercise, but do it for your health. Eat less and eat nutritiously, with an eye toward calories, if you're trying to lose weight. And after those 30 minutes on the elliptical, don't fool yourself into thinking there's a donut in your future. Apparently, it just doesn't add up.
Here's the entire TIME article:
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