Don't Let Exercise Get in the Way of Losing Weight
- 2 Minutes Read
Exercise can actually make losing weight harder. Find out why and what you can do about it.
Much has been discussed and written about the food-exercise equation...not in the calories in vs. calories out foundation of food tracking, but how working out can, ironically, act as a deterrent to losing weight. Time magazine and The New York Times have covered this debate (see this PDF of "Why Exercise Won't Make You Thin" in Time).
At the crux of the debate is that exercise burns calories, and people need a caloric deficit to lose weight, but exercise can stimulate hunger, causing us to eat more and negate some of the positive effects of our exercise.
What's at work here is called compensation: we feel entitled to eat a little extra, or something we know we shouldn't, because we know we exercised that day. We feel hungry because we exercised and we compound that with a sense of entitlement to food because we exercised. Or, in a third way, we move around even less the rest of the way because we did our one hour of movement at the gym.
Critics of the model that exercise is the "be all" of losing weight are quick to point out that even government and various medical organizations are prescribing more and more exercise for healthy living. Take, for instance, the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association's guidelines that "to lose weight ... 60 to 90 minutes of physical activity may be necessary." Not only does that require a lot of time on our parts, but that much exercise could be making us extra hungry.
Now, do not misunderstand; exercise is an important component to healthy living, and even losing weight. To understand the delicate relationship between exercise and eating is to understand the short- and long-term goals of healthy living.
Exercise, in the short run, can actually inhibit hunger (i.e. while you're exercising), but later in the day your body's hunger hormones can surge, making you want to eat. That's compounded with the fact that our body's satiety hormones can become decreased, letting us eat beyond our feeling of fullness. As an interesting side note, researchers have found that this effect is more pronounced in men than in women (like due to a woman's ability to hold energy longer for reproduction purposes).
So what do we do? Well, we have to come to terms with the daily challenge that exercising may make us hungry, so we can either 1) give in to it and eat whatever's around us, but we know that won't help in the long run, or 2) we can expect to be hungry and surround ourselves with nutritious, healthy snacks and foods to eat instead of feeling like we deserve a donut and latte because we did squats that day.
Moreover, exercise is NEEDED to keep the weight off. Researchers at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center say, "It's a fact that the only people who keep off the weight they've lost are the ones who are physically active." If weight is lost solely by dieting, then that is the weight that tends to come back quickly.
Tell us, do you feel hungry after working out? If so, what do you do about it?Exercise->Tips