You don't need to exercise to lose weight, but you do need to exercise to gain proper metabolic function because it's the effectiveness and efficiency of your metabolism that determines your body weight. Which is why, it's a lot more difficult to stay slim without the gym!
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This article will explain why exercise alone won't get you to your goal weight, and why dieting all by itself, won’t be enough to keep you at a healthy weight either. We’ll outline why your body is naturally intended to combine exercise and nutrition together. And finish off with some tips on what types of exercise you need to do, when to exercise, how much you need, and when is the best time to exercise to maximize fat burning and weight loss.
It’s a misconception that working out is necessary to burn calories or to burn the excess energy from food. And that's because we've all been led to believe that calorie counting is how you manage your weight, calories in versus calories burned.
We debunked the calories myth in our prior post: “Which Diet Works Best”. We discussed why calories are the wrong metric, and in turn, don't really matter since they don't determine the nutritional value of food.
When you exercise and are active, your metabolism is able to function at the highest rate of efficiency. So diet and exercise go hand in hand. They both work together to promote a healthy body, and metabolism.
Exercise activates your muscles! Building and maintaining healthy, strong muscles is important because your muscles are in large part directly responsible for your metabolism. And that's because 50% or more of your body's weight is all muscle! That's 700+ muscles in your body that are all attached to your bones and your organs and your muscles primarily help to drive movement.
Muscles really do play a big part in everything you do. That's also why your body's muscle is what primarily determines your body's nutritional needs or how much fuel your body's engine needs. The term BMR means Basic Metabolic Rate. Which basically means, the more muscle you have, the higher your BMR or basic metabolic rate. Men biologically have more muscle mass than women, which means their metabolism's working to burn more fuel at a faster rate. Which is why men tend to lose weight faster than women.
On average, most people spend at least 60% of their time at rest, but even while resting, your metabolism is still working, it's still fueling your body's muscles. And that's exactly why if you want to continue to improve your metabolic engine and your BMR, then you need to continue to workout to improve your muscles size and vitality.
It does NOT take intense workouts, huge muscles, or “getting ripped.” It’s just about getting moving. Exercise, get moving. It can all start with something as simple as walking.
Over time, our muscles age, they shrink, and if they're not active, they also become weak and less vital. Exercise is a physical activity that helps you to improve your physical function and how you move. And the more you move, the stronger you become and the longer that you can retain and maintain your ability to move your way of life and a little bit of your youth too.
Inside of our muscle cells, we all have mitochondria. The easiest way to think about this is to imagine these little muscle cells as little towns or cities. The mitochondria are the people who live in the city and the way you make your city grow and become more vibrant and vital is to increase your city's population. You do this by creating more jobs.
If you increase your workout routine, you're creating more work for your mitochondria to do, and in turn, attracting more workers and building up the city's population or total number of mitochondria.
The mitochondria help boost your metabolism and your body's energy and strength at a cellular level. Your metabolism depends on strong and active muscles. And it's the mitochondria that help boost the cellular energy and vitality of your muscles.
Your appetite will initially increase after you start a new exercise routine and that's because of leptin. Leptin is one of your metabolic hormones & metaphorically speaking, it operates as the mayor of your city who manages your appetite and your fat stores.
This mayor doesn't like change, he’s grumpy and he's resistant. And his job is to maintain your appetite and your fat stores, so when you start to increase your activity and you start to drain those fat stores, leptin notices that the energy from your fat stores is being depleted. So he notifies the brain to increase appetite, get you to eat and replace the fat that you just burned. That’s because the body is constantly working to maintain all of its systems.
Leptin thinks that the stored fat on your body is intentionally there and that you've been saving and storing that extra fat as energy that you're depending on in the future. So leptin doesn't realize that you want to lose it. And that's why when you start an exercise program to lose weight, your appetite will initially increase.
Once you build up a healthy population of mitochondria in your muscle cells, these cells help to improve the signaling between your metabolic hormones like leptin and your brain. And this means the signal leptin sends the brain will improve to allow the release of the excess stored fat. Then your appetite and hunger signals will normalize and your metabolism will start to operate overall more effectively and efficiently too!
How long will it take?
Everyone’s body is different and everybody's muscle mass and muscle health is different too. So this means that there isn't any set rule on a timeline. The benefits of exercise basically accumulate over time and the benefits of exercise also take time. Muscle growth and cellular restoration. They don't happen overnight. They happen over time, which means consistency over time is key. You simply need to be patient, persistent and consistent.
The hunger that you feel after a workout may be exaggerated and it may not even be real at first. A quick solution: before you eat, stop and think when was the last time I ate a balanced meal? If it was more than three to five hours ago, the hunger signal is probably real. But if you're not quite sure, hydrate and slow down.
Drink water during your workout and then continue to drink more water after your workout too, because hydration is a great way to help satisfy what I call “decoy hunger signals”. And that's because if the hunger isn't real, the water will go ahead and take it away and it satisfies it and it snoozes or delays the hunger.
If the hunger signal is real, what happens is it will reliably persist, which means that it's going to return and increase and become more disruptive and more intense. You also want to make sure to eat a balanced meal. That meets all of your body's nutritional needs for fiber, protein and healthy fat.
First, remember exercise is about moving and improving, which is another way of saying it's a process. It's not simply about being the weekend warrior and doing only one session or one workout each week. Exercise is progressive. Your body gradually accumulates strength and improves function over time. The key is start slow and go slow. You don't want to overdo it.
Second, establish a safe routine. Don’t kill yourself day one back at the gym, because you're not only going to break your body, you’re also breaking your routine. Because you're on the sideline now, recovering and not moving and maybe not even going back. So this is why it's all about going slow and starting slow.
Third, repeatability. If you're thinking about an activity or an exercise, you want to think about something that you can repeat as much as 6-7 days a week. It also has to be something that you don't need to recover from and something that you can pretty much do every day.
Walking is great because it activates your muscles and it moves your body at a steady pace. And it's something that you can start slowly and then gradually work your way up to a faster pace or a longer duration each day over time.
The real reason why walking is so great is because it provides a frequent or a daily consistent routine that you can sustain to achieve the positive metabolic effects. Ideally, you want to get to the point where you're improving your pace and walking speed as if you're late to a meeting. It's that fast pace that activates your metabolism. You're not jogging and you're definitely not strolling. You're walking really, really fast with a purpose. So it's technically considered moderate intensity, which equates to about 3 to 3.5 mph if you’re on a treadmill.
Intensity refers to the level of energy or amount of work that you're doing while you're exercising. Basically, intensity is the metabolic demand on your body and it's most typically measured by your heart rate.
Heart rate is the most universal way to measure the challenge that's being put on your heart or your cardiovascular system. The more your heart rate increases above a normal resting rate, the more intense the physical demand.
There are 3 levels of intensity: low, moderate, and high.
Those levels determine how much time you need to spend working out. The intensity also determines the source of the fuel that the body's using, and what's sustainable too.
High intensity exercise needs a quick source of energy, like carbohydrates, which deplete and run out really quickly. And you're also not able to maintain or sustain high-intensity for a long period of time.
Moderate intensity is not as fast and demanding. So, your body's able to then recruit the fat on your body for fuel. It slowly pulls the fat off the body and it depletes the fat stores for energy. That's why, if it's your goal to lose body fat, then you're going to want to work out for a longer amount of time at a moderate pace.
According to the World Health Organization and the U S Department of Health and Human Services, they both agree that substantial health benefits require at least 150 minutes to 300 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week.
Which equals a minimum of doing a 20 minute brisk walk every day, seven days a week. Or if you wanted to go for the maximum benefit, that's 42 minutes each day. Every day. Or, for the maximum benefit or it's 50 minutes a day, six days a week.
The daily frequency is deliberate and that's because the metabolic effect is limited. This is an interesting fact, the metabolic benefit of cardio movement only lasts about 24 hours, which means that you need to get up and walk and move every day.
Your body wants & needs those muscles to be activated. And that's why, walking every day is a great way to activate the muscles. And it also helps to lower insulin levels and keeps the metabolism properly responsive.
For muscle health, you’ll need to lift weights and do some kind of resistance training at least 2 times a week.
You can do an at-home workout and it doesn't need to be lifting weights per se. Resistance training is what your body needs and that's where you're using your body, weight and gravity. Something like resistance bands or body weight. Anything that's basically going to challenge your muscles.
Remember the goal isn't to grow bigger muscles. The goal is to build new muscle tissue by increasing the vitality, the strength in the composition of the muscle. So you basically want to activate and stimulate all of your major muscle groups at least 2 days a week and the time isn't specified, the focus is total body activation. So go at your own pace.
Once you’ve rejuvenated & restored the health of your muscle’s mitochondria, the benefits of strength training can last up to 2 weeks, as long as you're consistent and you're sustaining the activity & health of your muscle’s mitochondria.
Ideally in the morning, before breakfast or your first meal is the best time.
Overnight your body uses the glycogen that's stored up in the liver to maintain energy. And when you wake up that storage locker is depleted, which is why your body will likely go ahead and use the fat stores for energy until you break your overnight fast with your first meal of the day.
Exercise also lowers stress by lowering cortisol, the stress hormone, and exercise also lowers blood pressure, which means that you're more likely to be able to better control your appetite throughout the day, too. You’ll be able to rest and recover, and sleep better too.
Another reason mornings are best is because you’re able to prioritize yourself and your health. When your workout happens in advance of any other obligation, it’s less likely to get skipped or missed.
Safety is always a number one priority! Be sure to check with your doctor or healthcare provider and get their specific recommendation about what physical activity is best for you. Moving is important and that's why, it's important that you find the right activity and amount that's right for you. Let your doctor help you.
Remember, start slow and go slow, and consider working with a personal trainer or a fitness professional who can help you gradually increase how long and how often you exercise too.