We feel great about our healthy bodies after every hard, sweaty workout we do…. Until we try to button our waistbands or step on the scale or drink a glass of water.

If Calories In = Calories Out – Why isn’t our weight getting any lower?

There’s actual scientific reasons behind our weight loss struggles. We will try to explain them in this and follow-up articles. Here’s the three basic philosophies we uncovered in our research:

  1. Fight or Flight Response
  2. Fat Cells are Hungry
  3. Calories In ≠ Calories Out

Where did this belief come from?

The late 60’s …

Dr. Jean Mayer, a nutritionist from Harvard, began conducting research on the reasons why people became obese. He began observing obese mice, obese young girls, bigger and thinner babies and later mill workers. He observed that the obese patients often didn’t eat more than their thinner peers (and some even ate less) and yet they still gained weight and became fatter. This seemed to exclude gluttony as a cause of their weight gain, which meant that these fat people had to be less physically active. 

The 70’s …

Soon the New York Times got wind of his hypothesis on the connection between lack of exercise and weight gain and all attitudes changed. While previous to this exercise was regarded as something done in moderation and infrequently to prevent damage to your body – now exercise was mandatory, lengthy and vigorous to keep your weight down and to “get healthy”.

Exercise took off and everyone was pushed into the “need-to-exercise” mantra. You might remember some of the more popular exercise fads from this time:

  • sauna suit (wear it while you exercise to sweat and melt off fat)
  • exercise belts (belts shake parts of your body to loosen fat cells)
  • waist reducing belt (wrap and wear under clothing to squeeze fat out)
  • the twist and tone (twist side to side to create a smaller waist)

The 80’s …

Science really began studying the reasons behind the reasons for weight gain in the 80’s. Biochemists and physiologists began studying LPL, a gene called lipoprotein lipase. This enzyme is found primarily on the surface of cells that line tiny blood vessels (capillaries) within muscles and in fatty (adipose) tissue. Lipoprotein lipase plays a critical role in breaking down fat in the form of triglycerides, which are carried from various organs to the blood by molecules called lipoproteins.

They discovered that our bodies actually store fat after a workout (Read below to find out how). Their recommendation was to exercise more and eat less. Thus the “calories in = calories out” myth began. The media got hold of this and all of a sudden exercise regimes from Jazzercise to Stairmaster to marathon running took off!

The 90’s …

As the 90’s came scientists began to become concerned that even though people were exercising more, the obesity rates kept rising. People in the 90’s were about 10 percent heavier than people were in the 1980s, even if they followed the exact same diet and exercise plans.

This was the era of the “quick fix” diet trend. People wanted a pill, a plan or a diet that would help them shed the stubborn fat weight for the last and final time. This trend has only increased in this era.

The results showed that BMIs increased “sharply in the adolescent ages beginning in the 1990s, and among young adults around 2000,” especially among black females. Overall, BMI increases started earlier and rose faster for females versus males, according to the study, which was published online this month in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

The 2000’s till now …

The current obesity trend is seen around the world, with around a third of adults and almost one in five children in the United States obese. In some island nations, the prevalence is higher still, with more than half of Samoan and Tongan women classified as obese. It is now considered an obesity trend. People are still exercising and eating low fat diets…why isn’t it working?

Fight or Flight Response

Exercise is viewed by our bodies as a “fight or flight” situation. When we exercise strenuously our brain releases a substance known as, corticotropin-releasing-hormone, or CRH. CRH travels to the adrenal cortex and stimulates the release of the hormones adrenalin and cortisol. 

Our body reaction to this is:

1st – During this process our hearing and eyesight improve but our digestion is temporarily shut down, and blood is slowed from going to our internal organs for emergency use elsewhere.

2nd – Heart rate and blood pressure climb, and more stored fuel (fat and glucose) is released in case of a quick response being needed.

3rd – There is a marked increase in the production of insulin, the fat storage hormone.

4th – As the “danger” wears off and your exercise session ends, this surplus of usable energy (fat and glucose) goes unused and is re-deposited as fat on the belly or torso as a quick energy supply.

5th – When exercise stops the adrenalin rush leaves quickly, too (exhaustion sets in) but cortisol levels remain high. This causes insulin production to stay higher. As we know high insulin = higher fat storage and now we can also add higher hunger.

What can we do to change the fat loss curve?

Moderate to vigorous exercise, done over a shorter time, such as lifting weights, or HIIT routines can offset the negative effects of cortisol and insulin. With as little as 10 minutes of strenuous exercise, the brain begins to produce beta-endorphins that calm you down and decrease levels of the stress hormone, thus decreasing the amount of cortisol, insulin and fat storage seen.

This reaction is also seen with long term, low impact exercise such as walking for 1-3 hours a day.

A note of caution:

●      Don’t overdo it. Too much exercise can actually cause additional stress, increase inflammation and subsequent increased fat storage.

●      Be sure to get plenty of rest both at night and between workouts. Vary days between hard and easy/ rest days to insure your body recovers fully. Inadequate sleep increases cortisol levels and reduces leptin, a hormone that signals fullness.

●      Avoid dieting. Instead eat a balanced diet with limited chemical additives. Plan meals around fresh, organic vegetables and fruits, grass-fed proteins, and low glycemic carbs.  

Fat Cells are Hungry

Something inside of you is controlling when you eat. It’s your fat cells! And they are determined to replenish their used up supplies. Here’s a summary of the chain reaction that occurs in our bodies when we exercise.

1st LPL (see the 80’s) activity increases in muscle tissue and the muscle cells use surrounding fatty acids for fuel.

2nd We finish exercising and muscles stop using fatty acids but our adipose tissue (fat cells) begin the LPL activity. The fat cells begin pulling surrounding glucose into our fat cells. Our fat cells sole purpose is to restore any fat that was lost during exercise/ exertion.  

3rd How do they do this? Our bodies signal hunger. The more rigorous the exercise, and the more fat lost from our fat tissue, the greater the demand for food.

4th The food we eat gets stored as fat first replenishing the supplies of fat that were lost, and then circulated throughout our system as usable energy for our other organs.

Calories In ≠ Calories Out

Science has proven that if we take in more energy (calories) than we expend, we gain weight. If we expend more energy than we take in, we will lose weight. There are two problems with this.

The first problem with relying on exercise solely for weight loss is consistency, recovery and temptation.

  • Consistency: It is hard to consistently get in the 2-3 hours of walking recommended as a daily activity.
  • Recovery: Our bodies need time to recover and rebuild tissue and rid the body of toxins developed from exercising.
  • Temptation: We are bombarded both visually and socially with an immense variety of foods that are quick, easy, and deliverable, yet unhealthy by all standards.

The second challenge with relying on exercise to balance calorie consumption is that our digestive systems and gut bacteria have changed over the years. We now have evolved to storing more of the fat from our foods than in previous centuries. We are eating 10% less fat and 7% less calories from fat than we did in the 1970’s, yet our obesity rates have risen to almost triple the rates back then.

What changed? Our body chemistry and nutrients in our diets.

With age, your body chemistry changes, and many of those changes make it increasingly difficult to lose weight. For example, around the age of 30, our human growth hormone (HGH) levels begin to decline. Since HGH helps with both fat metabolism and muscle building, lowering these levels means that we will need to eat less and exercise more to stay at the same body size.

Our foods have created the greatest change in the rate of our metabolism and fat use/loss. The increase in chemicals and hormones and decrease in natural vitamins and minerals in the foods we ingest has changed the bacteria in our digestive systems. We no longer absorb as much recuperative factors from our diets, thus we recover more slowly from our exercise sessions. This prolonged inflammation state creates a state of insulin resistance that makes our bodies store more fat in cells than we did in the 70’s.  

Then Why Should We Exercise?

Finally found my excuse not to have to exercise anymore! Not Quite…actually not even close. There are so many more reasons than I ever imagined to exercise.

There are so many reasons to exercise that it should be considered to be the second most important function of your day (first being eating a healthy diet).

Exercise flushes toxins from our bodies.

– Toxins create autoimmune diseases

– decrease energy

– increase inflammation

– increase insulin resistance

– increases fat storages

– creates brain fog

– and the list can go on and on…

We are posting follow up articles on exercise covering topics of inflammation, Human Growth Hormone, longevity, and the exercise routines that provide the most benefit for all your systems. Our goal is to get the most effective exercise regime with the least inflammation that can be sustained for longevity.      

Cauliflower Moment … Exercising so that you can eat whatever you want simply doesn’t work…You can’t exercise away a bad diet.