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Exercise is a very bad way to lose weight.

Calories burned during exercise: the new science

Science continues to show that exercise is very effective when it comes to weight loss. What to do?

Exercise is a very bad way to lose weight. The actual number of calories burned during exercise is surprising to many. I've written about this before, but most people refuse to believe that. Weight loss will be followed by fatigue and constant tiredness.

I know from personal experience that exercise is not very effective in losing weight. When you have enough experience on Mother Earth in fitness circles, you will see that almost none of those who decide to lose weight only through sports, whether they are weight training, cycling, swimming, walking, running, etc., fail to do so. ... at least not to an appreciable extent.

And math supports me. You should pull a sledge full of stolen scrap metal from a disused railway to Moldoveanu Peak and back to burn the calories you could have avoided by simply skipping portion two for dinner.

The truth is that dietary calorie restriction works much, much better than exercise. There is now enough physical evidence to support this. It seems that for every 100 calories you think you burn while exercising, you actually burn less than 72. That's the average; it is possible to burn even less.

This seems to be the case because the level of physical activity "brings decreasing benefits in terms of caloric burning due to the compensatory responses of non-active energy burning". In short, you burn fewer calories than you thought, and the result of multiple minutes or hours of exercise is not cumulative. That is, if you burn 100 calories in an hour, if you double and do two hours, it does not mean that you burn 200 calories, but less.

The true number of calories burned
It has long been suspected that something dubious is happening in relation to exercise and calories burned, but the idea gained more attention in 2012 when a study on hunter-gatherers in Africa was published.

People from these tribes spent hours walking, running, climbing trees, and doing physical activity in general, but they burned about the same calories as the typical Westerner, whose maximum effort of the day was to stretch his arm on the car window through drive-through.

The conclusion was that the body of hunters-gatherers somehow compensated for the extra caloric burns from physical exertion, so as not to starve while procuring food.

A group of researchers led by Vincent Careau and Lewis Halsey gathered data from several studies involving 1754 men and women. Participants were measured body composition and basal metabolic rate, ie how many calories a person needs just to exist. Then they subtracted the basal metabolic rate from the total calories burned in one day (all the calories needed for exercise and any movement of the body).

They then compared these data with statistical tables to find out how many calories people burn when they move more, such as when they exercise.

It has been observed that you do not burn more calories when you do sports ... at least not as many as you would expect. As I said above, it seems that most people burn a maximum of 72% of the calories you would expect from traditional calculation methods. Moreover, this figure is greatly influenced by body mass. Heavier people can compensate for up to 50% of caloric burns. This means that even though the overestimation of the treadmill already says you burned 100 calories, you may have burned only 50.

This may explain the multitude of overweight people who spend hours on treadmills and cardio machines but are barely losing weight. Maybe it doesn't compensate as much with food as you would be tempted to believe in the lack of results. Caloric calculations are simply wrong!

What does all this mean for you?
The unpleasant truth of these studies, at least for those concerned with exercise and the way they look, is that you probably don't burn as many calories doing sports as you thought. He also explains the calculations of the mathematician Kevin Hall, who preceded the study made by Careau and Halsey.

Hall calculated that in the first year of the diet, the world did not lose as much weight as expected. In fact, I lose only half of what I would get on paper. Hall calculated that for most people, losing 0.5 kg of fat requires 7,000 calories burned, not 3,500 as expected.

This mathematician may have come across the so-called "caloric compensation", which means that people with higher than average physical activity have a lower metabolic rate.

The more physically active you are, on average, the fewer calories you burn due to the compensation mechanisms. These compensations occur either by reducing the amount of calories burned during non-sports physical activity or by another as yet undiscovered phenomenon.

All of this is genetically governed. Some may be "weak compensators," and for them, sports will work wonders for weight loss (but it would still be easier for them to follow a dietary calorie restriction pattern). The "strong compensators", on the other hand, have to accept that for them the main goal must be diet and exercise bring them other benefits, not weight loss directly.
The moral of this article is one that I keep repeating: Calorie restriction is far more important than exercise when it comes to weight loss. You definitely need to train (preferably with weights) to look good and be as healthy as possible, but strictly for weight loss and fat burning, diet remains the main concern!