Why exercise won't/will/maybe/could/ perhaps help you lose weight
There's no shortage of things people swore to leave behind in 2018: bad jobs, bad relationships, bad habits. But chances are, you're beginning 2019 with something you didn't intend: a few extra kilos.
Every January one of the top South African resolutions is to lose weight. And if you're looking to be successful, there's something you should know: Diet is far more important than exercise -- by a long shot, or is it? Basically, what I always tell people is, what you omit from your diet is so much more important than how much you exercise as your first step to correcting your weight, health and serum lipids.
We put on weight when excess carbohydrates and proteins that we've eaten are converted into triglycerides (compounds made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen) and are then stored in lipid droplets inside fat cells.
To lose weight, you need to break down those triglycerides to access their carbon. In order to completely breakdown 10 kg of human fat, we need to inhale 29 kg of oxygen (and somewhere along the way, burn 94,000 calories). This reaction produces 28 kg of CO2 and 11 kg of water. Too technical? Basically, you breathe out fat and the more breaths you take the more fat you burn.
"Calculations show that the lungs are the primary excretory organ for fat. Oxygen atoms are shared between the carbon and hydrogen in fat at a ratio of 2:1 (forming carbon dioxide and water) 84 percent of a fat molecule's atoms are exhaled as carbon dioxide, and the remaining 16 percent ending up as water. Meerman and Brown, BMJ (2014)
But unfortunately, this doesn't mean that simply breathing deeply will help us lose weight - we still need to be active or sleep to unlock the carbon and break down the fat in the first place.
"You can only breathe so many times a day; on a day of rest, you breathe around 12 times a minute so 17,280 times you'll breathe in a day and each one takes 10 milligrams of carbon with it, roughly. So, there's your limit on how much you're going to lose in a day with no exercise. However, the fitter you get the harder you must exercise to expel the same amount of carbon. During sleep we are fasting and break down fat at a similar rate. Most of the fat you lose is lost during periods of sleep.
"It's so disproportionate -- the amount of time that you would need to [exercise] to burn off those few bites of food. The sentiment here is that you've "earned" what you eat after working out, when instead -- if your goal is to lose weight -- you'd be better off not working out and simply eating less foods that can be converted to excess triglycerides and stored as fat. Here the goal is simple. Keep your triglycerides below 1 ml/mol or what’s also understood to be individual carbohydrate tolerance. This can be measured with a fasting blood test.
The other thing is that exercise can increase your appetite, especially with prolonged endurance exercise or with weight lifting. It's another reason why I tell people who want to lose weight to just focus on correcting their diet and triglycerides first or train in a fasted state.
Strength training can assist in reducing triglyceride levels by not only strengthening your muscles, resulting in better stamina and balance, but it also producing new cells that are not insulin resistant. Exercise provides you with the opportunity to remove glucose without the help of insulin also lowering triglycerides. Plus, you’ll burn more calories throughout the day just by having more muscle mass on your frame, which helps you maintain a healthy weight easier.
Motivation to both correct diet and move is where the challenge lies for many. Exercise is what ever form you choose provides some real advantages.
1. Exercise combats health conditions and diseases
No matter what your current weight, being active boosts high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and decreases triglycerides. This one-two punch keeps your blood flowing smoothly, which decreases your risk of cardiovascular diseases.
2. Exercise improves mood
Need an emotional lift? Or need to blow off some steam after a stressful day? A gym session or brisk walk can help. Physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals that may leave you feeling happier, more relaxed and less anxious.
You may also feel better about your appearance and yourself when you exercise regularly, which can boost your confidence and improve your self-esteem.
3. Exercise boosts energy
Exercise delivers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and helps your cardiovascular system work more efficiently. And when your heart and lung health improve, you have more energy to tackle daily chores.
4. Exercise promotes better sleep
Struggling to snooze? Regular physical activity can help you fall asleep faster, get better sleep and deepen your sleep. Just don't exercise too close to bedtime, or you may be too energized to go to sleep.
5. Exercise puts the spark back into your sex life
Regular physical activity may enhance arousal for women. And men who exercise regularly are less likely to have problems with erectile dysfunction than are men who don't exercise.
When all is said and done the motivation to eat correctly and be active is the deciding factor on how sustainable this weight, health and serum lipid correction is going to be. Find a big enough Why!