How calories and exercise affect weight loss

How calories and exercise affect weight loss

Global Energy Balance Network, a new nonprofit organization, claims that obesity isn’t due to the types of food people eat, but is primarily a result of people not exercising enough to balance the calories they consume. The organization is funded by the world’s largest nonalcoholic beverage producer, Coca-Cola.

“Most of the focus in the popular media and in the scientific press is, ‘Oh they’re eating too much, eating too much, eating too much’ — blaming fast food, blaming sugary drinks and so on,’ ”said Steven N. Blair, the organization’s vice president, in a news release. The exercise scientist also said there is almost no compelling evidence that poor diet is the cause of obesity.

Nutrition and fitness experts at Advocate Christ Medical Center and Advocate Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn, Ill., express a different opinion.

“I disagree with this organization’s claims as it’s impossible for the majority of people to make up for poor diet through exercise,” says Brandon Nemeth, fitness coordinator at Advocate Christ Medical Center. “I tell my clients that they can out eat or drink any fitness routine. Exercise can only burn so many calories and it’s usually much less than most people think.”

According to my MyFitnessPal, a 135-pound person who runs for 30 minutes at 6 mph (a 10-minute mile) will burn 306 calories. The same person taking a brisk 30-minute walk at 3.5 mph will burn 116 calories. A medium serving of fast food fries has 340 calories and a 12-ounce Coca-Cola has 140 calories, equaling nearly 500 calories.

Nemeth says that exercise is important for overall health and calorie burning, but those who don’t change their diet will not likely see the pounds drop.

“You will lose the most weight when you eat a healthy diet, reduce calories consumed and exercise,” he says.

Stacie Schutz, a registered dietitian with Advocate Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn, Ill., agrees.

“Some people believe in the calorie in, calorie out equation,” Schutz says. “This means that if you burn any excess calories above what your body requires, it doesn’t matter if your calories come from vegetables or desserts. However, with foods and drinks high in sugar, your body does not get the nutrients it needs nor the satisfaction of being full. A high sugar content triggers your mind to want more. This can lead to overeating and weight gain.”

Nemeth and Schutz both agree that a healthy diet is crucial to helping impact a person’s weight-loss goals.

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  1. “Some people believe in the calorie in, calorie out equation,” Schutz says. “This means that if you burn any excess calories above what your body requires, it doesn’t matter if your calories come from vegetables or desserts…”- The calorie in, calorie out is not a belief. It is literal scientific fact. If you ingest food, it has a rough digestible caloric value. That caloric value generates as a specific number of usable ATP molecules. IF your body does not readily use those ingested calories, in the form of ATP, then your body stores them for later use. The point the organization is making is you NEED to use the calories your ingesting. If you are, then you could keep me on a glucose and saline drip or feed me ribeye for month. If I am putting out the energy, then I can take it in with no worries for obesity. Granted my cholesterol is going to be way higher on the one side, but that has nothing to do with calories or being overweight. That has to do with cardiovascular health. Maintaining a balanced diet for all around good health is a whole different conversation than just trying to maintain a certain weight.

  2. Kate Eller

    The calorie in, calorie out equation has been used to justify the rationale that if you stick to the number of calories your body needs in a day, you can eat or drink whatever you want – because all calories are the same. All calories, however, are not the same. Not only will your body not get the nutrients it needs, your body processes types of food differently. The documentary “Fed Up” gives a nice description of how calories differ: There is a difference between 160 calories in almonds compared to 160 calories in soda because it takes your body longer to process the almonds and less time to process the soda. Since soda has no fiber, it goes through your system so quickly that it increases blood sugar in the liver, which gets turned into fat immediately.

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About the Author

Kate Eller
Kate Eller

Kate Eller was a regional director of public affairs and marketing operations for Advocate Health Care. She enjoys road trips, dogs, minimalism, yoga, hiking, and “urban hiking.”