The Role of Exercise in a Weight Loss Program
When it comes to weight loss, nutrition is by far the most significant contributor to success. It is much easier to create a calorie deficit by adjusting eating habits than it is to create a calorie deficit through exercise. But even though exercise alone is unlikely to help you reduce your weight, it still plays an important role in weight loss and in adopting a healthier lifestyle. Here are ten ways that exercise can help you reach your goals.
1. Exercise increases energy expenditure. As mentioned above, exercise alone is not going to create enough of an imbalance between the calories coming in and the calories you burn. But, combined with healthy eating, exercise can make a small contribution to the calorie deficit that is needed to loose weight.
2. Exercise can help to maintain muscle mass. Muscle tissue is metabolically active. This means that even when you are resting, your muscles are using calories. The amount of muscle mass that you have is a strong determinant of your resting metabolic rate (the amount of calories you burn while you are resting). During weight loss, there is often a decrease in the amount of muscle mass you have. As muscle tissue is lost, resting metabolism decreases, meaning that your body will burn fewer calories. Incorporating strength training into your exercise program can minimize the amount of muscle tissue that is lost and prevent your resting metabolism from slowing down
3. Exercise can suppress your appetite. Exercising has often been associated with a decrease in appetite.
4. Exercise helps maintain weight loss. Over and over, research has shown that exercise is important for maintaining weight loss. In fact, people who exercise are up to 3 times more likely to keep off the weight.
5. Exercise can reduce stress levels. Exercise can help to reduce stress. This is important because high stress levels cause hormonal changes in the body that can increase appetite, and make it difficult to lose weight. Stress can also lead you to make unhealthier eating choices. Incorporating exercise into your program can help you to reduce stress levels and increase your chances of successful weight loss.
6. Exercise can lead to improved sleep. One of the benefits of exercise that is often reported is an increased quality of sleep. Recently, research has shown a link between a lack of proper sleep and obesity. Not getting enough sleep increases hormones that can increase appetite. Lack of sleep may also contribute to weight gain simply due to the fact that being awake for longer gives us the opportunity to consume more food. Therefore, better sleep can be a factor in weight loss success.
7. Exercise can encourage you to make healthier lifestyle changes. Weight loss is most successful when it is achieved by making a lifestyle change rather than “going on a diet”. Exercise is one aspect of a healthy lifestyle and can help enforce other healthy changes.
8. Exercise reduces disease risk. Exercise can reduce the risk of diseases associated with obesity. For example, exercise can reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes beyond what weight loss alone can achieve.
9. Exercise increases confidence. Exercising can lead to an increase in self-confidence. This can contribute to weight loss by improving self-efficacy and confidence that you will be successful in making a lifestyle change.
10. Exercise gives you the opportunity to build social support networks. Exercising in a group enables you to develop relationships with others who have similar goals. Having support and encouragement from your peers can motivate you to continue with the healthier changes you are making. A network of people with similar goals also gives you a chance to share information for success like healthy recipes, motivational ideas and exercise tips.
This email has been circulating for years. Its one of those emails that is based on myths and contributes to the nutrition confusion that we can all experience. Nutrition information can be difficult to navigate through as science changes, but also because myths like these (below) pop up and confuse us even more.
I don’t work for any margarine or butter industry, so my opinions are not based on this, but rather what my science and practical side tells me. What I find important is to try and clear up some of the nutrition myths!
The following email was sent to my via my mom from a friend of hers asking to have it cleared up. It’s premise is that margarine is evil as it’s made from a processing plant and butter is the preferred choice as it’s naturally made.
The myth is in big bold letters and my description is written in a smaller font.
1. Margarine was originally manufactured to fatten turkeys. When it killed the turkeys, the people who had put all the money into the research wanted a payback so they put their heads together to figure out what to do with this product to get their money back.
Margarine was not developed to fatten up turkeys. It was developed by a group of physicians as an alternative fat spread for their heart patients. Anything made from an animal naturally contains saturated and trans fats, which increase risk of heart disease as it causes a build up of plaque on artery walls. Anything made from plant fat actually decreases risk of heart disease because of the qualities of the unsaturated fat.
Butter and margarine do, in fact, have the same number of calories per teaspoon, but the types of fat are quite different, ultimately affecting our risk of heart disease very differently.
2. It was a white substance with no food appeal so they added the yellow colouring and sold it to people to use in place of butter. How do you like it? They have come out with some clever new flavourings....
I actually don’t remember the last time I had a “flavoured” margarine. Yes, they once did add extensive food colouring to margarine as the butter industry didn’t want a competitive product to impede sales. So, they lobbied against margarine having the same colour as butter. Nowadays, margarine is “allowed” to have the same colour as butter. But, when I read the ingredients list on the President’s Choice Celeb margarine, there isn’t any ingredient in there that represents any kind of “colouring”. Maybe the beta carotene adds some colour, but this also enhances the Vitamin A.
3. Both have the same amount of calories. Butter is slightly higher in saturated fats at 8 grams; compared to 5 grams for margarine.
Both have the same number of calories per teaspoon. This is correct. Again, looking at the Celeb margarine label, it has 1g of saturated fat per two teaspoons compared to 5g in butter.
4. Eating margarine can increase heart disease in women by 53% over eating the same amount of butter, according to a recent Harvard Medical Study.
I’m not sure what “Harvard Medical Study” they are referring to, but looking at a large Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study that had almost 50,000 women followed for almost 4 years, it showed that there was no significant decrease in heart disease or breast cancer when they followed a low fat diet (less than 20% of their calories from fat).
Many studies have proven that following a diet that contains plant-based fats actually reduce risk of heart disease. Margarine is made from plant-based fats.
5. Eating butter increases the absorption of many other nutrients in other foods.
Butter could increase your absorption of other nutrients, but so could any other fat. Fat soluble vitamins (vit A, D, E and K), will be absorbed better when we have fat in our diet.
Margarine is fortified with vitamins and minerals. So if flour. So is milk. So are cookies. That doesn’t make margarine unhealthy. It actually makes it healthier as we can increase our intake of Vitamin A and D (both are usually fortified in margarine). It’s difficult get all the Vitamin A and D from natural sources of food, unless you are willing to consume large quantities of food.
7. Butter tastes much better than margarine and it can enhance the flavours of other foods.
Some people like margarine. Some people like butter. It’s a personal preference. Be your own boss – choose which fat spread you like the most based on flavour and how it pertains to your nutrition goals. I say, if you use more than a ¼ cup of butter per week and you have a family history of heart disease, switch to margarine as you can reduce your intake of saturated fats by about 20g per week
8. Butter has been around for centuries where margarine has been around for less than 100 years .
This is true. Butter has been around for longer compared to margarine. We also never got broccoli in the middle of winter in Canada. That’s been a new thing within the last 20 years!
9. Very High in Trans fatty acids.
Margarine used to be high in trans fats when it first came out. Trans fats occur when you hydrogenate products as hydrogen molecules help transform a liquid fat into a solid one. This changes the shape of the fat molecule and makes it less stable and increases risk of heart disease. Trans fats aren’t the greatest for our health. However, soft-tub margarine is non-hydrogenated. It’s an emulsion of plant oil and water and made in the similar fashion as mayonnaise – basically they whip the water and fat together, add emulsifiers (soy lecithin) and voila, you have a suspension of oil and water that live happily ever after together. Same as mayonnaise – you whip oil and vinegar and add an emulsifier (eggs) and voila, you have the same properties. The other ingredients that you see on the ingredients list are the “chemist” names for vitamins and minerals. Example: Colcalciferol = Vitamin D. Palmitate = Vitamin A.
Margarine is not one molecule away from being plastic. See above description on how margarine is made. If you do a simple Google search on the molecular structure on both plastic and margarine, they look significantly different to me. They also contain different elements, which might be like saying that a dog is one gene different than a horse.
Fruit flies are attracted to fruit and sweet things. Although I’m not a fruit fly expert, from my observation, they are rarely attracted to anything but fruit. I have never seen them be attracted to butter, or bread or margarine.
Not much “grows” on butter either, but both would become rancid if left at room temperature for a long period of time. Bacteria and/or mold grows in an environment when there is food available. Preferred food sources for bacteria/mold is a warm, moist environment that contains carbs and water. Neither margarine, nor butter contains any of these. If you keep butter in the fridge, it won’t grow anything. If you keep margarine in the fridge it won’t grow anything.
At the end of the day, nutrition doesn’t need to be perfected. Much of how we eat and why we eat is a personal decision based on family history, likes and dislikes and how suitable or sustainable the choices we make will be on a daily or monthly basis. Look at the big picture of your intake instead of perfecting each and every choice. There are, of course, risks associated to making unhealthy choices on a daily basis, but having unhealthy choices every once in a while isn’t going to make large, negative impacts on our health.
Make healthy choices the majority of the time, but we still need to live and enjoy indulgences!
Is that your weight loss plan? You're simply going to learn to eat less? You're going to choose smaller portions? You're going to "cut back"?
That's your plan?
If it were that easy, do you think you'd still have weight to lose?
If it were that easy, I'd be working in an emergency room somewhere because if all it took to lose weight were for people to simply, "eat less", the world would be skinny.
Ultimately what we choose to put on our plates reflects a sort of personal homeostasis - we put as much food on our plates as we feel we need to be satisfied. If you try to simply "cut back" without actually making any formative changes to the actual foods you eat and your timing of meals and snacks all you're going to wind up doing is feeling hungry, short changed and bitter for the short time you actually adhere to your overly simplified resolution.
You need to actually like your life with fewer calories. In order to do that, you're likely going to need to reformat your dietary organization so that you're using food in a manner that leads to less hunger and consequently more control.
My cardinal rules remain the same.
- Breakfast within 60 minutes of waking up.
- Eating every 2-3 hours.
- Meals with a minimum of 300 calories for women and 400 calories for men.
- Snacks with a minimum of 100 calories for women and 150 calories for men.
- 8 or more grams of protein with every meal and snack.
- Limit refined/processed foods to the smallest amounts you need to be happy.
- Drink only as many calories as you need to enjoy your life (ie. minimize juice, alcohol, sugared beverages, milk etc.)
- Exercise for 40 mins or less and all you need is water. Exercise for more than 40 mins and add 100 carb based calories per 40 minute block to be consumed immediately before, during, or immediately after exercise.
- No forbidden foods.
- Always, always, always, consider the calories of your dietary decisions in the same manner you consider price tags with your purchases.
Happy New Year!
One of the most common holiday strategies is to save up calories for dinner. It's also one of the least wise.
So first the thinking behind the budgeting. People believe that by saving their daytime calories by skipping meals or eating light then they'll have more caloric room for their indulgent dinners.
Of course as a consequence they'll also show up at their dinners hungry.
That's a problem.
You see hunger affects choice. Think about the last time you hit the supermarket hungry. You almost certainly bought different foods.
Sit down to a meal hungry and now you're shopping from your plate, and in the case of a festive meal, from an table full of dietary extravagances.
Chance are your portions will be larger, you might well have seconds and you won't skimp on dessert.
But what if you weren't particularly hungry when you sat down?
Well then you'd be able to thoughtfully navigate the table. You likely wouldn't need or want seconds and you'd have much greater control over how much dessert you ultimately had.
I'd bet not showing up hungry would likely save you a minimum of 1,500 calories and in order to not show up hungry chances are that would only cost you on the order of 400-800 calories of ensuring you snack between meals and don't skimp on your breakfast and lunch portions.
Seems to me spending 800 calories to save 1,500 calories seems like a much wiser plan.
In December I had the pleasure of working with CBC's The National and a local family in exploring what the average Canadian family eats. The segment is part of the CBC's year long push to Live Right Now aiming to help Canadians make healthier choices.
If you watch the segment you'll see that despite what I would describe as a great effort at healthy eating the family was consuming a staggering amount of sugar and sodium. The problem is that sugar and sodium are cheap ingredients that make food taste good and consequently when it comes to mass produced food, it's bound to be spiked with one or both.
The best solution?
Cook. Cook with real food from the produce aisle, with fresh meats, fresh spices and don't fool yourself into thinking that reheating a box, or stirring in a package, constitutes cooking.