Why eating less and exercising more can never work? Part 2 – You cannot exercise to lose weight

If you are exercising for building up muscles or toning up your body or enhancing endurance, you are on the right path. People even exercise as a stress buster and are pretty successful at it.

But if you are exercising to lose weight, then you need to read this article, carefully.

We shall first see the types of exercises that we can do and then the way body produces energy in different situations.

Types of exercise

Any exercise is divided in two categories, Catabolic and Anabolic. Any process which breaks down things is catabolism. For eg digestion of food is a catabolic process. Build up of muscles is anabolic.

Catabolic exercises involve heavy breathing and huffing and puffing. They require glucose and oxygen to power the cells into providing us energy. Typical examples are running, swimming and cycling.

Anabolic exercises are the one which involve muscle movements against stress. Lifting weights, push ups, squats, etc come under this category. If you are into these kinds of exercise, you need lots of protein.

Glucose burning pathways

While breathing normally doing our everyday tasks, oxygen is taken in from the air and circulated throughout the body by our blood. Various cells take this oxygen for energy production. Each cell is a tiny power generator. There are two possible fuel sources for our cells, glucose and fat.

The preferred fuel is the most efficient one which is fat. One fat molecule depending on the number of carbon bonds can provide 131 ATPs of energy. If you are fat adapted you will have massive amounts of energy from fat burning. Else the body takes two other processes which are glucose burning pathways. Glucose is more readily available. It is also the fuel which the body can use immediately during emergencies. Like breaking into a run to catch the bus.

While burning glucose, the body prefers to have a steady supply of oxygen. This is the aerobic method of oxidation or combustion. This process is called Oxidative Phosphorylation and it is a lesser efficient process than fat burning but it still produces 38 ATPs of energy.

If you speed up the exercise the requirement of oxygen suddenly spikes. Your breathing speed increases and heart starts pumping faster to push the oxygen to cells. At the tipping point, the body switches over to Glycolysis. This is the emergency system where basically cells start producing energy without the presence of oxygen, anaerobic.

Glucose breaks down into pyruvate and then into lactate. This process helps burning glucose faster but produces just 2 ATPs of energy. One by product which comes out of this is lactic acid buildup due to the lactate. This increases the acidity environment in the muscles. Normal metabolic functions perform poorly in this acidic environment.

This is the body mechanism to prevent further damage to the muscles if we are exerting too much. 

This lactic acid buildup also forces our body to slow down and then when sufficient oxygen is once again made available the production of lactate eases and pyruvate is converted to glucose by the regular method. 

Lactate buildup or the increase of lactic acid also forces our body to enter into a state of rest so that this acid buildup is cleared. 

This buildup can be cleared by regular way by allowing the blood to remove the buildup slowly or the second way is to go for physiotherapy to accelerate the extraction. 

What is so special about Lance Armstrong

Scientists and researchers have studied why Lance Armstrong is so good at Tour de France. That is because he has a larger heart which helps him pump more blood to the muscles. So while his competitors are huffing and puffing while climbing the hills, he is still doing oxidative phosphorylation.

Same holds true for anabolic exercise

Just like cycling cannot go on indefinitely, muscle building also builds up lactic acid. Even though you are not huffing and puffing, putting strain on the muscles increases the demand of oxygen and protein.

Which is the best exercise for fat burning

Let us digress a bit from the topic to explore the best exercise which is right in the middle of catabolic and anabolic exercise. It is also the only exercise which will help you with fat burning. Walking is the only exercise which gives you enough muscle exercise and also regular burning.

Another superb exercise is suryanamaskar which helps with flexibility, strength and breathing.

What is exercise really for

People have different aims and purpose for exercising. Quite a few of them include the requirement to look lean and fit. Nicely sculptured body can only come with lots of exercise.

Exercise is more of a lifestyle which has to become a life long habit. If you are regularly exercising, it will help you keep fit, give you pleasure and help you maintain weight.

The most dangerous way to exercise is to get up all of a sudden and push your body to limits the first day itself. Another way to invite trouble is to starve yourself of food or nutrients and then exercise to the limits. Your body is now getting damaged from two fronts. If you have a sedentary lifestyle, begin with removing carbs and sugars from your diet and replacing them with natural fats coming from desi ghee, eggs, olives and avocado. Begin with 12 hour fasting from dinner to breakfast and try to keep delaying your breakfast as much as you can in steps of 10 to 15 mins every week. The best exercise to begin with is walking and then graduate to more arduous ones.


This article is part of the two part series with link for first part shared below.

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