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The Biggest Diet Secret that Everyone and their Mother Already Knows…

Jeremy Hendon | November 29

dieting secretI’m a real geek when it comes to scientific studies.  I can never get enough, and I get excited every time I read a new study on nutrition, weight loss, muscle gain, or pretty much anything related to health.  Like I said, I’m a self-professed geek in this regard.

However, I have to constantly remind myself that we already know most of what we need to know.  In the end, our health is mostly determined by following rules that our parents and grandparents told us, even if they didn’t know the full or correct reasons.   That’s why, today, I want to discuss something we’ve all known for most of our lives but seems to have become a big secret recently.

So what is the ABSOLUTE BIGGEST SECRET ABOUT DIETING TO LOSE FAT?

Wait for it….

YOU MUST EXERCISE.

Oh, wait…that’s not a secret…we’ve all been told at least 1,000 times that we should exercise to lose weight. Right?

you must exerciseIt’s true that conventional wisdom suggests exercise to help lose weight, but if you read any number of popular diet books or websites from the past decade, a great many experts will assure you that the answer to your fat loss will never require you to leave your sofa.  Some urge us to take a pill, some want us to stop eating a particular food group, and some experts swear htat one or two foods in particular will help us shed the pounds.  In any case, we’re guaranteed to start dropping fat instantly without ever breaking a sweat. 

Lately, working out has become passé – something that suckers used to do 20 years ago before we REALLY knew how to lose fat.

Here’s the problem.  All that nutritional science that I’m so geeky about actually supports the notion that humans need to exercise to lose fat, particularly if we are already overly fat.  But…

The reasons you need to exercise are probably not what you think

You may have heard that exercising can help you lose weight by burning more calories.  Of course we burn more calories when we exercise, but the amount we burn is really not all that much (and is often overestimated).  The fact of the matter is that the level of exercise that normal people engage in is too low to burn many calories.  More importantly, the more you exercise, the hungrier you get, and the harder it is for you psychologically to stay on your diet.  Why would anyone exercise then?


There are 2 significant reasons to exercise while dieting to lose fat:

  1. You lose less muscle.  Women – pay attention – this is equally important for you.  Regardless of whether you want to look like Arnold, losing muscle is a bad thing.  If you lose 10 pounds of weight and 5 of it is muscle, then you’ve lost a maximum of 5 pounds of fat, and you probably haven’t improved your bodyfat percentage very much, if any.  If you weigh 150 pounds with 30 pounds of fat, then your bodyfat percentage is 20%.  If you weight 140 pounds with 25 pounds of fat, then your bodyfat percentage is 17.9% – an improvement, but not by much.  (And if you weigh significantly more than 150 pounds to begin with, the change will be even smaller). 
  2. Exercising improves your metabolic efficiencyNobody talks about this (except for J. Stanton), and I don’t know why.  The fact of the matter is that if you’re carrying around excessive fat, it’s likely that your ability to switch from burning glucose to burning fat.  You know what?  That’s a pretty important ability if you want to be able to lose any excess fat.  And it only takes a relatively small amount of exercise each week, typically including some lifting of weights, to regain metabolic flexibility (see here and here).  If you’re interested, read J. Stanton’s article, which summarizes in more detail exactly why metabolic flexibility is so critical.  Also note his warning toward the end that if you continue eating tons of grains and sugar, not even exercise is going to help you.

So why is all of this so Secret??

I want to say I’m boggled as to why exercise has fallen out of vogue, but the answer is obvious – we’re lazy.  Lifting even twice a week is more than many people can get motivated for.  And more importantly, almost no one talks about any sort of system that individuals can put in place to help motivate themselves and stick to consistent exercise and diet plans. 

What’s your secret to making sure you stick to an exercise schedule?  What’s your success story?

Leave a comment below.