Taubes - Chapter 03 - Elusive Benefits of Exercise

- POSTED ON: Jan 01, 2011


Taubes points out the common weight-loss instruction:

“eat less and exercise more”

is exactly what we would do in order to make ourselves hungry.
His issue isn't  whether exercise should be part of a healthy lifestyle, but

“whether it will help us maintain our weight if we’re lean,
or lose weight if we’re not.”

 He says the answer to this question appears to be no.

Taubes talks about how the poorer people are, the fatter they’re likely to be.
And, the poorer they are, the more likely they are to work
at physically demanding jobs.

He talks about how the “exercise explosion” and “fitness revolution
has occurred at the same time as the “obesity epidemic”.
Taubes discusses the dismal state of the major research
regarding the connection between exercise and weight loss,
and how that research has never provided proof that such a connection exists.
He specifically mentions a study published in 2006
based on thirteen thousand habitual runners, that found

“all these runners tended to get fatter with each passing year,
even those who ran more than forty miles a week – eight miles a day,
say, five days a week. “

Taubes says

“faith in the belief that the more calories we expend, the less we’ll weigh
is based ultimately on one observation and one assumption.
….The observation is that people who are lean
tend to be more physically active than those of us who aren’t
….the assumption is “that we can increase our energy expenditure (calories-out)
without being compelled to increase our energy intake (calories-in).”

The authors of the August 2007 guidelines
published by the American Heart Association
and the American College of Sports Medicine said:

It is reasonable to assume that persons with relatively high daily energy expenditures
would be less likely to gain weight over time,
compared with those who have low energy expenditures.
.....So far, data to support this hypothesis are not particularly compelling”

Taubes says,

“the idea that we get fat because we’re sedentary,
and we can get lean or prevent ourselves from fattening further
by upping our energy expenditure is at least a century old.


“if persons have been thinking about this idea for more than a century,
and trying to test it for decades,
and they still can’t generate compelling evidence that it’s true,
it’s probably not".

 My understanding is that the Biggest Losers devote from 6 to 8 hours a day
to heavy exercise, along with greatly reducing their calorie intake.
I’m certain that there is a massive inadvertent reduction of
their carbohydrate intake also, due to their severely restricted calories.
They certainly visibly increase their fitness, and they do lose weight.

During my lifetime, I have belonged to Gyms many times,
and participated in the activities they provide,
but I greatly prefer exercising at home. I don’t have to travel that way,
and this type of exercise it is a better fit for my personal preferences.

A few years ago, I began to believe that:

Exercise is for Fitness; (not weight-loss)
Nutrition is for health; (not weight-loss)
Lower-Calorie Food Intake is the key for weight-loss/maintenance.
Currently, due to Taubes’ writings, I’m entertaining the possibility
that Nutrition, MIGHT be a issue in weight-loss after all.

Regarding the issue of exercise and weight-loss/maintenance
I came to same conclusion as Taubes due to my own experience and previous study.

 I’ve done a great deal of study about the Scientific Research
on which the current Theories of weight-loss, calories, exercise etc. are based.
Due to my Research I am now going with the Theory that
no one really knows much about what happens
within the bodies of the healthy "formerly obese"
when they reach "normal" weight and
maintain a very large weight-loss for more than 3 years.
In other words, at this time I am an Experiment of One.

Within my own Experiment of One, I’ve experimented a great deal
with Low-Impact Exercise, and minor Strength Training.
My personal exercise equipment is set up in a corner of my family room
in front of an extra TV, VCR, and DVD player.—with long-corded headphones.
I have a treadmill, free-style Gazelle, and stationary bicycle,
resistance bands, small dumbbells, a stability ball, a step, a WII,
a polar wristband and chest band monitor, several pedometers, a BodyBugg,
along with an IPOD and numerous exercise DVDs and Videos.
All of this exercise equipment has been in regular use,
and is still ready for my use today, if I choose to use it.
During the past 6 years,
I’ve spent lengthy periods of time exercising 1 to 2 hours a day, 5 to 7 days a week;
short periods exercising from 4 to 5 hours a day 5 to 7 days a week;
short periods of time exercising 30 minutes a day 3 to 4 days a week;
and short periods of time where I did no exercise at all.
As part of this I did step-training and interval training.
I’ve spent long periods of time counting my daily steps,
and averaging above that 10,000 number.
I believe my record high for one day was a bit above 40,000 steps…
…and I don’t run or jog.

The point is,
My data indicates that….while this exercise did make my body “more fit”,
it did little to build muscle, and accomplished little or nothing for weight-loss.
The following information is one example of the personal data to which I refer.

At the beginning of 2009, I purchased a BodyBugg
which is allegedly the most accurate scientific measurement of individual energy
on the market today. Biggest Loser Contestants wear it.
I wore it continually 24/7 for 6 months.
I slept with it, and took it off only for the shower and spa.

 As a result I learned a great deal about my own exercise energy expenditure,
...in that according to the "charts" etc. my personal exercise calorie burn is quite high.
According to those charts, based on calories-in/calories-out
I should have lost about 20 lbs during the 6 months ...
..combining my exercise with my food intake calories...

It simply did not happen.
My food intake records were extremely accurate,
My activity records were based on BodyBugg calculations,
but in actuality my weight stayed the same.
Those "extra earned exercise calories" did absolutely nothing to make me lose weight.

I bought the BodyBugg with Display Unit. It came with 6 months free online access,
and I used both the Display and the Online info.
I used it from the Beginning of February through July,
and then stopped using it for quite some time.
I replaced it with a new BodyBugg, then did a couple more experiments
for shorter time periods…two to three months.

 While I was using it, I also made my own personal charts of the info,
and even though I’ve chosen not to renew my BodyBugg online access,
I have my total information stored on my computer.

Re food input, BodyBugg's online function has a food intake entry section
similar to DietPower – which is my ongoing computer food journaling tool,
but I found it extremely limited and chose to use it by simply
putting my DietPower daily calorie total into my online BodyBugg chart.

Just like DietPower, the BodyBugg uses the Harris/Benedict Formula for one's BMR,
or starting point. However, while DietPower assumes you are entering your food accurately
and drops your Metabolism rate when you don't lose weight as expected,

BodyBugg assumes you are NOT entering your food accurately.
It will not adjust your BASIC Metabolism Rate very much lower than Harris/Benedict
and basically tells you that you are cheating by eating too much
if your body doesn't follow the Harris/Benedict Formula.
The BodyBugg Coach kept telling me that BodyBugg shows that my Exercise Activity is GREAT
and that my FOOD records MUST be wrong,
that I MUST be cheating with food or making food recording errors.
However, I know that my DietPower daily food intake logging records
are as consistent and accurate as anyone's could possibly be.

What I found valuable about BodyBugg was the fact that
it measured my own body's ACTUAL activity rate and then translated that data
into calorie numbers….. (which were inaccurate for me personally
because they continued to be based on the Standard Harris/Benedict Formula) …
and I was then able to use my own math skills
to turn those BodyBugg personal numbers into a actual "activity factor percentages' numbers.

What I learned during that 6 months, was a confirmation
that my exercise pattern is a great deal of exercise for my own body,
and when translated shows that I have a very HIGH "activity factor percentage". 
 After that the formula breaks down.
My exercise and food intake together do not cause the "EXPECTED" weight-loss.
In other words, at my current NORMAL weight, exercise makes me "fit",
but does not result in related weight-loss.

I thought that BodyBugg would motivate me to exercise even more than I already did.
For the first five months it was motivating, but when I learned the truth about my Exercise,
it had the Reverse effect. I found the Actual Facts very discouraging,
and the for 3 months immediately following, (fall of 2009)
I began exercising less than I did in the 3 or 4 years BEFORE I got the BodyBugg.
My result was that I became less Fit, but didn’t weigh Heavier.

My muscle mass is NOT larger.
I think it must have something to do with my body's
being and holding at a NORMAL weight after a very large weight loss.

There is really no Current Scientific Knowledge about what or why
this is happening in my body. Would the same thing apply to others?
I don't know. I can only share my own information.
Before I reached "Normal" weight,
the standard scientific rules calories-in/calories-out seemed to basically apply to me.
However, the longer I have maintained at this Normal weight,
the less those rules seem to apply.
My body seems to be breaking all the known "Scientific Rules"
in order to get me to regain weight.
Here at the beginning of my 6th year of Maintenance, I would like to believe that
someday, my body's process will
"Normalize" to be more like those who have never gained and lost weight,
and that my body's MR and calorie needs will stop dropping lower and lower....
no matter what I eat or how much exercise I do.
but I have little effort to support such a belief.
At this time, I do believe that Taubes is correct about exercise.
I am certain that while exercise works to make me fit, and provide other health benefits,
exercise does little or nothing to help me, personally, lose weight or to
maintain my weight-loss.

My own experience is that I am more hungry after exercise,
and after exercise I very much crave sweet and starchy foods.

For me, the only food-related benefits of exercise are…,
that it might make me avoid fattening foods to keep from wasting my hard work,
and that during the time that I’m busy doing exercise, I’m not eating.

Leave me a comment.

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Existing Comments:

On Feb 18, 2011 wrote:
I tried myself exercise as the way to lose weight, and in two weeks of going to the gym two times per day, I gained five pounds. I don't think it works to have structured physical activity as a way to lose weight unless you plan to be a permanent participant in The Biggest Loser and devote two hours per day to hard physical exercise. I have read of people losing weight that way…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..That's where I see the argument for physical activity as being both valid and important: it's important to build activity into day to day life. I think that there may be a positive impact on reduced appetite or changing what you desire to eat, but that's just my speculation. Physical activity is certainly important for health reasons even if it doesn't affect weight.

On Feb 19, 2011 Karen925 wrote:
I lost 25#, before eventually losing over 60#, without exercising. I started exercising because my body wanted to move. I never count the supposed calories burned in my food journals. I use WATP, low impact, 1-2 miles per day, plus activities as they come. I see exercise as a means for me to be fit, my joints juiced, a time a way from other duties. I never consider it, or was it shown in my experience to be, necessary to lose weight. SW/Maintenance 192/mid 120's

On Feb 21, 2011 TexArk wrote:
I posted this on another chapter discussion, but it fits here. Due to an injury I have been very sedentary for 2 1/2 months and have lost 17 lbs. while low carbing. Obviously, the low carbohydrate intake is much more a factor than exercise per se.

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