[By Simone Trey]
Is it possible that adding exercise to your weight loss regimen won’t make a significant difference? It seems unthinkable but a recent groundbreaking study published in the journal PLoS One threw up some surprising answers.
In the study, researchers from Montclair State University in New Jersey compared the activity levels and average metabolic rates of members of the hunter-gatherer Hadza Tribe in Tanzania to typical office-working Westerners. After gathering data for 11 days, researchers found that, though the Hadza people moved around much more than the average American, they weren’t actually burning significantly more calories. In fact, the number of calories the Hadza people were burning each day (their metabolic rate) was about the same as the average metabolic rate of the Westerners. So why are the tribe members slimmer than the average westerner? It seems that the answer lies not in the exercise but in their diets.
Exercise and the Metabolic conundrum
There’s this expectation that if you exercise, your metabolism won’t drop as you lose weight or will even speed up. However, this common belief is unfounded. Previous studies have shown that, as individuals lose weight, their basal metabolic rates actually decrease even if they exercise daily. Thus, even if a person were to burn up to 500 calories per training session, with any ensuing weight loss their total daily caloric burn might actually decrease. Ultimately, they could end up losing less weight than expected.
Exercise and Gratification
Rewarding yourself with a slice of pizza or ice cream after a run explains a lot of what’s wrong with the ‘I exercise, thus I will become thinner’ philosophy. This counter-productive gratification behavior explains why some people may not lose weight with exercise. It’s important to exercise; that is unquestionable but we should do it not just for weight control but for overall health. For weight loss, the most significant component is limiting caloric intake through diet.
Perhaps this old adage sums it up best “You gain or lose weight in the kitchen, but develop muscle tone in the gym.”
Which type of diet is best for me?
With a whole plethora of diets to choose from, from Atkins to South Beach to Low glycaemic, the message is clear. As long as the total number of calories in your diet is less than what you have used up daily through your activity, you will lose weight.
Some people may choose to reduce their daily calorie intake through low calorie meal replacements, others may do it by cutting out carbohydrates, as long as your daily total calorie is limited, you are on your way to a slimmer figure for sure.