Why exercise is essential for losing weight

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Countless studies, numerous experts who study exercise, and the millions of people who have lost weight all attest to the fact that working out works. If you really need more proof, here are 10 reasons why exercise is necessary for losing weight.

1. Exercise zaps belly fat: Regular moderate to high-intensity aerobic exercise has the greatest impact on reducing abdominal fat, the dangerous fat that increases your risk of diabetes and heart disease.
2. Exercise controls calories: You need to burn more calories than you consume in order to lose weight. Regular exercise uses up excess calories that would otherwise be stored as fat.
3. Exercise keeps the weight off: Ninety percent of people who have successfully lost weight and kept it off for a year do about an hour of physical activity a day.
4. Exercise boosts metabolism: You'll lose fat when you diet without exercising, but you'll also lose muscle, which means you'll burn fewer calories. The more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism and the more calories you'll burn.

5. Exercise does more than the scale shows: If you gain 1kg of lean muscle and lose 2kg of fat, you've actually experienced a 3kg improvement in your body condition, despite the scale only showing 1kg of weight loss.
6. Exercise curbs emotional eating: Working out has been proven time and time again to help regulate mood, which has a direct affect on people who eat when they're stressed or upset.
7. Exercise creates a healthy chain reaction: Healthy habits tend to cluster together. When people make positive changes, like getting more exercise, they tend to work on other health improvements as well, such as eating better.
8. Exercise brings on the fun: Rock-climbing is more exciting than eating a celery stick. That's why it's sometimes easier to be active to stay slim than to maintain a strict diet.
9. Exercise stops hunger: Studies suggest that people who exercise and diet are actually less hungry than those who only diet.
10. Exercise increases energy: Regular physical activity increases stamina by boosting your body's production of energy-promoting neurotransmitters. That gives you even more motivation to get moving and shed weight.

Green tea may increase fat burning

Already lauded as a powerful antioxidant, green tea extract may also help dieters to shed fat. The extract may also be a safe improvement on traditional diet drugs because its benefits are not accompanied by an increase in heart rate.

As part of their study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers measured the 24-hour energy expenditure of 10 healthy men receiving three doses of caffeine (50 mg), green tea extract (containing 50 mg caffeine and 90 mg epigallocatechin), or a placebo per day. The study authors report that, compared with placebo, treatment with green tea was associated with a "significant increase" (+4%) in daily energy expenditure.

This effect was not linked to the relatively small amounts of caffeine found in tea, since subjects receiving amounts of caffeine similar to those found in green tea displayed no change in daily energy output. The investigators note, however, that green tea extract contains a high amount of catechin polyphenols. These compounds may work with other chemicals to increase levels of fat oxidation and thermogenesis, where the body burns fuel such as fat to create heat.

I’m not suggesting that sipping green tea all day will cause you to lose significant amounts of body fat; however it may be a useful addition to your fat loss efforts when a proper diet and exercise program are already in place.

Does exercising on an empty stomach burn more fat?

All fat burning processes in your body are controlled by your sympathetic nervous system (SNS). The SNS is inherently activated by exercise and lack of food. The combination of fasting and exercising maximises the impact of cellular factors and catalysts, which force the breakdown of fat and glycogen (stored carbohydrate) for energy. So yes, training on an empty stomach is actually a very effective way to force your body to burn fat.

It's also important to realise that eating a meal of carbohydrates prior to exercising will inhibit the SNS and reduce the fat burning effect of your exercise. Instead, eating lots of carbs activates your parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS), which promotes energy storage, the complete opposite of what you're aiming for.

The benefits of whey protein

Some experts believe exercising on an empty stomach is a bad idea because exercising vigorously when you're blood sugar is low could lead to dizziness and poor performance. Others warn that exercising while hungry can lead to overeating afterwards.

I believe the best approach is to use some common sense and listen to your body. A number of individual factors can play a role, such as your age, when you last ate, whether or not you're pregnant, taking medications, your medical history, level of fitness, and the type of exercise you engage in. If you feel weak or nauseous while exercising on an empty stomach, you may want to at least eat a small meal before exercising.

So, what is the best thing to eat prior to exercising that will boost performance and fat burning?

A recent study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise, demonstrated that consuming whey protein 30 minutes before resistance training boosts your body's metabolism for as much as 24 hours after your workout. In practical terms, consuming a 20 gram serve of whey protein in the form of a powder mixed in water before exercise, and another serving afterward will most likely yield the double benefit of increasing both fat burning and muscle building at the same time.

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Mareike Bout is a qualified and registered personal trainer who specialises in holistic fitness and lifestyle coaching. She is a recognised leader in the industry, receiving the peer-voted South Australia Personal Trainer of the Year award in 2008. She is also a regular guest on <?xml:namespace prefix = st1> Adelaide’s top-rating radio station FIVEaa. Mareike runs her personal training business, One Life Live Well, both online and from a private studio in Adelaide. Services include one-on-one training, outdoor group fitness, lifestyle coaching and weight-loss programs. Individually tailored programs encompass aspects of exercise, nutrition, relaxation, positive thinking, life balance, and goal setting. Her approach is to guide, support and educate her clients so that they posses the tools required to live a life of health, strength and vitality!