Sunday, October 14, 2007

4 Pounds of Muscle = 1 Bite of Cookie

Oh no, another myth bites the dust ?

Gina Kolata is a health reporter for the New York Times and author of the recent book (May, 2007) Rethinking Thin: The New Science of Weight Loss - and the Myths and Realities of Dieting. She recently reviewed Gary Taubes' new book, Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control and Disease for the New York Times. She concluded, "I’m sorry, but I’m not convinced."

Maybe Ms. Kolata and Mr. Taubes have disagreements when it comes to diet, but it seems they've arrived at similar conclusions regarding exercise - at least the very specific topic of exercise and its relationship to weight loss.

Gina Kolata had this to say about exercise in an interview she did with WebMD in 2003, after the release of her book Ultimate Fitness: The Quest for Truth about Health and Exercise:
Moderator: What are some of the biggest "core beliefs" held by the general public about exercise that you found to be incorrect?

Kolata: I'll give you two beliefs, one that I think is a misconception by the general public; the other that I think is wishful thinking, too good to be true.

The misperception is actually confusion over exercise goals. We're told over and over again that all you need to do is to walk for 20 minutes a day five days a week. That's absolutely true, if your goal is to be healthier and to live longer. But many people think that walking that amount will make them lose weight, will tone their bodies, will make them look different. That advice was never meant to be advice on how to change your weight or the way your body looks. Changing the way your body looks usually requires much more intense exercise and it takes a long time.

The too-good-to-be-true myth is one that I had believed. I had thought, and so did many people, that if you build muscle that muscle will burn more calories and fat and therefore throughout the day, even if you do nothing, even if you just sit still, you will automatically be burning more calories, your metabolism will be higher. Unfortunately, that's not true. I asked an exercise physiologist to do a calculation for me. If a man goes to a gym and lifts weights seriously for four months he might build about four pounds of muscle, which is a lot; a woman would build much less. That four pounds of muscle would burn an extra 24 calories a day. That's like a bite of a cookie..
I want to come right out and say that neither this post nor my previous one has put a wrench in my efforts to keep moving. I do love a good move.
Thank you, Dave Lull, for bringing Kolata's interview to my attention.

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