Do you even lift?



Dave is a part-time blogger that writes about whatever suits him at the time.

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101 Responses

  1. Yo! Bro! Nice article.

    I lift, and let me tell you, there is some serious synergy with dietary stuff, bro. The eggheads and bean-counters can do all the empirical studies they want. This is straight physiology bro.

    For instance, I was training for a marathon this past winter and stopped getting swole, and I ate whatever the hell I felt like (because I was running 20 miles and stuff), and I did not lose a pound. In fact, I may have gained weight during my marathon training. In any case, my weight actually moved from my shoulders and chest to my gut, and my enlarged gut plopped up and down all 26.2 miles to the finish line (at which point I rewarded myself with beer). I’m also pretty sure I screwed up my meniscus for a good while. Do not recommend.

    Then, bro, I started lifting again, high weight low reps, and pounding protein and a ton of fiber for like three months, with mostly HIIT for cardio. I had the best gains of my life, bro. Even though I was lifting sometimes as little as once a week, I was lifting more and more every time, my arms and chest were getting super swole, and my belly was getting so that I could crack open seashells on it like an otter, bro, and eat the delicious raw crustaceans inside, with all their low fat, high protein goodness.

    Then I got really busy taking care of really sick people and stopped having time to go to the gym and now I’m fat again. I’m literally hunched over at the airport writing this comment on my laptop, and my fatigued, world-weary upper body is actually being supported by the round fluid beach ball that is my abdomen. So sad. Pathetic.

    Anyways, I think it stands to reason that you get the type of body you want by actually doing stuff to shape the various components of your body and not by, say, eating a lot of grapefruits, or checking off some abstract boxes that someone came up with from some survey.Report

    • Avatar gregiank in reply to Christopher Carr says:

      Well individual differences can make a hash of a lot of good advice. I can easily gain weight while training for a marathon if i’m not careful. I can also cut a bit of weight down to a good race weight but that needs care also. I’m doing that now and know how to go about it without risking injury or wearing myself out. But some of us can eat a lot and never burn it off even with frequent vigorous exercise.Report

    • Avatar Dave Regio in reply to Christopher Carr says:

      Christopher Carr: Anyways, I think it stands to reason that you get the type of body you want by actually doing stuff to shape the various components of your body and not by, say, eating a lot of grapefruits, or checking off some abstract boxes that someone came up with from some survey.

      I don’t know about that. I heard that Arnold and Franco got on the internet and checked Pubmed every time they changed up their routine. Arnold even thanked the eggheads for their work helping him win Mr. Olympia multiple times.Report

    • Avatar apodsf in reply to Christopher Carr says:

      “egg-heads and bean counters”

      fuck you, meat-head.Report

  2. Avatar Doctor Jay says:

    I embrace the Health At Every Size (HAES) model.

    There’s stuff here I might quibble with, but your point (1) is pure gold. Lifestyle changes will result in bodily changes. But maybe you don’t want to. You can still be healthy, though you probably won’t lose weight.

    You adopt a lifestyle because it enriches you in the moment. Not because it lets you reach some abstract goal. It’s because you enjoy the grunting or the muscle burn or the kiai or the being thrown and not getting hurt. Whatever it is. Sometimes it takes a bit to get to the point of enjoyment, but that is what sustains it. Staring at a scale doesn’t do it.

    I don’t think that exercise will create a backlash the way dieting does. (Diets are implicated in the causes of binge-eating). Maybe just burnout. Unless you choose an activity (or more than one!) that is enjoyable for its own sake. And we are capable of enjoying some pretty out-there things.Report

    • Avatar Dave Regio in reply to Doctor Jay says:


      You adopt a lifestyle because it enriches you in the moment. Not because it lets you reach some abstract goal.

      Are you sure it’s not both? What do you define as “some abstract goal”?Report

  3. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I’ve recently started exercising not because I want to lose weight (though, I suppose, I do… in theory) but because the doctor told me I had hypertension.

    Thanks to jogging a half mile every day and going rock climbing every week (and a little pill every day), my blood pressure went from “seriously, this is a problem” to 120 over 80.

    And I haven’t lost much weight at all. Barely any.

    Now, come Lent, I pretty much go full Atkins and usually manage to lose about 20 pounds in the 46 days… but then Easter hits and “one cheat meal” turns into “one cheat day” turns into “it’s Friday, I’ll be back on the diet come Monday” turns into “technically, a large pizza is four packed lunches”.

    But my blood pressure is back to 120/80. So that’s something.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

      I think that my best weight loss advice would be “never, ever start smoking”.

      Woulda coulda shoulda.

      (Maybe with a “if you do start, never, ever stop” appended)Report

    • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to Jaybird says:

      Just observing the people around me, it seems like having a metric other than weight loss to target is helpful because weight loss is a pretty slow moving variable. It sounds like blood pressure was probably a good one. Runners have distances and times (e. g. “I threw up after a half mile last time and now I can go 3/4 without throwing up!”). Weight training is great for beginners because progress is really fast and exciting and measurable.

      Then once you’re more fit and doing more serious exercise, weight loss starts to happen as a side effect (or at least becomes a lot easier to affect because you’re physically able to work harder).Report

      • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

        “How long can I go on an elliptical”.

        Weight loss is an awful metric because it fluctuates so much, because muscle weighs more than fat, for a million reasons. (Especially for women, whose water retention ALSO fluctuates).

        I mean as a overall metric: “I was 300 now I’m 240” sure. But week to week? It’s just discouraging.

        But something like I used to be able to do 10 minutes on an elliptical and now can do 25 — that means you’re healthier, no matter what the scale says. Your heart is better than it was. Same with jogging or walking — I do two miles now instead of one. That means things are better.

        That doesn’t mean you’re great, that doesn’t mean you’re not still unhealthy, but it does mean you’re better than you were. Things are improving.

        And issues that might affect what you lift, or run, or how long you can do cardio — those are a lot more obvious than issues that might bump your weight up or down 5%. “Nasty allergies are killing my breathing” or “My shoulder’s still super sore from last week” or “I’m still getting over a cold”, etc.Report

        • Avatar Dave Regio in reply to Morat20 says:


          Have you read any of Lyle McDonald’s work?

          You touched on the issue of women and weight loss and he’s trying to finish a book about it. Water retention, hormones, and a whole host of other issues I’ve heard about come from him.

          He hasn’t finished it because there are too many issues to address.Report

          • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Dave Regio says:

            I once watched a woman lose about 15% of her body weight without changing a dang thing — except get a rather common hormonal imbalance corrected.

            No change in diet, no change in exercise, it was freaking weird.

            (In all fairness, she thinks she did eat less, but only because she suddenly felt less hungry all the time. So no deliberate diet changes).Report

      • I think my next metric will be “time”. I can do a mile in less than 17 minutes.

        The next goal is doing a mile in less than 16:30.

        I don’t even weigh myself anymore. I just take my blood pressure and count how many seconds it takes me to go down to the part of the road where the two trees come out of the fence and back.Report

      • Avatar Dave Regio in reply to Troublesome Frog says:


        Then once you’re more fit and doing more serious exercise, weight loss starts to happen as a side effect (or at least becomes a lot easier to affect because you’re physically able to work harder).

        I think I can agree with this.

        Weight loss can be a side effect depending on one’s fitness level and nutritional intake but at some point the body will adapt to those indirect influences and everything will level out.

        I agree that it becomes easier to affect, at least in theory. Once someone gets to a point where nutritional and fitness levels are dialed in, the weight loss as a side effect no longer applies. It would have to be deliberately done.

        One example I can think of is a fit runner that may want to train for a race and set a personal PR. It’s not my area of expertise but I’d assume that peaking for a race requires an increase in training volume and perhaps adjustments to diet to account for the increased volume and perhaps to improve body composition. @gregiank, thoughts?

        I’m in the process of leveling things out for myself. I’ve switched both my training and nutrition recently after a disastrous experiment with a cyclical low-carb diet (fun but no thanks). Once that levels out, it would require deliberate changes to variables to produce future fat loss, and it would be a slow process, as my current process is.

        Of course, at that point, it’s not at all about health, but to each their own…Report

        • Avatar greginak in reply to Dave Regio says:

          @dave-regio Peaking for a race does require an increase over the course of months of training effort. Rest and good diet are obvious parts of that or else injuries or fatigue will screw up everything.

          Dropping weight for a race can be tricky since too few calories or solid nutrition will definitely hamper workouts. When i was first losing weight i could drop two pounds a week easily for a few months. I exercised but i had a wider comfort margin. Weight loss made everything easier and faster so training gains came fast just from the loss and starting from low activity means there are a lot of low hanging fitness gains. I did train for XC race a few months into losing weight but i wasn’t’ stressing my body the same way i do now. It was all getting fit.

          Now i would never want to lost that much at time. I’ve only aimed at taking 10 pounds off over the same number of weeks. In one sense burning all those calories at training makes weight management easy but the risk is in the overcompensation thinking that all those burned calories means i can eat a lot. Proper nutrition minus a few calories per week to lead to weight loss has a narrower comfort margin. Few people can really train well if they are hungry often.

          Changing body composition is interesting and i can’t say i focus on that. That’s not that much of a runner/skier thing. There are changes but the focus is on good race shape/form/paces. There is certainly some excess fat loss during training which is the only thing that should be lost while peaking for an endurance event.

          Most year round training concepts focus on having a base building period where the focus is on raising cardio/aerobic capacity. This is an off race season task. Race season focus is on target paces over certain lengths and more race specific workouts. It’s less about body composition a but focus on different energy systems.Report

          • Avatar Dave Regio in reply to greginak says:


            Thanks for the insight.

            My thought on the body composition for endurance athletes is that the training volume and types of training combined with the diet geared towards fueling those training sessions in order to maximize performance would likely lead to changes in body composition due more to the training adaptations vs. trying to diet down (a la bodybuilding).

            Also, if your off-peak conditioning is good, changes in body composition should be at the margins. I’m not thinking of off-season endurance athletes acting a lot like off-season bodybuilders, the latter of which can end up getting fat as all hell depending on what they’re doing.

            I completely agree on trying to work out on too few or even the wrong kind of diet. I did okay in the gym running on a very low carb diet (and yes, it can do wonders for body composition done right) but since switching back and eating more carbs than I probably have in two years (and cycling on my off-days to make sure I consume adequate fat), the intensity I’ve been able to achieve in the proper and intelligent way, is the best I’ve ever been.

            That’s without doing a damn bit of cardio, which I’ll resume at some point. I rolled my ankle pretty badly a few weeks ago so I need to give that a little bit of rest.Report

    • Avatar Dave Regio in reply to Jaybird says:


      When I first started out, I was pushing 200 lbs and had not so good cholesterol and blood pressure numbers.

      I cleaned up my diet, pretty much intuitively, started my running and within 16 weeks, my health markers were excellent.

      I tell people that the changes in my health markers were more likely because of the added exercise and the changes to my diet more than the weight loss itself. I don’t know how much the weight loss itself helped my health (besides orthopedic which is a no-brainer) so I’d rather not unintentionally mislead people.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Dave Regio says:

        I keep forgetting everyone is not my height and build. 🙂 Back when I was 22, and doing serious exercise a minimum of 3 times a week (like 90 minutes of what was, effectively, high-intensity cardio with body weight exercises thrown in, although I thought of it as “martial arts”) I clocked in at 220. I was not particularly muscular, though I am a bit over six feet.

        IIRC, that’s “morbidly obese”. Now while I wasn’t ripped and 1% body fat, you could actually see my ab muscles. So you know, I figure I might be many things at 220, including “could stand to lose another 10 pounds” but not “morbidly obese”.

        I’d love to see 220 now, but I’m aiming for 250. If I ever get there, I’ll reassess.

        In the meantime, my health is pretty good. The worst is my cardiovascular system, which is “20 years of sedentary living” bad, not like “real problems” vad. That’ll be fixed by, you know, the elliptical and the treadmill.Report

        • Avatar Kim in reply to Morat20 says:

          Do you sink in water? Because just a bit over six foot, and 220 is pretty heavy (just objectively speaking). Bone density (among other things) changes what BMI really means.Report

          • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Kim says:

            Nah, I was quite a competitive swimmer from about six through high school. As in I spent many, many years considering a mile swim a “mild warm up”. (As in the ages 8 through 18″).

            My whole family is built pretty much the same — big shoulders, overall big frame, ridiculously strong legs (seriously, I’ve not been able to wear boots since I was a kid. It’s the calves).

            I float quite well. 🙂 Honestly, just a big frame and a naturally pretty muscle heavy build, especially in the legs. I mean now it’s buried under way to much fat.Report

        • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Morat20 says:

          At 6’1″, 220 pounds is at the high end of “overweight” territory, not quite “obese.” “Morbid obesity” has a couple different definitions, but generally at that height it would be over 300 pounds.Report

          • Avatar pillsy in reply to Brandon Berg says:

            Yeah, someone that weight and height will be kinda chunky, not really fat.

            The formula for BMI divides weight (in kg) by the square of height (in meters), which is a bit off. Naively you’d expect to divide by the cube of height, but people don’t expand equally in all three directions, so some intermediate exponent would be better (like 2.5 or so). In any event, taller folks will tend to have BMIs that overstate how fat they are.Report

          • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Brandon Berg says:

            Eh, I remember my doctor trying to give me crap about it at 22. 🙂

            On the other hand, the gym is already paying off. It now takes twice as long to hit my target heart rate….(still a shamefully tiny amount of time, but progress!).Report

    • Avatar Dave Regio in reply to Jaybird says:


      Re: Atkins…

      I spent six weeks experimenting with someone not dissimilar to Atkins. The formal name for it is The Anabolic Diet (“TAD”), the book written back in the mid-1990’s by a guy named Mauro DiPasquale. What was interesting about it is that it was published during the heyday of high-carb dieting in the bodybuilding world, yet it was just a more formal and methodical approach to the bodybuilding diet of the 1960’s and 1970’s – a low carb diet with a high carb day thrown in the mix.

      I understand the appeal of Atkins and other low carb diets (i.e. ketogenic), especially for laypeople because initial weight loss is rapid, very rapid; however, that weight loss is water weight because less water is retained because of the lower amount of glucose in the body.

      When I ran TAD, I ran into a number of issues, the same ones I’d probably have if I ran Atkins or a pure ketogenic diet.

      1. Fat is not filling, not to me. I was more hungry than I wanted to be, which leads me to…

      2. Compliance. For me to comply and not be hungry as hell all the time, my caloric intake was significantly above my TDEE and I ended up gaining weight despite the loss in water, not a lot (3 to 5 lbs maybe) but enough to know it wasn’t working.

      3. Saturated fat intake – I’m not anti-fat, but the most practical way for me to hit my calories and macros was to switch from white meat to high fat red meat. I was eating between 16 and 24 ounces of red meat a day plus my eggs. I didn’t think that was going to end well at my next doctor’s appointment. I could have used other approaches but this was easiest.

      4. Overly restrictive – Low carb diets, especially keto, are ridiculously restrictive, and at some point, powering through that diet is going to require more willpower than it’s worth because of the “need” to avoid certain types of food. It’s sets up binge eating, especially when people try to transition out.

      5. No practical reason – it’s all about energy balance (calories in vs out despite what the deniers say). The research is pretty clear that all types of diets lead to similar long-term weight loss results. The If It Fits Your Macros crowd, before they took it to the realm of cult-like religious status, were on to something with being flexible: get the most from the least.

      Unfortunately, diet culture and the weight loss industry don’t share my kind of common sense.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Dave Regio says:

        There’s probably a post in this but what’s the best diet for someone who is *THIS* close to saying “hell with it!”?

        Some variant of the “eat this, not that” diet?Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

          Well, ya gotta be happy right? Is commitment to a diet worth making yourself miserable? I’m no “expert” but I’d say a mix of exercise and food-consciousness puts you in a better place than the absence of either even if the *ideal* is unobtainable.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

            Well, there’s also that whole thing about how “the root of all suffering is desire” and learning how to be happy with less has a lot of untapped potential.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

              Some folks live on air, I’m told. Presumably, you gotta get right with God first.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

                Well, I was more thinking “instead of a bagel and cream cheese, have some rice cakes and peanut butter”. Same ballpark for how filling it is, half as many calories kinda stuff.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                Is “better” better than failed ideals?


              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

                Everything fails.

                You want something that fails well and is easy to get back up from.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                Everything fails.

                Only when judged by an expectation.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

                Well, the root of all suffering is desire.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:



              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                Weirdly, thinking about Foucault now…Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

                Madness and Civilization and Butter.

                Discipline and Punish and Butter.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                Discipline and Punish and Weight Loss.

                (Add: I haven’t laughed so hard in a while, JB. Thanks for that.)Report

              • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to Stillwater says:

                I think “slightly better” is really great as long as it’s not the only step. The times I’ve made diet changes, I’ve had the greatest success doing it incrementally.

                In retrospect, it makes sense. If I said, “I want to get fit, so I’ll get off the couch and start running a half marathon every morning,” that lifestyle change would last through about the first mile of my first workout and nobody would be surprised. But going in, we never seem to think that eating only cheeseburgers for years and then starting Monday morning out as a vegan is going to work out about as well.

                My non-expert experience is that if I want to cut something out of my diet, doing it incrementally is pretty easy. You forget you used to eat it after a little while and it just goes away. It requires a conscious decision every day for a little while, but not a particularly painful one.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Jaybird says:

                Popcorn and soups! Volumetric, and you can put a ton of fat on the popcorn and still be fine.

                I have a steel “whirley pop” (different manufacturer, highly recommend the steel ones) at home.

                2/3 of a cup unpopped popcorn 1.25 tsp salt, 2tbsp coconut oil (the yellow goop). Makes around 500 calories (a bit more, but you can halve the oil and still love the stuff).

                Plus, since it’s gonna take you half an hour to eat it, you’ll be full before you’re done.

                And yes, it makes over a gallon popped.Report

              • Avatar Nevermoor in reply to Jaybird says:

                Here’s a specific breakfast example: 50 calories of chopped veggies (for me, onions/bell peppers but anything you like works); 1 egg; 3/4 cup egg whites. Cook in nonstick with 0-cal cooking spray, veggies first. Whole thing is give-or-take 200 calories, which beats the hell out of a bagel and cream cheese. Easy enough to do if you set up the veggies for multiple days at once.Report

        • Avatar greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

          The best start would be portion control. Just cut each meal by 5% for a couple weeks then another 5%. Desert once per week. Twice at most. Substitute whatever fruit a person likes for stuff like candy/chips/unhealthy snacks as often as workable.

          There is no money to be made in selling portion control but my guess is that is the biggest step for a person to make in losing weight and overly large portions is the biggest systematic cause of obesisty on a national scale.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater in reply to greginak says:

            There is no money to be made in selling portion control

            Isn’t that the basis of mail-order meals? You get *this* much for breakfast; *this* much for lunch; *this* much for dinner. I know a lot of people (well, a loud few anyway) who swear by these portion-control services.Report

            • Avatar Kim in reply to Stillwater says:

              Low willpower people come up with shit like that.Report

              • Avatar Dave Regio in reply to Kim says:


                I don’t follow.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Dave Regio says:

                If you’re going to do portion control, you can either do it by “opening a box” or you can do it yourself (either by rationing via ramen packets, or by weighing out everything before you cook it).

                “Opening a box” means “let’s do this the easy way”… and easy tends to incline towards people with low willpower (which, to be fair, is most people).

                And we won’t get into why the American Corporations like Americans Fat Dumb and Happy, will we? The brainscience on that one is fascinating…Report

            • Avatar gregiank in reply to Stillwater says:

              That is part of the deal with mail order meals but Weight Watchers type services have been doing that for years. The meal can be portion controlled but the individual still needs to control their snacking, deserts or not just eat two portion controlled meals in one sitting. I think portion control is a basic weight loss/control skill that needs to be learned. If services help that is great, but people still need to learn the skill.Report

  4. Avatar Morat20 says:

    The sheer amount of conflicting information out there is killer. I tried to look up something simple: “If I’m doing a row of machines, what should I be doing?”

    I got everything from 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps to one set of 12, and further conflicting information on “how to tell if you’re over or under doing it”.

    Man, I just want to do cardio then work out the major muscle groups. I got cardio covered — I’m so out of shape that “let’s see if we can work up to 25 minutes on an elliptical” is a solid goal, and also the machine tells me what my target heart rate is (and even shuts down if I get into a danger zone). (Also, seriously love that elliptical. It’s killing my thighs, not my knees. Huzzah).

    But the machines? I don’t want to do free weights, I’m not at the point where I want anything more than “Making sure what I’ve got works right”. And not only am I unsure what to do, but every source I get contradicts the rest!

    So I’m learning painfully. I’ve learned to end with biceps and triceps (because most of the chest and shoulder machines also work those at least a little, and if you exhaust them first then you can’t really get the shoulders and chest going because your arms hurt). I’ve learned that if I’m getting shaky, I should stop because pushing will mean two days of pain. (I’m still trying to figure out if I should push until I get shaky, or just until I’m feeling a burn). I’ve learned that I need to rest at least 20 minutes before taking a hot shower after working out, which in hindsight was common sense.

    That’s not even getting to diet! The information on that is just as bad, although I’m lucky — my wife’s pre-diabetic, a good chef, and we’ve switched to a low-carb diet tailored to people with blood sugar issues. That’s not ideal, I’d imagine, if I was trying for bulk — but I’m trying for general health here, so low carbs and low sugar with lean protein ain’t a bad choice.

    That and I’ve switched to salads more often and away from crappy breakfasts from drive-throughs, and figure I’m at least not making it worse.

    Working out is a freaking mystery, one that my usual method (research!) doesn’t help with. The people at the gym are helpful, but most are just kinda making it up as they go along to.Report

    • Avatar gregiank in reply to Morat20 says:

      I think the key is that most of the differences between plans/concepts don’t really matter for most people. Pick any decent workout plan/concept and you will be fine to start with. Heck even at advanced levels it doesn’t always matter much.

      There is a ton of talk in marathon circles about the best training plans and people will hyper focus on the length of this workout or which day of the week it is best to do it. At best the difference is far less then 1% for most changes people will hotly debate and more likely there is no difference. Even in a race all the micro changes i can make may add up to 1 or 2% in my time. Now i want that time in a race but for overall fitness they don’t’ matter. And even in the race my overall fitness is going to matter a lot more than the tiny changes i can make.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 in reply to gregiank says:

        That’s why I’m not too upset about it and am just working on establishing habits.

        It is a bit vexing at times. Mostly right now I’m trying to figure out exactly when to stop. I’m pretty sure many times I don’t push enough, and that feels like wasted time. 🙂

        But overdoing it is…unpleasant and wastes more time recovering.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Morat20 says:

      well, the good news is you’ve got decent sources.
      1-3 reps is for bodybuilding, 8-10 reps is for strength, much more than that and you’re building endurance.Report

      • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Kim says:

        I’m looking for lean muscle, not bulk.

        Basically I’m looking to tone up what i’ve got and make it work better, but I don’t really want much more than I need. Upping my base metabolic needs is just a bonus.

        In terms of health, the cardio is really what I need and so I make sure to start with that.Report

        • Avatar Dave in reply to Morat20 says:


          Your rep ranges are backwards. The lower rep ranges lend to strength training or lifting explosively (Olympic lifting).

          @morat20 ,

          You can lift at bodybuilding type rep ranges or my suggested 15 reps and not bulk unless you’re eating to bulk. The diet is what’s important there.Report

  5. Avatar Jon Rowe says:

    I like moderate exercise. It’s good for physical and mental health; but I know it won’t help with weight loss. I usually don’t run more than 2 or 3 miles at a time a few times a week. That’s a few beers. However when you start to run well in excess of 5 miles at a time most days a week, then it gets to a point where it might seriously impact weight loss.Report

    • Avatar Dave in reply to Jon Rowe says:


      That’s true unless you’re paying close attention to diet and using the increase in exercise to manage a deficit. If added two or three, 3-mile runs a week and hold my diet as it is, I’d definitely see weight loss as would most people.

      The devil’s in the details though. I’m thinking 1/2 lb per week at the most with a declining impact as the body adapts to the exercise, which is why I’m currently not doing any cardio.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Dave says:

        Try one pound a week loss, on the treadmill.
        3.5mph, 10% grade. 15,000 feet up.
        Yeah, you can really grind yourself into dust if you’re willing to put the time in.
        (The goal is to be doing Everest each week. in four days of treadmill.)

        The thing about cardio is that you can shift into fat-burning mode (after around 30-40 minutes), and then you’re basically just chewing up your fat.

        (At some point, I may wrestle the treadmill away from my husband…)Report

        • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Kim says:

          I’m lucky to make 15 minutes on an elliptical. 🙂 But that’s serious cardio (keeping me at about 150 bpm) and then I follow that up with a full round of weight machines. I’ll deal with fat burning after my cardiovascular system gets up to snuff.

          I suspect though, since my full workout takes about an hour, I’m burning some fat. 🙂Report

          • Avatar Kim in reply to Morat20 says:

            Weightlifting is predominantly anerobic, which is good for building white muscle mass, not so good for burning fat.
            (Although everyone who wants to shill for building white muscle will say “you burn more at rest later!”)

            For weight loss, you’re aiming for something like 60% of your max heart rate (low and slow, if you work out too hard, you’re doing something that you can’t sustain for long periods of time), and keep it for an hour to an hour and a half.

            (and I had to look up what an elliptical was).Report

            • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Kim says:

              Ellipticals are fun. A bit of an adjustment (they don’t use your leg muscles quite like treadmills do), and the ones I use adapt the resistance to keep your heart rate in the target zone. So no zooming along at a low heart rate (a problem if you’re setting your resistance yourself — some people have it way to low and zoom at high speed and aren’t really working anything out), it makes you work for it. 🙂

              I get to my target rate (140) quickly and stay between 140 and 150 for most of the time.

              I’m aiming for 25 minutes as my first goal. Once I hit 30 minutes, I’ll have to alter some things, as I’ll be at the gym longer than I want to be.Report

        • Avatar Dave in reply to Kim says:


          I have the cardio capacity to do that. I could grind myself into dust. I could also add in some low intensity running to the tune of 10 miles a week.

          The thing is that the body will adapt to that added cardio and it’s may not be as much of a fat burner as people think. Depends how and depends when.

          As it is, I can jack my heart rate up weightlifting, and even though it’s predominantly anaerobic, the intensity of effort I use combined with the short rest periods does the intended effect. I remember nearly puking several times when first starting out but not any longer 😀Report

          • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Dave says:

            As it is, I can jack my heart rate up weightlifting, and even though it’s predominantly anaerobic, the intensity of effort I use combined with the short rest periods does the intended effect. I remember nearly puking several times when first starting out but not any longer 😀

            Oh yeah. I do cardio and then move onto the machines, with little break between machines.

            My heart rate does not really go back to rest until I’m done for the day. It seems to hover in the 110 to 130 range as I’m working the machines (up when I’m lifting, down when I’m moving between them or wiping them off).

            I figure that’s burning some fat.

            I weirdly got two workouts Sunday, which i’m still paying for. See — i went to the gym, did a full workout, then came home and showered. Then my son called needing help moving (something he’d said he’d had handled) so about 2 hours after finishing my workout I was hauling furniture and boxes up to a second story apartment.Report

  6. Avatar Dave Regio says:


    I owe a lot of responses over the last two posts, but I’m going to put this out here for you to try the next time you’re at a gym. You can do this with all machines, and it’s a full body workout.

    After a ramp up set or two (call it 40% and 70% of working weight plus or minus), do three sets of 15 reps of the following: start with 2 minutes rest and as you progress, shorten the rest to 60 seconds. I recommend dropping rest periods 10 seconds per week.

    1. Hamstring curls
    2. Leg press or hack squat machine
    3. Chest press
    4. Shoulder press
    5. Lat pull downs
    6. Tricep pushdowns (rope preferred)
    7. Bicep curl – both arms

    Slow and controlled for your reps. Keep track of your weights lifted. If you get to the last set and you still have reps left in the tank, go to failure (stop when form breaks down) and then incrementally increase weight.

    You hit all the major muscle groups. You’ll get plenty of workout with the rep scheme. You can vary your rests as need be in order to get the recovery you need to push through (hell, go three minutes if you have to but shortening rests will increase capacity).

    All of these can be done on machines so you don’t need to deal with free weights, and you’ll get a good workout. I’ve done something similar using free weights and machines.

    Hope this helps.Report

    • Avatar Dave Regio in reply to Dave Regio says:

      It may take a few sessions to get the movements down and the working weights to where you want them to be but that’s ok. Spend the time getting acclimated with what you need to do and then go from there. You can get a lot of mileage out of this.Report

    • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Dave Regio says:

      That’s pretty close to what I’ve been narrowing down to. There’s a few other areas I’m working on — lower back and hips, due to some inherent weakness from an old injury — that’s per a physical therapist. I did the rehab with them, but I’d like to ensure that area stays strong. And abs, because why not.

      What’s “go to failure” feel like? That the bit where the muscles get all shaky and you’re pretty sure you can’t manage another one?Report

      • Avatar Nevermoor in reply to Morat20 says:

        @dave-regio may disagree, but I’ve always understood failure as you literally cannot complete a movement without assistance (i.e. if you’re doing a curl your arm can’t lift above a certain point unless you push with your other hand).Report

  7. Avatar gregiank says:

    My wife does a lot of classes, PiYo and beachbody type stuff. They all talk about diet along with exercise. None of them say weight loss can come just from exercise. They do push short term challenges to lose a certain amount of weight through a special program and modified diet more than i think is wise but the classes are very supportive and engaging apparently.

    Those kind of classes work for her but you are correct about the 4th point. Lots of people don’t’ like exercise or can only do something they like for part of the year. That is a real conundrum. Exercise for 6 months per year and being fallow the rest is better than nothing but it very much limits your gains, puts you at risk for injury when it comes time to more again you end up spending months just getting back to where you ended the last season.

    Lot’s of fit people talk about how people were designed to move and really use our bodies. That is true for me and you. But many people didn’t become sedentary because they were forced to be. Sedentary feels good in lots of ways and if you lived a hard life ( as most people throughout history have) the chance to be sedentary really seems appealing. That doesn’t mean it’s good, but the appeal is clear.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to gregiank says:

      It’s possible to exercise enough that your diet pretty much takes care of itself. (at least if you have a sensitive stomach and can’t eat for 90 minutes after exercise).Report

  8. Avatar Nevermoor says:

    I think what’s hard about a conversation like this is that Vox is reacting to exactly the claims you acknowledge are stupid and wrong. And it is correct that exercise is at best a small component of weight loss (in a global sense, though it’s often the critical margin).

    Using approximate numbers, someone’s resting metabolic rate might be 1800 calories per day. Normal activity if you’re not super-active may add another 400. That sixty minute walk? Call it 325. If you go on that walk then have a slice of pizza, or cake, that you’ve “earned” you’ve been counterproductive. So those facts (which I think are approximately right, though the specific numbers will change depending on age/weight/gender/etc) could lead to a few conclusions.

    Conclusion one: if you stick to a diet and eat 1800 calories a day, you’ll lose weight whether you walk for 0, 30, or 60 minutes, so you “should” focus primarily on diet. No excercise on earth is going to save you if your “lunch” is two thousand-calorie slices at Costco, or you go out to eat a lot.

    Conclusion two: if you want to eat a normal diet, rather than a diet-diet, you damn well better exercise a lot because that’s the margin that’ll save you.

    I think there’s actually pretty good research that most people who lose significant weight, and keep it off, exercise regularly. So that tells you its important. That said, it’s a small percentage of calories, so from that perspective it’s secondary to intake. You can quibble about the story, but at some level both are true.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Nevermoor says:

      Try putting in 3 1000-calorie treadmills a day. That will do you, even on a Costco diet.
      And that’s not even Herculean shit — I’ve had 5000 calorie a day exercise schedules.

      People on the Applachian trail are skin and bones (and leg muscles) for a reason.Report

      • Avatar Nevermoor in reply to Kim says:

        Sure, but if you’re walking those 3 thousand calorie jaunts would take 9 hours.

        No one with a full time job is going to be able to also walk for 9 hours a day.Report

        • Avatar Kim in reply to Nevermoor says:

          1.3 hours apiece, actually (10% grade, 3.5 mph). So, half the time, and with less stress on knees than running.

          So putting in 4 hours a day exercising? Do-able, but a bit of a bitch.Report

          • Avatar Nevermoor in reply to Kim says:

            Those numbers seem way off, though calorie burn depends on a lot of things (including size) so there may be someone who can both do that and burn 3k calories doing it.Report

            • Avatar Anomia in reply to Nevermoor says:

              Not really. Try 200lbs at 10% grade, 3.5mph, 80 mins. that’s well over a thousand calories per session.

              [not sure why my name’s not working today. this is Kim, obvs.]

              oh, and it’s not me over 200lbs, that’s my husband. Hence the crash exercise diet.Report

              • Avatar Nevermoor in reply to Anomia says:

                Fair enough. That certainly confirms your math (though, at risk of being churlish, I’ll observe that that has someone doing nearly 21 miles on a 10% incline every day, which seems pretty far out of the ordinary)Report

              • Avatar Maribou in reply to Anomia says:

                @anomia it’s not working because I just suspended you for two weeks for calling someone a name elsewhere. Don’t call people names. That’s a pretty simple rule. Don’t come back and try to post under different names/emails, either, please.Report

          • Avatar Dave in reply to Kim says:

            So putting in 4 hours a day exercising? Do-able, but a bit of a bitch.

            That there is disorder territory.Report

      • Avatar Dave in reply to Kim says:

        Try putting in 3 1000-calorie treadmills a day. That will do you, even on a Costco diet.
        And that’s not even Herculean shit — I’ve had 5000 calorie a day exercise schedules.

        People on the Applachian trail are skin and bones (and leg muscles) for a reason.

        5,000 calories per day of exercise or TDEE?Report

  9. Avatar veronica d says:

    Not gonna lie, I exercise cuz I wanna look good, and I wanna look good because I want people to be attracted to me. It works well enough. I hit the gym 2-3 times a week, just stretches, mobility, and weights. I save cardio for dancing or walking or whatever (plus sex!). My go-to fitness guides are Strong Curves and Mary Bond’s Posture Book. They seem to cover the basic aspects of having a body that works okay.

    I enjoy it well enough. I enjoy the results a lot. The point is, I lived a lot of years not doing these things. I wasn’t very happy. Nowadays I keep myself in decent shape, and now my life is pretty amazing. It’s worth the effort, so I make the effort. When it’s time to hit the gym, I remind myself what happens if I let myself slip.

    I don’t let myself slip. Ever.Report

    • Avatar switters in reply to veronica d says:

      “I don’t let myself slip. Ever.”

      This is what works for me as well. When i don’t feel well, and really don’t want to go, I still make myself go. I just get Ok with completing a less than vigorous workout. Once i’m there, I frequently end up pushing all the way through my regular workout. But if i cant, I take it easy. Missing though, that is the genesis of all my previous “failures”. One miss quickly becomes more. So I”ve been doing my best to avoid taking that first step.Report

      • Avatar veronica d in reply to switters says:

        yep. always go. do something, even if you’re dragging ass.Report

        • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to veronica d says:

          I found that once I had a garage, getting a weight rack and having it right there made a big difference. It’s right there. Like, through a door. No extra time required. You could start literally 90 seconds from now. Why aren’t you in there?

          Weights are cheap on craigslist if you have the space for them. Then again, the reason weights are cheap on craigslist is because having them right there in your house clearly doesn’t work to motivate 100% of the population.Report

          • Avatar Nevermoor in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

            We do the same, but with a treadmill. I’ve probably put 100+ miles on that thing that wouldn’t have happened if I needed to leave the house.Report

          • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

            Garages are too hot in Houston like…9 months of the year. You’ll die. 🙂

            I used the home treadmill a lot, but not as much as I should have. In hindsight, a home bike or elliptical would have been better.

            I’d really like to take up jogging but….I’m pretty sure my knees wouldn’t like it. Maybe in 40 pounds, you know?Report

            • Avatar Dave Regio in reply to Morat20 says:

              @morat20 @nevermoor

              The one piece of equipment I’d love to have in my house is an assault bike or an old Air Dyne. I’d use it for HIIT and steady state cardio. Everything else I’d probably need a gym for given my training regimen.Report

            • Avatar Nevermoor in reply to Morat20 says:

              If you feel like you need to get that kind of weight off, there are some pretty solid ways to do it pretty quickly, so you can get to the maintenance part of your program (and not worry about your knees if jogging is your bag).

              Fair warning though, the first couple weeks suck.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Nevermoor says:

                Nah, I’m good. 🙂

                We’re already doing diet changes (the missus is looking pre-diabetic and would prefer not to make the jump, and I’m tagging along) and I’ve got a good two or three times a week gym thing I’m figuring out.

                I’m giving it a month to get my body a bit used to regular exercise and movement (the downside of a desk job) and I’ll reassess then.

                I do miss having people to play raquetball with. Cardio is a lot more fun if it’s a game.Report

    • Avatar Dave Regio in reply to veronica d says:


      My training is focused around bodybuilding splits so I’m not going to lie and say this is only about my health.

      I train five times a week. Currently doing very little cardio though my heart rate can stay significantly elevated given my volume and rest periods.

      I have my training splits on my personal exercise Facebook page Misadventures in Exercise. i use that for the detailed stuff I probably won’t post here.Report

  10. Avatar Decah says:

    No smoke + good sleep + confidence + good conscience = healthy body and mindReport

  11. Avatar LTL FTC says:

    While science contradicts itself one way, then another, the best thing to do is something.

    I’ve found that fitting that time into your day is the hardest part – my daily rhythms are fairly fine-tuned – and what you do during that time can be adjusted later. If you have half an hour, you could walk or you could do HIIT. But there’s a space to work with.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to LTL FTC says:

      If you’re trying to lose weight, half an hour’s a stupid thing (you’re just burning spare, free, available carbs). You want fatburning, and that means give yourself an hour or an hour and a half (even twice a week).Report

      • Avatar Maribou in reply to Kim says:

        @kim Slow down on the cusswords and the calling other people’s exercise regimens stupid please.Report

      • Avatar Dave in reply to Kim says:


        If you’re trying to lose weight, half an hour’s a stupid thing (you’re just burning spare, free, available carbs). You want fatburning, and that means give yourself an hour or an hour and a half (even twice a week).

        So P90x, Insanity and other high intensity training programs are stupid because they’re “burning spare, free, available carbs” and people still manage to lose a lot of weight doing them.

        People that exercise hard and still manage to lose weight generally eat a diet higher in carbohydrates and lower in fat, yet despite burning spare carbs, they lean out like crazy.

        I don’t quite know where you’re getting your broscience.Report

      • Avatar Dave in reply to Kim says:


        You don’t need an hour or an hour and half twice a week, especially when people can simply increase their non-exercise activity in a way that doesn’t tax their bodies and do so over a seven-day period and watch the effects of that accumulate over time.

        If you’re at a point where you need 90 minutes of cardio and you’re not training for some kind of distance race or you’re a nutjob like me that sometimes enjoys the occasional 8-mile run, something isn’t right.Report

        • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Dave says:

          So 20 to 25 minutes of cardio + a full round of weight machines two or three times a week should be good for Mister Couch potato here? 🙂 (That works out to an hour two or three times a week, given the machine circuits take me about 40 minutes).

          At least for the next, oh, six months to a year…Report

  12. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    The Book of Matthew says that you can’t lose weight without exercising.Report