The evidence is now clear. Exercise is excellent for health but not as important for weight loss. However, most people focus on exercise as the main source of weight loss. Still, doing physical activity for a few minutes causes positive reactions in your body. Your lungs get stronger as oxygen is converted more efficiently and transferred to muscles and your other organs. Your body releases chemicals called endorphins which increases your alertness and gives you a positive feeling.

If you're trying to lose weight by exercising more then don't negate your efforts by consuming more calories (energy from food). You'd simply be removing the weight loss benefits of exercise. Instead, think of working out as a way to improve your health and not simply to lose weight.

Scientists have shown that energy expenditure or calories burned every day include much more than working out. Energy used is also made up of all the energy needed to run the many functions that keep us alive.

Three of the Main Key Components of Energy Expenditure are:

  1. Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) 60 to 80% of total energy expenditure.
  2. Energy used to break down food - 10%.
  3. Energy used in physical activity 10 - 30 %

Your BMR is the amount of energy your body uses to keep it functioning at rest. Some functions include breathing, blood circulation, controlling body temperature, cell growth, brain and nerve function and contraction of muscles.

One 2009 study showed that people increased their food consumption before and after exercise. They assumed the excess calories would be burned off. Some people even unconsciously made compensatory behaviors. They used less energy on their non-gym activities, rested more, fidgeted less because they were tired or took the elevator instead of the stairs.

Sometimes it's hard to lose weight through exercise alone because after a certain amount of exercise your body does not burn calories at the same rate. It becomes efficient at conserving and using energy which causes energy expenditure to eventually plateau at a certain point.

The British Cardiologist, Dr. Aseem Malhotra, an outspoken critic of the food industry accused  food and drink firms such as Coca-Cola, Pepsico, Cargill and Mondelez of having wrongly blamed the lack of physical activity as a cause of obesity.

The British Journal of Sports Medicine claims that this false perception "is rooted in the food industry's public relations machinery. It uses tactics chillingly similar to those of big tobacco companies...denial, doubt, confusing the public and even buying the loyalty of bent scientists, at the cost of millions of lives."

The researchers at the National Weight Control Registry found that people who have successfully lost weight share a few things in common. They take their weight at least once a week, stay away from high fat foods, watch their potion sizes and exercise regularly.

You can't outrun a bad diet according to Samuel Klein, MD at Washington University's School of Medicine it is much more efficient to control your food portion sizes than to exercise for weight loss.

"If you want to achieve a 300 kcal energy deficit you can run in the park for 3 miles or not eat 2 ounces of potato chips." The choice is yours. Exercise has some effects on the hunger and appetite hormones which makes you feel noticeably hungrier after exercise. "If you walk briskly for an hour and burn 400 kcal," says Klein, "and then have a soda and a slice of pizza afterward because the exercise made you feel hungry you will eat more calories than you have burned."

Exercise consumes far fewer calories than many people think. Thirty minutes of jogging might burn off 350 calories but many people can't keep up with a 30 minute exercise every day. They could easily achieve the same reduction by avoiding two 16 oz sodas each day.

Exercise helps repair a broken metabolism.

While exercise may not be as important for weight loss as calorie restriction, it's important in another way. It begins to repair a broken metabolism. "A lot of what we know in this area comes from NASA of the bed-rest studies," says James Hill, PH.D, University of Colorado. "Within a couple of days of non-activity, the metabolism becomes inflexible. You start moving again, and it does start to change."

This is why exercise is critical in maintaining the new weight, which is more difficult than when losing the weight. The other problem with exercise without dieting is that it's too tiring, and the body will compensate. If you’ve been overweight or obese and you lose weight, maintaining that loss means you are probably going to have to work harder than other people for a long time.

A Calorie is a Calorie

We think that if we can just get hold of the right combination of foods, we’ll lose weight or maintain what we’ve lost. We know pretty much that a good diet will help us lose weight if we follow it. There’s no magic diet. Some diets will work if we follow it.

It’s true that all calories are created equal. “From the standpoint of body weight,” adds Marion Nestle Ph.D., of NYU, “a calorie is a calorie no matter what it comes from. You can gain weight eating too much healthy food as well as unhealthy. From the standpoint of health, it’s better to eat your veggies. It’s just a lot easier to overeat calories from junk food than healthy food. But it can happen.”

Cortisol is Bad News for Anyone Wanting to Lose Weight

When the body is stressed out it releases a hormone called cortisol. Research shows that high levels of cortisol causes the body to hold onto fat and increase appetite. Cortisol also encourages fat to be stored around the waistline, which is associated with increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.

We need to exchange the high-calorie foods for foods that are low in calories and nutritionally dense. These are the ones that are high fiber, low energy, have more  quality protein, and lower on the glycemic index food chart.

Brain - the Ultimate Decider

Your brain plays a large role in causing you to be overweight or obese. There may be some damage to the brain, particularly in how hunger and satiety hormones function. Scientists have discovered that years of eating – and overeating the typical American diet actually changes the brain, damaging the signaling pathways in the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that regulates metabolism.

But the good news is that the brain can fix itself to a large degree once new behavior patterns like calorie restriction, healthy food choices, and exercise emerge. Most important, remember your brain, the organ behind all this will adapt to the changes you make and so will your body. In order to lose one pound of fat, we must create a 3,500 calorie deficit, which can be achieved either through exercise or diet.

If a 200 pound man wants to lose one pound in a week by exercise alone he needs to run about 3.5 miles per day or 24.5 miles a week, provided his diet stays the same. Through dieting alone, he needs to cut back only 500 calories per day, equal to only two Cappuccinos with cream, provided his exercise regime stays the same. Although the two should achieve the same results, in the world of fitness, theory and reality are not the same. It’s obvious which is the easiest way.

Calories In vs. Calories Out.

Take a look at another study from the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness. When researchers asked the subjects to exercise, estimate their caloric expenditure, and then to consume the amount of food that they believed they burned in calories, they ended up eating 2-3 times the amount of calories that they burned.

Weight is Lost in the Kitchens - Health is Gained in the Gyms

Reduce your calorie intake by 20% of your maintenance calories and at the same time increase your amount of protein intake in order to stay satiated. Protein has a higher Thermic Effect of Food and your body needs to expend more energy to digest it in comparison to carbs or fats. Physically active people do not necessarily burn more calories than people who are moderately active. The body seems to adapt, possibly by resting more after exercising.

Exercise is good for health, strength, and well-being, but when it comes to weight loss, it’s all about what you eat. It’s clear that you need to restrict calories in your diet to lose weight—and exercise to keep it off,” says Tim Church, M.D., the director of preventive medicine research at Louisiana State University, in Baton Rouge.

It’s much easier to cut 500 calories a day. This is the amount you need to cut to lose a pound a week than to burn that much through exercise. To work off around 500 calories a day, a 150-pound person would have to spend an hour pedaling on a stationary bike at moderate speed or forsake:

  • A Caffé Mocha with 2 percent milk (200 calories)
  • A nightly small cup of ice cream (about 200 calories)
  • A handful of potato chips (almost 160 calories) for a plain brewed coffee (only 5 calories)

Eating fewer calories is pretty much easier when you stick with a primarily plant-based diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and heart-healthy fats, like olive oil and avocado. Limit processed foods which contain lots of empty calories like sugar, unhealthy fats, and salt. Even though unprocessed foods tend to be lower in calories, portion size still does matter.

What all this means is that if you want to lose weight it is quicker by cutting calories, but if you want to maintain your new healthy weight and reduce the risk of lifestyle diseases like Diabetes, Heart Disease etc. you do need to exercise and probably continue for the rest of your life.

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