Thursday, October 13, 2011

Once And For All- Running Does NOT Make You Fat

This article popped up in the Independant this week.

I immediately had a apoplectic fit. But on reading it its actually not as bad as the headline suggested and the journalist deals with the subject in a fairly balanced manner.

But there's still that headline; "does running make you fat?"

I get the need for attention grabbing headlines but lets get it straight- Running, or any form of exercise does not, does not DOES NOT make you fat.

The argument here seems to be similar to writer Gary Taubes' position, that aerobic training makes you hungry which makes you consume extra calories which makes you fat. The problem with a lot of fat loss research is that people tend to only report the mean numbers or read the abstract. What you find when you look closely at the numbers is that there tends to be a huge variance in individual responses, with some participants losing huge amounts of weight. Effectively, people can be divided into "compensators" and "non-compensators"

Compensators (and the author of the article in The Independant is a classic case of this) will sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously eat more and move about less in their daily life while undertaking an aerobic training routine.

To quote the article - "Getting up at 6am for long runs demands an increase in calorie intake. My response? Two breakfasts, minimum, and then protein-based snacks before and after runs. Ah yes, and the cake."

If I drive around for a few hours til my petrol tank is empty, then go to a station to fill it up, do I then conclude that driving causes my petrol tank to be full? Aerobic training is a way of burning calories, plain and simple. Calories as we know are not the whole picture when it comes to fat loss but they are a factor. If you take the fact that you're exercising as carte blanche to eat what you want, its not going to work. This is not complicated.

There are a number of factors that make running a less than ideal training method for many people, but this suggestion that it makes people fat is moronic, oversimplified and misleading.

Its this woolly thinking thats led to statements like "Sprinters are leaner than marathon runners so you should sprint and totally avoid aerobic training"

This has been repeated so much that it is accepted as gospel. While it is technically true, trainers are massively overinterpretting the statement when applying it to their clients.
Sprinting, probably more than any other sport in the world is self selecting. Sprinters are born so if you want to be a world class one, as the saying goes, you need to pick the right parents. A small percentage of people on earth will ever be able to run 100 metres in less than 10 seconds. They aren't built like that because of sprint training, they are sprinters because they are built like that.
Sprinting is the most genetically predetermined, self selecting sport on the planet. I'm not saying training plays no role. Clearly lifting weights, doing physical work every day and in some cases use of steroids will get you big and ripped. But to take what a sprinter does and extrapolate that out to " 20 minutes of intervals a few times a week will make you look like a sprinter" is bullshit.

Bottom line, I don't know what parallel universe people are living on where they think moving more is going to be counterproductive for fat loss, but it doesn't reflect the reality I see in my gym every day.

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