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“The most intriguing benefit is that you continue burning extra calories even after you stop exercising. How many and how long is determined by the duration and intensity of the exercise.” Lean For Life (Ripped Enterprises, 1989)
Study Finds Calorie-Burn Up 14 Hours after Vigorous Exercise
TIME magazine two years ago proclaimed that exercise “is good for you, but it won’t make you lose weight.” The author claimed that exercise caused him to overeat and may actually be “keeping him from losing weight.” I responded with a “talk back” piece explaining why the TIME story had it wrong. (Link below)
The TIME author complained that he ate more on days he worked out. Like a dog chasing its tale, he argued, exercise was getting him no where. He was overlooking an important benefit, according to a new study.
The study found that replacing the calories burned while exercising doesn’t keep you from losing weight—because you keep burning extra calories long after you stop exercising.
You’ll lose faster, of course, if you don’t eat substantially more on the days you exercise. Some forms of exercise don’t cause you to eat more. We’ll discuss that below.
Let’s start with the new study.
One thing that sets the new study apart is the strict control of variables, including diet and physical activity. The study created a real-life situation in the laboratory.
Senior researcher David C. Nieman and his team of researchers at Appalachian State and the University of North Carolina studied 10 men, ages 22 to 33, using a metabolic chamber. The metabolic chamber was a sealed room much like a small hotel room. It included a bed, sofa, multimedia laptop, telephone, toilet and a sink. It also included a stationary exercise cycle. Food was sent in through an air-locked entrance. This allowed the researchers to determine calorie burn before, during, and after exercise. They also controlled and measured the food that was eaten.
Each participant began with a rest day in the chamber; they did normal tasks such as washing, eating, brushing their teeth, but very little physical activity except two minutes of stretching every two hours. On a second nonconsecutive day they followed a similar routine—and cycled vigorously for 45 minutes beginning at 11 a.m. In this case “vigorous” was 57% of workload maximum, which corresponds to 73% of VO2max.
Subjects were instructed to avoid exercise on the days before entering the chamber and to consume food from a specific list. Oxygen consumption and energy expenditure were measured continuously during the time in the chamber, including the exercise period. They continued living in the chamber after the bout of exercise so that metabolic rate and calorie burn could be monitored.
Importantly, calorie consumption was increased on the exercise day to precisely match the calories burned during the exercise period.
“Energy intake and expenditure were tightly matched on both rest and exercise days to ensure zero energy balance under both conditions, and the daily activities of living were controlled,” Nieman et al wrote.
The men burned an average of 519 calories during the bout of exercise on the bike. Significantly, they burned an additional 190 calories on average during the 14.2 hours after exercising. The net additional calories burned compared to the rest day was 709.
“Our data support that vigorous cycling has a significant effect on 24 hour energy expenditure under conditions when energy intake is balanced with energy expenditure,” the researchers wrote. “The magnitude (190 kcal) and duration (14.2 h) of net energy expenditure…are greater than previously reported in most studies conducted outside a metabolic chamber,” they added.
So, even if you replace the calories burned while exercising, you’ll still burn more calories than you consume.
If you eat less than you burn while exercising, you’ll do even better.
“That means a person would lose one pound after five intense exercise bouts if they resisted the temptation to eat more [on exercise days], ” Dr. Nieman told USA TODAY. Two workouts a week would translate to one pound every two and a half weeks. (A pound of fat contains 3500 calories.)
It seems that TIME magazine was too quick to write off exercise as a means of weight control.
The Power of Exercise
As the researchers showed in their report, vigorous workouts will also have a significant effect even if you eat an additional amount equal to the calories burned during each workout. Three vigorous workouts a week (190 x 3 = 570 calories) would put the TIME author’s weight on a downward path. He’d lose a pound every six weeks (3500 divided by 570) or about nine pounds a year. Considering that Americans, on average, gain a pound a year, that’s huge.
The Nieman et al study is reported in the September issue of the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.
* * *
This result doesn’t surprise me. I often observe that my resting heart rate is up in the evening (between 8 and 9) after a noon workout. On rest days my resting heart rate in the evening runs between 51 and 53. On workout days it’s between 57 and 62; 62 on “hard” workout days and 57 after “easy” workouts. (*) That suggests a significant elevation in metabolic rate on workout days. This holds true for weight, aerobic, and combination workouts. My aerobic workouts rarely run over 20 minutes. Weight or combo workouts last an hour or less. (*I work out three days a week, alternating hard and easy workouts.)
I usually eat a little more on workout days, but I don’t notice a significant difference in my appetite. I don’t believe I’m unusual.
People who train for relatively short periods generally don’t eat more. This was shown in a study of college women whose daily calorie intake was measured during a season of competitive swimming and tennis. Swimming workouts lasted up to two hours a day; tennis practice was a little over an hour. Average daily calorie intake was monitored for each woman before and during a five-month training and competitive season. Here’s what the study found: The swimmers ate about 15% more than the tennis players but, within each group, there was little change in calorie intake before and during the training and competitive season. In short, swimming and playing tennis for an hour or two didn’t seem to have a significant appetite stimulating effect.
Lumberjacks, long distance runners, and others who exercise for long periods of time do, of course, eat more.
Short, hard workouts combined with a healthy balanced diet of whole foods may be the best way to control body weight. In my opinion, that formula will make and keep you lean. It has worked for me for going on 40 years. (See training pictorial http://www.cbass.com/PICTORAL.HTM )
(As promised, here’s the link to my earlier article on exercise and weight control: http://www.cbass.com/Time.htm )
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