Current weight loss guidelines are an oversimplification. Eating less and exercising more doesn’t do anything to change your biology, it just manipulates the quantity of inputs into your system.

Almost everything we are taught in conventional wisdom in relation to weight loss is not borne out by science. In almost every instance the exact opposite is borne out by science.

Consider for a moment the war on fat that began decades ago and created the catalyst for the obesity epidemic.

The misguided notion that a low fat, low protein, high starch and sugar diet was healthy for the majority of the population has lead to a type 2 diabetes epidemic, never mind countless more people suffering from hypoglycaemia and reduced insulin sensitivity, precursors to full blown type 2 diabetes.

The global prescription to just exercise more and eat less is another example. It is not helpful nor effective in creating lasting metabolic change via a favorable hormonal response.

Nor does it offer any real guidelines on the style and type of exercise that you should undertake, just whatever you’re doing, do more.

But simply doing more low quality exercise isn’t good for you. The ideal situation is to exercise with more intensity but still within safe and effective parameters.

The research categorically states that long term health and fitness is about diet and exercise quality but everything we hear in the mainstream is quantity centric!

Everyone’s searching for a quick fix. Everyone wants to lose x amount of weight in an ever reducing timescale. And whilst you can achieve large amounts of weight loss in a short time by extreme dieting and overexercising the damage you are doing to your body will last longer than your ‘here for an instant’ new found slimness!

Consider the restrictive diet and exercise regime of a competitive bodybuilder. They can lose a lot of weight in a relatively short period of time by severely restricting calorie intake and excluding certain food groups. But when and if they start eating normally again (ie without a reverse diet protocol) their weight gain is drastic!

In addition when you lose large amounts of weight in a short space of time some of that weight is going to be lean muscle mass, the very thing that helps fire up your metabolism and allows you to burn calories at rest. So you’ll find you have to eat an ever less amount of calories to maintain your weight or reduce your weight marginally. Weight is not the enemy, the percentage of that weight from fat is.

We need to focus on long term fat loss and health rather than short term weight loss and muscle catabolism.

Different types of exercises work different types of muscle fibers: Weightlifting works type 2 muscle fibers and when you work these fibers you create a hormonal response within the body that is fundamentally different than when you work your type 1 fibers. That’s not my opinion, that’s scientific fact! This hormonal response makes your body burn fat!

The point is we need to move away from just ‘more exercise’ to moderate amounts of higher quality, more intense exercise, so that we can elicit a favourable hormonal response and burn fat whilst safeguarding our hard earned lean muscle mass.

In relation to exercise hours and hours of cardio are not the answer, neither is simply putting in your time at the gym, this is an insane kind of training! You need a progressive programme that allows for maximum muscle activation – especially type 2 muscle fibres. High intensity interval training, full body workouts and heavy resistance training are the way to maximise fat loss and ensure long term sustainability.

Naomi McArdle MSc