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We Burn Calories Like Hunter-Gatherers: Why Are We Fat?

You and the ancient hunter-gatherer are different in many ways. You eat Funions out of a bag; he hunted wild animals. You sit around for hours playing “Mass Effect”; he ran for miles a day. Despite this fact, you burn as much energy as your buffalo-chasing ancestor.

A new study conducted by researchers from Hunter College in New York reveals that, although we live much more sedentary lifestyles, Westerners today burn about as much energy as that of ancient hunter-gatherers.

Any excuse to post this photo is a good one

The Hunter College team measured energy expended by a group of 30 Hadza men, a hunter-gather society from Tanzania. Each man wore a GPS unit  to track how many miles he traveled each day and also wore a breath monitor to measure his metabolism while at rest and walking. The team found that, although Hadza men participate in more physical activity, their total energy expenditure (calories burned) is nearly identical to that of fat Westerners.

Researchers suggested that simply eating too much, taking in too much energy, explains why Westerners are so fat.  This means that eating less food, not working out, has an effect on total energy expenditure. Simply put, we’re fat because we eat too much. Who woulda thought?

You might have heard the phrase “burn calories in the kitchen” before. What it boils down to pretty much fits in with the Hunter College team’s findings: that eating well has more of an impact on keeping fit than working out. You can work out all you want, but if you spend your non-exercise hours scarfing down donuts and chugging Mountain Dew, you’ll be an out-of-shape dude that happens to work out a lot.

Along with the amount of food you consume, burning calories “in the kitchen” has a lot to do with the types of foods you eat. A healthy combination of vegetables, meat, grains, and a lot of water will have a dramatic impact on your gut.

This isn’t to say that exercise is pointless. Quite the contrary. Exercise is plenty important  in maintaining an overall healthy body. It’s good for your heart. It’s great for your self-esteem. Don’t take this research as an excuse to sell your weights and buy a bigger La-Z-Boy. Just understand that diet is even more important in maintaining a healthy weight than exercise.

A blend of smart food choices and regular physical activity will do your body wonders.  Cut out the junk, eat lots of protein, and work out regularly, and you’ll be in tip-top shape guaranteed. You might not have to chase any buffalo in the near future, but shedding those extra pounds might help you track down that most elusive of animals: women.

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About John Brhel John Brhel is a freelance writer from upstate New York that enjoys picking apart life's idiosyncrasies and listening to Huey Lewis & the News.

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