The Healthy Post Natal Body Podcast

Exercise for weightloss is a HUGE waste of time and diet questions answered

September 12, 2021 Peter Lap
The Healthy Post Natal Body Podcast
Exercise for weightloss is a HUGE waste of time and diet questions answered
Show Notes Transcript

This week I talk about exercise for weightloss.

I have written about this quite often but this study that came out recently shows just how massive a waste of time exercise is IF your main goal is losing weight.

The proof that the more obese you are the more difficult it is to lose weight through exercise.
Why your Personal Trainer has been getting your calorie calculations wrong for years.
And why, even though you've been doing everything right, you still can't lose weight.

If you've ever dieted and you're into exercise you have to listen to this episode as this study is a major breakthrough when it comes to calculating energy consumption and why people have, unknowingly, been getting this wrong for decades!

I am also answering several diet related questions I've had from people including;

How long can you/should you go on a diet for?
Are diets really ineffective 95% of the time?
What is the best post-partum diet?


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Playing us out this week; The Antioch Mass Choir  "Go tell it on the mountain" because I thought this is one we might have to shout about.

Hey, welcome to the Healthy Post Natal Body Podcast. With your post-natal expert Peter Lap, that would be me! Today, I am talking about the waste of time that is exercise for weightloss. (I know I said diet but I'm not re-recording it ;) ) I have an amazing study that I will use to back that claim up. The study just came out this week. Just shows you how much of a waste of time exercise is if your main goal is to lose weight. I'm also answering several diet related questions, how long can you or should you be on a diet? Are diets is really ineffective 95% of the time? Is a claim we often hear. And what is the best post-partum diet? And that is a loaded one. I promise you it'll be fun. Here we go.


Welcome to the Healthy Post Natala Body podcast for the 12 September 2021 because of course, we're still in the same year. Right, you know this, but this is just in case future generations start listening to this thing going, oh, Jeez, that Peter was full and full of wisdom. Or at least he was full of something.

 I hope you guys are all very well as I just very rudely took a sip of my decaffeinated beverage. I hope you're all very well. Well, I'm surrounded here. Well, I've got five puppies in the house, but only two in the room. Because they're the only two that can remain quiet for a prolonged period of time. So I'm here with little Buddy and little Peggy, and they are both nice and just chilling, relaxing. All cool. You know, like the fresh prince was before they shipped him off to BelAir. I hope you're well, I hope you're having a great week.

My week has been awesome. I did a bit of a shout out to Sarah Chang from the KungfuMamaShow. Oh, man, she's got a show there. I did an interview, a couple of a couple of episodes. We recorded a couple of episodes for her KungFu Momma Show. Like I said, you're gonna love that one. Definitely, check it out.

 I love what she's doing. And you know, that's what Old Pete boy, old Petey boy, the middle aged white guy gets to talk about postpartum issues. And I always like talking about postpartum issues because I'm the guy in the know is what I always say. And what we need is more middle aged white guy such as myself telling women what the problem is. I kid, I kid of course.
But anyways, we spoke for 45 minutes on diastasis recti. We spoke for another 45 minutes on diet and exercise and loads and loads of cool stuff.  But like I said, Sarah asked some really great and inciteful questions that, you know, like I said, check out her show and thanks again to her for having me on.

What are we talking about this week?

Well, this is fun; exercise for weight loss. This would usually be in the news this week segment, but it was published on 27 August. A study published in Current Biology magazine Cell.com has it. I will link to the study so you can have a look, but it basically shows you just how much of a waste of time exercise for weight loss is and especially for obese people. Turns out the bigger you get, the more your body compensates for exercise. For calories burned through exercise. So I'll take you through the study a bit because I spoke about this a lot. But I usually talk about why exercise for weight loss is a waste of time because you're not burning as many calories as you think you are and you need to eat to compensate for the exercise. And, you know, you're much better off just eating a bit less if you're looking to lose weight. Because, the example I always give; Right.

And this is where things like the 500 calorie claim, 500 calories a day thing comes from is "if you want to lose a pound a week, you need to under eat by 3500 calories a week". You need to be in a caloric deficit for 3500 calories a week, which is 500 calories a day. And that puts you on track for losing a pound a week. And we know that this is accurate, right? We know that this pretty much works. Those figures are pretty much bang on for almost everybody. And of course, if you weigh 300lbs, you go in the way, it's going to fall off a bit quicker in the first week than it is if you weigh out of now 150-160lbs. Right. But predominantly it holds; 500 caloric deficit leads to weight loss of about a pound a week if you break it down to very, very basic things.

 And I'm not going to go into why it's more complicated than that. We're just going to assume that that is true. Right. So 500 calories a day. Sorry, not 500 calories a week. So 500 calories a day means that, I don't know. Let's say an hour on the treadmill right where you burn. I don't know, 600-700 calories. This is the old magic numbers where you burn 800 calories, and therefore, you know, you estimate that at 800 and they eat a bit to compensate, and therefore you lose 500. You're under eat by 500 calories a day, so you burn an extra 500 calories a day. Sorry. And therefore you're in a calorific deficit if you don't increase your food production by that amount. Turns out that all that is still correct, but not in the way that we thought it was. And this is phenomenal. So we know that your base energy expenditure (BEE) or base metabolic rate, is responsible for far more of your calorie burning. Your calorie expenditure.

And I'm trying to keep this as straightforward, in layman terms as possible, just in case someone writes in here. "That's not really what it's called". Yeah. Okay. I know this, but basically trying to keep it nice and simple. So the amount of calories you burn simply by existing is significantly higher than the amount of calories people burn through exercise and activity levels. As in sitting on the couch all day and just being alive burns significantly more calories than, say, your average day by walking and all that does. And that makes sense. Right? Just because your body is busy all day, so say an average person, they burn 2000 calories a day.

And I'm plucking that figure out of the air. Don't come at me, from 2000 calories a day, about 1600 of that will just be you being alive. And about four or 500 of that 2000 will be you doing stuff, getting up and walking and being active and all that sort of stuff. The vast majority of calories is just by being alive. And that is your base energy expenditure.

 And again, I'm oversimplifying this. I know this and your base energy expenditure, just the stuff you use for being alive and you date the activity levels. You just really just being there. And I know I'm hammering that point home a bit, but that's important. So the if you add exercise to this and this is always the standard sort of approach that we thought if you burn 2000 calories just being alive, and just maintenance, then if you exercise on top of that, we can add those calories on top of that.

 So that example on the treadmill that I use are going for a run or whatever. If you say you burn 800 calories on the treadmill and that's an estimate and all that sort of stuff. But we just have to take that as a given for 800 calories on a treadmill. That means that for that day, you would burn 2800 calories. Right? 2000, which is your usual stuff plus 800. And it now turns out, and the study is solid, that that is pretty much NOT what happens. We cannot use 2000 plus 800, because for most people, as this study found. People that are the 10% all of BMI distribution compensate around 27%. 28% of activity calories, whereas if you're in the 90th percentile you compensate 49%  of activity calories.

 So I'll explain what that means. It basically means that if you are not overweight obese people, that's if you're the top of the range of of BMI level, so obese more do obese, clinically obese, all that sort of stuff, you compensate 49.2% ish of activity calories. So that means that if you are on that treadmill, so say you need 2000 calories, so stick to that. You need 2000 calories just to be alive. That's what you burn. Right? And maintains your weight. Anything you eat on top of that means you gain weight, anything eat underneath that below that means you would lose weight. Right? Science. Now what we used to think was if you did 800 calories of exercise on the treadmill, we now know that as an obese person, you would end up burning fewer calories of the 2000. Your body would compensate, would find a way to compensate in your base energy expenditure. So your base metabolic rate and all that sort of stuff. It just slows it down. It just goes; now, wait a minute. I need to slow this down because I've exercised a lot more. So of that 800 calories, you would only net lose, 400 calories. I'll round it up to 50% for the 49.2.

And that's interesting because it means that for most people that used the old example for exercise, especially once you're obese and we'll stick to the obese levels for now because it's a little bit easier because it's nice enough near that 50%. If you were looking to lose weight and the old methodology that we applied was always 2000 plus 800 is 2800 calories. Put yourself in a 500 calorie deficit and you would need 2300 calories to lose a pound a week, right? 2000 plus 800 is 2800 -500 to lose a pound a week means you would lose a pound a week. And we now know, all of a sudden, that's not true because it turns out that it's 2000 plus 400 instead of the 800 because your body compensates. So it's actually like 1600 plus 800 because your body takes 400 of the calories you burn from that existing 2000. So all of a sudden, 1600 plus 800. And that means that you're only at 2400 calories for maintenance. So if you then wanted to lose a pound a week, you need to consume 1900 calories and not 2400.

And this is hugely important, as you can probably tell
. If you're sitting listening to this thinking, I haven't lost weight in three or four months, even though I've been doing everything right.
And my personal trainer said that this is what I should be eating, but I'm not losing any weight. This is why. That's not your PT's fault. We kind of didn't know about this stuff. I've always said it was a waste of time because I think you should lose weight differently. We weren't really sure why some people, especially obese people, were not losing weight as quickly as non-obese people. Were not losing fat as quickly as non-obese people were because we didn't know this stuff. And it turns out that once you are obese or morbidly obese, clinically obese in that ten top percentile. It turns out that losing weight through exercise, and this is just through exercise, is much more difficult. Because as I say here, individuals with greater fat levels of predisposed to increased adiposity either because they are stronger energy compensators or because they become stronger compensators as they get fatter. And that is to point; The fatter you get. And I will use that word, fat or the more obese you get, the fatter you get, the more difficult it becomes to lose weight through exercise is what this study is saying.

Because if you keep compensating more and more until you get to that 50% to 50% mark, and then it becomes brutally difficult to lose weight through exercise. Because if you're only burning 50% of the calories through exercise that you would otherwise use a lot of it would be compensated for. a 50%. Let me put this better. If 50% of all the calories you burn through exercise, through an hour's worth of exercise, get compensated for. That means you have to, the fatter you get, you have to do more and more exercise to lose weight. And of course, we all know that when you're obese, morbidly obese/clinically obese so near the top end, exercise actually becomes more and more difficult. Right. 

So I don't know any morbidly obese person that can do an hours worth of continuous exercise to the point that it burns 800 calories per session. You just don't. And for that, those calories have then be compensated for 50%. So you only actually burn 400. That just shows you that it becomes damn near impossible to use exercise as an effective weight loss strategy. Now, exercise is still important. Of course, I'll put that big caveat right in the middle here for cardiovascular benefits, strength, flexibility, joint protection and all that sort of stuff. Of course it does. But as far as weight loss goes, the fatter you get, the bigger you get, the more useless it becomes. And this is also interesting at the bottom end. So the people within a normal sort of  BMI range, and I'll stick to BMI because I don't mind BMI too much. So people with normal body composition, and all that sort of stuff, still compensate about 30%. But the actual figure was it 27.8%, I think. And these are fairly accurate specific figures. It's about 28%. So that's still almost a third. So somebody who is just looking to maintain, and a lot of you may well be, and you're within a normal BMI range and you do some exercise and you eat and all that normal. If you then think why do I end up heavier? Why do I end up heavier than I should do, it's for the same reason. Right. 

So if you're supposed to burn 2000, if you just daily maintenance 2000 calories a day, you exercise 800 calories on top of that for 1 hour exercise every day, you actually only your net gain in calories a day that you burn is only at 70% or 72%. But, you know, keep that easy. And we'll just say we'll take a third off those 800. So that is 250 calories or something like that. Which you could shave off. So that means if you're looking to maintain and you do your exercise and all that and you consume to 800 calories a day, you're actually going to be gaining weight slowly but surely by 250 calories a day. And of course, you don't know. That's not immediate. That's about a pound every 15 days or so. 3500 calories is is a pound. So over two weeks over the course of 14 days you would gain a pound. So after every month you would end up a kilo heavier, even though in your mind you're doing everything right. Exercising or eating well, you don't over consume calories. Turns out you do over consume calories. And this is one of the reasons that more and more people are getting heavier, even people that think they're doing everything right. 

And that's why I wanted to lead with this because it shows you just how important this study really is, because if this is correct and there's no reason really doubt why it isn't. Why it wouldn't be, then this has a very profound impact on how we should view diet and exercise and why we should really have a long look at, and kind of go back to talking about total daily expenditure, energy expenditure, in a completely different way.

And why we need to get out of the habit of saying that exercise is a good way to lose weight. It's all diet and exercise and sleep and stress management and all that sort of stuff. So I'm not saying exercise doesn't have a part to play in it, but there's nowhere near as big as we thought it was. And for personal trainers, this might be very frustrating, and I'm very lucky that this is not my area of PT. This is not what I usually do because I don't think it's that interesting with regards to client goals. And I think it's frustrating. But it does mean that a lot of personal trainers are going to need to look at how they how they calculate this sort of stuff. All the exercise calculators can go straight out the window. That is what I'm saying, unless you add a "but I need to compensate X amount of calories by because my body naturally compensates that". So for weight loss. The implications of this for weight loss. First of all, I think you should never be on a 500 calorie deficit. I think that's too much, and I think it's unsustainable for most people, right? I think you can be on a 200 calorie deficit and just accept you lose weight, slowly. But over the course of a year because to be sustainable. Over the course of a year, you'll still lose a shit ton of weight, right? 200 calories a day is more than enough of a calorie deficit for average people. All right. And we'll get to that to why that is in a little bit. When we talk about how long you should be on a diet for and all that sort of stuff, 200 calories is manageable 500 calories just kind of isn't. But if you're going to aim for a 500 calorie deficit, you have to start from your base energy expenditure. Subtract 500 calories of that through diet. And then you can say, okay, I am obese and I need to allow for 50% of my calories to be compensated for, that I exercise to be compensated for.


If you burn off 800 calories, you can have only net burn off 400. And that is which you can then increase your calorie intake by. That also then means that on days that you don't train, if you don't exercise. And you have a rest day here now that you don't end up increasing your your calorific intake by too much. You don't eat too much on those days because you're already taking it off your base and therefore you're compensating for every single time you exercise. You can eat a bit too much/erm a bit less. Do you know what I mean in that? And I might not be explain this too clearly. I've always said this. If you if you exercise for an hour, you'll probably eat to compensate. Right. So 800 calories you only actually burn net 400. You compensate by eating two or 300. And that means that on that day you will only actually lose 100 calorie deficit. If you don't allow for taking the calories out of your base energy expenditure. You're just your I'm a life sort of thing. I'm a life calorie expenditure. I hope that makes sense if not, read the study. It is a fascinating study and I think every PT should do. Kind of I'm going to be very smug. I was wrong yet ended up at the right bit, ended up at the right point. Right. I will say this. Nobody knew this. Nobody knows anybody who said that they knew about this is full of shit. It only came out this week, 27 August and there was not even any inclination, as far as I know, to what anybody knowing about how just how much this was. I always said it was a waste of time, but that is mainly because I was wrong. I just reached the right conclusion. Nobody knew that your body would compensate to this extent. And therefore, yeah, it is huge. And this is a very, very nice study. I'm sure they will do follow up studies for this, but this shows you that any sort of obesity strategy. We kind of have to move away from the diet and exercise and just focus on diet and sleep and stress management and that sort of stuff; Exercise is nowhere near as important as what most people, including politicians and all that say it is. Like I said before, it doesn't mean you shouldn't exercise; You exercise for strength and for health and all that sort of stuff, for injury prevention. But you do not exercise for weight loss, right?