The study I am referring to was presented recently at the Rehabilitation Medicine conference that I attended a few weeks ago. There are several important points to consider with this study. Two groups of dogs were placed on diets using the same food. Each dog had a body fat analysis done using a DEXA scan which details the exact amount of fat versus lean body mass in the body. One group of dogs were additionally started on an exercise regime. This was a prescribed amount of exercise, not just playing ball or walking around the block. Think hitting the gym with a specific workout including the treadmill. Here's what the study showed.
1. Both groups of dogs lost weight according to the scale. Both groups dropped pounds. Success! But wait, there's more to the story. Reducing calories alone did lead to successful weight loss, but about 10% of the weight lost came from muscle in the group that didn't exercise. They lost both fat and lean body mass. Hmmm. That wasn't the goal. We want your dog to lose fat and retain muscle and strength. Ten percent muscle mass lost may not seem like much to you but that can mean the difference in your dog being able to get up on his own. Ten percent matters. So success, sorta.
2. The dogs that exercised lost more body fat. Both groups lost about the same amount of weight overall. The dogs that exercised lost more body fat according to the DEX scan though. Increasing the need to burn those calories as fuel for exercise helps the body utilize fat, which is stored calories. Burn more, lose more. Brilliant!
3. The dogs that exercised gained muscle. This is my favorite part of the study. These dogs actually gained muscle! Functional, wonderfully helpful, stabilizing, working muscle! Wow! How great is it that these guys lost unhealthy fat and acquired muscle?This is the goal of every diet on the planet! Gain muscle, lose fat!
The take home point here should be this: cutting calories alone will lower the number on the scales, but reducing calories and exercising is a smarter, better, more efficient way to achieve fat loss.