As a physician, I have lost count of how many times I have heard a statement such as the following from patients who said they had just come from the gym to “work off the pizza” that they had the night before. Unfortunately, the human body does not work that way. This type of thinking is an excellent example of good intentions sabotaged by flawed reasoning, which is one of the most the most common causes of ill health and diabesity.
Exercise Doesn’t Cancel Out a Bad Diet
I always tell my patients that they cannot exercise their way out of a bad diet. Exercise is indeed a great way to improve circulation and build lean muscle, but a very poor method for losing weight. I have never faulted the well-meaning general public for believing the myth of exercise for weight loss. There exists a multi-billion dollar industry of health clubs and exercise gadget manufacturers backing that myth! Even most doctors have traditionally advised their patients to just eat less and exercise more to lose weight. Remember, Lack of Exercise and Diabesity are closely linked.
Myths About Health and Nutrition
One of the mission objectives of our practice is to debunk myths about health and nutrition, so that our patients will achieve their desired health outcome with targeted effort backed by solid science. The most prominent myth that is the focus of this article is the fallacy of calories in, calories out. We now have decades of scientific evidence which has conclusively demonstrated that the human body is not a steam engine, it is a complex network of hormonal signaling that regulates our body composition. The flawed modality of counting calories is utterly antiquated in light of what we now know about hormones such as insulin, leptin, adiponectin, glucagon and hormone-sensitive lipase (HSL).
So what then is the true purpose of exercise as it relates to diabesity and weight loss? The answer is once again found in the hormones, Regular exercise, especially resistance training (at least 3 times/weekly) improves the insulin sensitivity of muscle tissue and the brain throughout the day, even when we are asleep! Translation, when you consume carbohydrates, they will be much more likely to be burned as fuel by your muscles and brain than to be stored in your fat cells as triglycerides, hence making you fatter.
Another hormonal metabolic benefit of exercise, though transient, is that it decreases your pancreatic production of insulin (your fat storage hormone), while increasing pancreatic production of glucagon (your fat burning hormone), therefore resulting in weight loss virtually independent of total calorie intake. Two other hormones also play a key role in this wonderful harmony of hormones, leptin and grehlin. Since exercise ultimately leads to fat loss, a reduction in body fat will help to reverse the leptin resistance that was contributing to weight gain and diabesity.
Finally, no discussion of exercise and its role in fat accumulation and Diabesity would be complete without delving into a rarely talked about hormone called grehlin. Grehlin is essentially your satiety hormone, the messenger that tells your brain that you are full and that you should stop eating. With vigorous or even moderate exercise lasting at least 20-30 minutes, such physical activity may in fact
stimulate your appetite, but you will also feel fuller eating less food, especially if that food is high in healthy fats and low in refined carbohydrates. Remember that your brain and muscles prefer fat as fuel (especially during exercise) over sugar. If for example, you have bacon and eggs for breakfast with no carbohydrate, then you exercise a few hours later, your liver will first burn through the bacon and eggs for fuel. Then, since no carbs are present, your metabolism will smoothly transition to the only other fat source available, the fat around your waist!