Is your appetite out of control? According to one comprehensive review first reported on by MASS (Monthly Applications in Strength Sport), it may be your activity levels. Lack of activity, that is. What’s that, you say? You thought I was going to say the opposite? Nope. Your biological regulatory systems – hardwired to prevent you from over-eating – go haywire in the ABSENCE of activity. The more you sit around, the less filling your meals become and the more you over-eat. Your body wasn’t wired to go from sitting in a car, to sitting at a desk, to sitting on a couch, rinse and repeat. This review conflicts with many media reports and studies of late claiming exercise is ineffective for weight loss. But you know better. Exercise (particularly resistance training) is useful for weight loss not just because it increases calorie output (to varying degrees) and helps you add lean muscle…
But now science provides further incentive to exercise and get active – your appetite goes crazy without it. When engaging in low levels of physical activity, biological control of calorie consumption becomes dysregulated, leading to more food than necessary due to a weaker satiety response (source).
Anecdotally, I find I have better diet adherence when going to the gym on a regimented schedule, day in and out. I believed it was a mental thing to this point – “why undo my hard work” – but clearly, it goes deeper than that. Not only do low levels of activity increase appetite, but carrying around excess body fat can mess with your biological hardware as well, creating a double whammy attack on your waistline.
The leaner you are, the better the insulin and leptin response to a meal acts to suppress appetite. But the more fat you carry, the more resistance to the negative feedback actions of insulin and leptin (source, source). So, essentially, get active and don’t get too fat. Easy enough, right? One big Kardashian-sized “but” here. (There’s always a but, eh, Mitch? Damn you) Past a certain threshold of exercise, total calories burned flat lines, despite increases in physical activity. Some hunter-gatherer societies that have much higher physical activity levels don’t have the expected TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) to match (source). In other words, exercise’s positive effects on calorie burning – and by association, weight loss – may only hold true until a certain threshold of activity is reached. That might support why some extreme exercisers don’t get the anticipated body recomposition they hope for – despite running for hours every week or participating in daily Crossfit WODs. With Jim Brown’s Forged training program, the focus on stimulating, not annihilating, a muscle group, is probably the right balance of hard training and recovery to yield optimal results if looking like Jim is your goal (and it should be).
Science has yet to determine exactly what amount of activity things becomes dysregulated, nor at what point it becomes regulated again, and lastly, at what point it hits the threshold on the other end of the scale where optimal results seize. One study found the minimum threshold maintaining energy balance was just over 7,000 steps a day, but that doesn’t account for hard training. That may very well depend on the individual. You know when you’ve been lazy and junk food cravings intensify, and you also know when you’ve pushed the needle too far and start to hit that proverbial wall in the gym. If you don’t, seek out professional help to guide you.
- Do just enough weight training and cardio to see results. Only increase activity levels when you plateau. Most get super motivated and try to do daily Crossfit WODs and run marathons right off the bat. Try out Forged Training and see if it’s right for you. Grab this two-page cheat sheet to simplify your diet without extreme fads or quick fixes.
- Don’t rely solely on diet OR exercise to achieve your desired result (a moderate combination of the two seems to work best).
- Increase activity in non-sexy ways. Get up from your desk every hour. Ride a bike to work. Partake in ring-around-the-rosie with your little one (my favourite). Find ways to “sneak in” physical activity that doesn’t just mean getting on a treadmill. By staying active in these ways, you’ll be less likely to over-eat.
Mitch Calvert is a transformation coach for men like his former self, with worse genetics than Chris Farley. Yes, the chubby dude from Tommy Boy. Get Mitch’s free Mansformation Cheat Sheet to simplify your diet and start shedding that stubborn belly fat.