Greetings folks. Time to bust a few myths that I am seeing far too regularly concerning weight loss and exercise. Contrary to popular belief, exercise alone will NOT lead to fat loss or weight loss. Nutrition is responsible for determining your body fat composition not exercise. Whilst exercise comes with a wide range of obvious health benefits such as improved sleep, better energy levels and does contribute to better management of body fat, it is not necessary to exercise to the levels currently being pushed upon people wanting to lose some body fat. It s a myth that strenuous exercise leads to fat loss.
In 2004, riding the wave of reality television success, The Biggest Loser vaulted into the living rooms of tens of millions of Aussies. Sixteen seasons and twelve years later, the show is now an institution and a mainstay of our culture. While the show is entertaining to some and inspirational to others, the real message behind the program is clear: if you want to lose weight, you need to get off your bum and exercise. Philosophically speaking, the show is mired in an archaic, old-school mantra that many of us practicing nutritional therapies know all too well. That mantra is, “calories in, calories out.” Scientifically, exercise has many benefits, from better sleep, to improved confidence, to healthier blood pressure. But for many, weight loss is not necessarily correlated with fitness. So why do so many people insist it is? Thanks in large part to the greedy lobbying efforts of the now obviously corrupted food industry, we’ve been collectively sold this false bill of goods since the start of the obesity epidemic in the late 70s and early 80s. The script for that bill of goods goes something like this: “It’s your fault that you are overweight. In order to stop being overweight, you need to stop being lazy and stop taking in more calories than you burn, and the best way to burn more calories than you take in is through exercise.”
In our do-it-yourself culture, the overweight consumer has been more than accepting of this calories-in, calories-out belief. In turn, the fitness industry has been more than happy to take their money. Open most fitness magazines and/or websites and the exercise-weight loss myth is pervasive. You are bound to see gobs of before-and-after photos, piles of gadgets, and magic exercise programs promising to make you thinner. The suggestion is always the same – that exercise is the be-all and end-all of shedding pounds and getting the body you desire. The recent film Fed Up points out that between 1980 and 2000, health club memberships more than doubled, experiencing almost the exact growth trajectory as the percentage of obese Americans. How could it be that people were simultaneously burning more and more calories collectively, yet as a society, we were also getting heavier?
While exercise is highly correlated with levels of fitness and health-related metrics such as blood pressure and cholesterol, study after study shows that exercise as a diet is a poor choice. The Mayo Clinic stated that studies “have demonstrated no or modest weight loss with exercise alone.” The British Journal of Sports Medicine said in 2015 that we have wrongly emphasized exercise as a physical activity to prevent people from becoming overweight. They went on to say that exercise, while effective in reducing the risk of disease, “does not promote weight loss.” So if exercise is an inefficient and ineffective weight loss tool, then just what is the point? Again, the point is better health and improved fitness. Studies do show that exercise is correlated with keeping weight off, so it’s an important factor in long-term weight management. Heavy people who exercise without ‘results’ are often getting plenty of results – they are getting fitter, and they are getting healthier. According to the European Heart Journal, obese people who are metabolically fit are at no greater risk of dying or developing heart disease or cancer as those individuals who are normal weight. The data is clear – it’s possible to be both fat and fit, as well as fat and healthy. According to Steven Blair, professor of exercise Science at the University of South Carolina, “there is an association between obesity and fitness, but it is not perfect. You simply cannot tell by looking whether someone is fit or not.” So bottom line is simply this; exercise alone will not help you lose weight but does contribute to maintaining a healthy level of general fitness.
Exercise, Over Training and Stubborn Weight Gain
So the next obvious question is this; can over exercising contribute or cause weight retention or even weight gain? While regular exercise has proven benefits as already stated; lowering stress levels, giving you more energy, better managing your weight and improving heart health, this doesn’t mean that over training can’t cause the opposite types of effects. Despite what some people assume, due to the chronic stress excessive exercise places on the body, the risks of over training are just as great as doing no exercise at all. Not giving your body and hormones the time to adjust to exercise can cause injuries, mood problems, negative changes in your metabolism and “burnout” within a couple of months’ time. While too much exercise alone might not be the sole reason for negative symptoms in some people, over training combined with stress from other factors like imbalanced hormones, a poor diet, and a lack of rest or sleep can all accumulate to serious bodily damage.
When someone experiences symptoms of over training, it’s essentially their body letting them know that the total amount of stress on the athlete’s body is exceeding their capacity to recover and cope. To be a long-term health asset, the type of exercise you do should make you happier and more energetic, not the opposite. If you’re engaged in an exercise that’s always leaving you too tired, feels forced and doesn’t increase your love of life, you’re truly not doing yourself any favours at all and it certainly won’t be helping with your weight loss. While exercise threshold differs from person to person, most experts recommend sticking to about half-hour to one hour per day, most days of the week, but not everyday, to get the most benefits from exercise. It’s important to rest between workouts and take at least one full rest day every week and sometimes even more like 2–3 depending on your goals and level of exercise intensity.
What Are The Symptoms of Over Training?
The negative effects of overexercising can begin cropping up for people at different points, so it isn’t always easy to pinpoint what the upper limit for you or anybody else might be. In order to help you prevent yourself from doing damage, it helps to know what happens to the body when you’re under too much physical stress, this way you can recognize the warning signs. Here are several signs of over training that’ll tell you when you’re pushing yourself a bit too far:
- Changes in your resting heart rate
- Trouble sleeping
- Increased soreness
- Joint pain
- Moodiness, anxiety or depression
- Chronic fatigue or exhaustion
- Changes in your appetite
- Feeling more thirsty than usual
- Digestion issues
- Irregular periods or changes to your menstrual cycle
How Does Over Training Affect Weight Loss / Gain?
1. Raises Cortisol Levels – People battling weight gain are repeatedly told that they simply need to exercise more and cut calories, but in reality this is damaging to the metabolism and might totally backfire. Compared to shorter, but more intense workouts (like high-intensity interval training or HIIT workouts), doing many hours of steady-state exercise (like running) can actually result in lower metabolic and fat-burning potential. Because of the way exercise affeccts your general hormonal status, fat metabolism can actually decrease with excessive, intense cardio exercise because it elevates cortisol levels, which winds up impairing insulin sensitivity. High cortisol levels are associated with fat-storing, as is being resistant to insulin that controls blood sugar. Weight loss potential can also decrease fat-burning by convincing your body that it is “starving,” which means you’re unknowingly going to hold onto every precious calorie you eat in order to ensure survival. If you live in a calorie deficit because your exercise level is too high and food intake is too low (especially if you are stressed out on top of that), your body gets the message that it must slow down all functioning to conserve energy. You can wind up entering a catabolic state that causes changes in your level of hunger and thirst. In fact, dehydration and intense cravings for sugar or salt are associated with overexerting yourself. Another important factor is this: research shows that without even knowing it, most people end up eating more when exercising often in order to make up for the calories they burned. In that sense, doing 30 minutes of cardio may be better for weight loss than doing 60 minutes of cardio! That’s to say if you wind up feeling fatigued and having an out-of-control appetite due to running yourself into ground, taking it easy and eating a nutrient-dense diet with more calories might be exactly what you need to recover.
2. Can Lead to Adrenal Fatigue or “Insufficiency” – While training in moderation undoubtedly has positive effects on hormonal health, studies show there’s a “point of diminishing returns.” Too much exercise without proper rest can cause chronic stress and is linked to problems in the adrenal gland. A severe type of adrenal fatigue from over training called “Over training Syndrome” (OS) is capable of causing adrenal insufficiency, in which the adrenal glands become so depleted that they stop producing enough of the crucial “stress hormones,” including cortisol and types of adrenaline. The Department of Kinesiology at Texas A&M University describes over training syndrome as “chronic fatigue, burnout and staleness, where an imbalance between training/competition, versus recovery occurs.” The result? Ongoing fatigue, loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping, nutrient deficiencies and even the need for hormone replacement therapy is a type of serious condition called Non-Addison’s Hypoadrenea develops.
So What Works Best For Healthy Weight Loss and General Well Being?
Clearly going to the gym and training like a demon 7 days a week is NOT going to help you at all, that is abundantly clear. Regular, short duration exercise with equal amounts of rest time coupled with a well designed whole food nutrition based eating for life plan that truly understands the role the endocrine system plays in weight gain and loss as well as general health and energy levels, is going to truly help you lose weight and get healthy forever.
My Professional Recommendation
Fortunately just such an approach has already been designed for you and is boasting high levels of success including that of my own wife! The amazing team at Changing Habits have a full and comprehensive understanding of how nutrition and the endocrine system affects weight gain \ loss and have created a revolutionary wholefood approach to weight loss and healthy eating that you can easily sustain for life! There are other weight loss programs out there that have some degree of success sure, but none of them stack up to the 4 Phase Fat Elimination Program from Changing Habits as these other programs do not use organic whole foods nor do they offer full support from Functional Nutrition professionals, truly educate you on how to shop for food, what to cook and why. It is this knowledge and professional support that allows you to be healthy for life and empowers you to take control. You can read more about the Changing Habits 4 Phase Fat Elimination Program below.
So there you have it friends. If you are looking to lose weight, don’t waste your time and energy training like a demon 7 days a week thinking that is going to help you. Instead focus on truly eating well and exercising moderately for happiness and well being and you will likely have good success in your health and weight loss goals.
Until Next time, be well, naturally.
Craig Hitchens – Natural Health Practitioner + Remedial Therapist
My own clinical knowledge
Alternative & Natural Health Disclaimer:
The information contained in this article is accurate at the time of posting but may change thereafter. The information provided on the various natural health subjects from this website of www.craighitchenstherapies.com is for informational purposes only and should not be considered as any form of medical advice. The information in the article this disclaimer is linked from is not meant to treat, diagnose, prescribe or cure any ailment. Always check with your health professional before taking any products or following any advice that you believe may conflict with other forms of health care. Always consult your health care professional before you start, stop or change anything that has been previously prescribed. Certain herbs and holistic remedies are unsuitable to take if you are pregnant or nursing and must always be cleared by your health professional before use.