Exercise and My Wallflower Hormones

Posted on January 13, 2012


Until that magic pill comes along, here is more news on the exercise front…

I don’t know if it’s true, but a recent blog by Dr. Joseph Mercola on foodconsumer.org says that food choices account for 80% of  our ability to achieve an ideal weight.  He says that exercise is an important tool to make better food choices.

Okay, I exercise. Yet I still make crappy food choices. What’s wrong with my exercise tool?

Exercise helps our impulse control. Mercola says that as the day goes on, the brain’s inhibitory control function gets fatigued. By being active, we literally exercise our “no” muscle.

This makes sense to me. I can avoid most “bad” foods until late afternoon. Then the witching hour begins and sugar, salt and caffeine loom large. I always exercise early in the morning. I wonder if exercising later in the day would help increase the length of my “no” muscle.

Exercise gives the stomach the “I’m full” message.  People release hormones when they eat. People who exercise release three different hormones in a beautiful dance that leaves them eating less and feeling full sooner.

I’m not sure what I think of this. I exercise. I eat. I want more. I think my eating hormones are wallflowers.

Exercise is great but short bursts of it are better.  Mercola invokes an exercise study:

In their trial, women either exercised for 20 minutes, alternating 8 seconds of sprinting on a bike with 12 seconds of exercising lightly, or exercised at a regular pace for 40 minutes. After exercising three times a week for 15 weeks, those who did the 20-minute, alternating routine lost three times as much fat as the other women.

In a nutshell, short bursts increase the metabolic rate and engage different muscle fibers. This combination burns more fat. But you can’t get this effect by doing the same cardio day after day.  Bummer.

This is an area I can certainly improve upon. I enjoy the same old cardio day after day. I don’t like to push myself to a higher intensity. I don’t like the way it feels. But, I could do it for 8 seconds, maybe even a full minute. Plus, I’d rather exercise for 20 minutes instead of the usual 45 to an hour. It’s certainly worth a try. And maybe the bursts will help turn my wallflower eating hormones into beautiful “I’m full” dancers.

Eating after exercise is important. Mercola poo-poos anything with fructose in it (which includes juice, vitamin water, sports drinks and most processed foods.) He says that fructose changes our metabolism and turns off our ability to suppress our appetite. It leads to obesity. He goes on to say the best way to eat post-workout is to ingest a “fast assimilating” protein within 30 minutes.

I never pay attention to what I eat after a workout. I usually grab a handful of nuts, a piece of bread, a piece of fruit, cottage cheese, yogurt – or nothing. I suppose I should drop the fruit, yogurt and nothing options. In any event, I need to give protein a try and eat within 30 minutes post-workout.

So here’s my plan: I am going to build in short bursts of exercise at least once a week (as part of speedwork for my upcoming half-marathon) and make sure I get in protein post-workout. Exercising later in the day is not an option for me, but I reserve the right to change my mind if the first two tactics don’t improve my outlook within a month.

Do you have a plan?