Exercise & Weight Management
I've been having a little discussion of this over at Taubes' forum based on his comments on the Dr. Oz show. He basically regurgitated two points that he's never really offered up much scientific proof of:
1. Exercise just makes you hungry, and
2. You'll compensate for the increased activity during exercise by lazing around the rest of the day.
On point 1, Taubes loves to use the "have you ever heard the phrase working up an appetite" line. At least he sounded a little less condescending asking that this time as compared to when he asked Jillian Michaels in his 2007 Larry King appearance.
In a "I think I gotcha moment", one commenter posted this study as evidence of eating more: (I only have the abstract for this one):
The efficacy of exercise to promote weight loss could potentially be undermined by its influence on explicit or implicit processes of liking and wanting for food which in turn alter food preference. The present study was designed to examine hedonic and homeostatic mechanisms involved in the acute effects of exercise on food intake. 24 healthy female subjects were recruited to take part in two counterbalanced activity sessions; 50 min of high intensity (70% max heart rate) exercise (Ex) or no exercise (NEx). Subjective appetite sensations, explicit and implicit hedonic processes, food preference and energy intake (EI) were measured immediately before and after each activity session and an ad libitum test meal. Two groups of subjects were identified in which exercise exerted different effects on compensatory EI and food preference. After exercise, compensators (C) increased their EI, rated the food to be more palatable, and demonstrated increased implicit wanting. Compensators also showed a preference for high-fat sweet food compared with non-compensators (NC), independent of the exercise intervention. Exercise-induced changes in the hedonic response to food could be an important consideration in the efficacy of using exercise as a means to lose weight. An enhanced implicit wanting for food after exercise may help to explain why some people overcompensate during acute eating episodes. Some individuals could be resistant to the beneficial effects of exercise due to a predisposition to compensate for exercise-induced energy expenditure as a result of implicit changes in food preferences.
Bottom line, SOME folks compensate, others do not. And those that do seem to do so more from a psychological drive than a physiological one. Now it's fair to say that it doesn't really matter why one might compensate by eating more if you do, but it is also fair to point out that this effect is far from universal.
The same commenter on Gary Taubes blog posted a second supposed "gotcha" study:
Nonprescribed physical activity energy expenditure is maintained with structured exercise and implicates a compensatory increase in energy intake
This study took middle aged sedentary men and prescribed an exercise program for 6 months or no exercise. There was no dietary intervention. They tested energy expenditure during exercise and the rest of the time at 2, 9 and 18 weeks and 2 weeks after "detraining" at study end. What they found was:
The adoption of regular structured exercise in previously sedentary, middle-aged, and overweight men does not result in a negative compensatory reduction in nonprescribed physical activity.
Yes, the weight loss wasn't phenomenal (1.8 kg +/- 2.2), but they did lose some weight. That's almost 4 pounds in six months. Not ground breaking, but the type of stuff that can prevent that sloooooow gaining in middle age.
What they also found was less than predicted (by caloric expenditure) weight loss:
The less-than-predicted weight loss is likely to reflect a compensatory increase in energy intake in response to a perceived state of relative energy insufficiency.
It is unfortunate that they didn't do any direct dietary assessment here. Self-reported diaries are not the best, but at least that might have shown if diet was really altered. Instead they did a calculation and estimated that the exercisers consumed around 100 cal/day more on average. They measured energy expenditure by "synchronized accelerometry and heart rate" (sounds like those Buggs used on TBL) so it is quite possible that this is in error.
Still, I believe this goes to what Dr. Oz was saying (and has certainly been my experience in maintenance) that if they ate 100 cal more a day, that's not an insignificant cushion to give a person a bit more room to enjoy a treat here and there. That's a slice of toast with a pat of butter for the low fatties or just a mouthful of butter for the low carber .
I've previously blogged on and frequently mention this study: Effects of aerobic exercise and dietary carbohydrate on energy expenditure and body composition during weight reduction in obese women
We can now add this study to the growing list of those demonstrating that we don't all become lazy slobs the rest of the day to compensate for our increased activity through exercising: Effects of exercise training amount on physical activity energy expenditure.
Oz was right in this segment. Taubes is just wrong.
Exercise is for increasing the insulin sensitivity of skeletal muscle rather than weight loss, anyway.
I agree. In large part exercise's biggest purpose is improving insulin sensitivity, but it CAN play a role in weight loss. As a post menopausal woman who has put my metabolism through the ringer most of my life, it's an essential part of maintaining at this point without having to eat too much like a bird!
By all means, if folks like doing lots of cardio, that's fine. Everyone's different, but I would be concerned about the cortisol load if folks were doing lots of chronic cardio (as Mark Sisson nicely labeled it).
And I know I personally spent two years being essentially exercise bulemic, so me, I'm going to focus on shorter HIIT and lots of low and slow.
@James: It most certainly is for me. My metabolism was in the subbasement a year and a half ago. I don't do a lot of formal exercise, but my own version of moving more has made maintenance pretty easy for me.
Going for a walk in the cold before a meal may stimulate appetite. That's why I go for a walk after a meal.
However, going for a walk in the warm before a meal may suppress appetite.
He is in error here. Both "responders" and "non" had increased TDEE, though it was greater in the responders. Yes, the nons had reduced non-exercise activity expenditures, but not enough to have a net lower effect as Taubes is claiming. I note as well that these women reported no increase in intake. Probably there's some of that self reporting error and compliance issues going on there. ;)
I'm not a cardio freak, but I was my leanest as an adult when I trained for my sprint (considering my pace I always chuckle when I use that term) triathlon. Now I do much what Sisson advises. But when I know in my heart of hearts that if I were to formally add some good cardio to my repetoire I would probably get the weight down some more.
"Taube'ites" believe that obesity is -always- accompanied by eating more (than you expend). The hypothesis regarding exercise is not that exercise makes you "eat more" in the sense that it would lead to weight gain (i.e. eating more than you expend) but that you eat more than you would have done without the exercise - eventually matching intake to expenditure and maintaining the weight. Evidence to support this is not conclusive, I agree. But neither is the evidence to support the hypothesis that adding some exercise to a weekly routine will lead to significant weight loss long term.
"That's a good point JC!"
No, actually it was a pretty lousy point.
"Exercise is for increasing the insulin sensitivity of skeletal muscle rather than weight loss, anyway. "
That is the only thing that eventually matters. Exercise can be effective/helpful for long term weight loss (or maintainance) if and only if it effects the hormonal regulation of the body in a positive way, for example by increasing insulin sensitivity of skeletal muscle.
CS, Sisson's Fitness program (free download) is fantastic. Lots of walking to relax, sprints once a week and twice a week bodyweight exercises that will kill you but also make you stronger.
The Phinney cycling study may be one of the few exceptions.
So it would seem GT relies on research that combines exercise with high carb, low fat diets to conclude that all exercise is "bad".
He has quite the facility for concluding things from weak-to-no-studies when he wants to, and never seeing a rigorous study when its conclusions don't line up with his.
The really funny thing here is that when one is on a low carb diet I bet exercise should hormonally reduce appetite - the catecholamines that accompany massive fat use should also reduce appetite. (I'm theorizing here).
And now for some "n=1" studies; mine. The first time I was ever skinny in my life I had come to love riding my bike & was doing it 2 hours or more, almost every day. I was less hungry than ever in my life. The 40+ pounds I lost was through zero dietary interventions. It was all exercise.
Later, after some injuries prevented my riding & I regained much of the weight, I got skinny again ... again NOT through any diet, but judo (which I could do without knee pain).
extreme anorexia correlates with massive amounts of exercise, mostly gross movement, not resistance exercise
probably bc Taubes is worried you would "eat more" carbs~
The STUDIES consistently show that exercise is not good for anymore than about a pound or two.
For LOSING WEIGHT, exercise is extremely overrated.
You will either read my post and look at the volumes of studies cited- a review of all the studies in the LAST 25 YEARS.
If you exercise more , your body will just COMPENSATE. Linda Bacon, a person far more familair with the literature than James Krieger is , has shown this.
You chose to turn a blind eye. I get that now.
I should think it's music to the ears of a reluctant exerciser.
Sheri Colberg suggests as you get past middle age that weight loss consists of about 75 percent fat and 25 percent muscle for typical dieters. She writes about the problems this may cause to the overweight person with diabetes not least that "sarcopenia is associated with insulin resistance in all individuals, regardless of body fatness."
(so exacerbating the problem?)
"With weight loss," she says "it is essential that you regularly exercise to maintain your muscle mass"
It is a general article so not referenced but here is one study demonstrating that muscle loss is reduced if exercise acompanies weight loss.
I'm another n=1 study,there's no doubt that exercise increases my insulin sensitivity, miss it for a couple of days and fasting glucose rises, meals need more insulin. (T1 diabetic).
I'll be running the London Marathon in a few weeks.Since Christmas insulin needs have dropped by a third. I've also lost about 5kg.
Yes, I am eating extra carbs specifically to fuel the long runs and avoid hypos but otherwise my average intake of carbs as recorded on my pump is unchanged. (and I weigh starchy carbs, so it's not just an assumption). In any case,I find it really difficult to eat for quite a while after a run.
Firstly I enjoy your blog b/c I learn from your tightly- reasoned arguments. Secondly my knowledge of biology is insufficient to advance any serious arguments. Nevertheless I want to challenge your views (philosophically) from an academic and practical/personal viewpoints. This challenge is not intended to in any way disparage but rather to possibly motivate thinking in other directions. Academic arguments: The possible combinations of the internal human environmental variables (see below) and external variables (diet, exercise, stress) may be too vast to extrapolate from reductionist studies. It is likely that some and perhaps many of the variables are not independent. If so, this suggests a need for a study of metabolism and nutrition on the scale of the Genome Study. The internal chemical environments include xenobiotics, inflammation, existing disease, lipid peroxidation, oxidative stress, gut flora and maybe more. A ScienceMag “Perspectives” article on Environment and Disease Risks by Stephen M. Rappaport and Martyn T. Smith , Oct 22 2010 examines these issues but from a different perspective. From my personal experience, I share with you some anomalies that are not readily explained by any of the popularand competing theories. I have been on a strict 80/11/9 -F/P/C diet for 4-1/2 months and on a gradual transition from the SAD diet for 12 months. My energy intake has gradually increased by 50% to 3200Kcal but my weight (normal before and after, ie 23 BMI ) has been rock steady and. I have no obvious explanations where the extra energy is expended; no clinical symptoms, no evidence of poor absorption, parasites, normal blood panel, normal FBG and blood pressure and I feel good. I was “healthy” before the diet change and have seen many small improvements since. I have a long history of moderate gum disease and back pain, both controlled and accepted as unchangeable facts of life but now both have markedly and unexpectedly improved. The motivation for trying the LC diet was that following my GP’s recommendation to decrease red meat, eat more legumes etc unmistakeably produced serious gum health deterioration (3 tooth implants fell out). As for exercise , on SAD I had to do a certain minimum amount else I would put on fat, no question. At this point I consider my diet an experiment which has possibly dangerous long term consequences. I value my personal experience above the many theories which I find a little thin, admittedly from ignorance, and so blogs such as yours help steer my experiment .
Re Taubes, given the vast complexity of the subject, is it a reasonable expectation that a non-expert would discover a new paradigm? Perhaps Taubes should held to a different (lower) standard eg raising awareness? Please do no take these comments as an attack on your good work and I hope you will take some time to respond
JC, you literally made me Lol.
I lost 135 lbs eating VLC and exercised (weight lifting, cardio, or both at various times) the whole time. I never had an issue with hunger from the exercise. Hell, I could go hours after exercise without eating due to a lack of hunger. Whether that supports Taubes or not I do not care. I just know that it means either result of exercise is possible (in addition to the study Sane reviewed). Thus, I do not think the decision to exercise or not should be based on "exercise working up an appetite."
I've read countless studies showing exercise and diet resulting in more than a lb or two of weight lost. Exercise without a dietary intervention has been found in numerous studies to not result in weight lost over the course of the few weeks, in part because the exercise never amounts to more than 100-300 kcals expended per session. That little kcals used would take a long time to show an effect, which it would for preventing slow gain over time. WITH dietary intervention, those few lbs can continue to be lost over time and thus result in the weight loss desired by a person. As always, this is NOT a 1-to-1 issue.
A few years ago, there was an infomercial running often on tv for a weight loss system called, I think, Michael Thurmond's Six Week Body Makeover. The voice-over announcer said that with the program, one could "eat MORE, exercise LESS, and LOSE WEIGHT!" I was at my parents' house once when it was airing, and my dad turned to me and said "the only way for me to exercise less is to go into a coma." He was exaggerating for effect, but it was a point well taken, LOL!
I've said it before and I'll say it again. ELMM (eat less move more) works every time it is tried! It's finding your own way to do it for the long run that's the "problem". Not the conventional wisdom.
I so wish that the racquetball would come back into fashion. I would love to do sports rather than exercise!
Good luck with the marathon! I'm debating doing a sprint triathlon this Sept but not sure I can do the 3 mile run ;)
Nobody denies this. But I'm with Christian here. It is a rather useless observation. I sound like a broken record: why do some people eat too much and/or move too little?
My mass has been almost exactly 70 kilograms for decades, no matter what I do. The idea that I somehow consciously control that mass by taking in (EL) and spending (MM) a tightly measured amount of energy is absolute bollocks. I have no idea what I put in my mouth (energy wise) or how much I spend. Nor has my overweight neighbor. Obesity is the result of disordered energy regulation, not of lack of willpower. The pathophysiology is more complicated than carbs drive insulin drive fat accumulation, and certainly more complicated than ELMM. It might work for a while, but it is a crutch at best.
However consciously undereating 100cal/day with a forced approach is a totally unpractial (like you described) but also -not- homeostatic. This goes both for undereating (aka 1 slice of toast less per day and keeping everything else constant) as well as increased activity (aka 1 walk per day more and keeping everything else constant). Despite the fact that nobody can do this in the real world, this ELMM works squat if it isn't in line with the homoestatic regulation of the body. If the body's response to ELMM isn't any positive change in hormonal regulation (like normalized leptin or insulin sensitivity for instance or the restored muscle insulin sensitivity when exercising) you can ELMM all you want, you will experience hunger, food cravings, etc. and not be be able to sustain the artificially induced short term weight loss for long.
The advise ELMM worked and still works for a whole bunch of people because you immediately change like a bazillion variables when doing so (e.g. quality of food, macronutrient composition, absolut amount of macronutrients, exercising patterns etc, etc) and literally every variable could have some positive effect on the regualatory mechanisms of their bodys.
"The advise ELMM worked and still works for a whole bunch of people because you immediately change like a bazillion variables when doing so (e.g. quality of food, macronutrient composition, absolut amount of macronutrients, exercising patterns etc, etc) and literally every variable could have some positive effect on the regualatory mechanisms of their bodys. "
That can be said of the LC approach too.
It amaze me that we are still debating these matters. John Berardi and Tom Venuto seems to be the only one who have explicitly state what everyone should agree on :
Both quantity AND quality matter, and to a large extent timing too.
I don't see much people arguing about the matter of quantity saying that quality don't matter, tho'.
I see a lot of people saying that quantity don't matter as long as you've got quality (whatever definition of quality they've got).
So it's obvious that a basic effective plan respect a theorical quantitative need (to be adjusted in time based on result), quality food, and usually a consumption of carbs in the most appropriate time, post-workout.
The Twinkie diet and the Potatoe diet have shown that QUANTITY is probably the most predictive factor of weight loss, tho'.
That would pretty much cover everything I've learned regarding nutrition and body composition in the last 5 years and I doubt that I'll add much to this.
Conscious restriction leads to hunger, food cravings etc and only bodybuilders & people with eating disorders can endure that for extended periods.
Taubes has put himself out essentially as an expert and he claims to want to be held to the same standards he holds all of those he criticizes. He fails on that over and over and he's upset that someone went and read his references and called him on his shoddy work and misrepresentation. But yeah, even a broken clock is right twice a day.
My personal experience is that when very overweight LC works best for me. It doesn't work for weight loss any more, although since I've been maintaining for a while now on a slightly higher carb level, I may give it another go.
For example, a lot of women gain weight going through menopause. I posted a study where TDEE was lower in menopausal aged matched women vs. premeno by over 200 cal/day. So they eat what they're used to eating and gain weight.
A lot of people eat more because they are eating crappy foods or eating out a lot or stuffing their feelings or social pressure or boredom or its Thanksgiving or .....
You're lucky my friend to have a great 5 homeostatic relationship with food. Having weighed 105 and probably 305 and all weights in between, I think I can speak more from personal experience on the reality of why I got fat. And I see in weight loss journals and blogs and such every day people citing some version of at least one of those reasons.
The only way to reverse it is to eat less and/or move more. Do both and I think you have a better chance at that elusive goal: MAINTAINED losses.
Go read Jimmy Moore's menus blog. It's such a no-brainer why he gained when he did and why he loses when he does as he is now. Yesterday he ate 8 eggs, 2T coconut oil and 3 Atkins bars, lifted weights and did an HIIT workout. One day last fall he had 25 chicken wings for one meal and was rarely exercising. Duh!
OK, now you convinced me to do the triathlon.
erm .... maybe ;)
Yeah, so? I thought the question was if that makes you hungry or not. And if so why. And if not why.
And if Jimmy Moore eats 1 kg coconut oil and thinks he slims down because no carbs are in there - well I couldn't care less ;). Obviously you can regain weight on a no-carb diet.
"Conscious restriction leads to hunger, food cravings etc and only bodybuilders & people with eating disorders can endure that for extended periods. "
Exactly. That is the reason why on pretty much any "pumping" website you will find Taubes-bashing ;). Because if you want to get from 17% to 7% bodyfat - you HAVE to consciously undereat, count calories and sustain the hunger. But to get from 27% to 17% you may not have to do that.
Thanks for responding. The point of my post’s personal experience was to suggest how difficult it is to identify some general organizing principle which is applicable across many individuals and their various states. My particular condition is not of practical interest to readers here as I do not share weight or refractive ill health problems but just might be as an academic question. Your opinion that the most likely explanation ie measurement error, for my energy imbalance is reasonable and one I would have assumed given the information provided. But, while no doubt there are unavoidable inaccuracies in my estimates, I believe the size of the potential error is not great; so it is possible my intake is say only 33% greater than before. That does not change the anomaly. So, if the premise is accepted, the only other possible explanation (AFAIK), is that for some reason my metabolism is now highly exceptional. However this has not been the case for a long time and a drastic change seems even more unlikely. This may give pause to the readers here who attempt to explain their particular case in relatively simple terms.
I object to the whole exercise is useless argument. Especially since it is quite key for maintenance of overall energy expenditure thus making maintaining losses easier.
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