Yes, no and Maybe
I hear it frequently. “Can you help me lose the belly fat? I’m exercising six mornings per week plus adding in an extra cardio session. I know how to eat clean but I can’t seem to lose my belly!” This is a common question I hear from clients, especially from women who think they are eating clean and exercising right.
It’s a question with an answer that webs many ways. Can exercise make you fat? Yes, no and maybe. Over-exercising has the potential to increase factors that make fat loss difficult. Exercising in manners too mild, too strenuous, too frequent – or a combination – can do the same.
Exercise and eating nutritiously are beneficial, no doubt, but is the type and quantity right for your goals? Do you know how to tell? There’s no one size fits all for food and fitness because we are created with unique biochemical individuality. There are, though, some general ideas for consideration for countering excess body fat.
Points to Ponder
- Exercise produces oxidative stress and free radicals. Although conflicting data exist, available information suggests that physical exercise promotes an increase in free-radical generation. Downline, this can affect inflammation and Cortisol. (3)
- Inflammation is a foundation for a host of diseases like arthritis, pain syndromes, auto-immunity, cancer…chronic, low grade inflammation caused by lifestyle is not desirable!
- Cortisol is a stress hormone produced by the Adrenal Glands that helps us manage the demands of life. It helps us react quickly when we feel a stressor. We know this as “fight or flight.” That stressor, in old times, could be likened to running away from a bear in the forest. We see danger, we run away, we know we are now safe, so we relax.
- Ideally, Cortisol should be like a faucet that’s cranked on high, then quickly turned off. And yet in today’s nonstop society, Cortisol is often on a low, steady drip like a leaky faucet that won’t turn off properly. (1)
- What can a constant Cortisol drip cause? Inflammation and fat retention, especially in the abdomen.
- When I see women distance running or working out in parking lots everyday at 5:00am, eating low fat, under eating, and then adding cardio, I see fatigue, weight loss resistance, poor consumption of healthy fats and lack of muscle tone and definition.
- I also encounter women who “think they know about eating clean” are not fueling their bodies properly to achieve and maintain their goals. These women are committed, which makes it all the more sad that they lack tailored knowledge to achieve their goals.
- Quality? Quantity? Both? Experts state a variety of methods for burning body fat to include: slow, steady state cardio, HIIT or high intensity interval training or strength training with minimal cardio. Each of these has it merits and, in my opinion, each may be suitable for certain goals.
- Hormones! Seasons of life such as teenager-hood, the childbearing years and pre/post menopause call for tailored exercise recommendations. Hormones are a driving factor with the efficacy of whether or not one’s form of exercise is being maximized to the fullest potential. (2)
- Stress is not isolated to career and parenting demands. Did you know exercise is a form of stress? Did you know stress can make you fat? PubMed.gov findings support the hypothesis that cortisol secretion could represent a means for the observed connection between stress and abdominal fat distribution. (4)
- Exercise and nutrition are highly scientific and sensitive. This is why I suggest working with a knowledgeable coach, trained in both, to reach a healthy body mass and reduce excess body fat.
Quality over quantity!
I workout 30 minutes daily, 4-6 days/week (in my home) and have no trouble maintaining a healthy fat mass to lean mass ratio. Knowledge is key! (Oh, and these principles apply to the guys, as well!)
Are your workouts and food plans helping or hindering your goals?
“Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” 1 Corinthians 6:19 KJV
- A More Excellent Way, Dr. Henry Wright, Pleasant Valley Publications, Georgia, Thomaston. 2003.
- Sports Nutrition for Health Professionals, Natalie Digate Muth, F.A.Davis Company, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. 2015.