It’s a widely held belief and association that healthy, thin people have the bodies that they do because they exercise. And on the flip side, that larger people and overweight people are inherently lazy, and do not exercise. In this article, we blow the doors wide open on this cultural myth and set some things straight.
Certain fast food companies have long promoted this idea that going and doing sport, or running, or other aerobic types of activity or exercise, can "burn off fat". It’s just not true. The amount of calories that you burn sitting still, doing nothing, or sleeping is huge. If you run flat out up and down 10 flights of stairs, you will feel totally exhausted, as if you have burned up a lot of energy. But this is your body telling you not to exert yourself too much: the actual caloric burn is only a tiny little bit higher than sitting on the couch doing nothing. Go and check it out, it’s true. It’s shocking and I could hardly believe it, but it’s true. It’s easy to believe because your body feels so depleted after, but don’t be fooled. The amount of calories in one bite of hamburger will massively undo an entire exercise session. It’s in the interests of these companies to promote this lie, and trick you into believing that "it’s okay for me to have this treat, I have been good, I have exercised, I deserve it, and I will work it off tomorrow". This is a trap. The way skinny people get skinny is by not eating too much / too high-calorie food. The way overweight people get fat is by eating lots of sugary and high-calorie foods. Exercise has very little to do with it. Don’t be fooled.
The only way you can gain weight is by eating food that your body stores as fat. That’s how you gain weight. But here’s the kicker: when you eat more food than you burn, you do not necessarily gain more fat. You can gain muscle, if you are using the muscle. You can also gain fat. You can gain water. A lot of things happen when you eat more than you burn. Your body makes a choice as to what to do with the excess calories. It’s usually a combination of those things, because most people are not in a state of caloric excess for a sustained period of time. But the big takeaway here is that gaining weight is not just about fat. And that’s the biggest misconception that leads people to believe that they can’t exercise to lose weight.
The reason this myth persists is because people have a tendency to associate fat with laziness. They think that if someone is fat, they do not exercise. And if they do exercise, they do not lose fat. Or they only lose fat in one area of their body, but not in another.
Maybe they see a muscular person, and they think, "well, if I do that, I will get muscular like that person." And they start doing that exercise and trying to gain muscle. But they never see the fat melting off.
This is because muscle weighs more than fat. If you gain muscle, your weight may not change at all, because muscle weighs more than fat. The amount of fat on your body may not change, but your body may be a different shape.
But here’s the most important thing to remember: your weight is not necessarily an accurate representation of how healthy you are.
It is possible to be healthy and thin. It is possible to be healthy and have a little extra fat. It is possible to be overweight and not healthy.
If you are trying to lose fat, you need to be in a caloric deficit. That means eating less calories than you burn. It’s that simple.
But if you are eating in a caloric deficit, you are probably also losing muscle. So you need to be lifting heavy weights, so that you are gaining muscle while you are losing fat.
If you are trying to gain muscle, the number one thing you need to do is to lift heavy weights. Not necessarily many reps. Heavy weights. If you just do more reps, you will not gain muscle. There is a threshold where the number of reps you do does not matter. The weight you are lifting matters. You also need to eat a lot of protein. Protein is a major building block of muscle. One silver lining here about exercise: if you have more muscles and bigger muscles, you burn more calories when you’re sitting still, than someone with smaller muscles. That’s right, just being muscular (whether you’re using them or not), means it’s easier to be in calorific deceit. So don’t exercise! Instead, become muscular!
Losing fat and gaining muscle at the same time
If you are trying to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time, you still need to be in a caloric deficit, almost. Just balance it. But you also need to be eating a lot of protein. Eat as much protein as you want. That said, there are new foods, supplements and other things coming out all the time that can help with losing weight, gaining muscle, and general wellbeing all at the same time.
In summary, you can lose fat by eating less. Don’t be fooled by the promise of exercise. It’s all about the caloric burn. You will probably also lose muscle if you are in caloric deficit. You can gain muscle by lifting heavy weights and eating a lot of protein. It’s that simple.