On BioScience and Life and Such

Here’s why I get fat when I exercise (part II)

In Uncategorized on August 13, 2009 at 1:01 pm

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WEIFANG, CHINA - JULY 24:  An overweight stude...
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The last couple of months I have lost about 8 kg


Previously, I had unsuccessfully been trying to lose weight by exercising more (Previous posts on this subject: “I get fat when I exercise, is that normal ?“, “Huge or tiny, either way I am being tricked“, “It’s the thinking that makes you fat stupid” and “Here’s why I get fat when I exercise“).

So this time I decided just to eat less. Not a different diet, just less of the same, and every other day I would skip a meal (lunch or dinner).

The new strategy worked like a charm, and I was planning on blogging my dieting results when I reached the 10 kg mark. But, then I read a veritable bashing of this TIME Magazine piece on how exercise does not necessarily help you lose fat. The criticism of this article I found very unfair. After all TIME was only telling us to put less faith in exercise as a dieting tool, – that’s fair enough isn’t it ? Besides, the points made in the article fit very well with my own experiences. Then a discussion on friendfeed followed, which I found very useful.

The TIME piece probably jumps to conclusions. The study he comments on does not support the conclusion that exercise makes you put on weight. Also the extrapolation of conclusions on adults based on data from studies on children may not hold water. However, the message that the TIME article conveys: the amount of exercise most people regard as sufficient to lose weight may act to the contrary, still hold true.

Looks like the consenus from the discussion is that exercise can help you lose weight, but it needs to be extensive (more than one hour more than 5 days a week) and it needs to be the right excersise (altough I believe the jury is still out on the effect of low-intensity exercise).

So, I’ll keep on skipping lunch and generally eat less, until I for some strange reason, should get enough time on my hands to prioritize 1-2 hours of exercise every day.

Downside is that I feel hungry a lot. Upside is that this may just possibly help me live longer.

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  1. nice post, Nils! a quick editor note (sorry to be a nag) – ‘lose’ (verb) instead of ‘loose’ (adj). now I’m going off to read the original PLoS study. 🙂

  2. I experience the same. When I worked at UCSF, I walked 3 miles up enormous hills, to and from work everyday and took the stairs to the 9th floor several times a day. I did this for 3 years and did not lose a pound. In fact, I believe I gained a few. It wasn’t until I restricted my food intake that I lost 25 lbs.

  3. Tim. fixed, thanks. Rebecca – seems like calorie restriction is the future. Torture when shopping for groceries though – the level of temptation out there is just unbearable sometimes.

  4. to hope to lose weight, you need sustained exercise with your heart rate in the ‘fat-burning zone’ (60-80%). for example: a 23 yr old male with resting HR of 65 (somewhat standard) needs to workout at a HR of about 150 bpm. that’s significant effort! (compare: I just ran 7 miles at about 9 mph, and my average HR was about 150 bpm.)

    I disagree with the message that exercise won’t make you thin. the real message is this: you’ve been sold a false bill of goods. the exercise regimes that are touted by the general media won’t make you thin. it takes a lot more hard work than we’ve been led to believe.

  5. sorry; two followup points:

    1. yes; eat less, eat better. definitely a fantastic thing to do, and it will help you lose weight. my argument is that exercise is getting a bad rap. good eating habits are excellent!

    2. the 60-80% fat-burning zone has been around for a long time; I just pulled it from this site:

    thanks for an excellent conversation, Nils!

  6. […] I have concluded that the amount of exercise that I have time for is not sufficient as a dieting tool, my exercise […]

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