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The REAL reason exercise helps you lose weight

We've all heard that exercise helps you lose weight. If calories have a 1:1 ratio between what I ingest and what I burn - it seems like I would have to burn a whole lot of calories in order to lose weight.

Have you ever looked at the number on the treadmill after 1 hour? It's between 500-1000 calories depending on your weight and speed. That's 1 to 2 chocolate chip cookies. So, if each pound of fat is equal to approximately ±3500 calories and I'm trying to shed 10 lbs, I'd have to burn ±35000 calories? That's 70 and 35 hours of jogging on the low and high end, respectively. I'd have to jog more than an hour a day for OVER a month. This might seem like nothing to a running enthusiast, but for those of us who aren't avid athletes and juggle with managing our 100 other responsibilities, it seems impossible.

It's starting to sound like I'm telling you to give up and stop exercising all together right? No, not exactly. Exercising does help you lose weight, but not exactly in the way you imagine.

Let's take a step back and try to understand how our body stores fat.

  1. Your hunger hormone, ghrelin, alerts you to the fact that you're hungry

  2. You eat food

  3. The food you eat increases your blood sugar levels, which in turn triggers your fat storage hormone, insulin.

  4. The higher the sugar level, the more insulin is produced, therefore the more fat is stored.

  5. If you're not consuming this fat at some other point in your day (i.e. when you're not eating), then it just accumulates and you gain weight.

Simple enough right?

So what does exercise fit into this? You obviously don't exercise WHILE you're eating.

Exercise interrupts the hormone flow between step number 4 and 5. I'm oversimplifying but, when you exercise, the insulin hormone is put on hold. Your body receives signals that it needs energy - ASAP. So, instead of storing the energy, your body burns it right away. Less storage = less weight.

Now, imagine if you did this first thing in the morning while you've fasted (presumably for at least 9 hours since your last meal during your sleep). Not only is there little left in your digestive system to store, you actually put your body in a lowered sugar level for about 4 to sometimes 24 hours after a workout. This means, less insulin secretion, therefore less fat storage.

Note though, that for people who already have imbalanced blood sugar levels (too high or too low), they should consult with their physician to understand best practices when it comes to their exercise regimen. Becoming hypoglycemic in order to lose weight doesn't make you healthy.

We also need to take into consideration which phase of the cycle you are at because other hormones can come into play, raising cortisol which counteracts the benefits of exercise.

lose weight tips

So, what are my 3 tips to optimize your workouts?

  1. Keep your vigorous exercises (high heart rate) between your follicular and just after ovulation phases

  2. Exercise first thing in the morning, before breakfast

  3. Take a brisk 15-30 mins walk after lunch or dinner

I hope this was helpful!

Check back every week for a new blog post!



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