I am going to dissect a recent Time magazine article called, “Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin”. I do agree with parts of this article, but think a lot of this is bogus. The author simply isn’t taking a strategic approach to exercise and seems to be complaining for his lack of results. That being said, I do agree with a few of his points. Let’s dig in!
[While staying lean and losing body fat is largely about diet, you can magnify the effects of a good diet with the right types of exercise. Note: The photo above is a good example of eating smaller portions of your favorite foods.]
A Brief Overview of the Article in Time Magazine
Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin <---click here to read the full article (opens in a new window). In this article, the author John Cloud complains about how he has been stuck at the same weight his entire life. He claims that no matter how hard he exercises he just can't get rid of the gut that hangs over his belt. He believes exercising "makes" him overeat and does the same for just about anyone who exercises. The rest of the article shows studies that try to prove his point. Some of the Problems With the Article and Studies He Cites
It is a pretty well written article and could sway someone who doesn’t know better, which is why I felt compelled to address it on my blog. The biggest flaw in the article is his notion that exercise gives you no choice but to over-eat. There are certain types of exercise that increase cravings and I talk about them in this post (Cardio Compensation), but how you act upon those cravings is entirely up to you. This reminds me of a study that claims that diet soda makes you fat (because people who drink diet soda tend to eat bigger portions of food)…another misleading study. It is the food that makes you fat, not the diet soda or exercise!
“Could exercise actually be keeping me from losing weight?”
This is a quote from the article and John explains that he typically eats more on exercise days than on days where he doesn’t exercise. He then goes on to show that exercise stimulates hunger. He also quotes Steven Gortmaker, who heads Harvard’s Prevention Research Center on Nutrition and Physical Activity…”If you’re more physically active, you’re going to get hungry and eat more.” Unfortunately people will just take Gortmaker’s word as gospel because the guy is at Harvard…so he must be correct…right? This is complete non-sense if you ask me.
…But I Do Agree That Exercise Won’t Make You Thin
Like I recently stated in Vacation Body Blueprint and several times on this site…it is mainly diet that dictates your ability to lose fat. You can create a much stronger calorie deficit with diet than you can with exercise. Exercise only “works its magic” when someone is dieting properly. Once you create the perfect storm with diet…then exercise can help in a major way.
Common Mistakes When It Comes to Exercise and Fat Loss
Many people reward themselves after working out. They figure that since they workout they can “get away” with eating more. Other people will exercise more to “make up” for eating too much. Brad Pilon calls this Fighting More With More over on his blog…and like he says…it doesn’t work! Other big mistakes…eating more “to repair damaged muscles”…eating more to get enough protein to build muscle…eating more to insure that you get the post-workout meal…eating more to have energy for the workout, etc. You get the idea. It never pays to “eat more” if you want to lose fat!
Diet ‘As If’ You Aren’t Going to Exercise
The quickest way to lose weight quickly is to diet as if you weren’t going to exercise at all…but then make sure and exercise! Don’t compensate or change you diet at all, even if the workouts get tough…even if you are sore. Your mind will play tricks and justify this extra food…”since my muscle are sore they ‘need’ extra nutrition to heal”…don’t let your mind justify eating more food. If you increase your calories as you increase your activity level, you are just spinning your wheels.
Note: If you don’t get the chance to read that post called “Cardio Compensation” I will summarize it in a couple of sentences. Studies have shown that prolonged steady state cardio is what increases food cravings. Recent studies have shown that Interval Training actually reduces the appetite. So stick with the intense intervals most of the time (bodyweight circuits, HIIT, kettlebell circuits, etc.)…mixed with low intensity activities like walking.
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