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Fat Loss, Diet, Hormones and Your Health

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In my last blog, I mentioned that the best way to achieve fat loss for any individual is to look at where they store fat. Where you store fat is the key to understanding your hormones. This in turn reveals how you should eat, train, and live to have optimal body composition and, ultimately, be as healthy as possible.

Last week, I used an example of two people who were physically very different to one another using the same programme.

Let's take things a step further and look at a calorie deficit fat loss model. Traditional five site body fat measurements, using callipers, add the sum of skin folds to give you a percentage.

Our example is 5'10, 80 kg, male and 35 years old with a body fat of 18%. He wants to lose body fat and applies the methods outlined below to help. There are many methods using calorie expenditure designed to aid fat loss. A good example is using BMR and then applying this to the Harris Benedict formula.

The BMR uses height, weight and age to determine your BMR (basal metabolic rate). This is basically the number of calories that you need to stay alive i.e. if you you were lying down all day and not moving. Based on the data above, his BMR is 1813 kcal. Alarm bell one is ringing. Why?

  • It is giving you a calorie intake based on weight not lbm (lean body mass i.e. your fat free mass). There is no allowance for him being 8% or 18% bodyfat.
  • Not all calories are equal. It requires more calories to digest steak than pasta.
  • Fat doesn't have an impact on insulin (fat storage hormone) but carbohydrates (wheat, pasta, potatoes and bread to name a few) do. Too much protein will also cause an insulin spike.
  • People are generally fat phobic and will consequently eat far too many carbohydrates.
  • This means even if you are eating fewer than the stated number of calories, you can still gain fat!

The Harris Benedict model then asks you to multiply this number (BMR) by another figure depending on your activity levels. Alarm bell two is sounding. Why?

  • This is subjective.
  • Different people have varying perceptions of what constitutes hard work.
  • If our example trains three times a week whilst sipping a lucozade, doing 3x10 bicep curls, tricep extensions, some lat raises and press ups followed by a plod on the cross trainer then hits the steam room - he was in the gym for an hour and fifteen minutes and did not do much. Shame.
  • If he performs two sessions per week consisting of 4x6-8 squats, dips, deadlifts and chins with good form and appropriate rest before stretching, foam rolling and then taking BCCA's - we have lift off.
  • Either one could be considered 'moderately active' depending on perception.
  • The ratios of protein, fat and carbohydrate he should eat would be more appropriately based on his fat deposition not his perceived expenditure.
  • As mentioned in a previous article, if our example is training in a manner that doesn't compliment his body (i.e. an apple shape, stressed out with work, sleeping poorly, mainlining coffee then going on a 30 minute run to 'unwind' aka milk his adrenals, four-five nights a week) he will be impairing his ability to use the calories taken in but ingesting more to match his output. It's smash my head with the keyboard time again!

Looking at the hormonal and in depth consultation method we see that he -

  • Is a night owl who uses his laptop in bed to do work and sleeps poorly (belly fat - cortisol).
  • Craves sugars, salt and liquorice and drinks coffee (belly fat - cortisol).
  • Lives on a high carbohydrate, moderate protein and low fat diet (love handles - insulin).
  • Heats all his food in plastics (fat thighs - oestrogen).
  • Has poor digestion and irregular eating patterns (poor oestrogen excretion).
  • Does a few light weights after a long, slow run four-five nights per week (picture the adrenal glands singing "hello - is it me your looking for?" cortisol ).

The specific recommendations for him -

  • Avoid using lap top pre bed as it will stimulate nervous system and stop you falling asleep. Drink camomile tea, use lavender oil on pillow and establish a regular sleep pattern.
  • Initially, if time poor, eat balanced meals with equal (33/33/33) ratios fat/protein/carbs. Eat regularly. Be guided by satiety and eat slowly, stopping before becoming too full.
  • Take chromium to control sugar craving.
  • Stop heating food in plastic.
  • Take flax seed as it aids oestrogen excretion and is an Omega 3.
  • Perform two moderate intensity/volume full body sessions per week.
  • Use additional time to stretch, have a massage and to relax. It will do more good than training if recovery is impaired.

No mention of a calories anywhere there. Just specific, relevant, advice that applies to the individual in question.

Please contact me via Twitter for more information on fat loss and training schedules.

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