Does exercise help you lose weight?

Posted on Updated on

I really like Gary Taubes. For those of you who don’t know who Taubes is, he wrote two books that really brought to light the problems with epidemiological studies in regards to diet and disease. He is the author of two ground breaking books, “Good Calories, Bad Calories” and “Why we get Fat“. Both of the books brought Doctor Atkins premise from suspected quackery to hard science.

The premise is that sugar is very harmful to us, and that modern processed foods are loaded with it. Making the situation all the worse, is the war against fat and meat. Taubes shows that the evidence is scant that fat and meat are linked to heart disease, but that the evidence is strong for the insulin connection; chronically high insulin levels not only make us gain fat, but are linked to cancer, heart disease, and even Alzheimer’s.

The paradigm constructed over the last 30 years is very difficult to break down. People are still terrified of meat and fat. They also believe they can eat mostly what they want as long as they exercise enough. Taubes argues that exercise is not a great way to attack the obesity problem, that some studies show exercise merely makes us hungrier, while doing little to make us lose fat. But the worm is beginning to turn. Even the left-leaning mainstream media, brought up on Upton’s, The Jungle, are starting to come around.

This month’s issue of Scientific American has an article by Taubes. Eventually, I believe, the evidence will be overwhelming to anyone in any way familiar with Francis Bacon. But many will still refuse to believe, mostly because the idea that humans are meant to eat dead animals bothers them. I’ll live longer and better than those ideologues, unless I get shot in combat or run over by a truck. As we see in the video I’ve posted, many accuse the meat industry of pushing an agenda that keeps them going. Isn’t the sugar industry doing the same thing? The question is not which industry is corrupt, but what is the healthier diet. It is a scientific question.

So can exercise help us lose weight? I believe it can. First, Taubes’ theorem is that obesity is essentially a a hormonal issue. That insulin, driven by rising blood sugar, is the root of the problem, it’s not about calories. If this is true, even in part, the logical question would be: How does exercise effect blood sugar and insulin? We know the answer. High intensity interval training reduces blood sugar levels. Here, HIIT improves insulin action, meaning it takes less insulin secreted to rid the blood of the same amount of sugar. Thus, when performing (and for a time after it’s performed) high intensity exercise, insulin is likely lower, because it requires less of it to perform its function. Taubes forgets his own argument, that it’s about insulin, not calories, when he talks about exercise. With exercise, he starts arguing calories. It takes a 175 lb male, 30 minutes of running at 6 mph to burn two pop tarts (400 calories). However, using Taubes’ reasoning, our bodies would present a different hormonal profile after the run; calories would be shuttled for different uses. High intensity intervals seems to suck the sugar out of your blood, and move it into your muscles, in the form of glycogen. This makes, sense; muscles run off glycogen during high intensity intervals. This glycogen is replaced by sugar from the blood.

Just as in a shooting war, we do not attack the enemy (fat) in only one way. We attack from every conceivable angle and every conceivable manner. We do not cede the enemy the air battle while fighting on the ground; we try to dominate both. So, it is true that diet is hugely important. But exercise changes hormones, just as does diet. When I train someone, I use high intensity exercises at least twice a week, while introducing them to moderate carbohydrate diets. No soda, ever. High intensity means intervals training on a stationary bike (tabata method is one protocol that works great), or sprinting or kettlebells swings and circuits. There are many variations. High intensity can also mean weight training. Squats work best,as they force the largest muscle group (quadriceps) into action, converting large amounts of blood sugar into glycogen.

In a nutshell: At least two session of high intensity exercise a week, no juice or soda; eat meat, eggs, nuts; no snacks during the week. It’s never failed to work with my clients.