Why More Exercise Doesn’t Cause Long-Term Fat Loss


Hey, what’s up everybody. Jonathan Bailor back with another back INTHEOS-?? class. Always love coming to you here on this wonderful INTHEOS platform. And today, part 1 of a 2-part class which is really, really cool. And it’s talking about one, a counterintuitive but empowering SANE solution, and that is how we can exercise less but smarter to burn fat and boost health. So hopefully you’re familiar with my work to the point where you know that eating more but of the right kinds of foods is really the key to long-term health. And then, once we’re healthy, fat loss ensues and a bunch of other goodness ensues. But, people aren’t sometimes as familiar with the other half of my work which has to do with exercising less but smarter. So I really want to dig into that with you today, and it’s quite a paradigm shift. So it might take a second to wrap your head around it, but I promise you that once you do, you’ll never be the same, and you’re going to save a heck of a lot of time as well.

So let’s just jump into these top 10 big ideas shall we. First, just starting with a joke, and this joke is from Ellen DeGeneres who I know a lot you hopefully like as much as I do, and Ellen once said, “My grandmother. She started walking five miles a day when she was 60. She’s 97 today, and we don’t know where the hell she is.” Just a joke. I’m sure Ellen knows exactly where her grandmother is. But the point of this first big idea of being on purpose and not wandering is exercise is incredibly goal-specific. So exercise is often presented to us as this panacea just to exercise, and if you do exercise, everything is better. Exercise, like anything else, so exercising your body, just like exercising your mind, is very goal-specific. So with your mind, for example, if you want to become better at doing calculus, doing calculus will make you better at doing calculus. Potentially reading Plato will not make you better at doing calculus. But they’re both studying. Right? We’re sometimes led to believe that all exercise is good for all things which is not true. If you want to become a better shot-putter, you’re not going to do the same exercises if you want to become a good golfer. So this first big idea is really important because when I talk about exercising, when we talk about exercising in this class and the next class, we’re talking about exercise to heal your body. So this is not exercise for athletic performance. This is not exercise to make you a better cross-fitter. Chances are it will do those things, but just understand that exercise is extremely goal-specific. This is why triathletes train differently than sprinters who train differently than marathon runners. So we have to be on purpose. We don’t want to wander, and that’s why exercising less but smarter is so unique and cool. Because it is a unique prescription for a specific problem, and that is metabolic dysfunction and things along those lines. Anyway, that’s the first big idea.

The second big idea is that there is this general mythology that exercise is a very effective — and when I say exercise, I mean the exercise we’re always told about which are things like walking and jogging and cardio — that these are really effective treatments for obesity. And the more and more science you read, the more you see clearly that while exercise is pretty much, generally speaking, exercise is good for you. Something can be good for you and not help you lose weight. For example, reading. Great for you. Reading stimulates your mind, but it doesn’t help you lose weight. I know that might seem like a silly analogy, but something can be good for you and good for your health and not helpful for weight loss. Hopefully that makes sense. Exercise fits in that bucket, and we’re going to talk specifically about the exercises that do and do not help with weight loss or, more specifically, fat loss. And forgive me, if I ever say weight loss, what I really mean is fat loss. Because there are all sorts of unhealthy things you can do to lose weight. That’s not what we’re after. We’re after losing excess fat.

So the big idea here is that one of the big challenges that general cardiovascular exercise has when it comes to not effectively causing weight loss is just like exercise makes you sweat more, and sweating more makes you drink more automatically. Exercise does make you burn more calories. It absolutely does. But, your body tries to maintain balance in all things. This is called homeostasis. So if you exercise and you sweat more, you drink more automatically. If you exercise and you do burn more calories, you just eat more. And this has been proven in study after study after study. And it’s not to say that eating is bad. Eating the right kinds of foods is great. But I’m sure we all understand that we can eat 300 calories literally in 30 seconds. It’s not hard to eat 300 calories. If you want to jog off 300 calories, you need to jog for about an hour. So using exercise in general to play this calorie game is really a losing battle. Because if you exercise, it is a noncontroversial scientific fact that cardiovascular exercise makes you hungry because your body is trying to balance you out. It’s also noncontroversial that it’s a lot easier to eat calories than to burn calories. So if you’re exercising to try to manipulate this calorie equation, that’s a really, really tough battle to fight, and I’d recommend that you stop worrying about calories and think about exercising a different hormonal way which we’ll get into in a second. So that’s the second big idea here is that exercise, yes, it does burn calories, but burning more calories just makes you want to eat more calories, and it’s a heck of a lot easier to eat calories than it is to burn them.

The third big idea has to do with exercise and obesity. The general correlation people think, when they think about obesity and they think about exercise, is they think that inactivity causes obesity. Now just the opposite is true. What the research actually shows is not that inactivity causes obesity but that obesity causes inactivity. So let’s unpack that for a second. When someone becomes obese, physical movement is painful. Anyone who’s obese can attest to this. It’s not easy to move when you’re carrying 100 pounds of excess fat on your body. So is it true that individuals who have a huge amount of excess fat on their body may be less physically active than individuals who are not? Yes, that very well may be true. But is their inactivity the cause of their obesity. And the answer is very clearly no if you look at the scientific literature. But what the scientific literature does, in fact, show is that when we do gain excess weight, the metabolic consequences of doing that, not only do they make moving just harder, therefore compromising our ability to do it, but they also have impacts on our energy levels. And when we have no energy, it’s also very difficult for us to be motivated to move. So the common belief that inactivity causes obesity is 100 percent a myth. In fact, the more active you are, again, the more you just eat. So that whole thing gets thrown out the window.

But it is true that individuals who are overweight have a hard time exercising. And that’s also why telling an overweight person who, frankly, struggles more than anyone with being physically active, that what they need to do to lose weight is to be more physically active is a bit of a losing battle. The reason they’re not exercising is not because they’re lazy or stupid. The reason they’re not exercising is because it’s extremely painful to do so. And there is no more heartbreaking example of this than overweight children. Two examples about how inactivity doesn’t cause obesity and then how torturing people with excessive exercise to try to help them lose weight is not a good idea. If you go into say an inner city grade school, or any school that has a high percentage of children eating school-provided meals because of socioeconomic concerns. These children have a very homogenous experience, a homogeneous lifestyle. They’re all fairly inactive, they’re all playing video games, they’re all on their phones, and they’re all eating basically the same stuff, what their school provides to them. You won’t see the children that are not overweight just running around and being more active. And you won’t see the children who are overweight just sitting in the corner, not being active. All of the children are inactive. Some of them are overweight and some are not. But what often happens is we then tell the overweight children go run, go run, go run which just really hurts them. It makes them feel bad about themselves and makes them have a negative perception of exercise which really isn’t helpful. Remember, if inactivity caused obesity, then if you looked at an equally inactive set of the population, such as children, why is there such a divergence in children’s weight. If they’re all inactive, shouldn’t they all be obese? But they’re not. So there has to be some other explanation, and when we hold food intake constant, such as in these controlled environment such as school settings, something else has to be going on. So that’s really our third big idea is challenging this relationship between obesity and exercise. What’s the cause and what’s the solution.

What that leads to is our fourth big idea which is that at the end of the day, the cause of obesity is now unequivocally clear. It’s low-quality inputs. More specifically, it’s low-quality food, it’s a highly obesogenic environment, stress, lack of sleep. It’s the wrong stuff, the wrong signals being sent into your body. So you can exercise all day and twice on Sundays, and you’re eating toxic, addictive stuff that your body isn’t designed or hasn’t evolved to digest, you are going to become metabolically clogged, diabetic, and have a bunch of other negative impacts even if you don’t become overweight. Just like if you smoke cigarettes and still jog a lot, you may still get lung cancer even though you are cardiovascularly fit because you jog a lot, but because cigarettes cause inextricable damage to your lungs regardless of what else you do. And when exercise becomes a big challenge here because let’s think back to those children. If a child has terrible eating habits, so we know we have terrible eating habits. So we know when they eat, they’re going to eat toxic, addictive foods. Let’s just say that’s true. Assume it’s true. They’re going to eat Dingdongs and HoHos and Twinkies and drink soda. And then we say, well the only solution to obesity is to make them more active. So they’re going to eat Dingdongs and HoHos, we’re like they’ve got to be more active, and we know that the more active they are, the hungrier they’re going to be. So now we have a situation where a child who already doesn’t like to exercise because it’s painful for them is forced to do an activity which makes them hate that activity, which makes them hungrier, which makes them eat more of the substances which caused them to be obese in the first place. It’s a bit like if jogging made an alcoholic want to drink more alcohol. Or if jogging made someone who is addicted to cigarette smoking want to smoke more cigarettes.

Be very clear here, we’re not saying oh my gosh, we should all sit around and not be physically active. But what we need to understand is just like we wouldn’t say oh, you’re trying to quit smoking. The answer is to jog more. If you’re trying to lose fat and heal your body, the answer is not to jog more. The answer is to stop putting things into your body that caused that problem in the first place. And that logic is really important. That’s a big idea in and of itself. Anytime someone says, for example, the solution to obesity is to jog more. People didn’t jog historically. Aerobic exercise wasn’t even a term that we used until the 1960s. In fact, it was 1968, the release of a book called Aerobics by Dr. Kenneth Cooper that first introduced the term aerobics. So nobody did aerobics, or at least no one thought that they were doing aerobics prior to that. We didn’t have an obesity epidemic. So any time someone says you have to do X to solve problem Y, but nobody did X before we had problem Y, it seems odd. That logic just doesn’t fit. So you don’t need to jog more. What you need to do is avoid the cause of the problem. The cause of the problem is big idea number four which is low-quality food.

Big idea five. I want to provide a very concrete mathematical example of some of the concepts that we’ve talked about so far. And that is one, how calorie math, if that’s what you’re doing. I already have some thoughts about that which you can read in my book, The Calorie Myth. It doesn’t add up. But further, it can actually make the problem worse. So let’s talk about this exercise trap. Let’s talk about calorie math specifically. Let’s say you go for a 30-minute jog with the intention of burning fat through calorie math. Remember, exercise is goal-specific. If you’re going for a 30-minute because it makes you feel great and it relaxes you and it’s a way you bond with your friends and it accomplishes those goals, do it. But so many of us exercise as almost a form of punishment and we feel like we have to do it. And that’s not fun. And if it doesn’t yield the results we’re after, which is fat loss, then we should do something else. So let’s take a specific example.

Let’s say we have someone named Michelle. Michelle does not like jogging. Michelle is overweight, so jogging is actually physically painful for her. It causes a bunch of damage to her joints and ligaments. But let’s say she listens to her very dictatorial, boot camp-style trainer who tells her that she’s flawed, and she just needs to try harder. So she goes for a 30-minute jog. On that 30-minute jog, she does burn 170 additional calories. And then she comes back home and she’s like man, I listened to that talk Jonathan gave, I’m going to work really hard, and I’m not going to eat any additional food despite the fact that I am now very, very hungry which, again, we can all empathize with. You go on a long hike, you just want to eat everything in sight afterwards. So she comes back, she’s like I’m just not going to do it. I am intentionally not going to eat anything else. But she sits down for dinner, and she ends up unconsciously drinking an extra 12-ounce glass of milk. She’s thirsty, mild does a body good, she wants milk mustache. Twelve ounces of milk has 183 calories in it. During that jog, she burned 170 calories. So she’s actually net plus 13 calories and spent a half hour less with her family and went through all that pain, and she’s still no better off in terms of calorie math which doesn’t matter. But you can still see how futile of an exercise this is.

So let’s take that even further to big idea number six. Michelle is acting in a way that most people don’t act. She’s consciously fighting and I’m not going to do anything, and she accidentally drinks an extra glass of milk. What most people do is most people believe that, for example, the electrolytes. They need to drink some sort of sweetened power juice to fuel their exercise. And this has actually been proven a lot in scientific literature which his when we do long duration exercise, it causes an impact in our brain which makes us think that we can do things that we wouldn’t do otherwise. I exercised this morning, so I can eat this piece of cake tonight. It causes that. Whereas if you didn’t exercise, you wouldn’t have that thought. It’s a big like the old indulgences. Where back in the day in the church, you could actually pay money to be forgiven for your sins. We sometimes perceive exercise that way. It’s like I exercised, so now I can do this.

But here’s the challenge with that. Again, besides the fact that if you eat toxic substances and you burn calories exercising, that’s great. You burned calories, but you haven’t done anything about the toxic substances. But again, even back to the calorie thing, we’re going to lose that battle. So imagine again we have a 30-minute jog, and we do what the media tells us. We drink 24 ounces of sports drink to ensure that we perform well during that jog. So we burned 170 calories, that sports drink has about 189 calories in it, so we’re already up 19 calories. So we have a half hour less of our day, plus now we’re at net plus 19 calories. But then say we just do what our body tells us to do. Our body will say I’m hungry now. Because that sweetened beverage was probably sweetened with fructose which is not going to satisfy you. This is why you can drink 600 calories worth of soda and be hungrier. So you’ve already taken in this sweetened power drink. You’re up 19 calories on the whole. And then you’re hungry. So you listen to your body, and you accidentally eat an extra half serving of dinner which his maybe fettuccine alfredo. Not a huge deal, you just scoop a little bit more on the plate because I’m hungry and I just jogged, so I kind of deserve to eat this. So let’s combine all those things. That extra half serving of fettuccine alfredo has nearly 400 calories, it’s at about 390. So you went for a 30-minute jog, that’s 30 minutes less that you could spend on other things that you enjoy way more, and now you’ve ingested nearly 600 calories from low-quality sources, so you’re up 409 calories, plus you’ve taken in all this toxic nonsense. You can see, again, it doesn’t really work out super well. And if this just seems like this is overwhelming, how did we end up in a world like this. There are a lot of people working against us when it comes to using exercise correctly versus incorrectly. Exercise can be brilliant for us. Exercise can be great for our health when it’s done consciously, and it can be do great things for fat loss when done correctly. But it’s not the way we’ve been taught about it.

So how did we end up here? That’s big idea number seven. The food industry is actually very aware of all of the science and psychology we’ve talked about today. In fact, when you read the article associated with this class, you’ll see that the Advisory Board for the American Council of Fitness and Nutrition is headed by companies like Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Hershey’s, Sarah Lee, Kellogg’s, Kraft, General Mills, Campbell Soup, Conagra, Delmonte. I mean just think about, for example, frosted flakes. How they market to children. They say “eat frosted flakes to fuel your play.” And think about how all these food manufacturers, they’re the ones out there on the front line saying hey, it’s no problem to eat our sugary nonsense, you just need to be more active to cancel it out. Because one, they know first of all that that gives you permission to eat their sugary nonsense, but then now we know that the more you exercise, the more of your sugary nonsense you’re going to want as a result. So that can become sort of a one, two punch that we really want to avoid.

So it really is good business for these mega corporations, but it’s bad for our health. And that’s big idea number eight. They know this, and that’s why they’re encouraging so much physical activity. And there’s no better example of this than a quote from the National Soft Drink Association. This is an organization that helps to promote soft drink awareness and, in some cases, what they claim are the health benefits of soft drinks. Here’s a great example of what we’re talking about. This is a literal quote. The National Soft Drink Association advises us to, quoting directly, “Consume at least 8 glasses of fluids daily. Even more when you exercise. A variety of beverages, including soft drinks, can contribute to proper hydration.” Wait a minute. Quite sketchy. No? So the big idea here is that we’ve got to look at why we’re exercising. We’ve got to look at where we’re getting our exercise information, and we have to focus our exercise on our goals.

So I want to close this class with the final two big ideas which is first and foremost, let’s be very clear. Being active is fabulous for your health. I’m standing right now. I work at a standing desk. I try to walk as much as I can, and the science is super clear. The more active you are, the healthier and happier you will be. In fact, many scientific studies have shown that certain types of activity can have as powerful antidepressant effects as actual antidepressant medication. But so often, exercise is not used as an antidepressant. So often exercise is used as a depressant. It’s used as a form of punishment, and it’s something that we dread, and that causes us to be less active in general. So I’d encourage us to be active, and I’d encourage us to focus our exercise on specific goals. Move, be active, stand up. That’s brilliant for you. But if you’re doing exercise in an effort to manipulate this calorie equation, I can promise you that your time and effort would be better spent elsewhere, and that’s what we’ll talk about in our next class.

I’m Jonathan Bailor, and if this has been helpful, please be sure to check out sanesolution.com. Again, that’s sanesolution.com for a bunch of free interactive tools, and you can learn a lot more there. Chat with you soon.