Have you ever wondered how exercise affects weight loss and metabolism? The reality show “The Biggest Loser”, in which contestants competed on weight loss, is a television show we all remember. One of the lessons seemed to be that extreme weight loss required a strict calorie diet and lots of exercise.
However, years later, contestants often struggled with weight regain and a slow metabolism. After the cameras were off, the difficulty of long-term weight loss continued so there must have to been something else to this.
A recent study published in the journal Obesity, analyzed the misconceptions and aftermath of “The Biggest Loser” participants. Scientists wanted to see wanted happened to the contestant’s metabolism and how others were more effective at keeping the weight off.
How does exercise affect weight loss?
On the show, winners usually had to lose hundreds of pounds to win. This fast and extreme weight loss grabbed the attention of metabolism expert Kevin Hall. He works as a senior investigator at the National Institute of Diabetes. Dr. Hall knew that when we drop a lot of weight fast, we send our resting metabolic rates into free-fall. These are the calories we burn everyday without effort.
Muscle loss during dieting is believed to have caused that lower resting metabolic effect. Muscle burns more calories than fat. Dr. Hall wondered if the exercise is what kept the muscle tissue growing for the contestants.
In a 2014 study, Hall found that everyone’s resting metabolic rate dropped regardless if a person has gastric bypass surgery or if a person goes through the shows’ extreme weight loss. Even years after this study, the contestants’ resting metabolism remained slow and had regained weight.
Does our body automatically reserve energy for calorie burning?
Very active people burned the same number of calories as us resting and this confused Dr. Hall. In the hunter gatherer study, he concluded that tribespeople’s bodies automatically compensated for calories burned by decreasing other physical factors.
Hall later learned that regular physical activity is what may have kept their resting metabolic rates low. This will ensure that the total energy expenditure will be decreased.
Slow but steady weight loss
The first thing to remember is that slow and steady wins the race. People who gradual lose weight kept their resting metabolic rate calmer.
Second, frequent exercise is good to stop weight regain and maintain your resting metabolism but don’t go extreme with it.
How exercise helped with the contestant’s weight loss is still a mystery to Dr. Hall. He thinks that exercise affected their appetite in a way to stop overeating.
To say the least, if you exercise regularly and make small changes to your diet, you can achieve long-term weight loss. Nonetheless, more research is needed on how exercise affects weight and metabolism.
Source: Reynolds, Gretchen. “How Exercise Affects Metabolism and Weight Loss” December 15, 2021 www.nytimes.com