Not until long ago I was advocating that physical exercise is necessary in the process of weight-loss. I always believed in the calories-in versus calories-out dogma. But it’s more than that. Energy management and energy change within systems is far more complex than calories-in vs. calories-out.
What does this mean?
You can always hear in the media that you have to burn more calories than you consume if you wanna lose weight. And you do that by working-out and by eating less. It’s bullshit if you ask me and Gary Taubes.
It may work when you’re burning glucose as your primary source of fuel, but if you restrict food intake you’ll feel very cranky and energy depleted.
For example, a full hour on the treadmill can burn at most 500-600kcals. How does that translate into food?
It’s like 100g of chocolate. It’s like 200g of lean meat (cooked). It’s like 4 medium sized slices of bread. I find it very inefficient to live your life under this credo because you have to extenuate yourself in the gym every day.
This type of credo was my life’s credo up until a few months ago. I believed in it because I was working out a lot (8 days out of 7 ) on a moderate to high-level. Jogging, Kick-boxing, Swimming, Stairs-Running, Biking, and Gym. These were the sports I was performing.
Back then I was able to eat as much as I wanted. However, I was following a low-carb diet, which was not so low-carb. I had a carb-loading day every week, on Sundays. Those days were crazy because on Sunday evenings I was most of the times 8-10 pounds heavier than on Sunday mornings.
I was loading with pizza, fries, sweets, and all the pastries in the world. Oh and let’s not forget about the additional water intake these foods were demanding. What a fetish!!
My moderately visible 6-packs from back then were being converted into a nice and fluffy 1-pack by Sunday evenings. Anyways, I was able to lose all the weight gained on Sundays by being extremely active during the following week.
Something’s not right here
Even though this may seem a good regimen, I find it not. Here’s why:
1. I was spending at least 2-4 hours a day working out. Preparation, traveling to the workout site, the workout itself, showering, and traveling back home. It sometimes lasted for more than 4 hours, especially when I was doing kickboxing or swimming.
Now, it may be okay if your schedule allows you allocate that much time for exercising. However, physically it’s not okay. You are wasting yourself. This is what I found out recently.
2. Doug McGuff talks about this in his book Body by Science. He’s got a lot of experience in HIIT (High Interval Intensity Training) which is basically about getting the minimum effective dose of exercise to have your metabolism up and running optimally.
HIIT focuses on very high-intense-short-duration exercises like sprinting and heavy lifting. Both of them actively engage the glucose within the body to be used up, which leads to lower insulin levels and subsequently the start of mobilization of fat from the adipose tissue. HIIT puts your endocrine system, hence your hormones, at work.
I’ll get into further details of the HIIT regimen in the book (see the bottom of the post) as well as in a later post. But more detailed in the book
3. Long-duration exercises such as jogging, biking, and swimming are doing more bad than good over the long term. The joints are put into higher stress while the muscle is being catabolized (broken down). Doug explains it very well in his book.
Besides, weight-loss is not very efficient under high-stressing and long lasting exercises because:
- the slow pace exercises (like in marathons) only stimulate the slow twitching muscle fiber, while medium-twitching and fast-twitching muscle fibers are not stimulated. These two last ones and especially the last one is responsible for muscle growth and quick mobilization of glucose. Slow pace exercises do not cause hormonal good stress which promotes muscle gains.
The Whole Point and Nothing but the Point
I’m starting to be a little off topic because I haven’t talked about what you find in the title so far, but I think you see my point.
I wanted to highlight on the fact that long-lasting and very-exhausting exercise routines that most of the people engage in for fat loss have more negative effects than they have positive ones. At least that’s what my biased thinking can see right now.
Why would you recommend to an obese person to start running on a treadmill like Speedy Gonzales?
Do you even consider the extreme pressure that person is putting on their bone structure?
Weight-loss is more efficiently, less stressfully, and less time consuming achieved through other means that exercise. There is also the lower energy levels attached to these long-lasting exercises, and there is also the time, which tends to be extremely precious to many of us.
I personally think (at this moment in time) that the most important benefit of exercise (HIIT exercising especially) is mental health. There have been tons of studies throughout history pointing out the positive effects that exercise (no matter what type of exercise, though I’m advocating on HIIT right now) have on lowering and eliminating anxiety, panic, and depression.
Here’s, for example, a research study from 2013 which suggests that exercise ameliorates the severity of stress-related mood disorders such as anxiety and depression.
There’s also this meta-analysis from Feb. 2014 which followed 1022 subjects and the effect that different structured exercise routines, such as resistance training, functional training, and aerobic training had on these subjects. An important point to mention is that they were stroke patients. The conclusion of the researchers was that exercise may be a possible treatment to prevent or lower depressive symptoms in individuals with sub-acute and chronic stroke.
If it had an effect on these subjects, why wouldn’t it have an effect on you? And it’s so easy to do.
Then there’s this recent study from Feb. 2014 which follows two groups: a group of 29 schizophrenia patients (SZ) and a group of 22 major depressive disorder patients (MDD). They exercised for 4 weeks, 3 times a week for 75 minutes each session: 30 minutes of cognitive training and 45 minutes of cardio training and mental relaxation training.
The result was better cognitive performance, better memory, lower anxiety levels, higher quality of life over the two groups. This is promising. I envision better results if the subjects were following a superior nutrition plan that does not put high-oxidative stress on their brains.
In fact, ketogenic diets or high-fat-very-low-carb diets have shown to have a high positive impact on mental disorders such as: Alzheimer, Parkinson, Seizures, Anxiety and Depression.
Again, if you search the public medical database of research articles you’ll find tons of research correlating exercise and better mental states.
What I want to point out again is that:
The major purpose of exercise should be mental health and general state of wellbeing, and not weight-loss. I’d personally advocate for a maximum of two sessions of high intensity interval training (HIIT) not lasting for more than 30 minutes per session. So a total of 1 hour of workout per week, at maximum. I know, it’s totally contrary to what most people do and to what most personal trainers promote.
But do you really see so great results in that type of practice?
I know this article can raise a lot of debate so I’m really opened to questions and opinion of all sorts! Just shoot for either of the comment sections below.
1. Doug McGuff and John Little – Body by Science
2. Stephen Phinney and Jeff Volek – The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living
3. Eric Westman, Stephen Phinney and Jeff Volek – New Atkins for a New You
4. Park, J. K., Lee, S. J., & Oh, C. S. (2013). Treadmill exercise exerts ameliorating effect on isolation-induced depression via neuronal activation. Journal of exercise rehabilitation, 9(2), 234.
5. Exercise for depressive symptoms in stroke patients: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
6. Oertel-Knöchel, V., Mehler, P., Thiel, C., Steinbrecher, K., Malchow, B., Tesky, V., … & Hänsel, F. (2014). Effects of aerobic exercise on cognitive performance and individual psychopathology in depressive and schizophrenia patients. European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience, 1-16.
7. Murphy, P., Likhodii, S., Nylen, K., & Burnham, W. M. (2004). The antidepressant properties of the ketogenic diet. Biological psychiatry, 56(12), 981-983.
8. Mary Newport – MCT and Ketones: Alternative Fuel for Alzheimer’s
9. Azzam, R., & Azar, N. J. (2013). Marked Seizure Reduction after MCT Supplementation. Case reports in neurological medicine, 2013.
10. Stafstrom, C. E., & Rho, J. M. (2012). The ketogenic diet as a treatment paradigm for diverse neurological disorders. Frontiers in pharmacology, 3.