Beyond Exercise: Less Common Methods for Changing Body Composition

Exploring the road less traveled when it comes to achieving ideal body composition

By Michael Ormsbee, PhDFlorida State University
Edited by Kate Findley and proofread by Angela Shoemaker, The Great Courses Daily

Eating healthy and staying active can bring us closer toward our goals of looking and feeling better. However, undoing years of bad habits can be a long and frustrating road. Professor Ormsbee explains why incorporating unusual tips and tricks into our daily regimen might be helpful.

Artificial sugar on wooden spoon
To limit calorie intake, many people choose to use low-calorie or no-calorie artificial sweeteners instead of sugar. Photo By Iryna Imago / Shutterstock

Exploring Less Common Methods

Before exploring these less common methods for changing body composition (which is not just your weight, but your percentage of lean muscle and body fat), it’s important to note that the most documented and most effective method is by increasing the quality of both your exercise and your dietary intake. At first, the simple advice to eat better and exercise more to lose weight and improve your body composition seems like an easy concept. 

Of course, achieving your ideal body composition is usually more complicated than that. This is why some people often reach a point where they search for more outside-the-box options to help them meet their body composition goals.

Perhaps you’ve heard of strategies such as using no-calorie sweeteners, replacing a traditional desk with a stand-up desk, wearing ice-cold vests, or simply sleeping more. The theory behind these methods is generally to either decrease the amount of food you eat or to increase your total energy expenditure. 

The overarching theme and rationale for these methods is that they help manipulate energy intake and energy expenditure, which theoretically could result in body composition changes. These less common methods for achieving an ideal body composition do so by trying to create a negative energy balance to increase fat use. This article series is dedicated to evaluating the efficacy of some of the less traditional approaches to altering body composition.

Artificial Sweeteners and Body Composition

First, let’s explore tools and tricks used to decrease total energy intake in order to manipulate body composition. One common method comes in a tiny little colorful packet everywhere you go. 

To limit calorie intake, many people choose to use low-calorie or no-calorie sweeteners. Originally, these artificial sweeteners were for people with diabetes because of their inability to handle large doses of real sugar.

In recent years, though, these sweeteners have been incorporated into diets of those looking to lose weight and fat. Sugar consumption in the diet of Americans has increased astronomically, not only due to soft drinks, but also from other processed foods like cookies, salad dressing, and condiments.

On average, each American consumes approximately 130 lb—almost 60 kg—of sugar per year. Understanding that an excess of any macronutrient—carbohydrates, fats, or proteins—can be the enemy of ideal body composition, it seems fitting that we look to other options for controlling our sweet tooth. 

It seems perfect, right? With substitutes like sucralose and aspartame, for example, it is typically thought that we still get the sweet taste without getting the negative insulin-stimulating impact of increased sugar, all the while, lowering caloric intake. 

Quite a bit of research backs up this theory. Even the American Heart Association tells us that replacing sugary foods and drinks with artificial sweeteners is a way to limit calories and to achieve or maintain a healthy weight. 

However, conflicting evidence has emerged when it comes to the safety of some of these sweeteners. Monday’s article examines both sides of the argument.

Dr. Ormsbee is an Associate Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food, and Exercise Sciences and Interim Director of the Institute of Sports Sciences and Medicine in the College of Human Sciences at Florida State University.

Michael Ormsbee is an Associate Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food, and Exercise Sciences and Interim Director of the Institute of Sports Sciences and Medicine in the College of Human Sciences at Florida State University. He received his MS in Exercise Physiology from South Dakota State University and his PhD in Bioenergetics from East Carolina University.

This article was edited by Kate Findley, Writer for The Great Courses Daily, and proofread by Angela Shoemaker, Proofreader and Copy Editor for The Great Courses Daily.
About Kate Findley 441 Articles
Kate is a writer, novelist, and blogger living in Los Angeles. She has been writing for The Great Courses since 2017. It incorporates her two favorite things: writing and learning.