Monday, February 19, 2007

What's Interesting about this study?

27 obese patients were subjected to a ten day fast consisting of 250 Calories per day. The Subjects were divided into two groups, a group that exercised and a group that did not.

After ten days:

  • Both groups had similar weight loss.

  • The exercise was well tolerated without problems.

  • The loss of muscle was significantly less in the exercise group.

The authors concluded "This may indicate that muscular activity is useful in aiding adaptation to fasting and may orient weight loss preferentially towards fat mass."

While certainly not earth shattering...the part that is very interesting to me is that this study was published in 1975!

So, we had a vague idea over 3o years ago that exercise was needed to maintain muscle mass while dieting. Yet, nowadays we still argue about protein ratios, carb cycling and meal frequency and supplementation. Seems like something was lost in the last 30 years!

Simple truth - Just like Schrub et al. hypothesised over 30 years ago, if you are dieting and you want to preserve muscle mass, lift weights.


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billy said...

Where did the (extremely prevalent) idea that the body will first burn muscle tissue once it reaches a 'catabolic state' before it will burn fat?

I'm still trying to wrap my head around your ideas as they challenge most everything I've read for the past several years, and I've read a fair amount...

It seems logical that the body would burn fat first, and preserve muscle. Much like it seems logical that the body would try to conserve fat stores if it detected starvation, as in severe calorie restriction. Similar to the logic you mentioned when talking about how when the body senses that you need muscle for exercise, it will hold on to it.

All of these things seem logical, but we don't really know if any of them are true.

It's almost as though nutritionists are either in the "The body does what you would expect it to" or else on the "The body does what would seem counter-intuitive, and that's why you can't lose weight" camps.

Still trying to sift through the nonsense. I read a great article called "Unhappy Meals" in the Times- great read for those who haven't seen it:

Brad Pilon said...

Hi Billy,

I can only guess that the idea that we lose massive amounts of muscle when we miss meals or diet to drastically came from the interpretation of data from very low calorie diets on bed ridden morbidly obese patients.

I'd guess that this falls in line with the use it or lose it theory -

If you are not eating enough to support your metabolism - and you are not using your muscle - then you body thinks we're not using it so let's burn it.

Somehow this evolved into a blanketing philosphy that muscle is extremely liable and can be easily lost while dieting.

I agree that there are two types
of nutritionists, but I prefer to define them as the "The body does what you expect it to, Nutrition is actually pretty simple" camp and the "The body does counter-intuitive things that are super hard to figure out, so pay me to help you figure it out" camp.

Nutrition will always be full of nonsense because it is tied to the multi billion dollar food industry.

Remember - the very first government recommendations for food consumption was to limit our intake of meat and dairy. That recommendation went away very quickly, as its effect on the beef and dairy industry would have been catastrophic.

Check your sources, then check your souces sources, then still be skeptical.


PS - The NYTimes article was a great read. If you haven't already..check out "What if it's all been a big fat lie" by Gary Taubes in the NYTimes..another great article.

billy said...

I did read that "Big Fat Lie" article ant thought it was interesting as well.

I always thought Atkins was irresponsible in his recommendations in that he did not discern between fats, and did not emphasize fruits and vegetables. But I never doubted the fact that manipulating carb intake could be a powerful weight loss tool.

I like the cut of your jib. If you have any other links, blogs, or articles that you would recommend, I'd love to take a look.


Caroline said...

Hey I need some advice... I'm 19 f... trying to lose some weight. I'm not overweight (5'5, 130-135 lbs) but I want to be around 120 pounds.

I am on an extremely strict no-sugar, no-refined carbs, LOW sat fat diet... and I feel great. I take about 1200-1500 cal on average a day...But I don't get ANY real exercise other than walking to the busstop or walking from classes. I know that I've lost weight, but not anywhere close to what I want. Do you think my metabolism is slowing down due to my low-cal, no-exercise lifestyle?

I am wondering if I can keep exercise to a minimum and still lose weight without harming my health...

Brad Pilon said...

Hi Caroline,

Thanks for posting.

While it would be really easy for me to preach to you about the benefits of exercising, I'm going to answer your questions honestly...

I do not think that your metabolism is slowing down due to your low-cal, no-exercise lifestyle. (Your metabolism is mostly controlled by your weight). And, I also believe you will still be able to lose weight without exercise.

However, I DO think that your metabolism could be "faster" and you would be happier with your progress if you added in some exercise. You don't need alot. 15-20 minutes 2-3 times a week would help tremendously.

(You can pop over to to get some ideas).

Bottom line - You don't need exercise, but I think you would be very happy with the results if you added it into your program.


Caroline said...

Thanks, I'm checking out the site!