Exercising More Does *Not* Cause Long-Term Fat Loss
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Jonathan: Welcome to Living the Smarter Science of Slim, where we provide a scientifically proven lifestyle for long-term health and fast lost by eating more and exercising less, but smarter.
Carrie: Eat smarter, exercise smarter, live better – I am so ready for that.
Jonathan: Hey everyone. Jonathan Bailor, Carrie Brown, Living the Smarter Science of Slim. Carrie, how are things?
Carrie: It is a beautiful day here in sunny Seattle.
Jonathan: It is surprisingly sunny Seattle. And today, Carrie, let’s pick up where we left off last week. Last week we talked about the first of the four fat loss fallacies. We talked about how eating less does not cause long term fat loss – surprising news.
Carrie: Wonderful news.
Jonathan: Wonderful news. Today we’re going to talk about fallacies two and three – the ones specific to exercise first. First, exercising more does not cause long term fat loss. And exercising less does not cause long term does not cause long term fat gain.
Carrie: Do you have any idea how happy those two statements make me?
Jonathan: Well if you make you a fraction of as happy as they’ve made me, I can start to think about it because I too – most people don’t believe it – but I don’t like exercising at all.
Carrie: Well you know I have a hate-hate relationship involving exercise – particularly my bike. So if what you’re saying is true and you’re going to give us some science that proves that, I am just – I am loving this.
Jonathan: All about scientific proof today because to be clear, this does sound a little bit ridiculous on the surface. Saying things like exercising more does not cause long term fat loss. Exercising less does not cause long term fat gain. But Carrie, the key distinction here is that we’re talking about long term fat loss and long term fat gain. That’s very distinct from short term weight loss. Of course exercising more causes short term weight loss. That’s not what we’re after.
Carrie: Well, and I’m not in this for the short term. I’m kind of tired of doing the up and down, yo-yo thing. I would like to live in a way that means I can be at the weight I want to be for the rest of my life, rather than any other option. If you can show me how to do that by exercising less, I am all in.
Jonathan: Well it’s exercising less, but smarter. And we’ll talk about exactly how to do that today. But first, let’s – we have to dispel the myths first. And the first myth we have to dispel – gain it’s the second of four fat loss fallacies. And that’s exercising more does not cause long term fat loss. Carrie, right out of the gate, this one’s pretty easy because last week we talked about in detail of how eating less doesn’t cause long term fat loss because it makes our body into a state of starvation, causes us to slow down, causes us to burn muscle. Carrie, burning 300 calories on the treadmill is the same as just eating 300 fewer calories. Exercising more in the traditional fashion is just another way to eat less.
Jonathan: So if we’ve disproven that just depriving our body of calories by taking in few calories – well then just burning off additional calories does the same thing. So the question is not, again, never exercise. Physical activity is bad. But we have to look below the surface onto what the actual point of exercise is. And in fact, we’ll actually see when we dig into the science is that if we just exercise more, we can actually end up worse than if we did nothing.
Carrie: I sure don’t want that because if I do any exercise at all, I want to see some long term results. I don’t want to be spending time exercising if I’m not going to be getting any results from it.
Jonathan: Absolutely. And a great way to think about the exercising more, not necessarily giving us the results we want is – think about extreme endurance athletes. When we exercise a lot, we’re just putting our body in a state of starvation. We do not have enough fuel so our body slows down and it cannibalizes muscle tissue. Again, it’s just another form of starvation and we don’t want that. We want to improve our health. We want to speed up our metabolism. We want to preserve lean muscles tissue so we have that fit, healthy physique. And frankly Carrie, when we exercise more, what most of us end up doing is eating more.
Carrie: Absolutely. What usually happens when exercise is I immediately want to go and eat something.
Jonathan: Yes, we build up an appetite. Just like we sweat when we exercise, we drink more because we’re thirsty. When we do traditional moderate intensity cardiovascular – which is jogging or going in the elliptical machine or pedaling the bike at a moderate pace. We sweat a lot, we drink a lot and then we build up an appetite and we eat a lot. And if we’re not eating the right foods, that causes way more harm than the exercise does good.
Carrie: Well and actually I was just going to say that when that happens, I generally don’t give a rip what it is I’m eating. I just need to start the hunger. And 9 times out of 10, it’s the fastest, closest thing to me. And that’s usually guaranteed not to be healthy.
Jonathan: Absolutely. You’re not the only one, Carrie. Researchers have demonstrated this for years. Let’s jump into some of the research and some of the studies. Specifically here, talking about exercising more builds up an appetite and if that appetite is for low quality or insane foods, well then we’re going to end up in a bad place. So let’s start with the researcher Rooney who tells us that, “Consistently high or low energy expenditures result in consistent high or low levels of appetite. Thus, people doing heavy physical work spontaneously eat more than people engaged in sedentary occupations.” So should we be more active? Yeah but then we’re just going to eat more.
Carrie: Right. That’s all related to the set point thing that we’ve been talking about.
Jonathan: Exactly. If we burn more our body’s just going to demand more because it’s trying to keep us at homeostasis. And again, Dr. Freedman at Rockefeller University echoes this. He tells us that “Exercise by itself has not been shown to be highly effective in treating obesity because the increased energy used from exercise is generally offset by increased caloric intake.”
Jonathan: So more calories out just means more calories in.
Jonathan: Just like we talked about last week – when we eat less, less calories in just means less calories out. Our body slows down.
Jonathan: So again, you’re like, “Well, what can we do then?” It’s about changing our hormones and changing this set point. But remember the set point is trying to bring us back to a point of homeostasis. Where exercising more in the traditional fashion becomes such a problem is – okay, we talked about we burn more calories off, we take more calories in, but if we’re taking in low quality food, which sadly, people are because they’ve been given incorrect information. Well then we’re in a state of we’re calorically neutral, let’s say. But we’re hormonally worse off because we’ve taken in even more hormonally harmful food then we would have if we’d just not done anything.
Carrie: Right. So actually we’re kind of shooting ourselves in the foot, in that, we think we’re doing good but we’re actually not. We just don’t realize it. And we get results, but we don’t necessarily realize that the results are not what we really want because we’re burning muscle not fat.
Jonathan: Exactly and sometimes the results – I mean, the challenge also is that people will feel – it’s tough, Carrie, because all these stuff seems to make sense. It seems like it’s giving results. You go to a very rigorous cardiovascular session and you’re sweating and your heartbeat is up and it feels like you’ve done something. But just feeling like we’ve done something doesn’t actually mean that our body is changing in a meaningful fashion. We could have just scratched the surface and that’s what we’re doing here. It’s like we’re just scratching the metabolic surface. We’re really not getting into the bowels of the metabolism and making meaningful change.
Carrie: Well I’m ready for meaningful change.
Jonathan: So, what is not meaningful change is what we’ve been doing. And let me just give a quick example, which hopefully hits home for many of our listeners. Carrie, let’s say you go for a 30 minute jog. If you go for a 30 minute job, you’ll burn approximately 170 calories than you would sitting here and recording this podcast with me.
Carrie: I’ve got to say, that’s kind of funny because if I was able to continue jogging after 2 minutes, if would be a freakin’ miracle.
Jonathan: But anyway, let’s go with your Carrie jogs for 30 minutes. And Carrie, you’re trying really hard. You’ve listened to this podcast and you’re saying to yourself, “I’m not going to eat more food. Even though I’m really hungry after I jog for 30 minutes. I’m not going to eat more food.” But let’s say with dinner you just drink an extra glass of reduced fat milk because you’re really thirsty. So if we’re just talking about calories here, at the end of the day, you burnt 170 additional calories from your jog. That 12 ounce glass of milk contained 183 calories. So technically, you’re 13 –
Carrie: I’m fatter!
Jonathan: Well, you’re not really, because we know about the set point. But when you play this calorie math game, thinking that exercise somehow tips the balance – one, it’s not about calorie math. And two, exercise is horrible inefficient at burning calories. Think about that. You burnt 170 calories in 30 minutes of your time. Our liver burns about 600 calories every single day just functioning.
So to think that we can just exercise away these excess calories is just a flawed paradigm. And the sad thing is, Carrie, most people don’t do what you did in that example. Most people go for a 30 minute job. They drink a sugary sports drink. That’s like 189 calories. Then they have an extra half serving of starch-heavy meal, like maybe some fettuccini alfredo. You combine that all up. Thanks to exercising, consumed over 400 more calories than if they just would of done nothing. Plus, those calories are hormonally-harmful, it’s a double whammy.
Carrie: Well given that we’re talking about traditional methods, I would rather in that scenario, just not do the and not get the hunger to make me eat all the extra food. I mean, if my liver’s that good at burning calories, I might as well just have a nap.
Jonathan: It’s true. And specifically, if we’re truly – if we’re going to take on the approach of depriving the body of calories – folks, it’s way easier to just eat less than it is to spend this time exercising. Neither one is healthy. Neither one is effective. But, just from a destruction of joints and bones, trying to do this excessive exercise is just not again a good approach. Again, it may seem counterintuitive, so let’s talk about a study.
Let’s talk about a study done at the Pennington Biological Research Center done by Dr. Church. Dr. Church remarks that, “After 18 months of exercise training and achieving 2,000 calories per week of exercise, so they’re burning off 2,000 calories per week – college age women – so these are young women who should be able to burn fat – had no additional fat loss than women that did nothing. This study broke women into 4 groups – women had no change in exercise, women who exercised more, women who exercised even more, and then women who exercised way more.
And again, after 6 months, between these 4 groups, Church found that “change in body fat was not statistically significant across the groups.” The reason – “a relatively high dose of exercise results in compensatory mechanisms that offset weight loss. Our findings are important because most exercise guidelines for weight loss recommend 200 – 300 minutes per week and we provide evidence that this amount of exercise induces compensation that results in significantly weight loss than predicted.”
Carrie: Well, I got to tell you, if I’d had been in either of those groups that was exercising more, even more, or weighed more, I’d be pissed.
Jonathan: And you should be because just to not be too conspiracy-theory-ish – when you’re watching TV this week, Carrie, observe and even observe in magazines – who’s paying for a lot of the adds you see that talk about exercising more? For example, let me just list some of the members of the executive board of the American Council of Fitness and Nutrition: Coke-A-Cola, Pepsi, Hershey, Sarah Lee, Kellogg’s, Craft, General Mills, Campbell’s Soup, Conagra Foods, Delmonti Foods, The Groceries Manufactures Association, Master Foods, and the list goes on. Carrie, I’m wondering if we’re told to exercise more simply because it causes us to eat more and buy more of these food products.
Carrie: Okay, I’m just aghast here. The American Council on Fitness and Nutrition has Coke-A-Cola, Pepsi, and Hershey on their board?
Jonathan: Carrie, Carrie, let’s talk about – here’s what the national –
Carrie: Isn’t that hysterical?
Jonathan: No, well – here’s what the National Soft Drink Association tells us. They tell us consume at least 8 glasses of fluids daily – a variety of beverages, including soft drinks can contribute to proper hydration.
Carrie: Actually, that’s probably true – can contribute to proper hydration. But it seems to me that what they’re not telling us is that it’s also making us fat.
Jonathan: It’s also making us fat and Carrie, that’s the underlying context that is so important here. Two things – one, it’s not about calories in, calories out. So the paradigm that you exercise more, you burn more calories, and that somehow does something good – that’s wrong in the first place. Second, you don’t because more often than not, you eat more. And then third, if you’re eating more of the wrong foods, you’re actually making the hormonal change that is the problem. The problem isn’t how much you’re eat, how much you’re exercising, necessarily. The problem is the hormonal clog causing your set point to rise. And if exercising more causes you to consume more of the foods that cause that clog – Carrie, exercising more can actually lead to long term fat gain.
Carrie: Do you have any idea how happy this podcast is making me? Jonathan Bailor, Adonis of 2012, is giving me permission to not exercise, people, and get thinner.
Jonathan: So there’s a quick clarification, Carrie, and I’m glad you said that. Being active – let’s classify – let’s sort of break this into 3 groups. There’s being active. This means walking around, going for a bike ride with your friends and family, working in the garden, walking rather than taking a segway everywhere. That is obviously great for health. It’s so low intensity that it doesn’t necessarily drive up our appetite and we should absolutely stay active. The research around taking 10,000 steps a day – rock solid, increases life expectancy, boosts health, is easy on our joints. Stay active. That’s category one.
Category two though is why we all buy gym memberships. Go on some goofy machine, flail around, go in some class – it’s this moderate level of exercise – stuff that we can do for like an hour or two. It breaks down our joints. We get all sweaty. That’s the stuff that isn’t helpful.
There’s a third class of exercise that is extremely helpful. This is very short duration, very safe and very intense exercise. This is where we exercise less and smarter. This does not stimulate our appetite. This causes a dramatic hormonal change in our body and just does phenomenal things for our health. So in the 3 categories of exercise, 2 are great for us. It’s just the one that we’re all told about and the one that there’s a bunch of money invested in us believing is healthy isn’t the one that’s productive.
Carrie: Right. I don’t mean to sound like I’m a slow synapse all day. You know me Jonathan. I’m extremely active, but I don’t like traditional forms of exercise an I don’t like doing it for a long time, particularly when it gets me nowhere, when it gets me no benefit in terms of fat loss. I’m all about being active. I love being active. And you’ve also just reminded me that when I started doing your crazy kind of exercise –
Jonathan: Crazy kind of exercise TM.
Carrie: Crazy kind of exercise – the name of which I can’t remember and can’t pronounce.
Jonathan: Eccentric exercise.
Carrie: Eccentric – that. You just reminded me actually that it does not make me hungry. And I’ve never noticed that until you pointed it out but that’s absolutely true.
Jonathan: I’ll even take it one step further, Carrie. And this is actually surprising to me because my goals are a little bit different than Carrie’s. I’m actually trying to build a bit of muscle on my body. So sometimes I go out of my way to try to consume excess calories so that my body will build muscle tissue. But when I finish my eccentric exercise, which I do once a week on Saturdays – it is the extent of my exercise for the week – I’m not hungry at all. So I’m literally forcing myself to eat. For some reason, for me, it actually suppresses my appetite. Most people would be like, “That’s great.” But for me, I’m actually sad about it.
Carrie: Well for me, when I have finished doing your crazy exercises, I actually am usually shaking so hard that I couldn’t make anything to eat if I wanted to.
Jonathan: So folks the net take away here, again, is it’s not about calories in and calories out. Even it if was, exercise isn’t effective at doing that. It just makes us eat more and then it will actually cause a problem if we’re eating more the wrong kinds of foods. Now, the question is, “Well then, if I exercise less, aren’t I going to fat in the long term?” The answer’s no. And that’s the third fat loss fallacy – which is exercising less causes us to gain fat. It absolutely doesn’t. Let’s dig into the data, Carrie.
Carrie: This podcast just gets more and more exciting as we go on.
Jonathan: Let’s start actually with a quote from the American Heart Association, which is awesome, because the American Heart Association is one of the groups tell us we need to get more exercise. From the American Heart Association, “It is reasonable to assume that persons with relatively high daily energy expenditure would be less likely to gain weight compared with those who have low energy expenditures. So far, data to support this hypothesis are not particularly compelling.” Let’s break that down, Carrie. The American Heart Association tells us that it is reasonable to assume that if we burn more, we’re less likely to gain weight. They go on to then admit that there is not data supporting that hypothesis.
Carrie: Well you know what they say about assuming.
Jonathan: What do they say, Carrie?
Carrie: They say it makes an ass out of you and me.
Jonathan: Dr. Whitehead at St. George’s University in London tells us that, “Most studies show that the obese do about the same amount of physical activity as the lean. And there’s this stereotype of overweight and obese individuals that they are overweight because they are inactive. Whereas that conclusion has not been proven. And in fact, the opposite had been proven.” So the assumption is that inactivity leads to obesity. That is false. What we see in the actual data is that obesity leads to inactivity. So when you become obese, it becomes harder to move around and then you become inactive. It’s not because you become inactive, you become obese.
We’ll dig into data to support this, but one of the studies came in 2004 from the University of Copenhagen. It tells us, “This study did not support that physical activity of obesity, but that obesity leads to physical activity. More body fat leads to less exercise, not the other way around.”
Carrie: That makes perfect sense. And I actually would have thought that obese people, because they have more to carry around, they could do the same amount of activity as me, but would actually burn more because they’ve got more bulk to move around.
Jonathan: That’s exactly the point, Carrie. Well think about it, everybody has a set point. The difference is where their set point is at. So an obese person, even if they weigh 400 pounds – let’s say they weigh 400 pounds for 5 years – let’s say they weigh 400 pounds. They’re burning a bunch of calories because to move 400 pounds around takes a heck of a lot of muscle and a heck of a lot of calories and it takes a lot more than a 130 pound person. And that’s why the stay at 400 pounds. Because their body has reached a state of equilibrium automatically. It’s just that state of equilibrium has occurred at a higher set point rather than a thin person who has reached that state of equilibrium at set point. Everyone’s got a set point. The question is – how high is it? How low is it? That’s a function of our hormones, not how much we eat or how much we exercise. And we can change our hormones by exercising less, but smarter.
Jonathan: But hang on, Carrie. Right now in the podcast, we may have lost some listeners. I hope we haven’t. Because some people might say, “This is ridiculous. Of course you have to exercise and it’s just a key part of this equation.” Well let’s take a step back and deal with some common objections to this data. First let’s talk about exercise at the highest of all levels – like the concept of exercise. The term aerobics, which is what everyone in the mainstream is talking about when they say exercise. They’re not talking about gardening and they’re not talking about weight-training.
They’re talking about aerobic exercise. That term aerobics didn’t even exist until 1968. Doctor Kenneth Cooper published a book called Aerobics. And that’s when the term entered our lexicon. We didn’t even have that word until 1968. So to say, for example, that we’re obese now because we’re not exercising enough. When the concept of exercise didn’t really even exist prior to the obesity epidemic kind of doesn’t make any sense.
Carrie: I got to say, when I look back over my life, it seems to me that way, way more active than we ever use to be.
Jonathan: The common objection I hear, Carrie, is certainly we don’t have to hunt and gather to get our food. But there’s no question that we are voluntarily exercising more than ever. So again, let’s set the clock back and let’s look at what Dr. Etten and the University of North Arizona tells us about the common view of exercise before we experience an obesity epidemic. So, from Dr. Etten, “In the 30’s and 40’s high volume endurance training was thought to be bad for the heart. Through the 50’s and even the 60’s, exercise was not thought to be useful and endurance exercise was thought to be harmful to women.”
And my mother always tells me the stories of when she was growing up. She was told not to exercise – that it was actually harmful for her and that it would make her infertile. Exercise was a cult-ish thing until about the 80’s. People didn’t even do it. So how can the lack of something that we did even less of before the problem existed be the cause of the problem? It doesn’t make any sense to me.
Carrie: Well I’m just happy that she stopped exercising because otherwise we wouldn’t have you, right?
Jonathan: And again, just some interesting things to think about here – Americans exercise more than any other population in the world and we’re the sixth heaviest population in the world.
Carrie: You see, if that just doesn’t tell people that there’s something wonky with what we’re being taught, it’s right there. We exercise more and yet we’re fatter. How can that be?
Jonathan: And that doesn’t mean all throw exercise out the window. But when people say the cause of the obesity epidemic is a lack of exercise, that’s just wrong. Maybe if we all burnt an extra 3,000 calories a day, like if we all became marathon runners. Yeah, we’d all lose weight, but the lack of exercise isn’t the cause. Therefore, exercise is not the solution.
But then Carrie, we also hear, “Well we’re just less active because we’re using labor-saving devices more.” That doesn’t make sense, because again, let’s take a step back. The vast majority of labor-saving devices, like dishwashers, washing machines, vacuum cleaners – the increase the most, in terms of usage, between 1945 and 1965. Obesity increased very little during that time period. However, when obesity shot up, like in the late 70’s to the turn of the millennia, labor-saving device usage remained a bit stagnant. It’s not like so many more people used vacuum cleaners in 1982 than did in 1978. Those things have been around for decades before we saw the spike in obesity. So how could using them be the cause?
Carrie: It’s fascinating. I mean, I’ve never thought about that stuff. We just – you know, we read articles that kind of glibly say the use of labor-saving devices but we don’t actually stop and go, “Hang on a minute.” We don’t correlate the actual data of what you just read.
Jonathan: Adding even more data to the pile, New York University’s Dr.Neesly tells us point blank, “The activity levels of Americans appear to have changed very little, if at all, from the 1970’s to the 1990’s.” And then Dr. Oliver at the University of Chicago adds that “Americans are voluntarily exercising more than ever.” So again, it just doesn’t make – it’s reasonable for people to just yell out platitudes. “Oh, exercise more!” But when we look at the data, the data doesn’t support it. Even the American Heart Association says – remember we started talking about the American Heart Association saying, “It’s reasonable to assume this.” But even the American Heart Association tells us that data to support this hypothesis are not particularly compelling.
Even the TV watching argument – “Oh, we’re watching too much TV.” Well let’s look at Dr. Roberts’ comment that tells us, “Time spent watching TV, increased by 45% from 1965 to 1975, yet obesity increased little over that time. However, from 1975 to 1995, when obesity shot up, TV watching increased only a little.” Again, if the cause was TV watching, shouldn’t obesity have gone up when TV watching increased the most? However, it didn’t.
Carrie: It just occurred to me that exactly the potatoes that make the couch potato not the couch.
Jonathan: Yes, exactly, exactly. And in fact, if we all are being active and we’re exercising less but smarter, we’re not going to have enough energy to go job for an hour because we’ll be spending our energy on other things and our time on other things. So Carrie, to wrap up this episode, 3 things that I do not want to get redundant, but I want to make sure people take the right information away from this. And that’s exercise is not bad. So exercise is not bad. However, traditional exercise has been proven to be ineffective at long term fat loss. That doesn’t mean that if you go jog for 3 hours for 7 days you won’t lose weight. Short term – you absolutely will. You’ll also break down your joints. You’re also doing a bunch of other negative things. The key is be active. That’s wonderful for your health. And exercise less but smarter to create a hormonal change. And we’ll get into that later.
The point of this podcast is simply that this urge that we all have because of the marketing messages from food companies that profit more when we eat more and fitness companies that profit more when we exercise more is that we should do a lot of moderate intensity exercise. And that doing so is the key to long term fat loss. The data is clear. That is false. It fails for all the reasons that eating less fails and in addition, it can also make things worse because it stimulates appetite and if we’re not eating the right kinds of foods, we will cause even more of a hormonal clog, raise our set point higher and be worse off if we did nothing.
Carrie: So can you teach us how to do this crazy exercise?
Jonathan: I absolutely can and we will do that coming up here in a future podcast. But what we have to cover and what we will cover next week is the fourth of the 4 fat loss fallacies. And that’s eating more causes fat gain. That’s not true. We’ll actually see that eating more of the right kinds of foods is the key to long term fat loss. And we’ll also talk a bit about thermodynamics.
Carrie: I love talking about thermodynamics.
Jonathan: Excellent. Well thank you everyone for joining us. Carrie Brown, Jonathan Bailor, Living the Smarter Science of Slim. Eat smarter, exercise smarter, live better. See you next week.