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Exercise Fuels Hunger, Not Weight Loss

time magazine august 17 2009If Time magazine dedicates an entire cover story to it, then it must be big.

New research about the benefits of exercise is running counter to the conventional health wisdom we have been taught thus far. While exercise burns calories, which is necessary for weight loss, it also makes us hungry. And what do we do when we are hungry? We eat. And if we know we just clocked a few miles on the treadmill, what do we do then? We give ourselves free license to devour a plate of pasta or chicken quesadillas, and maybe even a piece of tiramisu for those extra crunches we kicked out. The problem is not that we’re eating, but rather the hunger that comes from exercise may be leading us to consume more calories than what we just burned off. This therefore negates our good intentions of creating a calorie deficit in order to lose weight.

The question that health researchers are now asking is, “Is exercise really needed for weight loss?”

The answer may surprise you.

The author of the recent Time magazine cover story, John Cloud, cites a breakthrough study in which women who needed to lose weight were assigned to four different exercise groups, three of which engaged in exercise, one of which did not. The results were eye-opening: The women who exercised for six months with a personal trainer did not lose significantly more weight than those women who did not exercise.

Other researchers have drawn similar conclusions. Gary Taubes, author of Good Calories, Bad Calories, put forth a similar argument citing additional studies. Namely, that in order to lose weight, exercise may not be the magic pill as once thought. But in order to maintain a healthy weight and body, some form of moderate exercise every day, even if it’s just moving more by walking to do errands or biking to work, might fare better at keeping us lean than hitting the gym a few times a week.good calories bad calories

According to the Time magazine article, we need to look to our ancestors for the answers. They kept moving consistently throughout the day, not at heart-thumping rates, but steady movements such as walking, laboring  and performing daily chores. In fact, as Cloud points out, researchers have shown that rather than sitting on our bums all day at work behind our computers and then trudging to the gym to sweat it out on the elliptical machine for 30 minutes may not be working to our advantage. Instead, engaging in regular bouts of physical activity distributed throughout the day might be a more effective strategy for keeping weight off.

This rather surprising news that exercise may not be so mandatory in the quest to lose weight comes with perils. Information like this can quickly be misconstrued and misinterpreted, by the general public. With 34 percent of the population obese and 32 percent overweight, Americans surely do not need to be told to exercise less in order to improve their health. Exercise has very clear and well-documented benefits. From improving mood to supporting lean muscle mass and to enhancing the quality of sleep, the benefits of exercise cannot, nor should not, be underestimated.

Therefore, public health and medical professionals need to be very vocal about informing the public about the benefits of regular physical activity as a mainstay component of a healthy lifestyle.

August 7th, 2009

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(Page 1 of 1, 13 total comments)


With all the high-fat, highly-processed food available to us 24/7, "some form of moderate exercise every day" would not be enough for burning-off all the calories we consume. Adopting a regular fitness program that's optimized for rapid fat loss is the key to losing weight from fat. Check-out some guy is giving away a bunch of free workouts and an hour-long fat loss webinar for free! = D I can't believe how much he's giving away for free. Happy Holidays everyone!


posted Dec 18th, 2009 1:52 am


@ Denez: You're right about most people having the wrong notion about getting six packs fast. It's less about sit-ups and crunches and more about staying lean through regular physical activity and a healthy lifestyle as Mike has discovered for himself.

posted Sep 15th, 2009 10:10 am


With all the gullible (and lazy) people out there, putting a story like this on the cover on a mag as big as Time will surely have negative effects on the popularity of working-out for fitness and weight-loss. Though it may be true that moderate physical effort throughout the day is more effective for weight-loss, most people don't have the luxury of taking strolls during office hours. Working-out is still invaluable as a means of staying fit and healthy.

posted Sep 4th, 2009 4:36 am


This theory is ridiculous. A healthy weight may look nice on paper when calculating BMI and such, but does that mean the tiny amount of weight that we have makes us healthy? No. Exercise triggers a boost in metabolism which will obviously trigger hunger. This is necessary because as we break down muscle from any activity our body needs energy (calories) to repair it. The hunger that follows a workout is completely necessary and keeps our metabolism fired up. A good analogy would be to picture our metabolism and digestion as a fire pit. You add wood to a fire, and the fire keeps burning wood. You add food to your stomach, and your metabolism keeps triggering healthy digestion. Healthy digestion means that your body takes what it needs from food, meaning that your body will absorb the required nutrients to repair muscles, and dispose of the rest. A healthy weight isn't all about the actual amount of pounds, it's about what kind of tissue makes up that weight. A 5'8" 145 pound woman who exercises daily and eats as much as her body begs for will possess a much more aesthetic look than a 5'8" 130 pound woman who neglects her hunger and doesn't exercise because it triggers hunger. The 145 pound woman will have a more lean, fat burning, and strong body that radiates with a healthy aura while the 130 pound woman will possess barely and muscle (which is required to burn fat) because she does not exercise, and will not look as healthy, she just weighs less, which doesn't mean ANYTHING.

posted Aug 30th, 2009 11:48 am


Marvin, despite your impressive resume, you're not convincing me. Come with me to my next 5K and point out the fat runners. You'll be able to count them on one hand. Miles upon miles of running and a careful evaluation of what I eat (but no a diet per se) have made the difference for me. I couldn't have done it just by changing my diet alone.

posted Aug 18th, 2009 5:37 pm


I am both a graduate physicist and a licensed professional engineer (professional stature comparable to a physician or lawyer). None of this is news to me. I have known for decades that exercise is not an effective method to lose significant weight. The fact I will state requires no medical collaboration but Hermann Tarnower, MD in his Scarsdale Medical Diet book mentioned that exercise was not an effective weight loss method, although he strongly recommended exercise for health reasons.

Mechanical energy (exercise)is related to heat (calories) by the well-known mechanical equivalent of heat which is 4.18 joules = 1 calorie.

In laymen??s terms this means that a large amount of mechanical energy is equivalent to a small amount of heat.

If exercise were effective for significant weight loss, in other words the mechanical equivalent of heat was reversed, we would scald ourselves when we disturb our bath water.

posted Aug 15th, 2009 3:06 pm


agree with it. I saw many proof in daily activity when i was an architect and building 5 floors hospitals. But for me it does not work really well. I still hunger for food in extreme way if i did lots of activity. Recently i am doing some exercise almost every day and my weight gradually decrease. I think they just have to combine them together. cause peoples condition arent really the same.

posted Aug 13th, 2009 9:50 pm

Claudia Cacopardo

I've been in the fitness business for over 15 years. The ONLY way we can loose those xtra pounds is monitoring our diet and exercise. It's a simple equation. That doesn't necessarily mean we need to join a gym. Consistancy is the key word. Walking, jogging outside, aerobics or pilates inside using a CD - just have to be moving for a minimum of 20 min. to get the cardiovascular benefits. As far as being hungry afterwards, that may hold true for some people BUT willpower is what we should "exercise". Why undo your hard work. That should be incentive to control your urges. Don't blame exercise for people's bad eating habits. Besides weight maintanence or loss, the benfits of exercising are far more valuable. We are an obese nation that refuses to blame ourselves for poor eating habits and lack of exercise which we are bestowing on our children. We should treat exercise like a "job" and incorporate it into our daily lives.

posted Aug 12th, 2009 5:05 pm

Brad Schoenfeld, CSCS

Well articulated. If John Cloud had bothered to actually read the research on the subject, he would have come to a very different conclusion. But that wouldn't have sold magazines. Instead, he skewed the facts to support a conclusion that is spurious if not downright wrong. The upshot is that he's done a grave disservice to the general public. I'd encourage you to read my rebuttal to Mr. Cloud on my blog where I actually cite the research on the subject. Spread the word: exercise really works!


Brad Schoenfeld, CSCS

posted Aug 12th, 2009 4:26 pm

Rebecca Scritchfield

This media piece is highly criticized by experts.

According to John Jakicic, Ph.D., FACSM, ??There is strong evidence from the majority of the scientific literature that physical activity is an important component for initial weight loss.?

Responding to a statement recently published online and in print, Jakicic added that ??The statement ??in general, for weight loss, exercise is pretty useless?? is not supported by the scientific evidence when there is adherence to a sufficient dose of physical activity in overweight and obese adults.?


posted Aug 9th, 2009 6:41 pm


The Time story was absolutely ridiculous. I have been running 30 miles a week for 18 months and lost all of my baby weight and then some. I'm 5'11'' and went from a size 14 to between a size 4-6. Instead of being hungrier, this intense running has made me evaluate every treat I indulge in from an "is it worth a mile?" viewpoint, instead of just grabbing a few cookies without thinking about it. I've run several races the past few months and let me tell you, overweight competitive runners are scarce. The Time writer should try exclusively running instead of the other equipment at the gym and he might have better results.

posted Aug 9th, 2009 3:09 pm


When I was doing the cookiediet I was instructed not to exercise instead to focus on my goal and following the program correctly. After I lost that weight succesfully then I started exercising 5 times a week. I am well aware that my succes relies 80% on what I eat. Planning ahead is the best way to keep the weight off. This cookie diet is more than a weight loss company is a learning experience.

posted Aug 7th, 2009 12:42 pm


I agree 100%. When I was loosing weight Dr. Sasson Moulavi instructed me not to exercise while doing the program (cookiediet) I needed to focus on following the program correctly and my goal. After I reach my desired weight I exercise 5 times a week but I am well aware that 80% of my succes relies on what I put on my mouth. I could not eat like I used to because with the cookie diet program your stomach and your body gets used to small portions.

posted Aug 7th, 2009 12:10 pm


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