5 Reasons Why You Should Exercise Less if You’re Trying to Lose Weight

lose weight

   Have you decided to lose weight?  Great!  Let’s discuss five important reasons why exercising less may be more helpful in losing weight.  Most of us have been incorrectly taught from early childhood that in trying to lose weight, one should eat less and exercise more.  However, new science and evidence shows that may not be true.  In fact, exercise does not help you lose weight.  A healthy diet is what helps you lose weight.  Furthermore, excessive exercise may negate your hard work to lose weight.  This article will give you five reasons why you shouldn’t fall into the trap.

Reason #1:  Exercise is good, but it does not help you lose weight.

     If you consume calories in excess of your daily caloric needs, resulting in a positive energy balance, you will gain weight regardless of daily exercise.  This is especially true if the source is carbohydrate rich foods such as table sugar, soda, candy, pastries, bread, pasta, and rice.  Calories these foods have a high “glycemic index” that raise the level of blood sugar and insulin.  The insulin level rises in response to a high blood sugar, but the insulin lingers around in your blood system longer than sugar, causing you to have rebound hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) several hours later, which makes you even hungrier, causing you to eat more. 

     You may not even be eating a lot food or a big volume of food, but if you are making poor food choices, you are more likely to consume extra calories and gain weight.  For example, when you eat a sweet, fluffy donut for breakfast, you are consuming between 200-600 calories, depending on the size of the donut.  However, you are consuming only a small volume of food that does not fill you up, causing you to remain hungry.  The calories from a donut are not providing you much nutrition; just a lot of sugar.  The donut has a high glycemic index which will raise your blood sugar very high, very quickly, followed by low blood sugar a few hours later, causing you to crave more sugar.  This is where sugary foods are so addicting. 

     Before you know it, you are not only addicted to sugar, but you have also formed a terrible habit and gained a lot of weight.  Unfortunately, you cannot possibly reverse the deleterious effects of all that sugar at the gym, because you are training your brain to get a sugar high, followed by low sugar, and repeating the cycle daily.  There is no way to break the bad habit or the addiction to sugar by going to the gym. 

     Unfortunately, eating “empty calories” such as candy won’t provide nutrition to your body.  Even though you eat food, your body is starved for vitamins and minerals essential in keeping a healthy metabolism.  If your body is starving for nutrients, it is likely to send the wrong signal to stimulate you to eat more, rather than stimulate you to eat healthy.  The brain is not sophisticated enough to send a signal to notify you to eat healthier; it just sends a hunger signal to stimulate you to eat more, in hopes of eventually getting the essential nutrients. 

     This becomes a vicious cycle that ends up in weight gain.  If you overindulge and eat too many calories, it is highly improbable to burn off those extra calories at the gym, because you would have to work out intensely for several hours to accomplish that goal.  For example, you would have to do an hour of cardio on the treadmill to burn of one donut, and that is not worth it.  So unless you are a construction worker for a living, and lift heavy weights at the gym for an hour per day, please don’t include the GYM as part of your weight loss plan.

     Replace your empty calories and foods that are high in sugar, with non-processed whole foods, vegetables, lean meats, and fruits that contain “good calories” which provide your body essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, and good fats. 

     Remember that exercise is good for your cardiovascular system, musculoskeletal system, and the brain, but you cannot outrun a bad diet at the gym.  By eating too much, and too many bad calories as described above, you are getting far too many calories that you cannot burn off at the gym because it is nearly impossible.  So if you are trying to lose weight, remember that exercise is good, but it won’t help you lose weight.

Reason #2:  Appetite control.

     You may have noticed that during exercise or in the immediate period after a workout, your appetite actually is very well controlled and you are less hungry.  Most of us don’t even think about food while we exercise.  This is because exercise tends to increase your “feel good” hormones, such as endorphins and decrease certain hormone levels such as ghrelin, which is the hunger hormone, thereby restricting your appetite.  Additionally, during exercise the majority of blood circulation occurs within the musculature outside of the digestive tract. 

     This is nature’s fight or flight system.  If you are running away from a tiger, the majority of blood circulation is concentrated in the muscles to escape the tiger, rather than the gastrointestinal tract where food digestion occurs.  When you’re escaping a tiger, you don’t need circulation to your gastrointestinal tract to aid digestion; you need to run to save your life.  In the modern world where there are no tigers around, where the majority of physical activity occurs in the gym setting, the concept remains the same.  You don’t need to eat during exercise and your appetite is controlled.  Of course, a few hours after a workout you tend to get hungry to repair muscle and replenish nutrients.   

     Here’s the tricky part: if you happen to have an unusually intense workout and after several hours of such intense exercise, suddenly your appetite goes through the roof and you start craving a lot of food.  I have personally noticed that after an intense exercise, the appetite rises out of proportion, where the body constantly craves food.  This is a great opportunity for bodybuilders who are trying to achieve muscle bulk.  They have to eat every two hours to keep repairing muscle damage and gain weight in the form of muscle mass.  Again, this usually occurs after an intense weightlifting workout. 

     My suggestion is that in order to control your appetite, you may want to consider an exercise routine that is not so intense that it ruins your natural appetite balance, but also does not cause food cravings that will negate your hard work at the gym.  You are not trying to get bulky and muscular; rather, you want to lose weight.  Go to the gym, engaging in weightlifting, but for a short duration of time (25 minutes) and only engage in a moderately intense exercise routine.  This will keep your appetite in check so you don’t feel tempted to overeat afterwards.  Also, skip the tendency to reward yourself with junk food because you went to the gym.

Reason #3:  Time.

    Your time is precious if you are trying to multi-task a busy lifestyle with a family, career, and trying to take care of your health and physique at the same time.  Very few people have a lot of time to spend at the gym.  If you are extremely busy, it’s unlikely that you would have two extra hours during the day to dedicate to the gym or working out.  As a physician and a mom, I know that planning a 60 to 90-minute workout during the day is nearly impossible. 

   It isn’t just the time you spend at the gym working out, but you have to also consider travel time to and from the gym, as well as getting changed and ready for work afterwards.  It may be possible to sustain a 60 to 90 minute workout in the short-term, but it can’t be sustainable in the long-term.  I just don’t have that luxury.  So if you’re a busy individual like me, it is impossible to be able to spend hours at the gym, so don’t count on it just to get disappointed later and blame yourself for being a failure. 

     Respect your time and be realistic when setting your goals, because sustainability is the key to success.  Remember that if you are planning to spend several hours at the gym, it would be nearly impossible to sustain a workout routine where you could go to the gym every day.  Organize your time where you go to the gym every single day, but only spend a maximum of 25 minutes at the gym.  If you do that, you are more likely sustain that schedule, because 25 minutes is not a lot of time and most people can afford to adjust their schedule to take care of their body. 

     If you set a reasonable goal of 25 minutes a day, you are likely to go every single day and not miss a day.  If, however, you decide you want to plan two hours at the gym, you are less likely to go because on a daily basis, there are going to be urgent life matters that will come at you and prevent you from sticking to your 60-90 minute routine.  In turn, these urgent matters may cause you to cut from your exercise time in attending to those needs.  The reality is that you wind up missing your workout.

Reason #4:  Habit.

     We are creatures of habit.  If we find a good routine that works, we are more likely to habitually stick to it.  Habits are important to form in our life to ensure consistency and successful long-term results.  There is a famous saying: “Success comes from building consistent daily habits.”  If you make healthy eating and daily exercise a daily habit, while trying to implement a reasonable daily routine for yourself, you are more likely to achieve and sustain a shapely body. 

   Of course, it takes about six to12 months to form a new habit and replace unhealthy habits with healthy ones.  As far as exercise is concerned, the caveat is that you are not spending more than 25 minutes at the gym; therefore, it would be easier to form that habit.  Again, once you decide to work out every single day and make a healthy exercise habit in your busy life, you have to set a reasonable goal in the first place so you don’t eventually break the habit.  

Reason #5:  Recovery Time.

     Have you ever had a very long, exhausting workout at the gym where you woke up the next day and felt like you were hit by a Mack truck?  Well, I know I have.  Several years ago, I used to spend 90 minutes at the gym, where I worked out on the cardio machines for 30 minutes to warm up, and then met with a trainer who helped me lift weights for an hour.  Of course, I always pressured him to push me because I wanted to get into good shape quickly.  I thought I would accomplish more by working out for long hours, thinking that I would get more profound results. 

     Unfortunately, to my dismay, I had some disappointing and eyebrow-lowering results.  What happened is the following day and up to 72 hours after such a heavy workout, I was so exhausted and sore that I could hardly get out of bed.  I experienced daytime fatigue and overslept every morning.  Furthermore, my body was so sore that I could barely work out for three days subsequent the heavy sessions, and my appetite was so out of control that I constantly ate.  As a result, I gained more muscle but did not lose weight.  I was unable to convert the fat to muscle, which was my primary goal.  

     I became very discouraged because I was working out very hard and wasn’t seeing results that I wanted.  Now, I know the trick where I exercise less, have a quick recovery time, work out every single day, control my appetite, and manipulate my calories the way I wish.  Heavy workouts not only cause severe fatigue and post-workout soreness, but they also inhibit you from maintaining a daily workout habit. 

     Your appetite will increase to the point where it is out of control and you will end up consuming calories out of proportion to what your body actually requires.  Furthermore, if you are a busy individual with a full-time job and don’t plan your diet very well, it will seem easier to reach for the cookies and junk food.  It’s not how hard you work out; it’s all about consistency.  If you work out for a shorter period while pushing yourself to a limit where you’re not severely exhausted the next one to three days post-workout, you’re more likely to stay consistent, work out every single day, not overeat, and lose weight. 

     In conclusion, if you want to lose weight, do not try to accomplish it at the gym.  Focus more on your nutrition and less on the exercise.  Eat a lot of healthy foods that are full of nutrition.  When trying to lose weight, you have to control your portions and eat fewer calories to create a negative energy balance.  So do not waste your limited precious calories on empty carbohydrates like table sugar.  Almost every single calorie you put in your mouth should be of significant nutritious value that helps your metabolism where your body doesn’t feel starved.  Finally, spend no more than 25 minutes at the gym in a healthy, consistent, daily, and moderate exercise program that helps keep you healthy and improves your metabolism. 


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