The Dark Side of Exercise


Carrie: Welcome to the Smarter Science of Slim show with a giggling Jonathon Bailor. Oh, and I’m Carrie Brown, by the way.

Jonathon: Carrie is running on an endorphins high, because she was kind enough to bring — we did our recording session a little bit later today, and she brought over some SANE dinner of incredible — you can tell them what they are because I’m just going to destroy them. But I think we’re both — we have our SANE endorphins going right now, so watch out.

Carrie: It was sausage and kale soup. Yes, lovely listeners, I ate kale, and SANE chili.

Jonathon: They were both fabulous. The satiety of these substances was phenomenal. I ate not — I normally eat my dinner out of this gigantic — it’s a mixing bowl.

Carrie: It’s a trough.

Jonathon: I think they call those troughs.

Carrie: It’s a trough is what it is.

Jonathon: But yes, quite delicious. Very excited. Are we able to talk about when you anticipate these being available to the public?

Carrie: I’m hoping two weeks.

Jonathon: We’re recording this podcast three months before it is going to air. In what month do you think these will be out?

Carrie: I’m hoping that you’ve now had them for two-and-a-half months.

Jonathon: They are found in a book.

Carrie: They are, which is called something.

Jonathon: There will be a book that is a follow-up to Carrie’s awesome ice cream book, and it’s about soups.

Carrie: It will have “soups” in the title, and it will be written by Carrie Brown. If you type that into a search engine or Amazon, that will be enough.

Jonathon: Type in “Carrie Brown” and “delicious soups.” Just type in “Carrie Brown” and “delicious” anything, and you’ll probably get some good search results. Carrie, you know what is delicious?

Carrie: What is delicious?

Jonathon: Deliciousness is the topic of today’s podcast. The topic of today’s show is the dark side of exercise.

Carrie: As you know, I’m not entirely convinced there is any other side to exercise than dark. However, you may continue.

Jonathon: So we’ve already covered the role that exercise plays in curing the disease that is obesity and metabolic syndrome and hormonal dysregulation. That is there are two aspects. One is very low-impact, very high-intensity, safe exercise, such as eccentric resistance training or high-intensity, no-impact interval training. We especially like doing that on upright stationary bikes. Those are phenomenal because of the hormonal change they cause in our body. Then also restorative forms of exercise, such as yoga, tai chi — those types of things — Pilates — fabulous for you.

But then there is everything else, which is — remember, we do not consider movement exercise. So if it’s just part of being a person — for example, walking around — that’s being a person. That’s not exercise. You don’t get points for walking around. You don’t get points for breathing. We don’t get points for taking the stairs. That’s just being a human being.

But Carrie, there are a bunch of other things involving exercise that are not so good. You were telling me a story which I think typifies this. Can you share this with the listeners?

Carrie: I saw a post on Facebook recently where a couple was going on vacation or extended leave or business or something. Anyway, they were going to be gone for about six weeks, and the post was, “We have our personal trainer who comes to our house Monday, Wednesday, Friday. She will be available for somebody else while we’re gone. If you would like to work with her, here are her details.” The cost was $50 a session. My brain nearly exploded because in my little quick mathness (??), that’s $600 a month just on exercise.

Jonathon: Because she came three times a week.

Carrie: She comes Monday, Wednesday, Friday to their house, $50 a pop, $600 a month on exercise. I don’t know about you, but I just couldn’t do that. I wouldn’t even spend that much money, but I would rather spend money on increasing the level of quality of my food than exercise knowing that I could do — buy a dumbbell and do your eccentric exercises for twenty minutes at home on my own a week. Spend that extra money on food, and the results that I got would be significantly different and better than if I spent $600 on exercise alone.

Jonathon: Absolutely. The thing that really stuck with me about this story — this is coming from someone who made their living as a personal trainer; keep that in mind. That was my profession. That is what led to all of this. I was a trainer, and I did the traditional eat less, exercise more, and I saw how ineffective it was firsthand. That’s what led to the ten years of research, so on and so forth. But in this situation, I know some people who are like, “I like exercising.” Someone who’s paying a person $150 a week to force them to exercise in their own house is clearly not someone who likes exercising. So in this specific scenario, we have a group of people who don’t like exercises. They are not exercising for fun, and then they’re taking time — I would assume that these are probably at least one-hour sessions.

So assume 15 minutes to get ready, minimum, an hour for the session and then 15 minutes of transition time. So at least an hour-and-a-half. That’s four-and-a-half hours per week. That’s $150. In four-and-a-half hours per week — let’s cut that in half. Let’s say a little under two-and-a-half hours and let’s say half that money, $75. If you were to add $75 to your food budget and you were to add two hours and 15 minutes to the time you spend in the kitchen, you would freakin’ transform every single aspect of your life, like Carrie said, more profoundly and in less time and with less effort — because you have to eat — than you would in that scenario.

I think it’s a great story to share, Carrie, because if you’re going to spend time and money, please, please if you don’t just exercise for fun — if you’re like Carrie and me and you don’t enjoy exercising — spend them on food first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and then maybe exercise seventh.

Carrie: That last statement just made me so happy. One, two, three, four, five, six on food, and seven on exercise.

Jonathon: The reason seven is there is I recently bought a — I didn’t own an upright stationary bike, because I just did eccentric exercise once a week. So I didn’t do the interval workouts, because I noticed that it interfered with my ability to do eccentric training.

However, speaking in favor of exercise, there are benefits to exercise beyond weight-related things, one of the most compelling of which has to do with antidepressant effects. It is amazing, actually, in mainstream medicine nowadays, there’s — if you are having depression symptoms, you can be literally prescribed antidepressants, counseling, or exercise. Which is amazing. That’s such a — ten years ago, that would have been thought of as woo-woo.

I’ve been under quite a bit of stress recently with a bunch of new projects — all wonderful stuff, and I hope you guys — you’re going to see some amazing stuff from both Carrie and myself within the next year. But I wanted to get that stationary bike. It was less than 200 bucks. I got it set up in the living room by my speakers. Once a week, I just go at it with the intervals. Not because — and it does — it has a negative impact on my ability to train eccentrically, but I definitely think it really helps the stress relief.

Carrie: Hang on a minute. Now, for anyone who follows me on Facebook, you’ll know because I just declared it, but I never did learn my times table. So I’m going to have to ask Jonathon for some math help here. What’s 12 times 600?

Jonathon: Seven thousand, two hundred.

Carrie: Okay. So you saved yourself $7000 by buying the bike as opposed to my friends who are spending $7200 just on the exercise.

Jonathon: That’s the other thing. The exercise they’re doing — Carrie is spot on. Exercise, it’s been my experience — this is not always true. Right, if you’re an elite athlete, you’re probably not listening to this podcast. There are plenty of other podcasts for tri-athletes and Ironmen and women. This is not one of those. However, if you’re listening to this, I hope you enjoy it. But generally speaking, the more complex exercise is made out to be, the less effective that form of exercise is. Because remember, the point of exercise from a metabolic healing perspective, is to enable yourself to generate as much force as safely as possible.

That is very easy. It is pushing or pulling. That’s it. You’re either pushing on something or you’re pulling on something. You’re pushing on it and pulling on it as hard as you can. That’s it. You don’t need to stand on a ball with one leg with your eyes closed and a blindfold on while your trainer spins you around and taps you on the shoulder to have some — there’s all this other stuff, which is just like — keep it simple. Not only because that protects you from scams, but literally, if your goal is to improve your balance, go do that separately from when you’re doing something to try to increase your strength or burn fat. Because it’s trying to, like, say, “I like ice cream and I like steak, so let’s have steak ice cream.” No, it ruins both of them. So just like have your dessert, have your meal, keep them separate. Don’t — there are all these, like, weird hybrid forms of exercise. It gets all complicated. Uh-uh. Counterproductive. First, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth priority — food.

Carrie: Just to be clear, my point is not to say that exercise is bad or what trainers do — that’s not what I’m saying. I’m just saying if you have a budget, as most people do — if you have a budget of $7200 to help, and your goal is to be healthier and reduce your body fat, spend that $7200 first, one through six, on food, and then on exercise. Buy yourself a bike, $200, and a dumbbell, $30. Do your 20 minutes of eccentric exercise. Spend the rest of that budget on the best quality food you can, and the results you will get versus $7200 of somebody helping you do more pushups will be staggering. It will blow your mind. Same amount of money, completely different end result.

Jonathon: And making it even more compelling, when you exercise — remember, we’re not saying sit on your butt all day. That’s not the takeaway message here. When you exercise, any benefit that does accrue — you and we all know there are some forms of exercise that do not accrue benefit. It only accrues you benefit. If you spend that time and money instead on food, that could be helping your entire family. Right? An hour spent in the kitchen and an extra $50 spent in the kitchen translates to improved health for the entire household.

Often times, at least for me, I know my schedule is such that if I’m at the gym, I am taking time away from my family to be at the gym. So not only am I not helping my family to be healthier, but I am actually not with them. I would much rather be with them in the kitchen cooking together, spending time together. So again, it’s just to say — we live in a culture that it is — we are led to believe that we can just keep doing what we’re doing and if we add something, it will make the negative consequences go away. It’s that pharmaceutical model. Just keep eating the foods that are causing the problem, but just take this pill. Exercise is perceived as that way. It’s like if I spend enough money, if I have a trainer come to my house, look how committed I am. No. It doesn’t — you can’t pay your way to health. It doesn’t work that way.

Carrie: Again, just to be clear, I’m not judging my friends. That’s not the point of this. There’s no judgment. If they have that amount of disposable income and that’s how they choose to use it and they like to have a trainer, it’s all good. My point is if your goal is health and reduction in body fat, and you have a budget and you have a goal that you want to get to the most effectively and in the most budget-conscious fashion and in the most timely manner, that is not the way to get there. The way to get there is to focus your money on better-quality food and to focus your exercise efforts on eccentrics that you can easily do at home with bike and dumbbell.

So, no judgment. I hope that didn’t come out wrong, because that wasn’t — I’m not judging people who choose to do that. If you can, great. If you have to make a choice, make the choice that will get you to your goal the fastest and the most effectively and the most cost-effectively.

Jonathon: It’s also just a useful — absolutely, Carrie. This is not about judgment. Again, anyone who likes exercise, we’re here about living better. If exercising in any way, shape or form helps you to live better, more power to you. Do more of it. What works for you is great. But what we want — what I think this is a wonderful illustration of is people will say — I hear this weekly — “I don’t have the time to eat SANEly,” or, “I don’t have the money to eat SANEly.” But they have personal trainers. Like, the amount of time you’re spending and the amount of money you’re spending on your personal trainer, you could probably get a personal chef. I mean, you could probably have someone prepare your meals for you for about the same cost.

Carrie: And Jonathon’s point is you will reach your goal faster.

Jonathon: I think they got that.

Carrie: I don’t know; I didn’t.

Jonathon: I think Carrie’s point is that — no, but absolutely. When we say the dark side of exercise, it’s not that exercise is bad. It’s just that, again, it’s always good to help gauge our priorities, right? Do a priority check.

Carrie: Yup, absolutely.

Jonathon: So just to recap, folks, not all exercise is bad. Let’s think about it in terms of four categories. You have low-impact, restorative exercise. These are things like tai chi, yoga, Pilates — brilliant. Meditation — do it. It’s aweseome.

Then you have things which are extremely high intensity but low impact — eccentric — as well as intervals like Carrie described. Fabulous. You can’t do a lot of that because it’s self-limiting.

Then you have the forms of exercise in the middle, like jogging and traditional aerobic exercise. If they make you happy, that’s fine. If they don’t, don’t spend your time on them.

Finally, you have forms of exercise which are so complicated that it’s very difficult to do them without paying someone to help you out. Again, if that’s what floats your boat, that’s fine. But Carrie’s point is brilliant. Do not do that at the expense of your sanity.

As always, do what works for you. Listen to your body. That’s the ultimate barometer, but we’re just here to help point you in the right direction. Hopefully, this podcast has done just that.

Carrie: Yay. That was a bit wobbly, wasn’t it?

Jonathon: I say, I think we are coming down a little bit from our SANE, wonderful, delicious food high we had at the beginning of the show. I love it.

Well folks, this week and every week after, eat smarter, exercise smarter, and live better. We’ll chat with you soon.

Carrie: See ya.

This week we cover how exercise can quickly become counterproductive.