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Why Doesn't Exercise Lead To Weight Loss? 978

Posted by timothy
from the that-would-be-too-easy dept.
antdude writes "The New York Times' Well blog reports that 'for some time, researchers have been finding that people who exercise don't necessarily lose weight.' A study published online in September 2009 in The British Journal of Sports Medicine was the latest to report apparently disappointing slimming results. In the study, 58 obese people completed 12 weeks of supervised aerobic training without changing their diets. The group lost an average of a little more than seven pounds, and many lost barely half that. How can that be?"
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Why Doesn't Exercise Lead To Weight Loss?

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  • Hackers Diet FTW. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RGreen (15823) on Monday November 09, 2009 @02:43AM (#30029450)

    The Hackers Diet makes it clear: Exercise just doesn't burn that many calories. You can lose weight just by eating less calories than you burn, no exercise required.

    http://www.fourmilab.ch/hackdiet/www/hackdiet.html [fourmilab.ch]

    • by cjfs (1253208) on Monday November 09, 2009 @03:05AM (#30029580) Homepage Journal

      Pretty much, not sure why this is a story. There's a little to be said for increasing muscle mass, and that's about all.

      “It all comes down to energy balance,” or, as you might have guessed, calories in and calories out. People “are only burning 200 or 300 calories” in a typical 30-minute exercise session, Melanson points out. “You replace that with one bottle of Gatorade.”

      In other news, water is wet and the sun is bright.

      • Re:Hackers Diet FTW. (Score:5, Informative)

        by iocat (572367) on Monday November 09, 2009 @03:12AM (#30029642) Homepage Journal
        Also, don't forget if you start an exercise regime, you're replacing fat with muscle at some level. Muscle weighs more. (But it looks better and takes up less space.)

        Hacker's Diet is the best way to lose weight IMHO. It explains the basics (consumer less calories than you burn), and offers some good strategies for eating and exercise and geeky tools (inlcuding a web-based tracker) to aid in your descent into fitness. I lost close to 30 lbs on the "diet" and while it wasn't painless, it was pretty straightforward. I did gain a good amount back 2 years later when I quit smoking, however.

        • Re:Hackers Diet FTW. (Score:5, Informative)

          by Daengbo (523424) <daengbo@@@gmail...com> on Monday November 09, 2009 @03:37AM (#30029782) Homepage Journal

          Muscle mass is a really important point. I don't understand the obsession with weight. I went from 32% body fat to 15% body fat and weighed exactly the same. Guess which one of those left me feeling and looking better?

          The researchers in the story ignored all the signs from the last ten years which point to strength training being the most important part of a regimen designed to reduce fat. When you do cardio (especially that slow, "fat-burning" cardio), you burn a few calories, and when you step off the machine, you're done. When you train for strength, you burn fewer calories, but your body spends the next twenty-four hours burning extra calories trying to repair the damage you've done. Doing anaerobic / aerobic intervals on a cardio machine has a similar effect, and when you put the two together, you really shed the fat.

          You also need to watch your food intake so that your insulin levels stay as constant as possible. That means eating difficult-to-digest (generally "whole") foods instead of processed ones. Your body isn't just a black box. Eating some amount of calories in oatmeal and eating the same amount in breakfast cereal will have different results: your body works harder to digest the oatmeal so your metabolism is higher, resulting in lower total calories; the added fiber changes how your body digests the other food in your digestive system.

          Cutting calories is a myth. In fact, while losing about 20kg of fat and putting on the same amount in muscle, I ate more than I had eaten before I started the program. I ate more. I exercised more. The ratio of calories coming in to those going out probably didn't change, but that increase in the total drove my body into overdrive and tricked it into ramping up my metabolism even further than the exercise amounted to.

          • by iocat (572367) on Monday November 09, 2009 @03:58AM (#30029888) Homepage Journal
            You can over-simplify calorie counting, but it isn't a myth. Eat less calories and you eventually weigh less. You may be less healthy, but I guarentee, you'll weigh less! I read some woman's magazine article one time that was like "Eating less calorines doesn't mean you lose weigh!" I was like, "really, tell that to someone starving to death..."

            Getting 150 calories from a Twinkie certainly is less beneficial than 150 calories from oatmeal, for the exact reasons you describe, but they both give your body 150 calories to use (or store...).

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Daengbo (523424)

              I misspoke. You can use calories as your only measurement. Generally, though, when you simply cut calories, you lose lean mass first, and don't start burning off fat for a long time.

              Sure, you lose weight, but keeping that weight off is harder than ever, and who wants to be the skinny, flabby guy? Not me.

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by composer777 (175489) *

                I think this is somewhat exaggerated. You have to tailor your advice to the audience. Remember that 1/3 of americans are obese, and that our tendency to over-consume is our main problem. Exercise won't fix this.

                I've done my share of weightlifting and add muscle fairly easily. That said, at 5'11 and 255 at the start of this summer, the last thing I was going to do for weight loss was lift weights. Sure, I could have built up quite a bit of muscle starting with that base. But in the end, I still would h

            • Have you never seen those pictures of obese mothers in the 3rd world with starving, emaciated children? It's more complicated than calories in, calories out--because under certain circumstances your body CAN'T burn fat (specifically, when insulin levels are kept high by a diet too rich in carbohydrates and too low in protein/fat.) Now, I grant you that in a true starvation diet you'll lose weight--but you have to get to VERY low calorie levels for that to happen.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by kklein (900361)

            I wouldn't say it's a myth. I'm not portly by any means (people think I'm thin--but most people are fat), but I've been steadily dropping weight (fat--I have a fat-checking scale) for a few weeks just by kind of tracking what makes it go up and down for me. I've found that if I eat like my wife (Japanese), i.e. tons of carbs (rice), I just keep putting on fat. I cut that rice and other carbs--the major source of my calories on the Japanese diet I have (she cooks for me, and she's great!) is from those carbs

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by eh2o (471262)

              I happen to be in peak physical condition and my basic routine consists of about 15 hours a week of moderate to high intensity activity. I split about 50/50 between aerobic and anerobic activity.

              Anyways only about 2 hours of that total time is spent doing "stuff" at the gym like running on the 'mill and lifting. The gym is godaweful boring, SOOO boring, after about an hour I want to shoot myself. Just about its only redeeming value is that its 5 minutes away and open every day 'til 10pm. Everyone compla

          • by realityimpaired (1668397) on Monday November 09, 2009 @07:17AM (#30030872)

            Eating some amount of calories in oatmeal and eating the same amount in breakfast cereal will have different results: your body works harder to digest the oatmeal so your metabolism is higher, resulting in lower total calories; the added fiber changes how your body digests the other food in your digestive system.

            I think this is the point, more than your point about muscle mass (though that's a valid point, too...). TFA says that these people did supervised cardio without changing their diets. If your body requires 2500 caloreis per day to maintain a healthy weight, and you're consuming 4000, then burning an extra 500 calories in cardio isn't going to make a difference.

            You're right that with a high muscle mass, it's possible to be in the "morbidly obese" category while not actually being fat or unhealthy. Professional athletes are frequently in that category, for example. But most people don't have such large amounts of muscle, and when they tip the scales at 250lbs, it's because they have much more body fat than they should. Doctors tell them thatt they should lose weight, not because they necessarily need to lose the weight, but because it's easier than testing their body composition and telling them that they have too much fat in their body. But the doctor is supposed to apply some common sense... if a male is tipping the scales at 250lbs, but wearing a 34" waist, then even though he's in the "obese" category, he's obviously not actually obese.

            If you want to lose body fat, you need to look at the big picture. It's fine and well for you to say that you ate more in exchanging 20kg of fat for muscle... but I can tell you first-hand that it doesn't work that way for females. We have to put in twice as much work to build muscles due to lower testosterone levels, and people tend to look at you weird if you're muscle-bound. Having muscle tone, and adequate strength is much better than building muscle mass, thanks to societal pressures... and that comes from cardio. But the only way you're going to lose weight through cardio is by not consuming way more calories than you need. It's well and good that you're in the cardio zone, and burning fat calories (I run 6 miles a day, and usually finish under 45 minutes, for example), but if you're still consuming way more calories than your body actually needs (including the extra 500-700 you'd burn from that level of cardio workout), then you're not going to lose weight. It's becoming a tired mantra, but it's no less true: eating less and exercise is the only way to do it.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by dwater (72834)

            > I don't understand the obsession with weight

            IMO, it's because your weight is the easiest thing to measure.

            • by Carik (205890) on Monday November 09, 2009 @10:23AM (#30032292)

              I disagree. The easiest thing to measure is "how loose are my pants." I have to put them on every weekday to go to work, and I have no reason to step on a scale other than to check my weight.

              Which is a very small part of why my goal is to lose inches around my waist, not pounds. (The pounds will be a nice side effect, but they're certainly not the goal.)

          • Re:Hackers Diet FTW. (Score:4, Informative)

            by rhsanborn (773855) on Monday November 09, 2009 @09:15AM (#30031560)
            I think the more important element in eating whole and less processed foods is what you alluded to before, fewer blood-sugar swings. It's the basis for a diet that has become popular recently using foods based on lower glycemic index. It was developed for, I think, diabetics and hypoglycemics. It does end up helping people lose weight and stay fit, but I think it has a lot less to do with some miracle of the foods. Rather, you feel better because you aren't on a blood sugar roller coaster all day. Also, you aren't constantly snacking to re-elevated your blood sugar, and you're avoiding the foods that trick your body into eating more which tend to be high amounts of sugar and salt.
          • Re:Hackers Diet FTW. (Score:4, Informative)

            by Piata (927858) on Monday November 09, 2009 @01:03PM (#30034698)

            "The researchers in the story ignored all the signs from the last ten years which point to strength training being the most important part of a regimen designed to reduce fat. When you do cardio (especially that slow, "fat-burning" cardio), you burn a few calories, and when you step off the machine, you're done."

            I run marathons in the summer and do strength training in the winter. Without a doubt I can say marathon training burns far more calories than strength training ever will. I actually bulk up and put on fat when I do strength training. Marathon training on the other hand presents me with the challenge of trying to keep weight on, but that's to be expected when you burn through ~3,000 calories in an afternoon.

      • Re:Hackers Diet FTW. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by pslam (97660) on Monday November 09, 2009 @03:50AM (#30029850) Homepage Journal
        There's a lot to be said for exercise - it makes you healthier except in exceptional circumstances (like overdoing it, or if you have a heart condition).

        Muscle mass is also a good way to lose weight long term. Short term, it weighs more than fat, so you get the surprising (to naive people) result that exercise can make you put weight ON if nothing else changes (and subconsciously you get more hungry due to the calorie burning).

        Long term, muscle mass needs feeding. That's why your body gets rid of it if you don't use it - it's a waste of energy. You put muscle mass on, you burn calories whether you use it or not. Granted, it takes a lot. The best to focus on (so I'm told) is leg muscle, as they're already big and building them up is relatively easy (running/cycling/walking all do it).

        But sure - exercise alone and diet alone isn't going to lose you weight. You need to do both.

      • Re:Hackers Diet FTW. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by TheKidWho (705796) on Monday November 09, 2009 @08:24AM (#30031142)

        Not to ebrag but when I go to the gym I burn around 700-900 calories...

        Burning only 300 calories isn't go to do much of anything. You could replace that with a walk.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Not to inject reality into your rant, but a) how do you know you're burning 700-900 calories? That counter on the treadmill? Those aren't exactly known to be really accurate... and b) you do realize that the amount of calories a person burns depends on their existing body mass, their existing muscle mass, and their heart rate during the exercise.

          In other words, two different people can hop on a treadmill, do the same "3 kilometers" in twenty minutes, maintaining the same speed and the same distance travelle

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The thing about exercise is, until you get to the point where you are pushing yourself to the limits you wont see drastic results. Most of the obese people I see in my gym spend half their time sitting around, or cycling on the lowest level while reading a magazine. 12 weeks is NOT enough time to reach your peak physical condition, especially if you are just starting out. And if you do hit the point where you are pushing yourself to your limits you will see insane results if you can maintain your exercise p

      • Re:Hackers Diet FTW. (Score:5, Informative)

        by Quothz (683368) on Monday November 09, 2009 @04:20AM (#30030014) Journal

        The thing about exercise is, until you get to the point where you are pushing yourself to the limits you wont see drastic results. Most of the obese people I see in my gym spend half their time sitting around, or cycling on the lowest level while reading a magazine.

        The folks in this study were under close supervision, exercising fairly intensely. It's fun to trot out your favorite lines about exercise but that's not really applicable here.

    • by CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) on Monday November 09, 2009 @03:13AM (#30029646)

      Also, exercising makes me fucking hungry.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by CoolGopher (142933)

        Also, exercising makes me fucking hungry.

        Really? I'm finding that I'm anything but hungry when I come home from training. Thirsty, yes. Hungry, no.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Pedrito (94783)
        Also, exercising makes me fucking hungry.

        I didn't read the article, but +1 insightful. That's EXACTLY why exercise doesn't help you lose weight. It also doesn't help that many people exercising with the goal of losing weight will say, "Gee, I just spent 10 minutes walking on the treadmill. I'll reward myself by supersizing my triple bacon cheeseburger and milkshake."

        Want to lose weight? Eat healthy. Eat healthy foods and eat healthy portions. Eating healthy food actually tends to make the body crave
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by 4D6963 (933028)

      Yes. I wonder why so many people think they have to physically suffer in order to lose weight. Probably for the same reason people think we must suffer and make sacrifices to save the planet.

      People don't get fat because they eat junk food, they get fat because they eat too many calories, junk food or not. It just happens that junk food is the best way to eat lots of calories (you can effortlessly eat yourself 1,500 kcal by picking the right meal at McDonald's). The recommended daily intake for an average

      • by stjobe (78285) on Monday November 09, 2009 @06:10AM (#30030568) Homepage

        I wouldn't recommend skipping meals, it's pretty much the opposite of what you need to do if you want to lose weight.

        Eat less each meal, yes, but also snack between meals on something healthy to keep your metabolism going.

        Less caloric intace and more exercise is the only way to reliably and healthily lose weight - and be able to sustain your new weight afterwards.

        In fact, I'd go so far as to say all diets are doomed to failure, the only thing that will work is to change your lifestyle.

        Do not diet. Change your lifestyle. Yeah, it's a nice soundbite, I'll go with that :)

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by purpledinoz (573045)
      For those who ddn't RTFA, exercise is still good for your health! The article just points out that you can't lose weight unless output energy > input energy. ie - exercise more and eat better.
  • Putting stuff in your mouth is just step one. How you chew your food, how well it is digested, how active your metabolism is, all these will affect how much energy you actually get out of your food.

    Still, physics still stand: Use more energy than you get through food you _will_ lose weight.

    • It's not that simple (Score:5, Informative)

      by Rix (54095) on Monday November 09, 2009 @02:56AM (#30029516)

      Your body is not a simple machine. How much you eat impacts how much you use; simply cutting calorie intake will just cause your resting metabolism to drop. Worse, you might start metabolizing muscle.

      • by WarwickRyan (780794) on Monday November 09, 2009 @04:38AM (#30030104)

        Yup, burning muscle sucks.

        I've had two major weight loss periods in my life:

        First was from 130 kilos down to 80 kilos. I did this through eating 1500 kcal per day exclusing green veggies AND doing intensive cardio on the treadmill five times a week, hitting 500kcal on the calorie counter each time.

        Now I did drop a load of weight, but a good portion of that was muscle. I did regular max-lift tests on biceps and my legs, and over the course of my weight loss the weights I could lift more than halved.

        Second major weight loss is from 108kg to 94kg. It's still ongoing, with the final goal being 80kg again. This time I didn't want to loose muscle, so joined the local gym and took professional advise. This resulted in a combination of diet and mixed training plan being made. For the food, my intake drops to 1500-1700 kcal per day for six days a week, split into 6 meals. For the training, I do 3 weight sessions a week (upper body, lower body, upper body, lower body etc etc), 3 cardio sessions doing interval training and 1 session which combines cardio and weights focusing on endurance.

        The result? At the half way point I'm stronger than when I started. I've increase my weights by about 30% since the start (about 4 months now). I'm also getting some muscle definition. Weight loss is now steady - it's slower than my first but the actual inches being lost around my waist more than the last time.

        So through my experience you're right. Cardio training combined with diet for weightloss is really counter productive. Adding weights in there is clearly the way to go.

  • How can that be? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ColdWetDog (752185) on Monday November 09, 2009 @02:46AM (#30029464) Homepage
    Well, a 3.5 to 7 pound weight loss over 12 weeks isn't such a bad result. You can't just diet, you have to change lifestyle. TFA seemed kind of whiny, like one expects to magically melt the pounds off if you run around a while. Even moderate physical activity only burns a couple of hundred calories per hour - that's one brownie.

    Then there is the issue of converting fat to muscle (which weighs more) and the fact that people in general don't exercise as much as they think they do. For most people, weight control is hard, it's basically a lifetime commitment to minimizing calories and maximizing physical work.

    The world continues to deteriorate

    Give up.
    • by DeadDecoy (877617) on Monday November 09, 2009 @03:05AM (#30029586)
      I think we as a culture are too used to being sold quick weight loss 'solutions'. True fitness, as you say, comes from a change in lifestyle, where one should be exercising not for 12 weeks but for several years to be in a healthy state. Unless you go through some painful and hellish training regimen, getting fit doesn't happen quick.
      • by Colin Smith (2679) on Monday November 09, 2009 @04:58AM (#30030222)

        Fat is less dense than muscle. You may weigh a bit less but it'll be muscle, not fat so you'll be significantly smaller.

        It takes about 12 weeks to see results. Then you just have to keep it up, which is why I chose karate and jujutsu. You get fit and it isn't mind numbingly boring.

        Btw, the failure rate for diets is something like 95%[1] which it pretty bloody significant scientifically.

        [1]http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/2725943.stm
         

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ms1234 (211056)

        I was grossly overweight to the point that the doctor was worried so I said to myself that this cannot go on. I changed the amount of food I ate from large dishes to normal dishes and skipped any evening meals except vegetables. I also picked up daily one hour walks or swimming. During 4 months I lost somewhere close to 100 pounds and felt great.

    • Re:How can that be? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by klenwell (960296) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `llewnelk'> on Monday November 09, 2009 @03:17AM (#30029664) Homepage Journal

      Or go with the flow. As TFA points out, whether you lose weight or not, work out a few hours a week and you're healthier.

      My own experience confirms this. All my life, I was too thin. Then I left school and got an office job about 5 years ago. All the sudden I'm not having a problem keeping on the pounds. I never got noticeably overweight but I was getting a little soft around the center. Signed up for a 24-hour fitness membership a couple years ago and was surprised that my weight continued to inch up.

      Finally, earlier this year, I changed up my workout. More cardio, less weightlifting. Also went from around 4 1.5-hour workouts a week to 6. I just treat it like my job. As soon as I get off work, it's off to the gym for two hours (which has the advantage of waiting out traffic.) I also made some adjustments to my diet. Less fast food. Replaced cola with coffee (caffeine) or lemonade (sweet). And though my sweet tooth is as sweet as ever, I am more conscious about eating that extra snack or the dessert that was left in the break room, and consequently, I probably eat a few less calories on average.

      But my real secret weapon: the Nintendo DS. I needed something to distract me from the drudgery of the stairmaster and lifecycle and I can only gawk at the girls for so long. I don't play video games otherwise, so I look forward to an hour or so playing with the DS while I sweat. Turned-based games like Advanced Wars (or chess) are perfect for the stairmaster.

      The result: for the last 6 months, I've been shedding a pound or so every 2 weeks, about the same as the study. A few months of that will add up.

    • by Tablizer (95088) on Monday November 09, 2009 @03:17AM (#30029668) Homepage Journal

      That's the problem with exercise and diet: it's like a job that pays $1 per hour: a lot of work and sacrifice for tiny results. Diet food tastes like shit. The box it comes in is tastier than the contents in my opinion. Repeated studies show that even fairly intense diet and exercise result in only about a 15 pound reduction over the longer run. People then think, "Why should I bust my ass chasing that 15 lbs? I'm still overweight. Fuck it, I want a donut!"

      • Re:How can that be? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by KaiLoi (711695) on Monday November 09, 2009 @03:23AM (#30029706)
        That's because you shouldn't eat diet food.. It's pre-packaged crap for people who are too lazy to learn how to cook properly for themselves.

        Shortcuts are never tasty

        I highly recommend getting a book called "The Okinawan Program" which is a study of some of the healthiest people on the planet and their diet and lifestyle.

        It contains some delicious healthy recipes that leave you feeling very full, are exotic and tasty as hell and yet keep you below that horrific calorie level needed for weight loss

        To take what someone said earlier and expand on it. "Stop eating so much fatty, and learn to cook!"
      • by Waccoon (1186667) on Monday November 09, 2009 @06:10AM (#30030566)

        The longer you do without junk food, the less you crave it. Real food tastes much better after you've given up donuts, burgers, and MSG. Rather than a $1/hr job, think of a diet as starting college as a broke student. It takes a while to graduate.

  • by JakiChan (141719) on Monday November 09, 2009 @02:51AM (#30029486)

    But..but...it's just thermodynamics! There's no way that the human body could be a complex organism that adapts to it's environment or anything like that! If you're fat it's because you're lazy! Exercise and you must lose weight! 2nd law says so!

    Oh, wait...

    • by phantomfive (622387) on Monday November 09, 2009 @03:01AM (#30029552) Journal
      It's more than that....after getting through the sensationalistic part, the New York Times article gets to the main point: our bodies are really efficient, and don't burn that many calories. Running for an hour could burn only 200 or so. You can replenish that with a bottle of Gatorade. In fact, most people who exercise eat more to compensate for the calories they've burned, because they are hungry.

      Also, in neither of the studies do they actually monitor the food intake. So while it says that the diet didn't change, the subjects very well could have eaten more.

      Basically if you want to lose weight, you're going to have to do something with your diet. This is something that was common knowledge 25 years ago, but somehow we seem to have forgotten it.
  • by Rix (54095) on Monday November 09, 2009 @02:51AM (#30029488)

    And I've been doing so for the last 6 months. I've been keeping track of what I eat in a database, and I can tell you that if you're not, you're constantly changing your diet. Eating till you're full will have drastically different nutritional values, and you're just not equipped to gauge that.

    I've also been exercising. I wasn't losing weight until I did both.

  • Perhaps because... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by vivian (156520) on Monday November 09, 2009 @02:59AM (#30029536)

    if you are still munching your way through 6 soft drinks, 2 packets of doritoes, a couple of chocolate bars and fried chicken each day you are still sucking in a hell of a lot more calories than you can burn off with just exercise?
    The main role of exercise in weight loss is to help you maintain your metabolic rate ( or increase it a bit) while eating a normal amount of calories.

    For a regular guy this should be about 2500 to 3000 Calories depending on your body size.

    If you just cut your calories, your body is going to tend to just drop it's metabolic rate, so it's harder to lose weight with diet alone.
    Oils and fats have 4 times the energy packed in them as carbs and protein, so if you are eating a lot of fatty food it is going to give you a lot of calories without filling you up much.

    a normal healthy diet (ie. balanced protein/carbs and healthy fats, like from nuts, fish & avocados) plus exercise is the way to really succeed. Have a big heap of non-starchy veggies and it will really help fill you up without too much extra calories compared to having say, fries with your steak.

    Oh. and diet drinks have been found to have a tendancy [sciencedaily.com] to fool your body it is starving, which gives you a bigger appetite, so avoid those & just drink fewer sugary beverages instead.

    Losing weight isn't rocket science. Increase /maintain your metabolism a bit with 30 min excercise a day and reduce your calorie intake to below what your body burns is all you need to do - and be patient. Don't expect to lose more than about 2 pounds a week - any more is too fast and unsustainable in the long term.

    The muscle you put on with exercise also helps you maintain your weight loss because muscle burns more energy than fat.

    Break out of the overweight geek stereotype and be a healthy fit geek - you will think better too when you improve your circulation.

  • by 1s44c (552956) on Monday November 09, 2009 @03:59AM (#30029894)

    Everytime I exercise I gain weight, I started overweight about a year ago and am now 16 pounds heavier. I lost fat and gained muscle and I feel better for it.

    Obsessing over weight is pointless as muscle is 3 times heavier per unit of volume than fat. BMI is a really stupid measure as it can't tell muscle from fat.

  • by otter42 (190544) on Monday November 09, 2009 @05:30AM (#30030366) Homepage Journal

    I know a lot of people are going to talk about CoE. After all, that's the driving equation here. It is absolutely correct, but can we not glean more insight into the problem?

    IWAHTE (I Was A Heat Transfer Engineer), so my guess is that what's going on is that people spend the vast majority of their calories maintaining body temperature. If you eat less, your body's first reaction might well be to reduce skin temperature, maintaining core temperature. This theory links the fact that women eat less then men by 20% with the observation that women are complain about being cold earlier than men. Less calories burnt to keep skin temperature high.

    In the case of someone who is overweight, they have an additional layer of blubber (yes, basement /. denizens, you are coated in blubber) that insulates them and maintains their core temperature for free. Maybe there's a hysteresis? First the body weight comes down, then the body learns it can waste excess heat maintaining skin temperature, and then, and only then, the body is free to consume additional calories.

    Now, I don't do human anatomy, so a doctor would have to chime in and confirm just how much of the body's caloric consumption is lost to heat, vs. other bodily functions.

    A personal example: on an average day, I eat some 3500 calories. But I am athletic, and only weigh 70, so this is a "good" 3500 kCal. What I notice is that my skin temperature is always warm, especially compared to women. In fact, I am very comfortable when the temperature is around 15deg inside. I go outside on a 5deg day in nothing more than a sweater and a top hat. I routinely mock my friends who wear a sweater, coat, and scarf when I'm sitting around in short sleeves. Certainly, my body is horribly inefficient, and if society falls in some sort of catastrophe, I will certainly be one of the first to starve (if my 20/800 eyesight doesn't make me walk off a cliff first). However, in a society that has mass amounts of overconsumption, it seems to fit me just fine.

    A second personal example: I dated a German doctor who as a 16-year-old doing a year-abroad in Minnesota, had been anorexic. After she came back, she put on a lot of weight: obviously her body reacting to the extreme abuse she had given it. Now as a 25-year-old, she was in the Bundeswehr (German army), and this girl could RUN. She ran marathons. She ran 2 hours with 25kg of weight attached to her. And yet she was always, always overweight by 8kg or so vs. her pre-American anorexia bout. Not a lot, but she was... pudgy. She'd been to doctors, etc, and could do nothing to get her weight down. I lived with her for a while, I can guarantee she ate nothing but healthy food, and only somewhere around 1600-1800kCal/day. However, she liked her rooms warm.

    So I am less physically active, yet consume twice as much. The only thing that can explain this is that physical activity just doesn't use that many calories, not compared to maintaing body temperature. Since I go outside without a coat, I burn more calories than she does to maintain the same core temperature.

    My two cents, but I certainly welcome other /.er ideas, though.

  • Lifestyle Change (Score:4, Informative)

    by secondhand_Buddah (906643) <secondhand...buddah@@@gmail...com> on Monday November 09, 2009 @06:10AM (#30030570) Homepage Journal
    The biggest mistake the majority of people who go on a diet is that they approach it as a way to lose weight.
    Actually the only way to do this effectively is to approach it as a change in lifestyle, and accept that this is how you are going to be eating for the rest of your life (if you want to stay in good health that is). The next step is to find a diet that can match this requirement. diets like weight watchers do work, but the most effective diet that I have found is a Low Glycemic Load diet. Stabilizing ones blood sugar automatically creates an environment where the body begins to rid itself of excess weight. I use the word diet in the context of a way to eat, and not as a means to an end. The next step is to learn to eat correctly and stick to
    It. It takes about 3 months to learn to eat correctly, and can take about 6 months to become acclimatised to the new lifestyle. On a low GL diet one can lose 1 to 2 pounds a week. This continues until you are within your normal body weight range, and then it stabilizes.
    I would really recommend a low GL diet to anyone who is serious about wanting to switch to a healthy and vibrant lifestyle.
  • by chrisG23 (812077) on Monday November 09, 2009 @06:38AM (#30030714)
    I was once obese, 300 lbs. I lost 100 pounds over an 18 month period by going on a low carb diet, with no significant extra exercise. My thoughts on that are that if your body is capable of going into ketosis (the mode where it gears up for using fat as energy, both from food in the stomach and fat stores throughout the body) then it is effective for weight reduction. Also, eating a low carb diet got very boring for me, and I found myself eating less because of this (was never hungry or starving myself though). This of course is different for everyone.

    Next major body change was when I joined the Navy. I went into boot camp weighing 199, I got down 8 weeks later weighing 199 but with vastly less body fat. My physical structure changed significantly. I started off not eating to much, but ending up consuming pretty large amounts of calories (and drinking tons of water, that is very much forced on new recruits to avoid dehydration problems which are very common when you are exercising in one form or another for most of the day.) Most of the people in my division did not lose weight, some gained a few pounds, all were in vastly improved physical condition. Not big body builder type musles, but lean endurance muscles.

    The best method of weight control/weight loss I know is to not eat until I feel full. If I am hungry I will eat until the hunger stops, and then wait 15 to 30 minutes. Sometimes I find there is more room, usually I find that I am full. It seems to take food some time to settle in and for my stomach to give the feedback to the brain that it is doing alright. The stomach is actually a pretty small organ and the digestive system seems to operate best when working on small loads. Full loads both have the effect of stretching and enlarging the stomach (thus making it more difficult to feel full) and diverting energy to digestion (alot of energy is consumed for digestion, thats why people go on health fasts, to give the rest of the body a period of time where the body's energy can be continuously applied to other systems for repair and maintenance. Thats the idea anyway) that could be used for other things, like keeping one alert and full of energy and providing for the immune system to do its job.

    My $0.02
  • by SharpFang (651121) on Monday November 09, 2009 @06:39AM (#30030718) Homepage Journal

    you forget the fundamental psychological effect.

    7 pounds, in 12 weeks - some claim it's not bad, some claim it's weight loss so it's okay and so on.

    First off, if you weight 238 pounds, going down to 232 pounds is just a pathetic joke. It took you 3 months to get there. It will take you 5 years to get there at current speed. It would be a reachable goal if it was fun, but...

    But the second problem is that it's a dull, boring, miserable exercise. From a slim person's point of view, exercise makes you feel far less miserable than from an obese one's.

    The thermal isolation makes you sweat like a pig and overheat in matter of minutes.

    If lifting a weight uses 50 joules of energy, a fit person will easily lift it, expending the 50 joules distributed equally throughout the volume of thick muscles. A person with poor muscles will expend the same 50 joules but concentrated in thin, weak muscle that aches, hurts and throbs with exertion, it uses the same insignificant amount of energy but feels vastly worse.

    The fat gives you extra weight for exercises like push-ups, sit-ups or pull-ups. Sure you use more energy but don't neglect the psychological effect, how miserable and ashamed you feel without breath after two push-ups.

    Then you start feeling hungry, and the body which has a tendency to gain fat, usually gains it because your hunger feels more intense to you than to most slim people who just shrug it off. Take it from an obese person, getting really hungry feels somewhat like drug starvation, you feel ultra-miserable. And still you need to cut on the calories.

    Oh, with even little strong will you will go like that for a month easily, suffering and feeling miserable, but telling yourself you're doing it to lose weight to be able to do all the things you can't do because you are obese.

    After second month of being miserable like that you start having second thoughts.

    After third month, when you went from 240 pounds to 220, you can see it will take you another 3 years of feeling miserable before you get out of this swamp. You say "fuck it", drop the exercise and start eating again.

    If you can devise a diet that is low-calorie but filling and tasty, if you can devise exercises that are fun, it could work.

    And even worse if eating is your method for stress. It becomes a habit. Something stresses you out and you won't calm down until you fill up your stomach. It's a habit like smoking or drinking. Unfortunately, the fundamental rule of dropping any habit is to drop it entirely. If you're a chain smoker, no one smoke a day, you just have to stop. If you're an alcoholic, you can't drink one and stop, you can't drink alcohol at all. But what about eating? You can't drop eating entirely. It's a horrible habit to drop, really.

  • 12 weeks? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dunbal (464142) on Monday November 09, 2009 @07:44AM (#30030982)

    That's your problem right there. Let's see:

          Fat is a long term storage form of energy. Everything (proteins, glucose) can be converted to fat, but fat cannot be converted back to glucose (unless you count the lone glycerol molecule that holds the 3 fatty acids together on the triglyceride). It's NOT a reverse reaction. Thus the problems begin. It's easy to make fat, and hard to get rid of it.

          So how is exercise supposed to get rid of fat then? Well, fat CAN be converted to acetyl-COA and shoved into the Krebs cycle. Only the Krebs cycle is an AEROBIC process and takes place in the mitochondria, not in the cytoplasm of the cells. Aha! Problem #2. Sedentary people have fewer mitochondria than athletic people. Therefore their ability to "burn" fat as acetyl-CoA is limited. An athlete can burn fat just as efficiently as glucose, the only difference being he'll lose out on the couple ATP from glycolysis.

          So you need mitochondria, in quantity, to burn up acetyl-CoA and therefore fat. If you don't get rid of the acetyl-CoA somehow, the whole catabolic process starts backing up. How do you obtain mitochondria? Increased exercise - over a sustained period. 12 weeks is hardly enough to increase the number of mitochondria in your muscle cells, much less expect them to burn through a dozens of kilos of fat. But the title of this article is misleading - according to the study the cited article is based on -

    Mean reduction in body weight was -3.3 ±3.63kg (P less than 0.01). However, 26 of the 58 participants failed to attain the predicted weight loss estimated from individuals' exercise-induced energy expenditure. Their mean weight loss was only -0.9 ±1.8kg (P less than 0.01). Despite attaining lower than predicted weight reduction, these individuals experienced significant increases in aerobic capacity (6.3 ±6.0ml.kg-1.min-1; P less than 0.01), decreased systolic (-6.00 ±11.5mmHg; P less than 0.05) and diastolic blood pressure (-3.9 ±5.8mmHg; P less than 0.01), waist circumference (-3.7 ±2.7cm; P less than 0.01) and resting heart rate (-4.8±8.9bpm, p less than 0.001). In addition, these individuals experienced an acute exercise-induced increase in positive mood.

          So they ALL lost weight. Only some (probably cheated on their diets/lied about their original diet) lost LESS weight than others. Continuing the exercise for more than 12 weeks would probably have caused further reduction in weight. I don't know HOW the submitter can turn that into "Why Doesn't Exercise Lead To Weight Loss?". Oh yeah, but this is slashdot- news for nerds. This site should be renamed to "Slashdot - news for trolls: engage critical thinking now".

  • by smcdow (114828) on Monday November 09, 2009 @08:09AM (#30031086) Homepage

    Thing is, though: They're right.

    If you haven't read "Good Calories, Bad Calories [amazon.com]" by Gary Taubes, you should. This book outlines how 40 years of bad science and personality cults in nutrition research has lead to a serious misunderstanding of the causes of heart disease and obesity.

    At the very least you should read his eye-opening NY Times article [nytimes.com], which pre-dated the book by a couple of years.

  • Sociopath (Score:3, Informative)

    by torstenvl (769732) on Monday November 09, 2009 @09:24AM (#30031648)

    This post is extremely misleading and dangerous. Why anyone would want to propagate this lie is beyond me.

    Exercise does lead to weight loss. The article cited clearly says it does. It's just that a small amount of exercise -- aerobic exercise for short periods over a mere three months, without strength training or diet changes -- is less effective than you'd want it to be. Well duh. But even in those circumstances, with all those factors stacked against weight loss, the participants still lost some weight.

    A counterexample: A mildly overweight or average person, who has no heart problems and is otherwise healthy, can engage in much more vigorous exercise. An hour on the elliptical can burn approximately 700 calories. An hour in an intense gym routine can burn more (ever see those ads for LA Boxing touting the one-hour 1000 calorie workout?). Lets say you do an hour of 700-calorie cardio every morning and dont change your diet. That's an additional 3500 calories you're burning per workweek. If you give yourself weekends off and don't change your diet and don't strength train, you're still losing a pound a week, mostly of fat. If you add in proper diet -- not calorie restriction per se but just switching from soda to water or cutting out one or two greasy meals a week -- you're doing better. Add in strength training and you're be doing amazingly.

    But it's not enough to just diet. The health benefits of good cardiovascular health and muscle strength are important in their own right. Things like the Hacker's Diet work to lose weight, but they are very unhealthy, even possibly dangerous. It condones a quantitative instead qualitative approach; the Hacker's Diet seems to take the position that you can eat microwave pizzas for every meal as long as you keep it under about 2000 calories. What it doesn't tell you is that in the process you'll be failing to provide muscular support for an aging skeletal system, adding cholesterol to your body, hardening your arteries, and atrophying major muscles.

  • by js3 (319268) on Monday November 09, 2009 @09:26AM (#30031660)

    I lost 25 pounds this year, and it mostly came from a diet change. Excersizing is great, and can speed things up but the biggest factor to losing weight and keeping it off was just eating less. Cut out the crap like snacks and pop soda, try to "feel hungry" more often it won't kill you. Excersize makes you look great and develop some muscule but that alone won't take off the weight until you change your diet.

  • BURN BABY, BURN (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Talisman (39902) on Monday November 09, 2009 @09:38AM (#30031798) Homepage

    I have gone through large weight swings at different periods throughout my life. I was ectomorphic growing up, and matured into a mesomorph. Because my job is IT, I'm sedentary for long periods of time, and as such, will accumulate fat, especially given that in my mid-30's I still eat just like I did in my mid-teens.

    Due to my particular personality - mild OCD, extremely impatient - I am very, very good at modifying the way I look in short periods of time. I lost 19 pounds in a week, just to prove a point. I ate 3 hard boiled eggs per day, 1 slice of whole wheat toast, lots of water, lots of coffee, and never stopped chewing sugarfree gum. I also exercised for 4-5 hours per day. It takes incredible willpower. It absolutely sucks. You'll feel like shit. But it does work.

    Swimmers who cross the English Channel and Florida Straits also lose huge amounts of weight in very short periods of time. Susie Maroney lost 22 pounds in just over a day when she swam from Cuba to Key West. Not all of it fat, to be sure, but a lot of it was.

    Much hype was made about Michael Phelps' diet when he trains. He consumes between 10,000 - 12,000 calories per day while training. So imagine your daily food intake, and quadruple it. That's how much he eats. And that's just to prevent him from losing weight. He has to eat that much to stay the same.

    I also freedive. Freedivers are some of the leanest athletes in the world. They tend to stay away from gyms as too much muscle burns too much oxygen. The repeated depletion and replenishment of O2 across the cell membrane really burns the calories. After a 4-day freediving training session off the coast of Florida, I had lost 6 pounds of fat in 4 days.

    As others have noted, most people feel like they're doing a lot of exercise, but they simply aren't.

    Exercise absolutely works. Just just aren't doing it intensely enough or long enough if you aren't burning fat.

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