Fat and muscles are both composed of different types of cells in our bodies.
Exercise drives muscle cells to grow larger. The energy used during exercise will make the fat cells shrink. And substantially increasing the size of your muscle cells helps to increase the amount of energy your muscle will burn off throughout the entire day. But I caution you, it’s not as much as you might hope for.
I want to remind everyone that although exercise is very important for cardiovascular fitness, stress reduction, and weight maintenance, but study after study have shown that vigorous exercise is a poor strategy for weight loss.
I counsel my weight loss patients to stay at the level of exercise they have been doing on a regular basis. And for those who don’t regularly exercise, I have them exercise no more than the cardiovascular equivalent of 30 minutes per day (or 1 hour every other day) of a brisk walk.
Studies have shown that this small amount of exercise will prevent you from losing muscle during your weight loss program without unduly increasing your hunger. You can do this by walking, yoga, stretching or light swimming.
But I see time and time again, patients ramping up their exercise to these ridiculous levels only to become frustrated because the rate of weight loss actually seems to slow down.
The reason why this sounds so counter-intuitive is that over our lifetimes we have been bombarded with false sales promises of weight loss if we buy certain shoes, machines, video tapes or memberships.
And if you recall, all these television ads have a line of small print that briefly flashes up on the screen stating that all the participants were on a calorie restricted diet. Gee, I wonder how they really lost all those inches?
Now I know there are some of you reading who have lost weight by exercising and think I am wrong. Well you are the lucky few. Research has demonstrated the exercise significantly increases our hunger so much that we end up eating as much or more than what we burned off exercising.
So if you are trying to lose weight, exercise is important but keep it down to only a 30 minute cardiovascular (equivalent of a brisk walk) and avoid trying to speed up the weight loss by cranking up the exercise.