There is always a lot of talk this time of year about joining a gym, losing that extra weight, and getting back the body you used to have. But what if this whole concept of exercising our way to a healthy body is a myth?

Depending on your age, exercise can actually make you fat! The new term is “skinny fat.” People who look healthy on the outside, but aren’t on the inside. The body requires certain nutrients to be healthy, and regardless of your age, exercise AND diet are necessary to achieve health. For those over the age of 40 there are even more challenges. Did you know that once you reach the age of 40 your body burns energy differently? If you are under the age of 40, when you exercise you are more likely to burn available fat while exercising, however after 40 the body has a more difficult time accessing that stored fat and will go after your muscle instead.

This means that even if you go to the gym every day for months, do boot camps, zumba, spin class, walk your 10k steps each day, and park away from the grocery store, you can actually be increasing your percent body fat with these activities. The key is to know what fuel your body needs, and give it that!

Fuel is a very important key to changing our weight. Now we’re not taking about unleaded or premium, but instead we are talking about human fuel; calories. Putting in the wrong type of calories before we exercise would be like putting diesel fuel in a jet and expecting it to perform well. So what are the best sources of fuel for the body? There are three types of fuel, also called macros, that are vital to our health: protein, good fats, and carbohydrates (mostly in the form of fruits and vegetables). If you eat these at each meal you can be guaranteed to have a balanced and nutritious diet.

Let’s look a little more at why each of these macros are so important, and the role they play in our health. Our organs, including the heart, are made out of muscles. Clean sources of protein are necessary to make muscles, as well as hormones, and brain chemicals. Eggs, meat, raw (organic) dairy, nuts and seeds, pea and hemp protein are all good sources and can also be excellent sources of fat.

We also need good quality fats. Not all fats are created equal! Good fats come from olive oil,, coconut oil, organic butter, nuts and seeds, avocados, and other quality oils. Fats are important because they are required for the creation of new cells, hormones, and the insulation of our nerves. Also the brain is about 60% fat, and with the rising levels of dementia we should be paying attention to the types and quality of fats we put in our body. Bad fats to be avoided would include margarine (I can’t believe its not butter!), vegetable oil, canola oil, any trans fats, and ALL deep fried foods.

Finally, we need carbohydrates from whole, unprocessed foods. Our most nutritious source of carbs is vegetables and fruits. Vegetables provide us with minerals that they convert from the soil. They also provide us with the building blocks of energy production and the needed fiber to feed our good bacteria. While the carbs from whole grains (eg: quinoa, wild rice, steel cut oats) can be nutritious if organic, they need to be eaten sparingly, if at all. It’s important to understand that the body has a response to sugar, whether it is in the form of fruit sugar, a piece of toast, or a candy bar. Excess fructose converts into bad fat and triglycerides and can be the cause of not only weight gain, but also inflammation and pain in the body. I recommend no more than 1-2 fruits per day and generally the ones in season. Fruit instead of fruit juice also gives you the added benefit of fiber in your diet, which is always a good thing. Avoid higher sugar fruits when trying to lose weight, such as bananas, mango, dried fruit, pineapple, and papaya.

Many people swear by this diet to lose weight. Since your body is now burning fat instead of carbohydrates as its primary energy source, your body can more easily us and burn stored body fat. Some have reported benefits of appetite suppression, increase in energy, and a great way to control blood sugar.The human body evolved on a hunter-gatherer diet that was very low in sugar, including grains, dairy, and processed food. Our ancestors had far fewer cases of cavities, heart disease, diabetes, and other obesity-related diseases. So, the idea behind this eating plan is to get back to the diet that better matches our evolutionary biology.
Keto vs. Paleo

Another factor that can impede our weight loss and health goals, other than diet and exercise, is STRESS! When we are exposed to stress over a long period of time our body produces a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol causes the body to store calories as fat, generally around the waist. There is really only one way to stop this process and that is to change your lifestyle and heal your adrenals. Now this is easier said than done, but it is a very important part of being healthy!

In conclusion, exercise is important, but it’s not enough! We have to give our body the nutrition it requires and that can change with our age. To get the most out of your exercise regime, make sure to consume about 15-20 grams of protein within an hour before exercise and AGAIN 15-20 grams of protein after you exercise, especially if you are over 40! This gives your body the fuel it needs to exercise and access your stored fat instead of consuming your muscle!

If you are looking for a low impact workout, check out my previous blog post for a great 7 Minute Workout!


Dr. Virginia S. Irby D.C.,DABCO, ACN

Cascade Chiropractic

2371 Iron Point Rd. Ste. 130

Folsom, CA 95630