Tyler Robbins Fitness

B.Sc. Biochemistry, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), Certified CrossFit Trainer (CCFT/CF-L3), USA Weightlifting Level 1

Hitting a wall?

Hey TRF fans and readers, I’m back! I apologize for the nearly 7-month hiatus with my blog, but life has been busy. One of my New Year’s Resolutions, however, has been to re-kindle my interest for writing. It certainly helps when there are so many interesting studies coming out in the world of exercise physiology and nutritional sciences lately. So, over the next several weeks/months, I should hopefully be more consistent with my writing.

This blog is especially relevant to many of you readers, or perhaps for someone you know who has used the start of the new year as a reason to get back to exercising.

Have you, or someone you know, started an exercise regimen lately? Has the immediate results seemed to have slowed after a few weeks in? Well it turns out, according to a study recently published in Current Biology, that our bodies are great at adapting to stimuli that we place on it. This may either be a blessing or a curse.

Warning, incoming science jargon:

“After adjusting for body size and composition, total energy expenditure was positively correlated with physical activity, but the relationship was markedly stronger over the lower range of physical activity. For subjects in the upper range of physical activity, total energy expenditure plateaued, supporting a Constrained total energy expenditure model. Body fat percentage and activity intensity appear to modulate the metabolic response to physical activity. Models of energy balance employed in public health [ 1–3 ] should be revised to better reflect the constrained nature of total energy expenditure and the complex effects of physical activity on metabolic physiology.”

What does this mean? Well, just as our bodies adapt to stimulus like resistance training by building stronger muscles and connective tissues, we also seem to adapt to intense exercise by getting better and better at managing energy.

So, if you are not necessarily witnessing the “results” you were hoping for with exercise alone (losing weight, decreasing body fat), then increasing the amount of exercise you do, or the intensity of exercise you do may not be the answer. What this study is telling us, is that just because your work ethic has been multiplied, doesn’t mean your energy output (i.e. calories burned) has been multiplied by the same amount. Maybe the "calories in vs. calories out" isn't as accurate as we once thought.

Don’t take this an excuse to either a), cancel your gym membership, or b), work less hard in the gym, because that is not the intention of this blog at all. In fact, I am always advocating routine and intense exercise for optimal health. What I am, saying, however, is that if you are not getting the results you are looking for when it comes to weight loss or body composition, then pushing your body harder and harder isn’t necessarily the answer.