If you read my posts regularly (or any LCHF/keto/IF authors, advocates, and community boards for that matter), you know I don’t believe in CICO approach (CICO stands for Calories In Calories Out, as in “eat less and move more, and you will lose weight”). So intuitive, so common, so broadly believed – and dead wrong. If you still have doubts about that, raise your hand and I will gladly point out a few sources that help see why this approach doesn’t work. Or just look around – see many people who managed to implement that idea successfully despite many decades of it being promoted?
Let’s, however, focus on another aspect of this discussion. If the simple math of thermodynamics doesn’t work for weight loss, does this mean that exercise is not needed? Can we happily forget the notion of a workout, of moving around intentionally – as in, for the sake of movement and not to procure food? (No, crossing the room on our way to a fridge doesn’t count – sorry to disappoint. I was disappointed myself.)
Well, yes and no. Yes, in a sense that exercise is not imperative to lose weight. It helps a bit, but if I had to guess its share in the success of a weight loss drive, I would say 10%. The remaining 90% is achieved in a kitchen, not in a gym. You can march on a treadmill for an hour, and then happily inhale all the burned calories in 15 seconds with a single muffin. As old saying goes,
And no, it doesn’t mean that exercise is not needed. Not being instrumental in weight loss per se, it has a lot of health benefits documented so thoroughly that listing them would be akin to proving that Earth is not flat. So, let’s do away with a silly choice between diet and exercise; honestly, I am amazed every time I see another argument about that. To me, it’s not unlike arguing about a choice between bacon and butter – why would anyone choose to choose between them is beyond me.
With that in mind, let’s go over a few practical tips about exercise. If you read the last section of The Time Machine Diet, you know all this and much more, so you can stop reading this post (unless you like my writing so much that want to read every word I ever pen, which is very unlikely).
- It’s often difficult to START moving. If you do, in a few minutes you feel joyful. Your body likes moving – it was created to chase food and potential mates. Just power through that initial lethargy, it’s literally just a few minutes.
- Design a routine that requires no gym and can be done wherever. Your body weight is all you need for resistance training. Push-ups, squats, calf raises and a few more simple bodyweight exercises done till muscle failure and repeated for a few rounds will do wonders to your physical shape. Devote three days a week to your upper limbs, a.k.a. arms, and three to lower (you guessed it – legs), and give yourself a break on Sundays. 20 minutes a day is all you need if you do it relentlessly.
- Don’t waste your time on hours of cardio. Instead, master HIIT routine. High Intensity Interval Training is more effective and a great time saver. This routine takes 4 minutes (6-7 with warm-up and cooldown) and needs to be done just three times a week! Don’t say you have no time for that. Other than that, brisk walk at each and every opportunity is all cardio you need. Hopefully, you have nice trails to explore in your neighborhood.
- Make sure you don’t spend many hours behind your desk without moving around. There is something about prolonged sitting that is extremely harmful to our bodies. Try to move around every 15-20 minutes, even for a minute or two, even without leaving your desk. Fidget, flex your muscles, stretch. Wake your body up.
That 10% of weight loss delivered by exercise might be just those last few pounds. Or maybe it’s 20% – who knows? In any case, even if it’s zero, you will be much healthier and happier for that effort.