In all my schooling on fitness and health I was taught that exercising will increase people's metabolic rate, so that is what I was teaching my clients.
Come to find out, that is not completely true. Although some exercising will increase your resting metabolic rate, too much exercising has the opposite effect. The people who participated in the show "Biggest Loser", found that out the hard way.
If you are familiar with the show, these people worked out for hours every day plus they followed a strict diet, in order to lose massive amounts of weight in a very short time. Whoever lost the most weight won. But what happens after the show is over?
According to a research article in the New York Times, by Gina Kolata, pretty much, all the "Biggest Loser" contestants gained the weight back over time. What they discovered was that their resting metabolic rate had slowed down significantly so as soon as they stopped exercising as much as they did during the show, they had a very hard time keeping the weight off. The scientist couldn't understand why the resting metabolic rate had slowed down that much. They had all kinds of theories in this article as to why the resting metabolic rate had slowed down but none of them were aware of another study that perfectly explained why the resting metabolic rate slowed down.
This study was funded by the National Science Foundation, Washington University and the University of Arizona and it took place in Northern Tanzania. They studied the Hadza, which is a population of hunter-gatherers living in a savannah-woodland environment. This was a very active group of people, and the study wanted to examine their daily energy expenditure and physical activity levels.
What they found out shocked them. Although the Hadza were a lot more active than the average westerner, their daily energy expenditure was pretty much the same. How can it be? These people were clearly more active and yet they burn the same amount of calories per day as the people in the west, who spend most of their day sitting?
Without going into too many details, what they discovered is that as activity goes up, the body becomes more efficient at burning calories, and that translates to a lower resting metabolic rate.
By the way, there is nothing wrong with a lower resting metabolic rate, it's actually a very good thing for your health. The only negative thing is that you can't eat as much food, but if you learn to eat slowly and mindfully you will be able to get more pleasure from food without having to eat as much, but that is a topic for another blog.
The problem all of the "Biggest Loser" contestants ran into after the show, was that they could not keep up with the high amounts of activity, and that high amount of activity had caused their body to become more efficient at burning calories (slowed down their metabolic rate), so as soon as they stopped the activity and never truly adjusted their eating, the weight came right back.
The other issue with the show is that they never taught the contestants to eat by listening to their bodies. They ate by counting calories and measuring their food. If they had learned to eat out of true hunger and not just because is mealtime, their body would have automatically adjusted to the lower resting metabolic rate and would have started to eat less as soon as they stopped exercising as much.
The first habit I teach my clients is how to listen to their bodies and learn to eat out of true hunger and not just because is meal time. If you would like to learn more about how I help my clients achieve sustainable weight loss, check out my Live Your Way Thin System.
The only time excessive exercising is warranted is when you are competing in a sport and you are trying to improve your performance in that sport. For the average person who is just looking to lose weight and get in a good shape, it's completely unnecessary to exercise that much.
If you have any questions about this article, feel free to leave a comment or sent me an email.