Going to the Gym Will Make You Fat (Or Keep You Fat)

APPARENTLY … All that nonsense about clocking a workout at the gym is not going to help you lose weight. Exercising makes you hungrier, and folks who might not be inclined to over-indulge often do so post-gym, since all that sweating works up an appetite. Also, the $19 billion we spend on fitness club memberships only encourages us to be lazy in other aspects of life, often where stairs-vs-escalator decisions must be made. So: Should you work out?

OF COURSE. Cardiovascular exercise keeps you healthier, and about twelve billion studies will show you it fights major killers like heart disease and alleviates stress. (Then again, those same studies will say merely walking is good, too.) But here’s the real trick to losing weight: STOP EATING SO MUCH.

And this is the part where you start envying rats:

Fundamentally, humans are not a species that evolved to dispose of many extra calories beyond what we need to live. Rats, among other species, have a far greater capacity to cope with excess calories than we do because they have more of a dark-colored tissue called brown fat. Brown fat helps produce a protein that switches off little cellular units called mitochondria, which are the cells’ power plants: they help turn nutrients into energy. When they’re switched off, animals don’t get an energy boost. Instead, the animals literally get warmer. And as their temperature rises, calories burn effortlessly.

Because rodents have a lot of brown fat, it’s very difficult to make them obese, even when you force-feed them in labs. But humans — we’re pathetic. We have so little brown fat that researchers didn’t even report its existence in adults until earlier this year. That’s one reason humans can gain weight with just an extra half-muffin a day: we almost instantly store most of the calories we don’t need in our regular (“white”) fat cells.