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Does exercise really not help with weight loss?
87

GorgeousLadyofWrestling · 21/03/2021 10:47

Surely, it must?

I have always adhered to “you can’t out train a bad diet” but surely, lots of exercise must help a bit?

For context, I’m quite overweight, would like to lose about 20kg, and steadily losing about .5kg a week. Which is fine because I have lost it all quickly before and then immediately put it all back on. So I am focusing on low calories using MFP. I have around 1400 a day.

During the first lockdown and all last summer, I got into cycling. I bought a road bike and started cycling to work. It’s about a 30 mile round trip. So I can’t wait to be doing that two-three times a week when go back in the office, because for me - cycling is pure joy.

In December, I started c25k and now manage a 5k, three times a week. I am very slow and I find it quite gruelling and hard. But I don’t plan on stopping because this is a huge achievement - I never ever ever ran before and I don’t plan on losing the gains I’ve made.

In addition I also use weights at least 3 times a week. I don’t “eat back” any calories burnt - I just try to stick to my limit, with or without exercise because I think it’s easy to over estimate calories burned and easy to under estimate calories consumed.

But surely...surely doing something every day that whilst not extremely strenuous but still, moderately strenuous would contribute to weight loss??

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TheUndoingProject · 21/03/2021 10:55

Of course exercise burns calories. But I think the problem is most of us substantially overestimate how many. It’s therefore very easy to eat back all the calories you’ve burned in a week’s worth of running, with just one slightly bigger than normal dinner.

Frankly I think the biggest thing exercise does for me weight loss wise is keep me busy and out the house in the period before dinner when I’m most likely to snack!

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redcandlelight · 21/03/2021 10:59

it does help, but to lose weight you need to burn more calories than you eat.

a 30 minute run only burns about 300ckals. that is snack.

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yeOldeTrout · 21/03/2021 11:02

I think you're right to say "contribute" but it's like covering faces in shops "contributes" to reducing covid spread -- only a small bit of benefit.

Point is not to over-estimate exercise impacts on your calorie use. From everything I can tell moderate exercise is hugely beneficial to health, but it isn't a miracle cure for those wanting to lose weight.

An hour of vigorous exercise burns about 500 kcal for me (mid 50s female, 63 kg). It is very easy to eat 500 kcal: 2 pieces of ordinary size toast with some butter is all you need.

I've been reading about how variety of vegetables, high fibre diet, diverse micro-biomes might be hugely important to help moderate appetite. I don't know if the idea is properly tested. But I wondered if everyone who was overweight had to eat at least 10 different types/servings of fruit+veg daily if their appetite might self-moderate better. That's the Holy Grail in the end.

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Stronghold · 21/03/2021 11:04

Yes I think its the "I've done a run so a chocolate bar won't matter" mistake that a lot of people make.

I've found that exercise changes your shape - the same weight can look very different if you're muscular vs flabby.

Regardless of how it helps speed things alone I think everyone should do exercise anyway during weight loss as you don't want to lose muscle mass instead of fat - and also, you know, its good to feel healthy!

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XiCi · 21/03/2021 11:05

30 minute run only burns about 300ckals. that is snack
Its not as simple as that though as when you exercise you continue to burn calories at a faster rate afterwards. Also the more muscle you build the faster you burn calories.
For me exercise is key. If I exercise I can eat what I want with no restriction and stay at my ideal weight. The times I have bern unable to exercise ive piled the pounds on even when I've dieted.
I only ever hear the 80%food 20% exercise thing from people who are constantly in and out of slimming world and never seem to be able to keep the weight off.

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RickiTarr · 21/03/2021 11:09

For me, the exercise is the thing that makes the difference. In the sense that I’ve been in quite extreme salad and grape diets, but unless I walk ten miles a day or equivalent, I don’t lose a pound.

Now I have a back problem and can only really effectively exercise in water and I’ve really put on weight while all the pools were closed.

Having said that, I do think individuals vary as to metabolism etc. So what you need in terms of muscle mass and calorie deficit to shed weight, may differ from what someone else needs.

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fellrunner85 · 21/03/2021 11:09

Of course exercise can help weight loss - you just have to not eat all the calories back!

I lost (a lot of) weight through eating well and running. Now I just want to maintain that weight, I eat a normal diet (ordinary home cooked meals plus cake if I want it!) and stay a size 8-10 through running, as well as cycling when I'm not wfh.

The problem is that most people underestimate how much they eat and overestimate the calories burned through exercise. For example, if you're doing c25k, by the end you're doing roughly three miles, three times a week. That equates to - roughly - just 900 calories of exercise a week. Which is very easy to eat back in just one takeaway or a big pudding.
Whereas if you're burning an extra 500 to 1,000 calories a day through running, cycling or whatever, it becomes much harder to eat it all back. And I wouldn't want to.

The other thing that made a huge difference to me was that, when I started running long distances, I no longer wanted to eat crap meals such as pizza the night before, as it made me feel nauseous and sluggish the next day. It's a lot easier to run better if you eat well.

So yeah, you can outtrain a bad diet. You just have to train a lot. And it won't work if your idea of a bad diet is takeaway 3x a day, as I doubt anyone has the time to outtrain that!

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GorgeousLadyofWrestling · 21/03/2021 11:11

Yeah I think in the past I have definitely fallen into the trap of thinking I could eat back those calories burned, and still keep my limit set.

These days I’m much stricter. I haven’t had chance to test it properly because I am only running 3 times a week - I would love to incorporate the cycling as well but right now, I cannot justify 2 hours cycling at a time.

When I was cycling into work, my heart rate monitor said I was burning 600 cals on one trip. Going there and back, that would by 1200 of a 1400 cal daily limit. Hopefully if I am doing that regularly and just sticking to a calorie controlled diet, I would see loss? Or is it that really, that two hour cycle a day doesn’t burn anywhere near that much?

I do agree completely, by the way, that exercise has so many benefits outside of weight loss. I’ve kind of accepted any weight loss would be a bit product, not the main point. But there is a part of me that thinks - hopefully you’ll lose some?

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WingBingo · 21/03/2021 11:17

I would burn 600 calories running for 60 minutes, it is unlikely to be the same when cycling. We are all different but you would have to be really doing some to burn that many calories cycling for 60 minutes.

For me it would be half that amount in 60 minutes.

I run a fair bit , about 20 miles per week. I have to eat enough to fuel my runs but the running also to offset my coffee & wine calories!

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picklemewalnuts · 21/03/2021 11:18

Building muscle is more impactful than the calories burnt by the activity.

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Scarby9 · 21/03/2021 11:18

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HelloDulling · 21/03/2021 11:19

Riding hard and getting sweaty, you might burn 600 calories an hour. If your commute was a gruelling hour each way, then yes, you were burning 1200 a day.

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bluebluezoo · 21/03/2021 11:19

I started a new exercise challenge for March.

I’m burning 4-600 calories a day, 6 days a week.

Diet I’m roughly 1000cals a day, which allows for the overestimate, odd biscuit, slip up type thing. So probably averaging 1500-1800.

I’ve gained 6 lbs in that 3 weeks. probably because the rest of the time I barely move working at home- i think the cals burned doing stuff like walking round shops, from the car park into work, all those little errands that keep us moving make a big difference.

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Gerla · 21/03/2021 11:19

For me it helps in the sense that when I'm active I feel better and want to eat healthier foods. If I'm feeling down I tend more towards junk food and no exercise!

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PrimeraVez · 21/03/2021 11:20

For me, exercise doesn't have a huge impact on the scales, but it does change (improve) what I see in the mirror and how strong/healthy/fit I feel.

Am pregnant now, but last year I was doing an online HIIT class 5-6 days a week, plus weights a few times a week. I only lost a couple of kilos over a period of about 6 months but I had defined abs for the first time in my life, my arms had definition, my wobbly thighs felt firmer and my back felt really strong.

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HelloDulling · 21/03/2021 11:21

@XiCi

30 minute run only burns about 300ckals. that is snack
Its not as simple as that though as when you exercise you continue to burn calories at a faster rate afterwards. Also the more muscle you build the faster you burn calories.
For me exercise is key. If I exercise I can eat what I want with no restriction and stay at my ideal weight. The times I have bern unable to exercise ive piled the pounds on even when I've dieted.
I only ever hear the 80%food 20% exercise thing from people who are constantly in and out of slimming world and never seem to be able to keep the weight off.

You are only maintaining your weight, though. Not losing any (sounds great, btw!) To lose, you’d have to cut calories by changing the way you eat.
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79andnotout · 21/03/2021 11:23

For me, I find running reduces my appetite. So it burns calories and makes me eat less. And it puts me in a better mood about my body so I'm much less inclined to want to eat crap.

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TakeYourFinalPosition · 21/03/2021 11:23

I thought I was smashing it with bike rides when I started trying to lose weight, I did two 90 minute rides a day and my fitness tracker said that was nearly a thousand calories. It wasn’t. They’re poor at guesstimating for general exercise but woeful for cycling.

Don’t get me wrong, it does help. Cycling makes me look leaner even if my weight doesn’t change, and it’s beneficial in terms of muscle and metabolism, but you have to ignore the calories burnt predicted, sadly. It took me a while to get my head around that!

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catinthewindow · 21/03/2021 11:26

It definitely helps - it burns calories but also makes you more toned, increases your metabolic rate and can help you feel better about yourself so you’re less likely to binge.

Of course, it depends on how much and what you do. I’d say most people can’t put run a bad diet based on the exercise they do and the diet they eat but it is possible for exercise to make a huge difference. I run 30 - 40 miles a week over hilly routes and am losing weight without dieting as I burn around 6500 calories doing it (I’m a bit overweight and there are a lot of hills) but that’s quite an extreme way to go Grin.

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MazekeenSmith · 21/03/2021 11:26

Exercise has several weight loss benefits - it raises heart rate and therefore calorie burn, it strengthens muscle and therefore resting calorie burn and it improves the overall look of your body as your muscles get tighter so you appear smaller. It's also very important for bone strength and health especially post menopause.
BUT it won't make you lose weight unless you're in a calorie deficit.

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Random789 · 21/03/2021 11:27

I think it does help in loads of ways. There's only one way in which it doesn't help -- burning off the over-consumption of calories. And that is because, as others have said, you'd have to exercise too damn much to keep up with the calories involved.
One of the many ways in which it does help is by improving insulin sensitivity, helping to re-normalise our body's uptake of glucose after years of unhealthy eating habits.

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Mumski45 · 21/03/2021 11:29

Leisurely cycling won't burn 600 calories in an hour but going hard and keeping your HR high will.
I think it is right that most people will overestimate how much exercise will help lose weight but if you have a regular calorie deficit then you will lose weight. How quickly will depend on how many of those exercise calories you eat back.

I think you have the right approach if you are aiming for a small daily deficit doing an activity which you love to do.

I also can't wait to go back to the office even if only one day a week as I used to have a guilt free 20m bike ride there and back and arrived feeling energised for the day.

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Whocutdownthecherrytree · 21/03/2021 11:29

Yes it helps, but people often overestimate the amount of calories burned for a given activity. I think the role of exercise in weight loss is still important. It helps give you endorphins so you are less likely to comfort eat, or eat from boredom. It helps give you muscle tone that changes the shape of your body in a positive way, people who exercise regularly and eat well have a healthier glow about their skin. These things help keep you motivated when weight loss takes time and discipline. Also, exercise forces you to feel your body, your thighs, your tummy, instead of ignoring it while sitting on the couch. So in total calories it doesn’t contribute that much, but there are lots of other benefits. The only issue is when people exercise heaps, but don’t change their diet and get frustrated.

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AyyMacarena · 21/03/2021 11:30

You can't burn off a bad diet. Not saying you have one but industry standard is 80% diet and 20% exercise... it's what you do the other 23 hours of the day that matters.

Move as much as possible and work out your TDEE so you have a cut of 500 calories per day as a weekly average.

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LaChatte · 21/03/2021 11:30

Muscle is heavier than fat for the same volume, so you may be losing fat and gaining muscle without losing any weight. You will be slimmer and generally look better even if you're the same weight as before.

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