Why all that exercising is not helping in weight loss

Nidhi Tayal
Nidhi TayalMay 16, 2016 | 13:53

Why all that exercising is not helping in weight loss

Deepali (name changed), a 39-year-old friend of a friend called me recently. She sounded distressed. She had embarked on a self-imposed, copied-from-internet "Atkins low carb diet" for meeting her weight loss target.

After losing just about half a kilo, it was becoming hard for her to pull through the fourth day. Barely able to walk, she was confused about the weight loss.


That lost half kilo was, however, giving her both a sense of despair and hope. Despair, due to the fact that three days of dieting had resulted in only a small amount of weight loss, and hope because a whopping target of 30kg loss had atleast got a start.

Unable to deal with the despair, she ditched the diet mid-way and started eating everything she saw. Alas! Big blunder. This article is for many who face this agony.

Loss of body water often shows up as a minuscule weight loss on the weighing scale.

Why low-carb diet for weight loss failed?

Unknowingly, many weight loss warriors resort to no/low-carb diets to cut down on daily calories hoping to achieve those coveted curves. After all, cutting down on calories should be the safest way to get fit.

What they fail to take into account are the nuances of how our physiology works? How to choose a diet that suits one's lifestyle, work and fitness schedule, medical history and genetic predisposition? One size does not fit all. Diet should complement exercise; either of them doesn't work in isolation.

An insight into physiology and metabolism

An average-sized body can store up to 1,800 calories (average) of carbohydrates (carbs). These are mostly stored as Glycogen in liver and muscles. However, one needs a maximum of 600 calories from carbs, derived either from diet or stored glycogen, to provide fuel to the body for its daily functioning.


The lesser the number of carbs consumed, the more the amount of glycogen reserves depleted to provide energy to the body.

These numbers vary depending on one's size, level of fitness and activity. An active body consuming a low-carb diet can actually bust the glycogen stores in a fortnight, giving you a couple of kilos of weight loss as an opening score. Looks like a win-win situation. Not if done the wrong way!

Also, Glycogen binds its weight to a lot of water (water weight is four times the weight of glycogen). So when you start burning glycogen reserves for your daily energy need, you also begin to lose body water simultaneously, making you perpetually parched.

This loss of body water often shows up as a minuscule weight loss on the weighing scale. These physiological processes trap you in a vicious cycle of being low on energy and feeling dehydrated, making you ill-equipped to continue with the diet and workout regime.

But, body can burn fat deposits for the fuel needs, right?

Wish it were as easy as it sounds. Ideally, lack of a ready energy source should kick-start "beta-oxidation of fats" (breakdown process of fatty deposits) to provide energy and push you towards your goal of weight loss. Sadly, fat burning is an extremely slow process that can take years to bring about desired results.


The body, meanwhile, starts catabolising (breaking down) its muscle proteins through the process of "gluconeogenesis", adding to more muscle fatigue and making you give up completely on those already half-hearted workouts. Psychologically, depleting patience and fast burning out perseverance, compounded with worldly responsibilities derail your weight loss journey mid-way.

The fact is that a "wrongly executed" low-carb diet makes you lose essential sustainable energy, body water and lean muscle mass, making you feel sluggish, dehydrated and muscle fatigued owing to the above-stated phenomenon.

Don't give up, there is still hope for low-carb diet lovers. Read on:

If you are hell-bent on a low-carb diet as it stabilises your blood sugar, don't ever give up on exercise. It is the symbiosis of watching your carbs and working out regularly that will help you knock of that extra weight.

Remember these pointers to make your low-carb diet an effective weight loss tool:

1. Include 500 calories of carbs in your daily diet before or after the workout session. This practice stabilises blood sugar and provides enough fuel to the body to stoke the body's natural fat burning fire.

Consuming baked potatoes with skin, bananas, jaggery, whole legumes work in your favor. Make sure to indulge in these carb sources on the day you have a heavy workout planned. Say goodbye to white flour, white sugar and artificial sweeteners for good.

2. Say no to processed packaged food donning your pantry, and instead, eat real food. Branded low-calorie packaged food is loaded with preservatives and malitol,  posing a big threat to your holistic health. Packaged guacamole is not a substitute for fresh avocado.

3. Include fibre in your diet as low-carb diets make you cut down on rich fibre sources like fruits, veggies, grains and so on, making the diet deficient in phytonutrients, antioxidants and important minerals like potassium, magnesium etc.

Eat dark leafy greens and non-starchy veggies compulsorily to increase the fibre intake. It binds the stool and retains water in the body. It's important to flush out toxins from the body, especially while on catabolic/ ketogenic diets.

4. Stay hydrated. Water is important to bring about beta-oxidation of fats and to maintain electrolyte balance in the body. Glycogen reserve depletion already makes one lose a litre of body water. This needs to be replenished at any cost. Unsweetened electrolyte-rich beverages like limewater, kambucha water, barley water etc should find a place in your diet.

Bumping off of those initial kilos evident on the weighing scale makes you hopeful of being a weight loss success story; don't give up on that hope. Embark on the diet that is tailor-made for you.

Abstinence from your favourite food more often than not makes you crave for it more. Take help from a trained professional. Following a diet plan off the internet without proper know-how is detrimental to health.

Also note, there is no shortcut to exercise. The weight loss journey should not give you insufficiencies/ deficiencies. rather, it should add to the body's nutrient reserves. Choose judiciously.

Last updated: May 16, 2016 | 13:53
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