Any time I hear someone with a fat loss goal (or any goal outside of competing at a high level) working out multiple times per day, a part of me dies. While I can understand why someone would think that if you simply increase your daily activity, the weight/fat will just fall right off, right? Wrong.
Refer to my light reading for the day:
Exercise is a common component of weight loss strategies, yet exercise programs are associated with surprisingly small changes in body weight [1-4]. This may be due in part to compensatory adaptations, in which calories expended during exercise are counteracted by decreases in other aspects of energy expenditure [1, 5-10]. Here we examined the relationship between a rodent model of voluntary exercise- wheel running- and total daily energy expenditure.
Use of a running wheel for 3 to 7 days increased daily energy expenditure, resulting in a caloric deficit of ∼1 kcal/day; however, total daily energy expenditure remained stable after the first week of wheel access, despite further increases in wheel use. We hypothesized that compensatory mechanisms accounted for the lack of increase in daily energy expenditure after the first week.
Supporting this idea, we observed a decrease in off-wheel ambulation when mice were using the wheels, indicating behavioral compensation. Finally, we asked whether individual variation in wheel use within a group of mice would be associated with different levels of daily energy expenditure.
Despite a large variation in wheel running, we did not observe a significant relationship between the amount of daily wheel running and total daily energy expenditure or energy intake across mice.
Together, our experiments support a model in which the transition from sedentary to light activity is associated with an increase in daily energy expenditure, but further increases in physical activity produce diminishingly small increments in daily energy expenditure.
To sum it up, increasing your daily expenditure has diminishing returns after about a week of increasing your exercise volume, and unless your goal is to compete in a sport at a high level, increasing your daily expenditure while also in a caloric deficit WILL cause injury, hormonal issues and will inevitably lead to feeling burnt out.
I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a collision course to me – with hardly any benefits. Remember, weight loss doesn’t happen at the gym. It happens between workouts. That doesn’t mean skip the gym – but it does mean that finishing off your workout or priming your workout with yet another workout is going to have a negligible effect on your progress at best, and at worst, could impede progress by inviting burnout, hormonal issues, and injury.
So the next time you think adding in another session either before or after your workout is helping you burn more fat by simply doing more, think again. Instead, give your daily gym session your best effort and focus. Intensity (even mental intensity through better focus) will always be more effective.
Thank you, science.