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Are you on a road to nowhere with your exercise?

Updated: Nov 15, 2019

I had a client the other day express surprise at his weight loss despite the fact I had asked him to stop going to the gym for the time being. We had modified his diet considerably, but he hadn’t expected such a positive change.

Hands up who else thinks this cannot be possible?

If you want to lose weight you need to be hitting the gym, right? It seems you’re not alone. I see many clients in my practice who do plenty of exercise, but they cannot budge the weight they want to lose.

I’m not saying that exercise isn’t an important part of a healthy lifestyle or even that it doesn’t contribute to healthy weight management, but there are a couple of things that you need to consider before you start shopping for exercise wear.

The first is that what you are putting in your mouth is always going to be the most significant factor in your body weight. Most people consume a diet that is based around carbohydrates with many having cereals or toast for breakfast, a sandwich or wrap for lunch and pasta or rice with their dinner. One of the problems with this kind of diet is that the carbohydrates are often refined – that is they are highly processed. What this means is that your body absorbs them very easily causing an increase in your blood glucose levels. Your body prefers glucose as its fuel, but it only needs what it uses in energy expenditure; more on this in a minute because it also plays a role in body weight but for now what you need to understand is that IF you consume more glucose in the form of carbohydrates than you need your body will store this as fat.

The other point to consider about carbohydrates, and particularly refined ones is that their effect is short term. This is due to their quick absorption from your intestines into your blood stream. A good way to slow this down is to choose more complex forms of carbohydrates such as whole grains as these have more fibre that slows down the absorption of the glucose into your blood stream, making the energy more sustained and keeping your hunger at bay.

Another thing to consider is making sure you eat some protein and fat with your carbs as this also slows down your digestion. Although fat contains a lot more energy, it is more filling, and most people find they don’t eat as much when they increase their intake of fat.

So, what about the energy that you burn when you exercise? Surely this helps with weight loss?

Exercise is very good for your health, including maintaining muscle mass, regulating blood pressure and improving cholesterol metabolism. It should be part of your health care routine, but it only represents a small portion of the energy that you burn during the day. Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the amount of energy needed by your body to survive, including all the functions it carries out such as digestion and breathing and it makes up the lion’s share of your energy expenditure.

The point I’m trying to make here is that counting on a small part of your energy output to solve your weight loss problems is probably not going to provide the results you’re after, and would be better used in conjunction with changes to your diet.

I see a lot of people in my clinic who think they are doing the right thing by dragging themselves to the gym despite being chronically fatigued. If you’re feeling exhausted there really is no benefit to high intensity exercise and in fact you could be doing yourself more harm including adrenal dysregulation. This can happen following a period of increased cortisol production due to high stress from physical or emotional sources such as work stress, acute illness or an emotional time in your life.

Often high stress also leads to increased consumption of carbohydrates in order to increase energy and ‘feel’ better. One of the reasons for this is the increased production of our mood neurotransmitter, serotonin. Our body is very clever at trying to make us feel good!

What I find in my clinic is that when high intensity exercise is suspended, and the diet is improved there is an increase in energy and vitality. Once this occurs more sustainable exercise or movement can be included such as walking, swimming or yoga. If you are eating a diet that contains more nutrients for your body to function optimally AND it provides you with a more sustained supply of energy, you are more likely to regularly partake in some healthy exercise and as a result, have a healthier body weight.

Would you like more information on anything I’ve discussed here? Head over to my website and send me a message. As always, this information is general, and your health is unique to you and so if you’d like more specific recommendations, please make an appointment.

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