Why is it so hard to maintain or achieve your ideal bodyweight?
It can’t be because of a lack of information or know how. New diets pop up daily online and on popular tv shows. It’s not because people don’t know which diet to use and it’s certainly not because there’s a shortage of thermogenic fat burning pills on the market. No, no,no
Is it because dieting is too hard? Well that’s certainly an option but calling a diet “too hard” is relative to the diet and the individual who is attempting to diet. There’s low carbohydrate diets, low fat diets, high protein diets, no meat diets, paleo diets and carb cycling diets. There’s more options available today for someone serious about losing weight and it’s very easy to jump from diet to diet because of that availability.
So what is the difficult part of nutrition?
For starters I believe that our understanding of metabolism is wrong. We tend to think of metabolism as a static function that is lower when we’re overweight and faster when we’re leaner. We view metabolism as only food and weight loss/gain related and not as a integral and complex function. This myopic view limits our understanding of how to effectively manipulate our diet and training for lasting fat loss and muscle gain results.
Metabolism is a moving , not static, target that fluctuates day by day based off a variety of factors including but not limited to muscle mass, age, training, height and overall bodyweight.
The typical scenario is that an individual begins by choosing to lower their calories while raising their cardio on top of their current weight lifting sessions. This is amplified in physique competitors and Crossfit athletes whom generally have a more is better mindset.
In my opinion, you can either choose to lower calories or increase your cardio, your body can not eat less and do more. The worst way to lose weight, in my opinion, is to eat less and exercise more.
Why? The scientific term is metabolic adaptation otherwise known as adaptive thermogenesis. By eating less and exercising more you likely will notice some weight loss in the first few weeks until your body fights back. Some key signals include increased hunger, less energy, increased cravings and decreased sex drive.
Studies have shown that your resting metabolic rate may be lowered by an average of 300 calories per day. That is, regardless of what you’re doing, your body is burning 300 calories less than you did the previous day and certainly less than you did at the start of your diet. How’s that for an insult when you’re eating nothing and spending all day in the gym?
Your body has actually made it harder for you to lose weight. Studies have shown prolonged dieting can actually increase the ability for your stubborn fat tissue to store carbohydrates more efficiently while lowering your thyroid output. We’ll discuss more about stubborn fat shortly but this increased insulin sensitivity in stubborn fat tissue actually causes most individuals to further lower their calories and increase their activity for all the wrong reasons.
This is known as metabolic damage which has also been referred to as adrenal fatigue, adrenal insufficiency, hashimoto’s disease and a myriad of other names. Whatever you want to call it, make no mistake, it does exist and in 20 years mainstream medicine will view it like other medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Just because mainstream doctors don’t know what to look for in exams or blood tests doesn’t mean that the signals aren’t there.
The scientific term is “adaptive thermogenesis” which simply refers to the predictable adaptation of your metabolism based off of constant energy intakes and outputs.
Eat a lot of calories and your body has no reason to lose weight. After all, you’re telling it to gain weight.
Try to cut your calories and raise your activity and your body will not know when its next meal will be so it will slow everything down. Your thyroid gets slower because if it was fast or “normal” then you’d expend more calories then you’re taking in. Your body slows down the amount of calories you burn because if it didn’t then you’d wither away because you’re not eating enough.
Typical Dieting Scenario
So you want to get leaner and lose some body fat. Maybe you’re competing in a physique show or Crossfit competition or maybe you just want abs. You start by lowering your calories and doing more exercise, maybe a little cardio. You lose a few pounds over the first two or so weeks but then you start noticing your hunger levels are rising while your energy levels bottom out. On top of that your desire for sex is shot and you crave fatty, salty foods that you can just not have on your diet.
Your body is giving you signs, you just need to listen to them.
The only sign that you notice, however, is that you aren’t losing weight nearly as fast. As a matter of fact, your weight loss might have stopped all together or you even might be gaining weight.
Then the increased hunger, lack of energy, decreased sex drive and craving increase again. Talk about a trip.
So what would the dedicated athlete do? Well it’s clearly time to eat LESS and do MORE. After all, diets are suppose to be hard. They are suppose to be a grind, right? Dead wrong. That determination might help you through the first plateau but the second plateau will surely get you because now everything gets harder. Even your iron will take some sucker punches.
You can double down and still eat LESS and do MORE. Maybe you’ll have to drink a pot of coffee to get through the day. All you’ve really done is make matters worse. You might be noticing that your sleep is all messed up. You have trouble getting to bed and you can’t stay asleep.
This is classically referred to as “wired then tired”. You might be getting sick more often and you notice a high amount of anxiety. Oh that’s bad. On top of that, a hormone named aldosterone is all messed up so you’re actually retaining water.
Remember, your metabolism is not a static function, it is a moving target.
You can not continually diet by lowering your calories and raising your activity. To achieve personal best fat loss you’ve got to stop dieting for a short period of time. Our goal is to keep our thyroid elevated, balance our insulin sensitivity and keep our leptin levels at a moderate level and there’s a few ways to do this.
This is one of the more popular methods of diet breaks. Traditionally an individuals would have one to two refeed days during their week where they would double or triple their daily amount of starchy carbohydrates and may include one or two cheat foods.
This popular method is very effective in short term diets of of 12-16 week of duration for physique competitors and allows for a slow and predictable fat loss. My problem with this method is that it may take a physique coach two or three weeks of working with an athlete to determine the proper amount of reseed nutrients
I also think that a constant diet with refeed days becomes more and more ineffective as the diet continues while activity is raised due to simply the duration of the constant demand, but like I said, for 12-16 weeks it is not a bad way to make constant results.
Eat Less, Exercise Less or Eat More, Exercise more
This method attempts to match the individuals exercise level with their food intake to increase metabolism and daily calorie expenditure. Not a bad approach by any means but it’s very hard to take an individual and tell them to do less in the gym while lowering their calories.
Remember, good nutrition coaching is about compliance for the client and in my experience, too many people resist the change of doing less.The “eat more, exercise more” portion is not bad by any means as most dieters undereat. The increase in calories must come from clean sources and not cheat foods.
Dr.John Berardi coined the term "G-Flux" years ago to explain the concept of how your body will burn more fat if you eat more food but that only works after a severe caloric deficit.
A traditional diet break may be for a weekend or for a week. It’s very hard to place a steadfast number on it. The key is to monitor the signals of a sluggish damaged metabolism.
*Low set drive
*Increased hunger and cravings
*Inability to exceed or meet your previous workouts performance.
Only you can say when those four factors have all been improved and that’s a sure sign that you can go back to your lower calorie, fat loss diet.
A diet break, however long it lasts, it is not a invitation to gorge or immediately consume a boatload of calories, even from “clean” foods. If you’re eating virtually nothing and doing a lot of work, what do you think your body is going to do when you increase your food and stop exercising? It’s going to make you look awfully puffy. It won’t be fat gain but you’ll look like it.
How to fix metabolic damage, get your metabolism back on track and burn more fat.
Hopefully I’ve illustrated my point. It is very likely, when you follow the traditional “eat less and do more” advice that you are burning your metabolic candle at both ends.
Step One: Choose one diet option
1) One to two refeeds during the week
2) Eat Less, Do Less or Eat More, Do More
3) Take a mini diet break until your metabolic damage signs improve
Whichever option that you’ve chosen above, cycle it with 1-2 weeks of the other options.
Why Is Stubborn Fat Stubborn To Begin With?
Let’s cover the difference between regular body fat, which we have talked about thus far and stubborn fat. Due to the process known as lipolysis, when you exercise you release fat from a cell then that fat is transported to another cell where it is burned in a process known as lipid oxidation. This is primarily driven by your fat burning hormones norepinephrine and epinephrine otherwise known as noradrenaline and adrenaline. The catecholamines are vital for fat loss as they lock receptors into fat tissue that signal whether to speed up or slow down fat release.
These receptors are either alpha or beta receptors. Beta receptors speed up the release of fat and alpha receptors slow the release of fat. Both fat receptors turn on hormone sensitive lipase (HSL) which is major fat releasing enzyme.
Stubborn fat, on the other hand, releases fat from the cell at a slower rate than other fat cells since stubborn fat is made up with different receptors than other fat cells. Stubborn fat contains more alpha receptors than beta receptors. Traditionally, fat loss articles have discussed increasing insulin sensitivity so that your fat cells can release stored fat which is true for 90% of your fat cells except your stubborn fat cells.
Stubborn fat actually starts out more insulin sensitive than other tissues which means that stubborn fat cells easily store more fat while making it harder to release more fat. to be burned. A regular fat cell, like in your shoulders for example, starts out more insulin resistant so it doesn’t store fat as easily yet releases it more frequently. Now can you see why stubborn fat is stubborn?
Remember those alpha and beta receptors we talked about earlier? Since stubborn fat cells are more insulin sensitive they contain more alpha receptors than beta receptors which increases the ability to store fat in those areas.
Since your thyroid function generally decreases during a diet due to lower calories, alpha receptors ramp down since they are closely tied to optimal thyroid function. Estrogen also increases alpha receptors so both women and men who have low testosterone and high body fat have cause to worry.
Plan To Burn Stubborn Fat
Let’s recap real quick. In order to burn fat, especially stubborn fat you have to do the following.
-Start on a consistent lower carb diet with your carbohydrate intake optimized for your goals and performance.
-Start with one or two refeeds per week while on your diet.
-When your body sends you the “diet fail signals” then you should listen and take a mini diet break until those signals fade.
As established, lasting fat loss involves a smart rotation of your calories, optimizing your hormones and avoiding metabolic compensation.
At this point you should be coming off of your mini diet break and now it’s time to go back to your old diet. It is my suggestion that you restart your diet at the same macronutrient level that you used at the start.
For example, let's say you dieted on 150 grams of carbohydrates and eventually got down to 120 or 110 grams. You took a 2 week diet break. Now I want you to start on 150 grams of carbs again since this time you’ll be leaner than at the start of your diet.
While your fat loss maybe be slower than 2-3 pounds lost per week at the initial start of your diet, you’ll still be in a caloric deficit and your metabolism will remain elevated for longer post diet break than if you jumped back into the deep end with low carbohydrates.
Supplementation can also help you when you are attempting to get lean. Green tea is very helpful for activating the fat burning catecholamines and helping to “unlock” stubborn fat cells. it’s why green tea is found in large quantities in The Physique Formula LEAN fat burner. Direct caffeine can also block alpha receptors which is why I highly advise coffee pre workout.