Disclaimer: I am and always will be pro-exercise – everybody who knows me thinks I’m nuts for getting up at 3AM to go get my dose of endorphins at the gym. So why would I be advising everybody else to ditch the gym? Read on…
With the New Year’s resolution time slowly approaching I thought I should put my word out to warn against rushing to sign up for gym memberships. Here is why I think you should at least hold off on dishing out the membership fees just yet:
- Exercise will not make you lose weight
- Exercise might make you gain weight
Those two statements are true mostly because you are likely following one of the two dietary recommendations:
- Fitness community dieting prescription of low-fat and low-carb or;
- Mainstream government dietary recommendations of low-fat and high-carb.
- There is a third option and you are likely scared to death of it so let me try to sway you….
Do you know who perpetuates the idea that in order to lose weight you need to eat less and exercise more? – the pseudo-food companies who fund research that tells us so!
The big food corporations give money to scientists who then manipulate the data in such a way that it fits the expected results. ¹ The media then ends up being the vehicle for transmission of this mantra : “Losing weight is dependent on calories in and calories out – as long as calories out is higher than calories in you will lose weight. So what do people do? They try to exercise the hell out of their bodies and then deprive themselves of nutrition in order to stay thin. We all know how much success one can get on that type of approach : 9 times out of 10 people lose the battle with the bulge because when they exercise as vigorously as they are told to, they are inadvertently fueling their hunger. They become ravenous, so they end up eating back all the calories they might have burnt during exercise and then some.
How many times have you heard people say “I exercise so that I can have that cake”? I dare say many a time. And those who don’t subscribe to the idea of “having earned the cake by exercising” and resist the bad foods will eventually cave in as well – no matter how much will power they exert on their bodies eventually they, too, will have to give in. Just look at any bodybuilding competitor who has starved themselves silly to get to a very low bodyfat percentage – once they won the trophy (or not) they will likely inhale all the forbidden high-carb foods (cookies, ice cream, cakes etc) and within days will pack on everything back that they worked so hard to lose. I say this without a drop of judgement on my part – hell I have tons of respect for anybody who can deprive themselves to make their skin look paper thin! What happens next is beyond anybody’s control – when the body is starved for nutrition no amount of will power will keep a person away from food for long.
This happens because the fitness dieting mantra goes something like this :
To lose weight – in addition to exercise – you should eat low-fat and low-carb.
In principle it makes sense, because if you deprive yourself of both energy sources – fat and carbs – your body will eventually tap into your stored body fat. However, in practice it is highly unsustainable and unhealthy. It’s impossible to maintain this type of regime even for the most committed diehards out there. You will eventually crack and chances are you will devour everything around you in search of nutrition and energy – high carb, high fat and everything in between. That’s why instead of focusing on exercise you should first focus on FOOD as your primary tool in losing the bulge not exercise.
There is, of course, a flipside to this and it’s called the food pyramid that will have you eating 65-75% of
your daily caloric intake in the form of starchy carbohydrates and a very low fat intake of 5%-10%. So you might think this is the better option since carbohydrates, being an energy source, will keep you feeling energized – as opposed to the fitness approach that cuts out both energy sources, fat and carbs. But you would be wrong. For most people eating such a large percentage of daily caloric intake in the form of carbs has an exactly opposite effect to that of losing weight – it makes you put on weight. On top of high carb intake the food pyramid recommends eating 5-6 small meals a day – if every meal is composed primarily of carbohydrates your body is producing insulin all day long to try to manage blood glucose by storing some of it as glycogen in the liver and muscle and any excess as fat on your body. Remember, your liver and muscle can store only a limited amount of glycogen and if you are constantly fueling your body with carbs you are bound to exceed those stores. And since most of us lead a very sedentary life we don’t need that much energy from food stored away. You might be thinking you need energy for that gym visit but trust me, you don’t need any extra than what’s already stored in your muscle. So eating a high-carb and low-fat diet is not the answer for most of us either because it’s counterintuitive to losing weight.
So what’s the solution? Are we all bound to be either miserable for the lack of fuel (low-carb and low-fat) if we follow the fitness industry’s guidelines or fat and sick (high-carbs and low-fat) if we follow the food pyramid? The answer of course is to flip the contents of the food pyramid on its head and get rid of the current, largest section of
bread, cereals, potatoes and all starchy vegetables! The largest section would contain meats and fish followed by full fat dairy and oils (coconut, lard, butter, ghee, duck fat, etc), the next level will feature nuts, seeds and fibrous veggies and at the very top you’d have a choice of some berries that are low in sugar.
If you eat LCHF diet you will find that:
- You will regulate your hormones – you will end the perpetual cycle of insulin flooding your body every time you eat – this is very important because insulin is the fat-storing hormone. It’s released in your body when carbohydrates are consumed converting glucose from those carbohydrates into liver and muscle glycogen and directing all excess glucose into fat storage. This does not happen when dietary fat is used for energy – no insulin spikes occur.
- You will feel full quicker – since fat is the most calorically dense of all 3 macronutrients it satiates better than the other two (carbs and protein). So as a result you will feel content with your meal quicker and for a longer period of time. Moreover, you might even find that upon waking up you will not feel the need to eat. How liberating would that be to wake up and not have to fix yourself a breakfast because you are just not hungry?
- You will not experience hunger pangs the same way as when you try to restrict your food intake on a regular high-carb or low-carb-low-fat diet. Your hunger will not manifest itself as this sudden, painful, alarming fire in your belly that needs to be extinguished ASAP or else you might die. It will come on gently and gradually, as if to give you time to fix a meal.
Only now, if you still feel like you want to (and you will) would I recommend that you start some form of exercise. But not necessarily gym-centered – instead start slow. Go out for a walk or a hike that is not very strenuous – as a result you won’t come home starved. You can, of course, eventually sign up for a gym membership, but remember food comes first.
If you continue to subscribe to the mainstream mantra of deprivation (high-carb and low-fat) and excessive exercise you will always lose the battle – it’s inevitable. The insulin perpetually floating around in your system will not let you lose any weight no matter how much you exercise because that’s its principal role in your body – to get rid of the blood glucose – insulin will direct it to the muscle and liver glycogen to be used as energy later, but those can only store a limited amount of it, the rest will be converted into fat and deposited on your belly, thighs and butt. However if, on the other hand, you continue in the vain of low-carb and low-fat – the fitness industry’s quick fix for losing weight – you will sooner or later break and eat everything in sight because one can only starve their bodies for so long until it all goes to hell.
I leave you with this little 15 minute video to really peak your interest in starting with the right tools in the fight against the scale – food and use exercise for other purposes.