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Why do we gain weight? Is it exercise? Is it diet? WHAT IS IT?!!!

Have you ever heard the term ‘reduced energy expenditure’? Wondered what it means? Basically, it has been identified as one of the main reasons of weight gain in the general population. If someone says you have low energy expenditure, it means you are not spending enough energy.

Another term you may have heard of is ‘poor utilization of macronutrients or substrates’. This is also relevant for the risk of obesity. It means that your body, due to increase weight or low physical activity, is not making proper use of fat/carbohydrate/protein deposits, which are basically the natural fuels of the body. If your body uses all these in correct proportions, then you have no problem. However, low physical exercise or increased eating or a combination of both, will lead to your body making improper use of these fuels.

Several studies have reported that individuals with impaired fat burning ability (you may have heard it referred to as ‘low fat oxidation’) are at enhanced risk to gain weight during subsequent years. Lower rates of fat oxidation not only predict weight gain but also risk weight regain following weight loss.

Accumulating evidence suggests exercise increases the fat burning ability, during both rest and exercise conditions. It has been demonstrated that the uptake and oxidation of free fatty acid increases during moderate-intensity exercise, whereas the delivery, uptake and oxidation of free fatty acid is limited during high-intensity exercise. In contrast, high-intensity exercise results in greater post-exercise fat oxidation than is found with moderate-intensity exercise. Recent evidence also suggests that increase in fat oxidation can be achieved by interval training with no effect of exercise intensity. A study examining whether a combined 16-week exercise intervention of physical activity and weight loss influences fasting rates of fat oxidation, in 9 obese male and 16 obese females, fat mass and regional fat depots were reduced as participants were becoming more physically fit (VO2 max improved by 16%). These adaptations have also been observed in response to moderate intensity (60-75% of VO2max; the marker used for level of physical fitness) exercise training programs of smaller duration; commonly 6-12 weeks. It is noteworthy that exercise does not only enhance fat oxidation during exercise but also enhances postabsorptive fat oxidation (the fat your body absorbs from food after you have finished your meal).

Last year, we carried out a study at the University of Glasgow, where we tested overweight women who had very little experience with exercise and were between the age of 18-55. We measured their fat burning ability via some high tech equipment, and they undertook moderate intensity exercise 5 times per week for 4 weeks. Only after 4 weeks we measured a significant increase not only in their fat burning ability but also in their fitness levels. These women were asked not to change their eating patterns or undertake a diet during the 4 weeks of undertaking the structured exercise programme. They however, have told us, that exercising made them more conscious as to what they would choose to eat and thus automatically changed their eating patters.

So, although there is a growing debate about which exercise mode is best i.e. interval training or discontinued exercise, it is certain that if you take up moderate intensity exercise, which would mean reaching approximately 70% of you heart rate, 3-5 time per week, your body would start using fat more efficiently. You may not see the effect on the scale straight away as it may take some time for the increased fat burning ability to weight loss, but when you do it will mean that you have lost weight in the form of fat! And you would have increased your fitness at the same time.

Struggling with losing weight? You were never able to take up exercise or go to the gym? Contact me and together we will find what works for you.

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