Making diet and fitness fun and easy

A commonly debated topic is how much exercise affects fat loss.  Most media implies that it is the main factor for fat loss so people will buy more products and gym memberships.  A recent article in Time magazine states that it “Won’t Make You Thin“.  Because I feel there is no black and white answer to this most of this post will be my opinion (as most are) with some data to back it up.  If you disagree please leave a comment I would love to discuss it.

What I think

  • Everyone responds to exercise differently.
  • A deficit in energy is required.
  • Most affect is indirect
  • Exercise matters enough that it should be customized based on your body type

Everyone responds to exercise differently

This is a pretty obvious one, and the main reason I think many of the studies are not credible.  The FTO gene is thought to be related to that ability for people to gain fat.  It is also speculated that genetics can affect your insulin sensitivity, which is a huge part of fat loss (and gain) which Gary Taubes discusses in his 2 books.

A deficit in energy is required

This is basic physics as we know it today, you need to expend more energy than you take in.  I am a firm believer though that our current measurement for a “calorie” is very skewed, and not a good measure of energy.  There is a reason that endurance athletes can, and need to, eat such a huge amount.  But for a normal person that sits on our ass 8-10 hours a day instead of moving for 8-10 hours a day, like me, this is not an option.  It also could be detrimental to your health to train as endurance athletes do.

Most affect is indirect

In this article Lyle McDonald makes some good points that I agree with.

for many people, the simple fact of doing some sort of exercise on a given day makes it more likely for them to stick to their diet

This is two fold for me.  I want to exercise because I eat well, and I want to eat well because I exercise, talk about motivation.  Other articles I have read state the opposite like this one Time magazine.  While I do think that some people may want to reward them selves after a work out, I am willing to be that these people are not educated on what to eat.  Will you get hungrier the more you workout, probably, but if you eat the right things instead of the wrong things this is a moot point.

Exercise matters enough that it should be customized based on your body type

To answer the title of the post, yes I think exercise does matter and will accelerate fat loss.  While any exercise will help with fat loss, as I have wrote before, some exercise is better than others.  Exercises to gain strength and increase muscle mass have been shown to be superior for fat loss and this has worked very well for me.  I think CrossFit style training is probably one of the best examples for this as it combines metabolic training and strength training with olympic style lifts.  I have recently started doing which is only a body weight program so it is more metabolic training and a little bit of strength training, I will add some weights to it as I go and try to increase my strength and muscle mass.  I am at day 2 but will report later on on how well it has worked for me.

What type of exercise do you do?

Let me know in the comments what you workout entails?  How much has it helped you?  Does it motivate you?




Comments on: "How Exercise Does and Does not Affect Fat Loss" (8)

  1. I’m working out 3 times a week for strength gains and I agree: If you care about your body, you will most likely workout *and* eat clean. And it’s almost always better to build muscle to support fat loss than doing endless cardio.

    But the best workout is the one you stick to, same with the diet. So if you don’t want to work out with heavy weights, then don’t do it. If you enjoy running outside and you want to get to the runners high, put on your shoes (or better, try to run barefoot) and go for it.

    The worst thing we can do is sit on our butts and wait for some miracle to happend and give us the health and body we want. 😉

    • Anonymous said:

      Totally agree Carsten.  Workouts that are long duration at low to moderate intensity are not ideal, but if you like doing it then do it.

  2. This is a great post Justin!

    I currently run 2-3 days per week and began Occam’s Protocol 2 weeks ago, but have been doing some kind of weight training for a long time. 

    I began running 2 years ago after we had our second child because it was something we could do as a family and it has been a wonderful addition to my workout regimen. I just fully embraced barefoot running and will never look back. And despite what my friends and family say running on concrete in Vibrams just feels better!

    I think exercise affects fat loss if the person trying to loose the fat really is motivated and can find something that they love to do that is considered exercise. I know I spend every day, several hours a day counseling people on diet and exercise at my clinic, yet this is like counseling a smoker. Unless they are willing and ready to make a change it will never make a difference. That and it is important to understand what this person considers to be exercise. Often after some questioning I realized it is just a walk around the block. Not much calorie burn here. 

    Anyway, thanks for all the great info. 


    • Anonymous said:

      No Problem Stephen.  You might like my next post that I am working on, ‘My Beef with Occam’s Protocol’  I think it is a really poorly designed training routine, especially for those of us that want to add some athleticism. 

  3. I believe that exercise will not get you to your weight loss goals eating the standard conventional diet.  At the same time, just eating right will only get you so far.  

    I can eat right for weeks and lose body fat but have no muscle to show for it.  

    This world isn’t as simple as lose weight or gain weight so we need the right combination of exercises (lifting, walking, just moving in general) and diet (plants and animals).  Many people could get pretty far if they followed that logic I think

  4. This is my hot issue right now after a successful 3 months on 4-hour body type food plan. I went from “daily stroll” which helped my mind a bit but did little for my sedentary body, to building amazing thigh muscles and stripping off 15 pounds of fat during those 12 weeks. I can now easily sprint up a hill, it’s like flying, still blowing my mind. Now I’m in a plateau and just sticking with the slow carb food plan, and starting to look at the squats and wall push-offs to experiment a bit and see what my body wants next (I do want another 10-15 lb weight loss). My interpretation so far:  Build muscle. Seems to be key for me. Don’t overdo the exercise, it backfires. Eating lots of the right foods keeps my metabolism roaring. I lowered calories just a little to see if it would kick the weight loss back in and it did not at all. Then I added a before bed snack of almond butter and the weight started coming off again. LOTS of the right foods works really well for me.

    I’m also looking at stress, which will keep your body holding onto the fat. I’ve been terrible about relaxing and kicking back the past few years. I think now that I’m really off sugar, my whole body and mind is adjusting to something less chronic and full of anxiety and reaction to life. Everything is getting better – dramatically. I think the best is yet to come.
    Thanks for your great info.

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