Fat Loss Series - Part I
Losing weight is a simple algebra equation: calories in vs. calories out. Want to move the needle on the scale? Easy — eat less, do more. Targeting fat-mass however, can be a little more complicated.
Traditionally when you lose weight, a loss of fat-mass AND muscle-mass occurs. The ratio of fat-mass to muscle-mass that one loses, largely depends upon their training and nutrition.
Losing fat is a good thing, but losing both is bad. The less muscle mass you have, the harder it becomes to continue to lose fat, inevitably ending in plateaus and frustration. The higher amount of muscle mass you maintain, the higher your metabolic rate will be (metabolic rate = how quickly and efficiently you use energy, even at rest).
While losing fat can seem complicated, read on for a very simple way to turn your metabolism towards burning fat.
I. DAILY FASTING
Only in the last couple of decades has food been so abundantly available. With modern humans’ ancestry dating back to 200,000 years ago, our current dietary habits represent 0.001% of that time. However, evolution doesn’t work on that tight of a timeline.
What this means for us today is that not much has changed in the way that our bodies are accustomed to eating. So if we look at everything pre-Agricultural Revolution, there is little to suggest that our ancestors were eating every two to three hours. In fact, it was more common to go days without food than have frequent meals available.
And in the last 200,000+ years, the human body has developed an internal clock that works in 24 hour cycles, also known as the Circadian Rhythm. This cycle predicts things like our sleep quality, energy and hunger levels, and even fat burning and storage. If we understand this normal hormonal rhythm just a bit, we can “hack” it for fat loss by properly timing our eating and nutrition.
Upon eating a meal, the body breaks down foods into simpler components to be absorbed through the wall of the intestines and transferred into the blood stream. The body then decides where you need these nutrients the most. The highest priority is supplying and rationing energy for the brain. The body then looks to lean muscle mass to ensure your muscle glycogen is topped off (muscle glycogen is like gasoline, and the muscles act as the gas tank).
Once the brain is taken care of, and your muscles are topped off with energy (glycogen), the excess is converted and stored as fat (to hopefully be used as energy at a later point). However, if we STORE more often than we are USING fat, then we simply add more fat cells to accommodate.
Another way to think of this is continually overfilling the gas tank in our car. If cars were like the human body, they would manufacture its own reserve tank to store some fuel for those long miles you never end up driving. With this analogy, “getting fat” equates to constantly over-fueling your car only to drive it to work and back. The reserve tank gets bigger and bigger as we never give the car a chance to dip into its reserve fuel.
A simple and effective way to combat this, is to give your body a chance to use what you’ve stored. A couple of hours after eating a meal (once the digestion process has cooled off) we start burning fat. If we are constantly digesting, the fat-burning process never has a chance to really take off. Thus the problem occurs when we are constantly eating and always in a state of surplus. Here’s the good news: at rest and during low intensity exercise, we prefer to use fat as a fuel source. Fasting is a simple way to take advantage of this natural fat burning process.
Fasting implies that we pick a window of time (14-16 hours) in which we are not consuming calories (only water, coffee, or tea). Sixteen hours may sound like long time, however, it typically shifts our normal eating schedule just a couple of hours. Most who employ this technique choose to eat their first meal around 11am or noon and stop eating around 7-8 pm. (Optimally, breakfast would be eliminated, due to the propensity for storing fat in the morning which I will save for another blog post).
This gives you 16 hours of time to digest, break down fat, AND help you dip into your reserve fuel sources. The more you acclimate to fasting, the better your metabolism becomes at using fat for energy. Over time, this process can account for melting pounds of fat off of your frame, from simply getting out of your own way.
During the adjustment phase (first week or so), the body is more resistant to using fat as energy and this can contribute to low energy. Rest assured that this feeling is temporary. Once past this phase, energy levels are reportedly higher and remain more consistent throughout the day.
To sum up, fat loss has just as much to do with TIMING of nutrients as it does the nutrients themselves. If you’d like to talk more in depth about ways to hack your current nutrition habits, drop us an e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
For the Skimmers:
- Aim to lose FAT, not WEIGHT
- Significant fat loss only occurs when we’re not busy digesting
- Having frequent meals can reduce time spent burning fat
- Avoid calories in the AM
- Pick an 8-hour window of time to eat, and 16-hour window to fast