by Chad Kerksick PhD April 26, 2012 3 min read
A study was recently presented at the International Obesity Society meeting in Orlando, FL that provided some sobering numbers regarding the impact of only two months of eating too much. For some of you that may be called football season and for some it may be the holiday season. Another problem with either of these times of year is the likelihood that it is typically marred with poor weather and less than adequate levels of physical activity. Everyone can relate to the increase in body weight or fat which occurs over time, but few people realize how quickly things can get out of control. In today’s society the ability to overeat on food is easy, too easy! Food is prepared with methods that make it taste better which typically means added fat, sugar and/or salt. This study had young healthy normal weight individuals consume 40% more calories than they needed over an eight week period. The consumed diet was 15% protein, 44% fat and 41% carbohydrate which are a fairly typical ratio of nutrients for people who overeat. Before and after following the diet, the subjects had their body composition determined as well as some blood sampled from their body to determine changes in variables that dictate fitness and how efficiently the body is able to turn nutrients into fuel.
As you likely surmised, the subjects in the study gained weight and in fact, on average, they gained 15 pounds in just two months and close to 60% of this gained weight was in the form of fat or approximately 8.5 pounds of fat. As if these changes weren’t bad enough, the researchers used blood results to determine how effectively the body was able to dispose of or metabolic glucose. As expected and in relation to over eating the poor diet, the body’s ability to effectively manage glucose was significantly decreased. In addition, key components found inside muscle cells responsible for burning various fuel sources to produce energy called mitochondria were shown to experience a decrease in their capacity as well. For those of you keeping track, in just eight weeks of eating 40% more calories than you need, approximately 15 pounds were gained with 8.5 of these pounds coming exclusively from fat. In addition, two key functions inside healthy muscle cells were shown to be significantly reduced after overfeeding. Both changes overall if continued over time will negatively impact both fitness levels making exercise more difficult and the extent to which the muscle cells can function effectively.
Sure, watching what you eat each day and restricting your calories is not fun, interesting or a “sexy” recommendation. In fact, it is downright boring and dull, but the results from this study clearly show that in just two months, significant amounts of weight can be gained and much of it will be fat. Think you’ll be able to bounce back? Maybe for a while, but the results of this study show that the negative changes which occur to the health of your muscle cells will make it harder and harder to exercise and burn calories. Finally, how long do you think it will take to burn enough calories to lose the 15 pounds that you gained from just 8 weeks of football, baseball or hockey season? You might be surprised to hear a typical healthy male who weighs between 170 and 200 pounds would need to run at 6 mph for 3,200 – 3,800 minutes! If you break this up into three 30 minute workouts each week it will take an estimated 36 – 42 weeks just to get you on track to lose the weight you gained. That’s downright not fair!
In other words, knowing how much you are eating and how much you are burning each day are critically important factors that all people must strive to learn more about. The world is a tricky place and many foods you think may be healthy could actually be loaded with fat and calories. In a very short amount of time, a significant amount of weight can be gained as fat that will negatively impact your health and leave you needing to exercise on a weekly basis just to keep the weight at bay.