You guys hear me talk all the time about the importance of nutrition and why it is key to fitness. So, let’s talk a little bit about eating for your goals. Specifically the goal of losing body fat while maintaining and even increasing our strength. There are numerous factors that play into that but there are a few things that I do know for certain. One, diets don’t work. Two, what you eat is just as or more important than how much you eat. Finally, you need a little intense exercise to stimulate fat loss.
So you ready for the BIG secret? Change the way you eat and the way you move. Notice I did not say reduce your calories and exercise more. Why? For the simple reason that it is not that simple. Honestly, most people that come into the box do not eat enough and some exercise too much. Most have been told for years to cut calories, reduce fat intake, and exercise and they will lose weight. Why is everyone still overweight then? Look around you, obesity rates have tripled in the last 3 decades and have surpassed smoking as the leading cause of death in the US. Type 2 diabetes, heart attack, high blood pressure, stroke, certain cancers, among numerous others, are growing at epidemic levels and have all been linked directly and/or indirectly to obesity. Chances are, especially for those of us that live in Texas, if you are not obese you are overweight. (70% of Texans are overweight)
Now, let’s talk about what to do about it. First let’s change the way we eat. High carb, low fat diets DO NOT work. What works is eating real foods the way God intended for us to eat, foods that are nutrient dense and do not wreak havoc on our hormones. When we think of hormones we typically think of darling children that, seemingly overnight, turn into monsters covered in acne. Truth is, our hormones play key roles in almost every function in our bodies. They effect growth and development, metabolism, mood, sexual function, and reproduction.
Let’s take a moment to look at a couple notables that play key roles in body fat storage:
Insulin: If you are looking to blame one hormone in particular for your body fat, insulin is that hormone. Insulin’s role in the body is fat storage. Insulin is the hormone that regulates how your body uses food for it fuel. It is the hormone that directs your muscle, liver and fat cells to remove glucose from the blood and store it.
If your body is always in a state where your insulin is elevated then you begin to see insulin resistance. Insulin resistance leads to fat storage and the fatter we become the more insulin resistant we become.
What is the primary driving force of insulin resistance? Overconsumption of carbohydrates.
Your body has a limited capacity to store carbs. Initially, your body uses carbs for energy, then it is stored as glycogen. Your body stores glycogen in the liver and muscles, once those are full the remaining is stored as body fat.
Insulin that is always elevated not only keeps fat around, it locks the door to your fat cells so that the fat releasing hormones like glucagon can’t get in. So, as long as your insulin level is elevated you will not lose body fat.
Glucagon: Glucagon performs the exact opposite function of insulin, it melts fat. Per The Perfect Diet, “In the presence of glucose, your pancreas releases insulin. But in the absence of sugar (if your blood sugar is very low and you haven’t eaten for 5 to 6 hours), glucagon is secreted. Why? Because your tissues need sugar and energy. In turn, glucagon pulls sugars out of storage—first from the liver, and then from fatty tissues to raise your blood glucose level.” So if you are always eating, it would be impossible to lose weight because your body would never release glucagon. Glucagon production is inhibited as long as insulin elevated. They are polar opposites: Insulin stores fat while glucagon releases fat.
So what do we eat to balance these two hormones and lose body fat? Below are a few suggestions.
· Eat veggies—TONS of them. Especially dark green leafy vegetables.
· Limit dense carbohydrates to when you have earned them. For instance a long, intense workout. Dense carbs are things like sweet potatoes, oats, rice, quinoa and fruit. This does not mean that you need to replenish your body with dense carbs, or any carbs for that matter, after every workout. Remember, if there is glycogen in your body adding to that will be stored as body fat.
· Cut back or eliminate gluten from your diet especially wheat gluten or any grains containing the same gluten. (barley, kamut, rye, spelt, triticale, wheat (and wheat germ))
· Avoid sugar, soy, junk/processed food, and vegetable oils. (Artificial sweeteners also have been shown to increase insulin so I’d avoid those as well)
· Eat foods that are natural and clean. Think fresh/frozen veggies, lean/unprocessed meats. (more on meats below)
· Drink plenty water. Men this is about 3 liters per day and for women about 2.2. More if you are exercising obviously.
· Cut back on stimulants such as caffeine to let your adrenal glands recover. 1 cup of black coffee per day is fine (in my opinion – but if you have foggy memory, struggle with you energy levels – start eating cleaner and cut back/cut out coffee/caffeine for a few weeks)
· Eat your PROTEIN. Aim for about 1 to 1.5g per pound of lean body weight. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. Adequate protein ensures that you are getting all the amino acids, building blocks of protein, in your diet. The best sources of protein are grass fed beef, wild caught fish, organic pastured poultry and eggs. If you cannot find those, choose the leanest cuts of conventional meats because toxins are stored in the fat of those animals.
· Move your butt! It is essential that you are doing movements that build strength, muscle, and boost hormones. (Squats, deadlifts, Olympic lifts, sprints) These have been shown to boost hormones such as testosterone and growth hormone which are important to both male and female athletes.
· If you feel you are losing weight too quickly, gradually build up your protein and fat intake. If you are still losing weight too quickly add in more carbs post workout.
A few final thoughts
Sometimes losing body fat requires a bit of trial and error to see what works for you. There are however, some hard and fast rules. For instance, everything you put in your body has a direct effect on your body. It either effects you in a positive or negative way. When choosing foods, look for those that are nutrient dense. In other words, foods that give you the most bang for your buck. (Dark leafy greens like Kales and spinach, wild caught fish and game, grass fed beef) If something is not working for you, then change it, play around with your nutrition to see what works for you. I can tell you from experience that if I eat like a high level athlete I gain weight, in the form of body fat, like a glutton. I just am not active enough to require that much food. A prime example, when I was marathon training I gained weight. I was running about 20-40 miles per week and working out 5 days per week lifting weight and yet I gained body fat. Why? I was taking in far more food than my body needed.
Finally, have fun with your nutrition. If you have a meal that is not optimal, or just down right crappy, don’t sweat it. Just choose wisely at your next meal. Make sure you choose wisely most of the time and you will be successful in reaching your goals.
Sources: Gary Taubes “Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It” “Good Calories Bad Calories” Jonathan Bailor “The Calorie Myth” Dr. William Davis “Wheat Belly” Dr. David Perlmutter “Grain Brain” Web sources: WWW.LEANANDJACKED.COM WWW.GARYTAUBES.COM WWW.MERCOLA.COM WWW.ROBBWOLF.COM WWW.BALANCEDBITES.COM