One thing that I remember hearing from multiple sources when beginning to research options for weight loss plans, was that when you begin working out, you’ll give your metabolism a jump start, and your body will essentially take over and become a fat burning machine. Many believed that your body would burn calories more effectively for up to 24 hours after working out.
A new report published in the journal Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews suggests that our bodies may not work that way, and that you need to rethink your dietary intake so as not to undue your exercising.
The notion that exercise somehow boosts the body’s ability to burn fat for as long as 24 hours after a workout has led to a misperception among the general public that diet doesn’t matter so much as long as one exercises, says Edward Melanson, an exercise physiologist and associate professor of medicine at the University of Colorado in Denver.
People think they have a license to eat whatever they want, and our research shows that is definitely not the case,” he says. “You can easily undo what you set out to do.” In the new report, published in the journal Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, Melanson and colleagues discuss research to date on the issue of burning fat during and after exercise. The authors conclude that while people do burn more fat when they are exercising than when they are not, they have no greater ability to burn fat over the next 24 hours than on days when they are couch potatoes.
“If you exercise and replace the calories you burn, you’re no better — with regard to how much fat you burn off — than if you didn’t exercise,” says Melanson.
So what does that mean for all of us out here working out, trying to lose weight? Maybe that we need to be more careful about our diet and exercise regimen, and not count on our exercising to allow us to eat whatever we want.
“Bottom line is that we once thought that exercise would burn calories, especially fat calories, for a long period after a bout of exercise,” says exercise physiologist Gerald Endress, fitness director for the Duke University Diet and Fitness Center who was not involved in the research. “This does not seem to be the case.”
But both Melanson and Endress say it can’t be ruled out that longer, harder and possibly different types of exercise performed regularly on consecutive days could lead to a more lasting post-workout fat burn. In Melanson’s research, for instance, participants all cycled for under an hour, burning up to 400 calories.
All this isn’t to say, however, that you should not exercise to help lose weight and keep it off. “It’s not that exercise doesn’t help with weight loss,” says Melanson. “It’s that it’s harder to lose weight with exercise than diet.” That’s not surprising when you consider that it might take an hour to burn 400 calories but just five minutes to consume them.
So there you go. Don’t count on your exercise plan alone to help you lose weight. Make sure you have a good plan of exercise and diet that will help you to lose weight.
What do you think about this study? Does it challenge your beliefs about exercise and metabolism, and how our bodies work? Will you be changing anything because of this?