Definition: "An ergogenic aid is any substance or phenomenon that enhances performance "

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Moderate and intensive training equally good with weight-loss diet

It goes without saying: a weight-loss diet works better if you exercise as well. But what kind of exercise works best? Longer sessions of moderate exercise? Or shorter sessions of more intensive exercise? The answer according to researchers at the US J. Paul Sticht Center on Aging: it doesn't matter.

The researchers base their arguments on an experiment they did with about a hundred overweight older women. Because of the aging population and the obesity epidemic that the US now faces, overweight and obese postmenopausal women have been declared a special problem group.

The researchers put their test subjects on a diet containing four hundred calories a day less than they burned. Thirty women just stuck to the diet. More than sixty started doing more exercise.

Just under forty of those women went to the gym three times a week and walked for about an hour on the treadmill. They walked at fifty percent of their maximal oxygen uptake [VO2max]. That's an intensity at which you can still discuss your relationship problems at length, have an argument or - if you don't feel like talking - solve a crossword puzzle. Each training session the women walked for about an hour, and they burned 750 kilocalories per week as a result of the exercise.

Thirty other test subjects walked three times a week on the treadmill in the gym. They walked at seventy percent of their VO2max. That's a pretty intensive effort level. It's not the most extreme, but you won't be able to have a conversation. These women did half hour sessions, and burned about 650 kilocalories per week.

The table below summarises what happened to the women during the twenty-week period. CR = only diet; moderate = CR + moderate intensity exercise; vigorous + CR + high intensity exercise.

Moderate and intensive training equally good with weight-loss diet

All the positive effects found in the CR group are even stronger in the groups that did exercise. The vigorous exercise group had slightly better results than the moderate group, but the differences are negligible. The only exception is the VO2max. This increased by more in the vigorous exercise group.

The researchers also examined the effect of the different regimes on the women's cholesterol and sugar levels. The increased oxygen uptake capacity in the vigorous group did not have an influence on these. "After accounting for the initial values of each of the metabolic outcomes, only the amount of weight loss - and not changes in abdominal visceral fat volume or changes in VO2max contributed to the variance in glucose tolerance and HDL-cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations at follow-up".

The combination of physical exercise and weight loss diets is healthier because you lose weight more quickly. But whether you do short, intensive exercise or longer, less intensive exercise makes no difference. As long as you get exercise. Say the researchers.

Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Apr;89(4):1043-52.