“I don’t understand. I work out every day and I’m still gaining weight.” Believe it or not I hear this question quite frequently. On the surface it seems to be quite the paradox. All the conventional wisdom tells us to lose weight all we need to do is watch what we eat (meaning to eat less) and exercise more. Follow this simple formula: use more calories than you take in.
In the past I’ve explained part of this myth – how all calories are not created equal. Based on what the calorie is from (protein, fat, or carbohydrate) it will have a different effect in your body. If you need a refresher you can find that article on my blog at http://brwellness.com/nutrition-news/?p=135.
Now let’s explore the other half of the equation: exercise more. This of course leads to a series of questions. What type of exercise is best? How many times a week should I exercise? How long should I exercise?
Some people say “aerobic” is best. Some say weight lifting. Others say yoga, or interval training, and still others say high intensity training. Some tell you to do a different type of exercise every day for an hour. On the other spectrum some will tell you once to twice a week for fifteen to twenty minutes is all you need. You can see there is quite a variance in the answers.
To best understand any issue relating to health and nutrition I always ask one simple question. How is the body designed? When I discuss with clients what they should eat and what they should avoid I just don’t say “eat this and not that.” I explain to them how their body works and what the different foods will actually do in their body. When we understand how our body is designed to work it makes it much easier to determine what it needs and to separate myth from fact. Unfortunately in the world of health and nutrition there is a lot of myth and hype which is quite different than the facts.
Of course I am limited by the space of this article. Whole books have been written to address these questions and I’ve read quite a few of them! Recently I read one that I believe explains it the best – Body by Science by Doug McGuff, M.D. and John Little. With his medical background, Dr. McGuff understands how the body is designed and he uses this to explain the science of exercise.
My plan is to have several articles based on the book. I will use the remainder of this article to summarize the major points of the book. Future articles as noted below will be more in depth on specific topics. But in the mean time, if you are interested I’d encourage you to read the book sooner rather than later. It will likely change the way you think about exercise! Here is a quick summary of his major points:
1. Who can you trust? Most exercise testimonials and a fair amount of “research” is shall we say – slightly misleading and biased and does not address the true science of exercise.
2. Genetic expression plays a major role in our physical appearance. People can do similar types of exercise but in the end their genes determine how their physical activity is expressed in their body. I will have a separate article on this subject.
3. Being “fit” does not mean you are healthy.
4. High intensity training is his preferred method. It benefits both the aerobic and anaerobic energy pathways. Most “cardio” only works the aerobic pathway. The effectiveness of the exercise is all about hormones and blood glucose levels. High intensity training works the major muscle groups to exhaustion, uses up glucose, and encourages the body to burn fat and build muscle. I will have a future article about the “cardio myth.”
5. Fat metabolism and fat loss is also determined by hormone activity which is affected by the type of exercise. Hormones signal the body to burn fat and to store fat. Some exercise will produce the “burn” signal, others the “store” signal. I will have a future article about fat metabolism.
6. Exercising once to twice per week for 15 to 20 minutes when done according to his methodology is all you need to properly engage your body and manage the body building and fat burning hormones.
As you know from past articles I am also a big believer in “walking the talk.” I have found a local trainer who follows the basic principles as outlined in the book and began training several weeks ago. In one month I have already noticed several significant changes. I will keep you posted on that as well.
Bernard Rosen, PhD is a Nutrition Consultant and Educator. He works with individuals, groups, and at corporations to create individualized nutrition and wellness programs. His office is in Mequon, WI. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, e-mail at email@example.com, call (262) 389-9907 or go to www.brwellness.com.