Exercise burns calories. And the more calories you burn, the more weight you go on to lose. So given that, it’s logical to conclude that the longer you work out, the greater your fat loss will be.
Unfortunately, weight loss is anything but logical. In fact, according to a new study done in Copenhagen, exercising less – not more – leads to increased fat loss.
Now, if you were hoping to reach your goals faster by hitting the treadmill harder… well… this kind of throws a wrench in your weight loss plan.
But don’t despair. There are a few good takeaways from this small study that can make your fat loss journey a lot less painful.
So, let’s examine it in a little more detail…
61 overweight and sedentary men were divided into 3 groups. The first was instructed not to exercise (lucky them!). The second had to exercise for 30 minutes per day or burn 300 calories (whatever came first). And the third had to exercise for 60 minutes per day or burn 600 calories. Additionally, these men were not allowed to change their eating habits. Finally, they were to keep track of everything they ate in order to measure total calorie intake.
Now, as expected the first group didn’t lose any weight. But here’s the kicker… the second group actually lost more then the third! It wasn’t a big difference (an average of 7 lbs. vs. 5 lbs.) but it still didn’t add up based on calories-in / calories-out math. After all, the third group – having burned up twice the calories of the second – should have lost more.
Nevertheless, let’s go over the possible reasons why they didn’t. According to the researchers:
- They were eating more food (although, the extra amount of calories didn’t add up to lack of pounds lost).
- They moved less throughout the day and therefore burned less overall calories than the second group.
So, what can learn from all this? Here’s my take (and pay close attention because what you’re about to learn will make your life a whole lot easier as far as fat loss is concerned):
Weight loss is not about how many calories you take in (or attempt to burn) – it’s what your body decides to do with those calories. I can hear the calories-in/calories-out pundits screaming “Blasphemy!” but it’s true.
Look: you must burn 3,500 calories to lose a pound of fat. But don’t for a second think that you can eat 500 less calories per day (or work out until your exercise machine tells you burned that much) and enjoy a pound of fat loss each week (i.e. 500 x 7 = 3,500).
Your body has wide range of redundant hormonal systems to ensure proper energy balance, and hence, your survival. You cannot overcome these with simple math (case in point: the dreaded plateau that almost every dieter experiences).
In relation to the study, you can see how the people who worked out harder ended up moving less throughout the day. That was their body kicking in to conserve energy. And it did this by making them feel tired. Additionally, they also ate more because their body sent out hunger signals (again, to maintain energy balance).
So, how can you put this all into practice to lose weight faster? Here are a couple of suggestions:
- Forget about trying to burn more calories through long, hard exercise sessions. They only make you hungry and you end up eating more. Instead, concentrate on short bursts of activity (e.g. HIIT and resistance training). This will optimize your metabolism by enhancing your body’s insulin sensitivity and allow for great fat burn.
- Eat the right foods that promote fat loss. Most of your results will come from your diet – not exercise. Furthermore, no amount of amount of exercise can make up for a poor diet.
If you start implementing those two key pieces of advice, you’ll be well on your way to getting the body you’re longing for (and without any of the frustrations that come with traditional dieting).