Sport is healthy, every child knows that. If you want to lose a few pounds, then sport is still considered the foundation for long-term success. But that’s not always true. At Arizona State University, researchers at the Institute for Nutrition and Health Promotion have found that the opposite can be the case: exercise can actually put you on weight.
The researchers wondered how regular exercise really affects weight. To do this, they looked for 81 women between the ages of 25 and 40 who had previously not made any movement and were overweight. For three months, the test subjects trained on the treadmill for 30 minutes each, three times a week. Otherwise, however, you should not change anything in your lifestyle.
The researchers said at the beginning of the study that the women with the highest body fat percentage would lose the most weight. This assumption was based on earlier studies, which, however, had one major difference: the earlier studies always included a change in diet.
More weight despite exercise
At the end of the study, the scientists were amazed: not only did the participants lose much less weight than originally expected, 55 women even gained body fat. Root cause research was the order of the day. As it turned out, the training basically led to a reduction in the percentage of body fat, but overall the development of weight varied from person to person. The reason was that the test subjects ate more on training days. So they rewarded themselves for the exertion, but overestimated how many calories they burned from exercising. So they just ate too much on training days and if you eat more than your body uses, well, you gain weight.
Eating as a reward – has made you fat since the beginning of man
The increase in body fat is of course not directly related to training. People who start regular training after a long period of abstinence from exercise often show compensatory behaviour. Through the training and the physical exertion that went with it, the women felt that they were allowed to reward themselves. So they nibbled a little more chocolate here, drank a glass more lemonade there. So they added calories to their bodies to the extent that they exceeded the calorie consumption from exercise. They gained weight.
It all depends on the energy balance
There are very many people who are overweight and want to do something about it. So they go to the gym regularly or get on the exercise bike. Still, they don’t decrease. The reason for this is often a wrong assumption. You don’t have to lose anything just because you do sport. It all depends on the energy balance. The body only nibbles on the stored fat reserves when it does not get enough calories. So losing weight is not so much about the amount of exercise you do, but the amount of calories you consume. If the energy balance is negative and the body falls back on its own fat reserves, the kilos only tumble as soon as you also do sport. Then the movement works like a turbo.
But you can do sports until you fall over, if the energy balance is not negative at the end of the day, you won’t lose an ounce of weight.
Energy balance against the yo-yo effect
Once we have reached our target weight, it is also easier to maintain it, we focus on the energy balance. The yo-yo effect cannot occur if we do not consume excess calories. Even if we stop exercising again. (We don’t recommend that, though, because exercise simply offers too many health benefits.)
The most successful in the long term are those who pay attention to their calorie balance and change their lifestyle. This is because they no longer need to reward themselves for doing sport. But they don’t have a guilty conscience if they treat themselves to a piece of cake because they don’t do it regularly. This increases enjoyment and motivation.