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Why doesn’t exercise help you lose much weight?

By Mike Clark, PHD, Founder of Seeking Perfect Health.

I am spending hours in the gym but do not seem to be losing weight. What is happening? I have been told to exercise more and eat less. Why does it not work?

Why: Exercise only accounts for a small portion of daily calorie burn. Even when you work out, the extra calories you burn only account for a small part of your total energy expenditure. So, what accounts for energy expenditures?

There are three main factors: (1) basal metabolic rate (the energy used for basic functioning when the body is at rest); (2) the energy used to break down food; and (3) the energy used in physical activity.


The truth is that we have very little control over our basal metabolic rate even though it is our biggest energy drain. One expert stated: "It's generally accepted that for most people, the basal metabolic rate accounts for 60 to 80 percent of total energy expenditure.” Digesting food accounts for about 10 percent and often more depending on what you are digesting.


Exercise is 5% to 10% of weight loss. Physical activity accounts for only 10% to 30%, of which exercise is only a subset (the 5% to 10%). (We assume you are not exercising several hours a day.) Physical activity includes all movement, including walking around, fidgeting, et cetera. You might ask yourself: “how many hours do I set each day. Some call sitting the new smoking from a health point of view.


So, if one is overweight or obese, and trying to lose body fat, it would take an incredible amount of time, will, and effort to make a real impact through exercise alone. This explains the frustration of the person spending hours in the gym but does not seem to lose weight or trains for a marathon but does not lose weight.


Exercise can even undermine weight loss. For example, how much we eat is connected to how much we move. When we move more, we sometimes eat more too, or eat less when we’re not exercising. We get hungry from exercise.

Exercise more, eat more? One 2009 study shows that people seemed to increase their food intake after exercise — either because they thought they burned off a lot of calories (so why not reward oneself with that doughnut) or because they were hungrier. Another review of studies found that people generally overestimated how much energy exercise burned and ate more when they worked out. Note: It takes a lot of effort to burn 700 calories and is easy to eat a 700-calorie dessert.

Another expert notes: "You work hard on that machine for an hour, and that work can be erased with five minutes of eating afterward." Example: A single slice of pizza could undo the benefit of an hour's workout. So could a cafe mocha or an ice cream cone.


Some people just slow down after a workout and use less energy on their non-exercise activities. Maybe lie down for a rest, fidget less, take the elevator instead of the stairs, ignore their dogs’ pleas to take a walk. Why? Their exercise made them tired, or they feel they earned a rest.


NOW you know why exercise is not a panacea for weight loss. Does this mean it is not good for you? OF COURSE NOT! There are many benefits to a regular exercise program.


There are also many benefits, including more fat loss, that comes from moving more during the day. Yes, take the stairs, park further away from the building, take short moving breaks, all of these add up to movement. weight loss. Increase your basic metabolic rate by increasing your muscle mass. In other words, don’t’ be a couch potato. It is bad for your heart and brain and body fat.


Some known benefits of exercise

  1. Natural anti-depressant.

  2. Increased blood flow to the brain.

  3. Increased Brain Derived Neurotropic Factors (BDNF) to increase your neural connections in your brain (best through high intensity training).

  4. Increased strength, and increased lean muscle. Loss of muscle is a major determinant of longevity. We lose muscle as we age, much more if we do not exercise. You also look better in your clothes!

  5. Helps reduce triglycerides and increase HDL.

  6. Helps lower blood pressure. Note: High insulin is inflammatory and can be reduce through exercise. Blood pressure is affected by your inflammation.

  7. Can increase BMD (bone mineral density) to help prevent osteoporosis.

  8. Improves cognitive performance (see above).

  9. Protects against injuries.

  10. Improves fasting insulin. Insulin is a key factor in weight gain, fat accumulation, and pre-diabetes and diabetes.

  11. ….. and more.

Some tidbits for a healthy weight loss program and healthy life:

  1. Body weight is controlled by interactions between the genetic profile and environmental and lifestyle factors, such as physical inactivity, stress, or medication, among others.

  2. Exercise only benefits the skeletal muscles and not the fatty liver that is the cornerstone of fat accumulation.

  3. Too much protein can be turned to glucose in the liver. Eating too much protein adds sugar to the body. Avoid highly processed, concentrated protein sources such as protein shakes, protein bars, and protein powders. Read the labels.

  4. Know your DNA. DNA Guides the Treatment and takes the guess work out of weight loss.

  5. Understand how stress affects your body weight (and longevity). Cortisol is also a hormone. Stress (cortisol) increases insulin which can increase fat storage.

  6. Weight Loss is a hormonal Imbalance Issue. Insulin is a hormone.

To our readers:

Share: Feel share to share your weight loss struggles, victories, frustrations, hopes.


We can all benefit from your experiences and knowledge and positive inputs.

Maybe your exercise program helped you lose lots of weight. Share that also.

Feel free to contact me at info@seekingperfecthealth.com.


Weight Loss is a

Hormonal Imbalance Issue

DNA Guides the Treatment

Insulin is a hormone

Don’t Eat, Lower Insulin

Obesity is a Hormonal

Dysregulation of Fat

A low-carbohydrate, healthy-fat diet reduces the incoming glucose load but does little to burn it off. Exercise may help, but the impact of compensation also limits its effectiveness.


Exercise only benefits the skeletal muscles and not the fatty liver that is the cornerstone of fat accumulation.


Body weight is controlled by interactions between the genetic profile and environmental and lifestyle factors, such as physical inactivity, stress, or medication, among others.

  • Intermittent fasting produces beneficial hormonal changes that chronic caloric deprivation does not.

  • It reduces insulin and insulin resistance.

  • One size does not fit all.

  • Our customized software is specifically designed for medical providers only and allows the provider to validate a patient's specific nutritional needs, laboratory recommendations, lifestyle recommendations and health precautions based on the patient's individual DNA findings.

Did you know. Can too much protein turn into fat? Click here.

  • Eating too much protein adds sugar to the body.

  • Avoid highly processed, concentrated protein sources such as protein shakes, protein bars, and protein powders.


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