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Do you have to exercise to lose weight?

Do you ever wonder why your friend can lose weight on a specific diet, but when you try, you gain weight? Or maybe you feel that just thinking about food causes you to gain weight? You're not alone. Our Nepean Registered Dietitian is here to answer these questions and more.

Trying To Do The Right Thing

Most often, the reason for a client’s nutrition visit is weight loss. I recently met ‘Alice’, who wanted advice on what to eat and how much exercise she needed to lose weight. Alice found our clinic online while searching for a Registered Dietitian in Ottawa, Ontario. Alice has seen nutritionists over the years but continues to struggle with weight management. 

Alice’s questions and confusion over healthy eating and exercise are common. Orthorexia is a relatively new form of disordered eating defined as an obsession with “proper” healthy eating. People are fixated on “Healthy Eating” and finding what foods are best for them and unnecessarily restrict their nutritional intake when trying out the latest diets. In addition to finding the right foods to eat, people often search for the best fat-burning exercise. 

The Variables

There are so many variables at play regarding metabolism and nutrition for weight loss and maintenance. One size or diet approach cannot help everyone. Finding one that works for you can take some trial and error, and even when something does work, it may stall, and you may need to try new options.

Do you ever wonder if you exercised more or ate less that you would be able to lose weight? Do you ever wonder why your neighbour can lose weight on a specific diet, but when you try, you gain weight? Or maybe you feel that thinking about food makes you hungry and you gain weight?

You are not alone.

Reasons You May Not Be Losing Weight

Some reasons that you may not be losing weight include:

  • Consuming too many calories or high caloric snacks
  • Not enough physical activity to burn your caloric intake
  • Chronic stress and lack of sleep
  • An underlying medical condition 
  • Overeating or under-eating 
  • Mindless eating

Or  … You are not in sync with your genes

Genes & Weight Loss

Physical activity has many benefits for your mental health, weight maintenance, and the prevention of many chronic diseases. You have probably wondered why some people lose weight, and others don’t when they exercise. Research has uncovered that some people have a genetic advantage over others for weight management when it comes to exercise. 

There is no debate that we should all be exercising for our health. But how does exercise affect your metabolism? 

The Fat Mass & Obesity-Associated Gene (FTO)

Individuals who have a specific genetic profile experience enhanced weight loss from higher physical activity. Those people also experience greater fat loss. This phenomenon is a result of the Fat Mass and Obesity-associated gene (FTO).  

The FTO gene’s role in the body is related to your metabolism, energy expenditure and energy balance. It is also expressed in regions of the brain involved in the regulation of energy or food intake. Individuals with a particular variant of the FTO gene variant lose more body weight, including fat mass, when consuming a moderate-to-high protein diet, but not when consuming a lower protein diet.

The Fight-or-Flight Gene

Another gene identified in the fight-or-flight response to stress contributes to the breakdown and mobilization of fat cells, and its activity increases during exercise. A large study of obese, sedentary individuals found that variation in that “fight or flight” gene predicted fat loss in response to cardiovascular exercise. Women who had this genetic variation had an enhanced response to a cardiovascular exercise program, losing over three times more body fat than women who had a typical response. 

The Science of Nutrigenomics

Nutrigenomics (sometimes called nutritional genomics) analyzes genetic profiles to optimize health-related outcomes by examining how individual genetic differences modify their response to diet. Discoveries in the field of Nutrigenomics have helped us uncover the answers to question like the one posted by Alice: “Do I have to exercise to lose weight?”. 

The Bottom Line

Everyone should participate in physical activity. Exercise should not be considered only for weight management. The Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends adults should accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week in bouts of 10 minutes or more. Older adults should add muscle and bone-strengthening activities using major muscle groups at least two days per week to enhance balance and prevent falls.

Please reach out for an appointment with our Registered Dietitian if you want to learn more about personalized nutrition, meal planning or healthy eating. 

Are you struggling with weight loss, or health issues related to diet?

Our Nepean team of registered dietitians can help you to manage health conditions and lose weight.

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Welcome to the Nepean Sports Medicine & Physiotherapy Centre blog, where we provide lots of helpful tips, news, information and advice about physiotherapy and massage treatments, as well as general health and wellness, in Nepean and Ottawa.

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