Physical activity does more than just increase total energy expenditure. When activity is low, appetite is dysregulated, resulting in excess food intake and weight gain. Higher levels of activity seem to increase appetite control. The combination of being too high in body fat and also being physically inactive may further dysregulate appetite and satiety signaling, making weight loss efforts even more difficult. Caloric restriction alone may be difficult to adhere to for weight loss if your activity levels are low enough that you experience a dysregulated satiety response to meals.
Likewise, physical activity and exercise interventions on their own may only be effective to a point. Once you reach very high levels of activity, further increases may not reliably increase total energy expenditure; thus, a combination of energy restriction and physical activity may be the best approach.
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Homeostatic and non-homeostatic appetite control along the spectrum of physical activity levels: An updated perspective. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2017.12.032