Are you “crushing it” at the gym, not losing weight and just getting frustrated? A study published in June, 2019 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found many people fail to lose weight and some gained weight while exercising and only a few people in the study managed to lose pounds. Understanding the differences between those that lost weight and those that stayed the same, or even gained weight, can help us understand what changes we need to make to be successful. clinicaltrials.gov as NCT01264406.
When exercise produces less weight loss than expected, that is called compensation. Researchers at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, LA and other institutions conducted a 24 week, randomized, controlled trial, with 171 sedentary, overweight men and women participants, and assigned them to one of three carefully supervised groups, 1. A control arm where participants continued their normal daily routines, 2. An exercise arm where participants exercised 3 times a week on a treadmill or bike until they burned eight calories for every kilogram of body weight or 3. An exercise arm requiring participants to burn twenty calories for every kilogram of body weight.
Researchers monitored weight, resting metabolic rates, levels of hunger, aerobic fitness, daily food intake, and energy expenditure. Study participants were allowed to eat what they wanted and appetite and health beliefs were measured by self-report. The objective of the study was to identify reasons why people compensate, or lose less weight than expected.
At the end of 24 weeks participants returned to the lab for a final comprehensive analysis. Not surprisingly, the weight and resting metabolic rate of the participants in the control arm had not changed. What was surprising is, the weights and resting metabolic rates of the study participants in both exercise arms, had not changed much either. Approximately 60% of those in the shorter workout group and 90 % of those in the longer workout group had lost less weight than expected.
Researchers found those assigned to one of two exercise arms were eating more, approximately 90 calories a day more in the shorter exercise arm and approximately 125 calories a day more in the longer exercise arm. It does not sound like a lot of calories but it was enough to slow or stop weight loss. Those that experienced more compensation reported higher increased appetite ratings, increased cravings for sweet foods, increased sleep disturbance and worse physical pain or discomfort. In addition, they had stronger beliefs that exercise or healthy behaviors can compensate for unhealthy behaviors.
Participants that did not increase their caloric intake were able to lose weight.
What Can We Learn?
- You can’t out exercise your bad food choices or increased calorie consumption.
- If you experience increased hunger after starting and exercise program you should drink more water or non-caloric fluids. Just one egg has 155 calories so eating just one more egg a day can cause compensation.
- No one wants to count calories but the fact is, to successfully lose weight, it is necessary to closely monitor your caloric intake.
The Anti-Aging and Wellness Clinic
A critical component to any age management program is body to fat ratio. Following a complete medical history, body composition analysis, comprehensive blood test and discussion of your personal goals, we will work with you to develop a nutrition plan tailored to your specific needs. As you progress through our age management program your nutritional needs may change and will continue to work with you to refine and manage your personalized nutritional plan.
At the Anti-Aging and Wellness Clinic we use innovation, the most advanced treatment options and cutting-edge science, to help you develop a customized health program that will enable you to achieve your peak physical and mental performance. We want to help educate and empower you to take charge of your health allowing you to live a longer, healthier, more active and productive life.
Our anti-aging physicians understand that your body must obtain and absorb the right nutrients to perform at peak efficiency. Using the most advanced methods for nutritional testing, our physicians can determine your nutritional deficiencies and help you develop a customized supplemental plan that works best for you.
Corby K Martin, William D Johnson, Candice A Myers, John W Apolzan, Conrad P Earnest, Diana M Thomas, Jennifer C Rood, Neil M Johannsen, Catrine Tudor-Locke, Melissa Harris, Daniel S Hsia, Timothy S Church, Effect of different doses of supervised exercise on food intake, metabolism, and non-exercise physical activity: The E-MECHANIC randomized controlled trial, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, , nqz054, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/nqz054