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Beyond a calorie deficit - exercise is good for weight loss?

EvgeniZyntxEvgeniZyntx Member Posts: 24,424 Member Member Posts: 24,424 Member
Often enough, when people ask about what exercise to do to lose weight the standard response is "count calories" and "CICO" and "what matters is a deficit". All true.

However, this thread is here to also investigate/discuss the positive (or negative) effects of exercise on weight loss. In general, if we agree with the adage "weight loss is 80% diet" what is going on with the "other 20%"?

First off, obviously exercise can contribute to calorie expenditure. Someone exercising very regularly can attribute 600+ daily calories to wilful exercise. This might corresponds to moving from up in one or more categories in "activity level" and be similar to a significant lifestyle change.

Beyond that, exercise actively results in lean mass retention - being active means that less muscle will be lost during weight loss which in turn corresponds to a small additional daily burn (from 7 to 21 cals per day per lb of lean mass - depending on lifestyle.)

But wait! There's more!

Exercise actually changes your metabolic function. Not only is there a significant body of research that exercise directly affects enzymes, protein production, improves risks of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases directly, there is also clear evidence that it affects how we oxidise fat and show, surprisingly, that food has a higher thermogenic response for the active. We release (and use up) a little more energy digesting food as active individuals than as sedentary people*. In other words, research suggests that "endurance training induces metabolic changes that favour leanness".

Then there are the positive psychological effects of exercise that can counter some of the mental pressures of calorie restriction... a bit beyond what I want to focus on here but certainly worth mentioning in passing.

So when recommending that people focus on calorie deficits also remember that activity and exercise also have a multi-factorial positive effect that shouldn't be forgotten.


*see Increased thermogenic response to food and fat oxidation in female athletes: relationship with VO(2 max). López P1, Ledoux M, Garrel DR. ( http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10950828 )
edited February 2016
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Replies

  • seska422seska422 Member, Premium Posts: 3,206 Member Member, Premium Posts: 3,206 Member
    I have not read anyone saying that it's bad to exercise when you are losing weight. Exercise has health benefits whether you are trying to lose weight or not.

    Weight loss can be 100% diet. I've lost 80 pounds in a year with no exercise. I burn fewer calories than the "sedentary" setting but that just means that I lose a little more slowly.

    If someone had told me that I had to include exercise to lose weight, that might have scared me off from even trying.

    Exercise isn't a requirement for weight loss. It's nice, but not a requirement.
  • EvgeniZyntxEvgeniZyntx Member Posts: 24,424 Member Member Posts: 24,424 Member
    seska422 wrote: »
    I have not read anyone saying that it's bad to exercise when you are losing weight. Exercise has health benefits whether you are trying to lose weight or not.

    Weight loss can be 100% diet. I've lost 80 pounds in a year with no exercise. I burn fewer calories than the "sedentary" setting but that just means that I lose a little more slowly.

    If someone had told me that I had to include exercise to lose weight, that might have scared me off from even trying.

    Exercise isn't a requirement for weight loss. It's nice, but not a requirement.

    So a sendetary level does play a role. ok.

    No one is saying that you have to do anything. Outlining that the role of exercise goes beyond the burn it creates in weight loss *may* help people to make decisions that are more optimal in terms of weight loss. The idea here is to provide useful information - the means of how you choose to lose is something you own.

    If one prefers to lose in a way that is slower yet possibly a better fit to a personal lifestyle preference, why not? No exercise - fine. But at least one can understand how exercise has a physiological and mental effect.

    Beyond the health benefits and creating calorie burns - does exercise also positively impacts weight loss?
    I thought that was something worth discussing.
    edited February 2016
  • JeromeBarry1JeromeBarry1 Member Posts: 10,171 Member Member Posts: 10,171 Member
    I appreciate the thread, but exercise, whether or not it leads to weight loss, has numerous health-improving benefits which alone justify our effort at doing the exercise.
  • seska422seska422 Member, Premium Posts: 3,206 Member Member, Premium Posts: 3,206 Member
    So when recommending that people focus on calorie deficits also remember that activity and exercise also have a multi-factorial positive effect that shouldn't be forgotten.

    Exercise is great and is helpful for overall health and even makes CO more efficient. However, for weight loss, it's essentially a separate issue. You can't outrun a calorie surplus. Exercise calories should be eaten back so that the exercise isn't causing extra weight loss because the exercise needs to be fueled.

    When people who are trying to lose weight ask about what exercises they should do so that they can lose weight, it makes sense that they are pointed toward CICO and counting calories because that's where weight loss is found. They aren't inquiring about fitness, they are inquiring about weight loss.

    ETA: I just saw your diagram. That's essentially what I'm saying about weight loss and exercise being mostly separate topics.
    edited February 2016
  • Nikki10129Nikki10129 Member Posts: 295 Member Member Posts: 295 Member
    Just a couple of comments on your post:
    600 calories daily can be attributed to exercise? What kind of exercise are you doing to burn 600 calories? I do a hardcore kickboxing class for 90 minutes and I'm not burning 600 calories doing that, even though I exercise regularly the rest of the week.

    Also the comment on building/maintaining LBM while exercising isn't 100% true. That's going to depend on the exercises you do. You aren't going to be building muscle while eating at a deficit anyways, except for potentially a little bit at the beginning of a resistance program, and the idea that any form of exercise is going to maintain LBM more than doing no exercise isn't correct. If you're going to be doing a lot of steady state cardio exercises with no resistance training incorporated in (which is something a lot of people do) then you'll probably start losing more muscle than if you decided to just eat at a deficit. Muscle is a lot easier for the body to metabolize than fat, so it's the first thing the body is going to go for when working out if it's not regularly using those muscles.

    I don't argue that I agree exercise is good for overall fitness, but I honestly don't think it helps with weight loss that much. I'm exercising 4-5 times a week, and it isn't speeding up my weight loss because I'm eating in a similar deficit as I would be if I weren't exercising.
    I personally don't exercise for weight loss, I exercise for performance in my sport, and for the positive mental benefits it gives me. If I were exercising for weight loss I wouldn't be motivated to exercise because it really isn't helping with that.
  • EvgeniZyntxEvgeniZyntx Member Posts: 24,424 Member Member Posts: 24,424 Member
    Nikki10129 wrote: »
    Just a couple of comments on your post:
    600 calories daily can be attributed to exercise? What kind of exercise are you doing to burn 600 calories? I do a hardcore kickboxing class for 90 minutes and I'm not burning 600 calories doing that, even though I exercise regularly the rest of the week.

    Currently running 4x (over 25-30 km per week moving toward 40 km/week objective), 2 weight training sessions, 1 additional cross training session, 1 day off. Corresponds to a bit more than 700 cals/day. I probably weigh a little bit more than a 20 year old, female kick boxer, though ;).

    But exercise calorie burn may vary significantly based on level, weight and activity type...
  • CollieFitCollieFit Member Posts: 1,683 Member Member Posts: 1,683 Member
    seska422 wrote: »
    You can't outrun a calorie surplus.

    That kind of depends how far you can run. ;)

  • seska422seska422 Member, Premium Posts: 3,206 Member Member, Premium Posts: 3,206 Member
    CollieFit wrote: »
    seska422 wrote: »
    You can't outrun a calorie surplus.

    That kind of depends how far you can run. ;)

    If you eat more than you burn, you could run to the opposite side of the world and you still wouldn't lose weight. :p
    edited February 2016
  • CollieFitCollieFit Member Posts: 1,683 Member Member Posts: 1,683 Member
    seska422 wrote: »
    CollieFit wrote: »
    seska422 wrote: »
    You can't outrun a calorie surplus.

    That kind of depends how far you can run. ;)

    If you eat more than you burn, you could run to the opposite side of the world and you still wouldn't lose weight. :p

    My point is simple. A lot of people overeat, and then they come on the forums and cry about that pizza / box of chocolate biscuits etc etc. The answer they want to hear (and that plenty of people willingly give them) is "aaaawwww there you go, these things happen, tomorrow is another day..." when maybe what they need to hear is "okay, for every action there is a consequence, so you've exceeded your calories by 500, now get your butt down the gym and work it off!".
  • Nikki10129Nikki10129 Member Posts: 295 Member Member Posts: 295 Member
    Nikki10129 wrote: »
    Just a couple of comments on your post:
    600 calories daily can be attributed to exercise? What kind of exercise are you doing to burn 600 calories? I do a hardcore kickboxing class for 90 minutes and I'm not burning 600 calories doing that, even though I exercise regularly the rest of the week.

    Currently running 4x (over 25-30 km per week moving toward 40 km/week objective), 2 weight training sessions, 1 additional cross training session, 1 day off. Corresponds to a bit more than 700 cals/day. I probably weigh a little bit more than a 20 year old, female kick boxer, though ;).

    But exercise calorie burn may vary significantly based on level, weight and activity type...

    I definitely wouldn't say that's the norm, most people, to burn that many calories in ONE day would have to do some pretty intense exercise, which wouldn't be sustainable to do every day. I definitely wouldn't say the average person who exercises regularly can attribute a 600 calorie burn daily to their exercise. That's a huge overestimation.
    Nikki10129 wrote: »
    Also the comment on building/maintaining LBM while exercising isn't 100% true. That's going to depend on the exercises you do. You aren't going to be building muscle while eating at a deficit anyways, except for potentially a little bit at the beginning of a resistance program, and the idea that any form of exercise is going to maintain LBM more than doing no exercise isn't correct. If you're going to be doing a lot of steady state cardio exercises with no resistance training incorporated in (which is something a lot of people do) then you'll probably start losing more muscle than if you decided to just eat at a deficit. Muscle is a lot easier for the body to metabolize than fat, so it's the first thing the body is going to go for when working out if it's not regularly using those muscles.

    You're partially correct. The type of exercise does impact protein synthesis pathways but all exercise (ALL) has some LBM protective effect. And yes, it does indeed need to be balanced with the calorie burns from that exercise - if someone is creating larger deficits due to exercise then it becomes a race to between anabolic signaling and nutrient deficiency.

    If you eat at a 600 cal deficit and do no exercise, versus eat a 600 cal deficit with exercise (and eat back your exercise cals to assure that your deficit is only 600 cals) you will lose less LBM since the deficit is still only 600 cals but exercise creates a substrate utilisation requirement.

    Muscle isn't easier to metabolise than fat. The mechanisms are quite different, that is just a very incomplete view of energy utilisation and protein turnover.

    And I do realize it's quite a bit more complex than that. But muscle is going to be used more quickly than fat (if the muscles aren't being used) due to the fact that muscle maintenance requires far more energy than fat maintenance, which is why it increases your metabolic rate. If you aren't using the muscles there's a lot of wasted energy going towards maintenance, and so it's much easier to metabolize them for energy than it is to keep them and supply them with energy.

    I'll concede that if you make sure you're eating enough you won't be burning as much muscle, but it's still dependent on the types of exercise you're doing.

    I do think for overall fitness, exercise is better than no exercise, but for losing weight it still comes down to calories in vs calories out. If you exercise daily and burn 600 calories, but you eat all those calories back and eat over maintenance you are still going to gain weight, regardless of the fact that you're exercising.
  • Nikki10129Nikki10129 Member Posts: 295 Member Member Posts: 295 Member
    I guess what I'm saying is yes, exercise can help with weight loss, but it does so by increasing your caloric deficit or increasing your BMR. You can still gain weight while exercising: I've gained weight while exercising, and not the good bulking kind, the bad fluffy kind. People looking to lose weight and that's all they're looking to do, don't need to exercise.

    I know they say weight loss is 80% kitchen and 20% exercise, but honestly, weight loss is 100% in the kitchen, you could lay in bed all day and lose weight as long as you were in a deficit. You may not be super healthy, but you'd lose weight.

    Exercise benefits go beyond weight loss. Mental health, heart health, physical fitness, but I wouldn't necessarily say weight loss. When people ask me why I exercise, my answer isn't to lose weight, I eat in a calorie deficit to lose weight, I exercise for fitness.
  • EvgeniZyntxEvgeniZyntx Member Posts: 24,424 Member Member Posts: 24,424 Member
    Nikki10129 wrote: »
    Nikki10129 wrote: »
    Just a couple of comments on your post:
    600 calories daily can be attributed to exercise? What kind of exercise are you doing to burn 600 calories? I do a hardcore kickboxing class for 90 minutes and I'm not burning 600 calories doing that, even though I exercise regularly the rest of the week.

    Currently running 4x (over 25-30 km per week moving toward 40 km/week objective), 2 weight training sessions, 1 additional cross training session, 1 day off. Corresponds to a bit more than 700 cals/day. I probably weigh a little bit more than a 20 year old, female kick boxer, though ;).

    But exercise calorie burn may vary significantly based on level, weight and activity type...

    I definitely wouldn't say that's the norm, most people, to burn that many calories in ONE day would have to do some pretty intense exercise, which wouldn't be sustainable to do every day. I definitely wouldn't say the average person who exercises regularly can attribute a 600 calorie burn daily to their exercise. That's a huge overestimation.

    It's basically the equivalent of running 6 hrs a week (for a person at 135 lbs burns about that, someone at 190lbs, like me, gets a bit more...). Among my friends here on MFP, we have people doing twice that, so no, it isn't a huge over-estimation. Sure the average person might be burning a lot less - but it may reach that or more.

    Again on MFP some of my cycling friends exceed 5000 cals a week regularly on wilful exercise. Like I said "can" not "will". Your mileage may vary - but we are certainly "average people" with a little bit of endurance training.

    I'll get to the rest later, after my run/gym session.
  • 3dogsrunning3dogsrunning Member Posts: 27,238 Member Member Posts: 27,238 Member
    Nikki10129 wrote: »
    I guess what I'm saying is yes, exercise can help with weight loss, but it does so by increasing your caloric deficit or increasing your BMR. You can still gain weight while exercising: I've gained weight while exercising, and not the good bulking kind, the bad fluffy kind. People looking to lose weight and that's all they're looking to do, don't need to exercise.

    I know they say weight loss is 80% kitchen and 20% exercise, but honestly, weight loss is 100% in the kitchen, you could lay in bed all day and lose weight as long as you were in a deficit. You may not be super healthy, but you'd lose weight.

    Exercise benefits go beyond weight loss. Mental health, heart health, physical fitness, but I wouldn't necessarily say weight loss. When people ask me why I exercise, my answer isn't to lose weight, I eat in a calorie deficit to lose weight, I exercise for fitness.

    I think the point he is trying to make is that there may be reason to believe there is MORE to it than that when exercising.
    I also don't think he is trying to say ignore calorie intake, just exercise and you'll still lose weight.
    edited February 2016
  • Nikki10129Nikki10129 Member Posts: 295 Member Member Posts: 295 Member
    Nikki10129 wrote: »
    I guess what I'm saying is yes, exercise can help with weight loss, but it does so by increasing your caloric deficit or increasing your BMR. You can still gain weight while exercising: I've gained weight while exercising, and not the good bulking kind, the bad fluffy kind. People looking to lose weight and that's all they're looking to do, don't need to exercise.

    I know they say weight loss is 80% kitchen and 20% exercise, but honestly, weight loss is 100% in the kitchen, you could lay in bed all day and lose weight as long as you were in a deficit. You may not be super healthy, but you'd lose weight.

    Exercise benefits go beyond weight loss. Mental health, heart health, physical fitness, but I wouldn't necessarily say weight loss. When people ask me why I exercise, my answer isn't to lose weight, I eat in a calorie deficit to lose weight, I exercise for fitness.

    I think the point he is trying to make is that there may be reason to believe there is MORE to it than that when exercising.
    I also don't think he is trying to say ignore calorie intake, just exercise and you'll still lose weight.

    Oh yeah, I know he isn't saying ignore calories, just like I'm not saying don't exercise. All I'm saying is that it still comes down to calories in vs calories out, whether you exercise or not, for weight loss. Whatever changes exercise makes in your body, you still have to be eating fewer calories than you burn if you want to lose weight.

    I mean every point made in the original post has to do with a calorie deficit, you exercise, you burn more calories, you create a larger deficit. You retain more lean body mass, this results in a higher caloric burn daily, meaning it increases your caloric deficit. Being athletic increases your TRF, which increases the amount of energy used for nutrient consumption after eating, increasing your calorie deficit. I just don't see how that is "beyond a calorie deficit"?
  • ninerbuffninerbuff Member, Greeter Posts: 42,900 Member Member, Greeter Posts: 42,900 Member
    Nikki10129 wrote: »
    I do a hardcore kickboxing class for 90 minutes and I'm not burning 600 calories doing that, even though I exercise regularly the rest of the week.
    Really? You must be really light in weight then, because 600 calories in 90 minutes isn't that hard for someone in the 150lbs range to do if that's the duration.

    A.C.E. Certified Personal and Group Fitness Trainer
    IDEA Fitness member
    Kickboxing Certified Instructor
    Been in fitness for 30 years and have studied kinesiology and nutrition

    9285851.png

  • JustMissTracyJustMissTracy Member Posts: 6,389 Member Member Posts: 6,389 Member
    Nikki10129 wrote: »
    Just a couple of comments on your post:
    600 calories daily can be attributed to exercise? What kind of exercise are you doing to burn 600 calories? I do a hardcore kickboxing class for 90 minutes and I'm not burning 600 calories doing that, even though I exercise regularly the rest of the week.

    Also the comment on building/maintaining LBM while exercising isn't 100% true. That's going to depend on the exercises you do. You aren't going to be building muscle while eating at a deficit anyways, except for potentially a little bit at the beginning of a resistance program, and the idea that any form of exercise is going to maintain LBM more than doing no exercise isn't correct. If you're going to be doing a lot of steady state cardio exercises with no resistance training incorporated in (which is something a lot of people do) then you'll probably start losing more muscle than if you decided to just eat at a deficit. Muscle is a lot easier for the body to metabolize than fat, so it's the first thing the body is going to go for when working out if it's not regularly using those muscles.

    I don't argue that I agree exercise is good for overall fitness, but I honestly don't think it helps with weight loss that much. I'm exercising 4-5 times a week, and it isn't speeding up my weight loss because I'm eating in a similar deficit as I would be if I weren't exercising.
    I personally don't exercise for weight loss, I exercise for performance in my sport, and for the positive mental benefits it gives me. If I were exercising for weight loss I wouldn't be motivated to exercise because it really isn't helping with that.

    600 calorie burns are pretty normal for people who exercise regularly...
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