Researchers have been delivering a slew of bad news recently, particularly for those who are looking to lose weight or improve their fitness level. For millennials, the news was especially hard. Not only is it going to be more difficult for younger adults to lose weight (for a variety of reasons), but scientists also found that we should be getting considerably more exercise than traditionally thought.
And in the immortal words of TV pitchman Billy Mays, “but wait, there’s more!”
Another study, this one looking at fat oxidation rates, shows that the more fit you are the easier it’s going to be to lose weight. The gist of the study is that well-trained runners, or those who are already fairly fit to begin with, were found to have an easier time oxidizing fat than those who were “recreationally trained.” That is, you will burn more energy and more fat if you are in a more fit state.
“Our findings suggest that the capacity to oxidise fat at high exercise intensities is a supremely advantageous adaptation for endurance athletes,” the study says. “The novel finding,” it continues, “was that higher fat oxidation rates explained the WT participants’ greater capacity to perform high-intensity intermittent work.”
Now, the first thing that comes to mind after reading this is, “well, duh.” It only makes sense that people who are more fit and who have more muscle and endurance would be able to burn more fat and calories. This is nothing ground-breaking and shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.
So, if we’re able to dig a little deeper and really distill the findings into an easy-to-swallow form, it would be that fit people’s bodies are more efficient at burning energy (calories). Because of that efficiency, they are able to engage in high-intensity exercise for longer periods of time (they’re in shape) and have more available energy to do so (again, they’re bodies can burn through energy more efficiently).
If this study hasn’t uncovered anything new, than what good does it do anybody? You could say that it may help the way we conceptualize exercise and the weight-loss process — that is, getting the ball rolling is the hardest part, and you should gain momentum as you go.
For example, if you’re really out of shape and have a high body fat percentage, then exercising is going to be difficult, painful, and extremely tiring. This is because your body is incredibly inefficient at burning off calories in your fat stores. But as you start to exercise, your body starts to train itself to get better at that very process, and the more efficient it gets, the more fat you’ll be able to burn. It’s effectively training your body to efficiently burn off excess energy stored as fat.
For those of you who are not fit, or are just getting started on a weight-loss odyssey, the message here is pretty simple: The hardest part is the very beginning. Not only is mustering the energy, courage, and motivation to get to the gym and change your eating habits difficult, but your body will literally have the hardest time burning fat right when you start out.
Nature is cruel in this way, but it’s also interesting. It’s almost like a built-in motivation tool for the long-haul. If you can get over the hump at the very beginning, things will get easier, and you’ll get better results. It’s like your success cascades into itself — a domino effect, if you will.
This may be of use to some people as a sort of psychological ploy. A lot of people give up with their diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes in short order when they don’t see immediate results. However, if you are getting results, then that may be a sort of motivation to keep going. And the longer you stick to it, the more efficient your body will become at burning more and more excess energy.
Again, it’s like knocking over dominoes.
So, if you’ve had trouble getting started, or even entertaining the thought of entering the gym, just keep the results of this study in mind. You’re up against a lot of resistance — psychological, physical, and environmental — but with the right changes to your eating habits and physical activity levels, your body’s natural efficiency can be rewired to work for you, rather than against you.
Follow Sam on Twitter @SliceOfGinger