4 reasons your workout doesn’t work
Let us repeat: Exercise is vital for overall good health. But if you’re strictly interested in dropping pounds, eating less delivers the best results.
“Exercise is very important for improving someone’s cardiometabolic health and reducing the risk of diabetes and heart disease, but it’s not a very effective intervention for helping people lose weight,” Dr. Samuel Klein, professor of medicine and nutritional science and director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the Washington University School of Medicine, told TODAY.
“Diet is the key for getting people to lose weight — eating fewer calories.”
The diet vs. exercise debate has been in the spotlight since an editorial in the British Journal of Sports Medicine earlier this year caused a stir with its authors’ blunt message: Physical activity does not promote weight loss.
“You cannot outrun a bad diet,” they wrote. “Many still wrongly believe that obesity is entirely due to lack of exercise.”
Here are four common reasons why exercise can fail you in the quest to slim down:
1. You overestimate how many calories you burn
When you work out, it may feel like you’re expending huge amounts of energy, but the reality is different.
“It takes 5 minutes to eat 500 calories, but it takes two hours of moderate exercise to burn it off,” said TODAY Health and Nutrition Editor Madelyn Fernstrom.
Let’s say you go for a 30-minute walk and you weigh 155 pounds. You might burn 150 calories, or about half a plain bagel.
2. Exercise makes you eat more
Exercise is quite good at burning calories, but it also ends up making us hungrier, said Christopher Ochner, assistant professor of psychiatry and adolescent medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.
People often don’t notice, but they end up eating almost precisely the exact number of calories they burned during a workout in a phenomenon called “caloric compensation,” Ochner noted.
“We make up for the calories burned during exercise,” he said. “If I work out heavy, I know the next day I’m starving.”
Ochner tells people who are beginning a diet not increase their exercise for at least a month or two until they’re used to the weight loss plan.
3. You “reward” yourself for working out
Made it to yoga class? You indulge in a big sugary smoothie afterwards to congratulate yourself. Completed that killer strength session? An extra helping of pasta hits the spot — you’ve earned it!
If your goal is to slim down, that type of thinking defeats the purpose.
“If the reward means eating food… that would counteract the beneficial effect of exercise on body weight,” Klein sai