I created this image as a joke initially, but then it occurred to me that it could be used to help explain some simple facts about losing weight, so here goes.
The General Theory of Weight Loss, According to MotleyHealth
Weight Loss = healthy diet + 45 minutes of exercise daily
By weight I really mean mass of adipose tissue.
I have talked about weight and fat previously but this is important ground to cover as so many people get confused about this.
Firstly, most people are overweight, and by that I mean that they are carrying too much fat (adipose tissue). It is often the case that they are also carry too little muscle tissue to be considered healthy and fit. Fitness is really a combination of cardiovascular health and muscular strength, power, speed and flexibility.
However, many approaches to weight loss focus too heavily on reducing calories alone. When people lose weight by going on a very restrictive diet (often referred to as a Very Low Calorie Diet / VLCD in the medical literature) they lose muscle tissue as well as fat tissue. The problem with this is that people obsess too much with losing overall weight, and really they should focus on losing fat and gaining more muscle. Rather than measure yourself on the scales it is better to measure your waist, hips, chest and other areas you are trying to improve on.
But I am Big Boned / Have Strong Muscles!
This is largely a misunderstanding. Most people not have big bones or super strong muscles. If your legs or arms appear thick and you do not exercise and your diet is bad, then this is still fat. There are 3 types of fat;
- Visceral fat – the dreaded fat that surrounds the internal organs. This is the unhealthiest form of fat. There is actually also intrahepatic fat, which is fat around the liver.
- Subcutaneous fat – this is the fat immediately under the skin and which can make arms, legs, chest, face etc. all look “flabby”.
- Intramuscular fat – this is the fat that most people are unaware of. It accumulates within muscle tissue.
The photo of some meat to the left shows both subcutaneous fat and intramuscular fat. The thick fat on the bacon at the bottom of the image is subcutaneous fat and the white patches within the joint of beef is the intramuscular fat.
This photo highlights is that there is fat within muscles. If you are “big boned” or have thick thighs, for example, then you most likely really have a lot of this intramuscular fat. It does not mean that your muscles are stronger, they are just full of fatty tissue.
In the last year at MotleyHealth we have had many people asking how to reduce the size of their legs. They say that they do not want to run or do any other exercise because they do not want their legs to become even more muscular than they are already. This is a classic error that many people make. Exercise will reduce the size of your legs, if you are very overweight, because it will burn off (not literally burn!) the fat within your muscles, as well as reducing some of the subcutaneous fat also.
So, in short, if you are overweight (i.e. you weigh more than the body mass index suggests) but do not appear to be very fat, then it is possible that you are carrying more intramuscular fat than is normal. Either way, exercise will reduce it.
45 minutes of exercise a day!
Although there is a lot of debate about how much exercise is needed, one study found that 45 Minutes of Intensive Exercise helps to boost your metabolism for 14 hours. This amount of daily exercise should be manageble by most people. Of course, other studies and plans have come up with alternative figures, from Toni Yancey’s 10 Minutes Exercise A Day, or Dr Chi Pang We’s advice to get around 21 minutes a day to the latest government advice of 30 Minutes A Day.
What is a known fact is that those that do more exercise are fitter and in much better shape. Many amateur athletes will do around 2 hours of exercise a day, and professionals do considerably more. 45 minutes should be a minium. This can be 30 minutes of cardio and 15 minutes of resistance training. Mixing it up a bit is a good idea. We could argue until the cows come home about the ideal amount and type of exercise, but that all accounts for nothing if you do not do anything at all. It is my belief that a lot of these “get fit in 5 minutes / 10 minutes a day” plans are very misleading and do not fully encourage a healthy and active lifestyle. We all need to move more!
This is of course the other part of the equation. A healthy diet. It sounds simple, and really that is because it is. There is not much I can say about healthy eating that has not already been written here: Basics Of A Healthy Diet – What To Eat. So long as your remember this one key fact, you cannot go far wrong:
The key fact: Too much of a good thing is a bad thing
This is one “problem” with the whole health food industry. People are sold the idea of “healthy food” without being told that you can still get overweight from eating it. One of our readers was recently wondering why they were not losing weight – they were having 3 or 4 protein shakes a day on top of their meals.
Just because celebrities consume protein shakes and lose fat does not mean that you can just take protein shakes. All this does is increase your daily calorie intake. If you are not exercising much (less than 30 minutes) you definitely do not need any additional protein if you are already eating a healthy diet. So eat a normal balanced diet and cut out all that junk food. Following a low GI diet can help you to make the move to healthy eating.
So there we go. One image created as a bit of a joke can actually teach us a lot about being fit and healthy!