Previous research has concluded without a shred of doubt that high levels of exercise are one of the keys to keeping fat off and maintaining your ideal weight. In this new study just published in the October 2008 issue of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, researchers found for the first time, proof that the drop in physical activity that happens automatically during calorie restriction is directly correlated to weight regain.
We've known for some time that when you restrict calories, your level of non exercise physical activity (non exercise activity thermogenesis or NEAT), drops spontaneously, even if you don't realize it's happening.
Your physical activity energy expenditure (PAEE) also tends to drop when you restrict calories.
Basically, when you cut calories, you get sluggish, you move your body less, you don't feel like exercising and if you do exercise, you do it with with less "gusto."
This means that unless you intentionally counter this tendency by pushing yourself to keep active and keep up the intensity, despite your low calorie intake, your weight loss will slow down automatically as you continue with caloric restriction. (can you say, "fat loss plateau?")
The new twist to this story is that in this latest study the researchers followed up on the subjects through the maintenance period - with 6 month and 12 month checkups.
This is significant, because most fat loss "success stories" are reported immediately after the weight loss phase, but you never know what happened to them afterwards.
Not surprisingly, it wasn't much of a "maintanence" period… almost everyone regained most of the weight.
The surprise was WHY they regained back the weight and WHO regained the most…
The drop in physical activity during the diet was directly related to the weight regain after the diet!
The researchers wrote,
"The greater the decrease in physical activity energy expenditure (PAEE) during the energy deficit, the greater the weight gain during the follow up.""That won't happen to me," you say? Think again. That drop in activity usually happens unconsciously. It's part of the "starvation response" (or "weight-regulating mechanism" if you prefer). Your body tricks you in countless ways, in order to restore energy balance and stabilize your weight.
If you believe that diet alone is the answer or that you can skimp on the training, you are shooting yourself in the foot and thinking short-term.
When you extend out your time frame to a year or longer, you get a whole new perspective.
For years, I have been imploring my readers and subscribers to "burn the fat" with higher levels of exercise - strength training AND cardio training - while "feeding the muscle" with a higher intake of clean food, instead of simply "starving the fat" with low calorie diets and little or no exercise.
"Eat More, Burn More"… "BURN The fat FEED the muscle." those are the mottos you want to remember.
Can you lose weight without exercise? Of course. Just be sure you have a dietary-induced calorie deficit. Is it the best way? Not by a long shot.
Bottom line: If you want to MAXIMIZE your fat loss, and keep fat off permanently, it is imperative not only to keep up a high level of energy expenditure (BURN calories not just cut them), but also to make a conscious effort to make sure your activity level does not drop as you lose weight during the calorie deficit.