“What is the Best Exercise for Losing Weight” – Part II

Welcome to part II of our quest to find an answer to that universal question, “What is the best exercise for losing weight?”. Part I touched on some basic physiology of kCals in our bodies; today we will explore some fundamentals that pertain to diet, exercise and lifestyle. Let’s get started!

#1 – Every Little Bit Counts
Let’s make a brief distinction between scheduled acitivities and unscheduled activities of daily living (ADL’s). Scheduled activities include going to the gym, your morning runs, playing on the softball team Tuesday nights, etc. ADL’s include everything else you do throughout the day that increases your heart rate and burns calories above your resting metabolism. Both these forms of activity are important in creating a net energy deficit, and ultimately contributing to weight loss. Scheduled activities (moderate to very heavy intensity) will burn anywhere from 2-6 times more kCals than most light ADL’s. However, if your scheduled activities account for only one hour of your day, you have another ~15 hours of awake time to fit in your lighter ADL’s. Now we can see the importance of taking the stairs instead of the elevator, sneaking a walk in over lunch hour, and carrying your groceries instead of using a cart.

Key Point: Any activity that increases your heart rate or breathing rate is burning extra energy. The more often you engage in these activities, the greater the daily energy expenditure will be, and your body will become more accustomed to these increased demands.

#2 – Move What Your Mamma Gave You
The last point highlighted the importance of performing light to moderate activities throughout the day. Now we’ll discuss the importance of maximizing efficiency of the limited time you have for scheduled activites. Due to my profession, I will be using the gym as my example of scheduled activity. Many of us only have 30-60 minutes in a day to dedicate to the gym. This is still enough time to experience significant benefits, if you’re taking advantage of your time. There are two key components to consider during your workouts: Duration & Intensity. If weight loss is your goal, you will need to balance these two variables to result in an adequate kCal expenditure (specific kCal values for common activities will be discussed in another article). If you’re pressed for time, try cranking up the intensity of your workout. If you don’t like working your body into a pile of sweat and lactic acid burn, then burn your kCals at a moderate intensity over a longer period of time.
The more muscles you have working, the more oxygen your body needs to fuel those muscles, and the more kCals you will burn. You will have to work at a higher percieved intensity on a bike to achieve the same energy output compared to a treadmill, for the same duration. A good indicator of which exercises require more muscles: Weight-bearing activities, and exercises requiring you to move more limbs are more effective than weight-supported activities.
My Question of the Day to the Reader: Considering this last point, how do sit-ups sound as an exercise to lose that belly fat?

Key Point: Increase your intensity or duration to burn more energy in your workouts. Exercises requiring the use of more muscles also require more energy. So try getting on the treadmill, elliptical or rower. The bike is weight-supported and lower body only; but can be a great tool if your intensity/duration are high enough.

#3 – The Diet
The nemesis of millions. Our diet has the ability to send us in either direction of the weight management spectrum, regardless of level of physical activity. You can workout religiously every day of the week, and still gain weight if your diet is not managed. Conversely, many people have eaten their way from obese to a “healthy” weight without changing their level of physical activity. How is this possible? It comes down to education, practice, and discipline. It’s important to have a general understanding of the foods you typically eat, and an understanding of how much activity and food are required to progress towards your goals. Then you’ll probably go through a period of trying different strategies that are compatible with your goals and your lifestyle. Finally, it’s a matter of turning new practices into habits that become second-nature.
There’s a reason why fad diets come and go. They will work for some people, but not everyone. There’s nothing wrong with trying one strategy for managing your diet, and not having it work for you. This is not a reflection on your ability to reach your goals. This simply wasn’t the right strategy for you.

Key Point: Don’t underestimate the influence of your diet. Try not to get discouraged if you run into setbacks or “bad days”. EVERYBODY experiences these, multiple times. If you have the right intentions in mind, and are making changes to manage your diet, then you’re on the right track.


That’s it for part II. Next week, part III will get into some applicable examples of exercise and diet strategies to take your weight loss by the horns. Thanks again for reading, please feel free to leave your comments below.


“What is the Best Exercise for Losing Weight?” – Part I

I am going to be upfront with you; I will not be providing a best exercise for weight loss. I do not believe there is such a thing. But we can succeed in weight loss, if we stay committed to ourselves over time. It is my intent, over a series of articles, to give you the knowledge that will help you succeed in this undertaking. In part 1 of this article, I am going to address some of the physiology that will help give you a clearer understanding of the relationship between Kcals and our bodies. Part 2 will tie the physiology into diet & exercise, and part 3 will provide you with exercise and lifestyle strategies for positively changing your body composition.

#1 –  The Classic Over-Squeeze
I am going to use a car analogy to describe how our bodies make use of the calories we put in, and calories we burn off. Let’s pretend our car has a full tank of gas. We drive to the gym, burning 10 litres of gas in the process. After the gym, we plan on putting 10 litres of gas back in the tank, to bring us back to a full tank of gas. However, we pump a little too much, and we end up with gas everywhere because the tank cannot adapt to the additional fuel.

The same is true for our bodies. If we burn off the same number of Kcals that we consume, our “tank”, or weight, will stay the same. However, if we put in more energy than we burn, we hold the additional energy in storage sites, or fat cells. This creates a net gain in weight. One pound of fat contains 3500 Kcals of energy. To make this tangible, there are 140 Kcals in a can of Coke. If every day, we drank one can of Coke above our “gas tank” capacity, we would gain 1 pound every 25 days.

Evn though I used a sugar-loaded soft drink as an example, this holds true for all foods. One Kcal from Coke is the same as one Kcal from brocolli (we’re talking energy here, not nutrition). Regardless of whether the energy starts as a carbohydrate, protein, fat, or alcohol; all excess Kcals are stored as potential energy in the form of fat. Some days we underfill our tank, some days we overfill our tank. What makes the difference over time is which one we do more often.

Key Point: To lose weight, you need a sustained net energy loss. All foods contribute to filling our tanks with fuel, but if not burned, the excess is stored as fat. Our next point addresses energy out.




#2 – Idling Gas Guzzlers
Gas in your car is burnt both while driving, and while idling. We often think of driving as being the only culprit for emptying our gas tank, but imagine if we could never turn our cars off. Idling 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This in effect, is our resting metabolism. Surprisingly, we “idle” away  70-85% of our daily energy expenditure (this includes food digestion, and resting metabolism requirements of our cells). “Driving”, or physical activity, accounts for the remaining 15-30%. Physical activity directly and indirectly increases our metabolism, taking advantage of our “idling” Kcal expenditure. Some forms of exercise are more efficient than others for increasing metabolism, which will be addressed in part 2 & 3 of this article.

Key Point: The majority of our daily energy expenditure comes from normal cell metabolism, while a minority comes from physical activity. This fact emphasizes the importance of metabolism when trying to lose or gain weight.

So far, we’ve looked at how calories in and calories out affect our body weight over time. Keep in mind, that our bodies are much more complex than the simplified comparison to automobiles used in this article. Stay tuned for part 2, where we’ll explore how we use energy in exercise, and how our diet can speed up or slow down our progress.


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