It's Just Not Fair
What a cruel twist of fate that nature contrived to reward our pursuit of weight loss by lowering our base metabolic rate. If a graph plotted the base metabolic rate as a function of calorie reduction and weight loss, it would look like an asymptotic curve, approaching but never intersecting the target weight.
To make matters worse, according to the latest research, once your base metabolic rate is lowered as a result of dieting, it never comes back to its previous level – EVEN AFTER YOUR INCREASE YOUR INTAKE OF CALORIES.
This seems to be the reason why dieters regain all their weight back, and then some, after they end their diets.
The reaction to reducing your caloric intake is built into our genes. You can no more change it than change the color of your eyes, or the shape of your face.
Reducing calories, it seems, is not an effective way to permanently lose fat mass and keep it off. Counting calories is simply not effective. Furthermore, there are calories, it seems, and then there are calories.
The speed with which carbohydrates enter your bloodstream after eating matters – a lot. The sugar in a candy bar flows from your gut to your blood with the speed of water being soaked up in a sponge. Right away.
Your body’s reaction to rapidly rising blood sugar is akin to sending the fire brigade to a five alarm fire. Your pancreas goes into overdrive producing insulin to neutralize the toxic levels of sugar in your bloodstream before permanent, life threatening damage can occur.
Insulin does its job with almost miraculous efficiency and effectiveness, and your blood sugar plummets – way down. It’s an overreaction. Your body system, in this sense, has an imperfect, overcompensating reaction to your sweet tooth. Our systems did not evolve to cope with refined sugar – in the millions of years of evolution, refined sugar is a relative newcomer of the last 200 hundred years.
Where, you might wonder, does all that sugar go? The answer can be found in the mechanism insulin enables.
Your body employs two hormones, each the physiological opposite of the other, to regulate the levels of blood glucose (sugar) in your bloodstream. One, insulin, removes blood glucose by opening pathways in your cells, your muscles, your liver, to draw in glucose and either use it for energy, or to store it as glycogen in your liver. Once your liver’s capacity to store glycogen reaches its maximum, it creates additional “space” by converting glycogen stores into fatty acids that it pushes into your bloodstream. From there, your fat cells absorb them and you get, to put it indelicately, fatter.
Once your blood sugar levels go down, your body employs another hormone called glucagon to cause your liver to release the stored energy, the glycogen, back into the bloodstream as glucose for your cells to use as energy.
The Ebb And Flow
The ebb and flow of blood glucose is supposed to be a gentle process. Sugar from eating plants, is absorbed slowly. Instead of getting sopped up like water in a sponge, it flows more like a viscous liquid through a series of baffles.
Fruits and plants have fiber and phytonutrients that studies indicate slow the rate of sugar absorption. The rate of absorption is key to how your body reacts, and the aftereffects of a sugar binge.
So a calorie from a sugar donut is not the same as a calorie from a strawberry.
Take a look at the graph of blood glucose levels after ingesting carbs. Test subjects were given three forms of carbohydrates: Glucose (pure sugar), uncooked corn starch, and corn starch. The last two are absorbed slowly by the body, glucose is absorbed rapidly – like the sugar in a soft drink. Notice how the glucose causes a sharp spike in blood sugar that then dips below the original level. That dip can trigger a vicious cycle of hunger->overindulgence->spike->dip that can lead to obesity and all its attendant consequences.
Going back to calorie reduction, most diets encourage counting calories to track and stay below your daily BMR calorie burn rate. The theory is that a calorie deficit will trigger a fat burn. However, this is only partially true. As mentioned before, your body will lower its BMR to compensate for a lower caloric intake, and that BMR will not go up again if and when you resume your pre-diet calorie levels. Furthermore, your body may choose to draw against muscle for the needed calories instead of fat. This preference is determined, in part, by the type of exercise or activity you engage in while on a diet. Cardio exercise, like running/jogging for extended periods (an hour or more) while on a restricted calorie diet will cause your body to literally start eating itself, its own muscle, to provide fuel for your cells and, most importantly, for your brain.
Less muscle means a lower BMR.
And a lower BMR from dieting is one that will not go back up once you’ve resumed your regular calorie intake. So, keeping your BMR high is crucial to permanent weight loss. What are the factors determining your BMR?
- Activity level
- Body composition
- Diet and frequency of eating
With the exception of age, you have control over all these factors. Let me explain.
Your activity level is obvious – the amount of physical movement you do, and the type of movement, has a huge effect on your metabolic rate. Certain workouts will increase your BMR for hours if not days.
Body composition – You are likely reading this article to see how you can affect this. The muscle to fat ratio also has a significant effect on your BMR. More muscle means more resting-state calorie burn. You want to pick workouts that increase muscle mass. Nothing beats resistance training for this. In fact, there’s not real substitute.
Hormones – Age, to a large extent, can affect your hormones. For men, testosterone and, to a lesser extent, for women too. But there are other important hormones that affect your overall health such as insulin, vitamin D, estrogen, thyroid hormones, adrenalin, glucagon, adiponectin, DHEA and human growth hormone. All these hormones are produced by body systems that science still does not fully understand. So the best advice here is to have a mostly plant-based diet with plenty of variety and often raw. Move around a lot (exercise and walking), drink plenty of pure water and get some sunshine. (Yes – I know, the sun has gotten a bad rap lately. So be careful, but you still need some – vitamin D from pills is not the same as vitamin D produced by your skin.)
Diet and frequency of eating – Eating increases your metabolism. If takes a lot of energy to digest food. So much so, in fact, that other body functions can be lowered or even shut down to provide sufficient energy for digestion. Conversely, occasional fasting is very good for you and can reduce your rate of aging.
Here’s the bottom line.
Eat right – As I mentioned before, eat a plant-based diet with a large variety of whole plants/fruits and frequently raw. If you eat plants when you’re hungry, you’ll eat at the frequency that’s right for you. You will also have proper blood sugar levels.
Exercise right – Perform exercises that utilize your whole body:
- Standing overhead presses,
All good forms of exercise. Done properly, these kinds of exercises will greatly increase your heart rate, your breathing and you will find it impossible to do them for extended periods of time (20 - 30 minutes, except yoga). Do some exercise every day. And add weights to your routines 2 or 3 times a week.
Hydrate – Drink pure water – filtered or distilled, if possible. Your body needs it and you really can’t impact your body composition effectively without it.
Rest – Get plenty of sleep. Rest your body and your mind and your spirit. That means meditate or pray. Sleep on a regular schedule and do what it takes to create a good sleep environment. And get out in nature at LEAST once or twice a week. I don’t mean Yosemite or the Grand Canyon, although that would be truly great. I mean go to your local park and talk to the squirrels. Your body, mind and spirit will love it, and so will your dog, if you have one.
Love – Get involved. Connect and stay that way. It’s one of the secrets to health and a long life. Why would you want to get healthy anyway of not to be able to love and help those you care about?
If you do this,
- You WILL change your body-fat composition.
- You WILL feel better.
- You WILL get stronger.
- You WILL slow the aging process.
To get more information on some great workouts, check out my web site: www.youroptimumfitness.com
For a great, short workout, check out The Incredible 9.5 Minute Workout (free)
If you’re totally out of shape, check out Fitness Achiever (free)
For a more comprehensive workout program, check out Old School New Body (sponsor).
For a spectacular program just for women, check out Yoga Burn