The internet is filled with weight reduction and fat loss articles. Visit any fitness forum and there’s a handful of “pros” that will tell you how to achieve your fitness goals. Despite the nearly infinite number of different approaches and opinions, successful dieting can happen with just about any recommended diet. That doesn’t make the method superior. It more often means that “Average Joe” cleaned up his diet a little and started working out. This alone will always yield results.
While we applaud any individual that loses weight and accomplishes a particular fitness goal, today we want to focus on those individuals who seemingly do everything right and still can’t make the scale drop. Every forum has the success stories and every forum has the individual that simply can’t make it happen. It’s discouraging as hell to commit time and energy, follow the advice that is working for seemingly everyone else and see no results. What’s the deal?
There is a very specific reason why a person struggles to lose weight and it almost always comes down to this one simple fact: You are not eating enough! Within the context of this statement springs forth another verity that is rarely understood or mentioned. You do NOT have to eat at a deficit to lose weight!
Is that contrary to advice you’ve been given before? Well read on and let us explain.
It’s not that you don’t occasionally see the advice to “eat more to lose weight”. It’s that most people don’t fully understand the concept of what is happening physiologically so they won’t venture out and try eating more. Not understanding leads to fear of gaining more weight and it’s the reason that a person already struggling with excess inches won’t increase calories. “I can’t lose weight so you want me to eat more?!” Yes. We absolutely do.
How Your Metabolism Works
The body’s metabolism is simply amazing. It involves the sum total of all chemical reactions in the body to produce the necessary energy for everything you do in everyday life. Your hormones play the biggest role in metabolism, as they are the chemical messengers of our bodies, producing chemicals based on responses to the environment, both inside and outside our bodies. They can stimulate or inhibit specific biological processes and that makes all the difference in gaining or losing weight.
Our understanding of how hormones work is limited at best. With over 100 hormones affecting over 100 trillion cells in our bodies, it’s simply impossible to completely understand how everything in the body works and how metabolism is affected.
Leptin is a perfect example. One of the major influencer on body fat, leptin wasn’t even discovered until 1994. It’s a hormone excreted by fat cells and the amount in your body is proportional to the amount of body fat you have. The fact that such an important hormone was just recently discovered is very telling in how much more we have to learn about fat loss.
What we do know is that having a high metabolism is a good thing. The higher it is, the more quickly your body burns fat and when we’re talking about weight loss, we should all only be concerned with fat loss. Anything else is a loss of muscle and that’s bad. A high metabolism is also ideal for adding muscle or maintaining it, at the least.
Aligning Metabolism and Diet
Did you know that the primary reason for a decline in metabolism as we age is a change in body composition? In other words, people quit caring about themselves so the body quits responding like it used to. And when things get bad and people finally get “fed up” with being fat, they often gravitate to a very low calorie diet (VLCD) in an attempt to remedy the situation.
The greatest fallacy of modern day dieting is the belief that a drastic reduction of calories will result in greater weight loss. It simply doesn’t work that way.
When energy output (physical activity) exceeds energy input (calories eaten), you will lose weight. But when there’s a drastic drop in calories, the body senses a shortage and those hormones all kick in to lower metabolism. A lowered metabolism means that energy demands are far less and your body will use calories more efficiently, storing fat at every possible opportunity.
Imagine lighting a room at full power and then going to a small backup generator for power. A room with a lot of lights will not shine nearly so bright when power is reduced. The energy is still dispersed throughout the entire system but the throughput (metabolism) is reduced to allow for this.
Cutting calories drastically is an attempt to use more energy (burn fat) when less energy is available. It’s bad science and a bad idea.
A better method is to slightly lower calories from your TDEE or Total Daily Energy Expenditure (your BMR + energy required to perform daily tasks) and operate with very nearly the same throughput (metabolism). It’s far easier for your body to burn fat and the diet is much easier to sustain long term.
But there is an even better way to lose weight and burn fat!
You should eat slightly above your TDEE and use exercise to create your daily deficit of energy. This allows your system to function at an even higher rate of power than needed. Your metabolism is increased, allowing you the excess energy to exercise and fat burning is absolutely optimal. Your body has to burn fat as your total daily energy output is greater than input and all the while, you’re supplying more throughput!
It gets even better. Growth hormone is released in much greater supply when you’re eating more calories than you require in a day. Fat cells have growth hormone receptors and are then stimulated by this hormone. As this happens, the result is two-fold:
- Triglycerides (what your fat cells are made of) are broken down to be used for energy.
- The ability of the fat cell to accumulate more fat lipids is shut down.
Growth hormone (GH) is also increased through weight training but it is decreased through long steady-state endurance training, such as jogging so lift more to burn fat. GH is one of your best friends in the fight against fat so use this weight loss technique to stimulate the most possible growth hormone and lose all the more weight.
This is the position every gym trainer should be taking in helping you to lose weight. Unfortunately, the internet is alive with wanna-be trainers that claim to know it all and cite meaningless studies to back their personal bias. It’s quite common to see a recommendation of cutting calories by as much as 50% or more in an effort to lose weight. And if that doesn’t work, these so called trainers or forum friendlies will allege that you aren’t counting calories correctly, not putting in the required work or that you need to reduce calories further! New problems arise, such as hypothyroidism, chills, lack of sexual desire, lethargy, muscle loss (since fat is being preserved for energy), nutrient loss, dizziness, headaches, insomnia, muscle cramps, tooth decay, the inability to eat regular-sized meals again without easily putting on fat… You get the idea. For women, a very low calorie diet can even affect hormones that are important for getting pregnant at a later time.
If your trainer wants you to go on an extremely low calorie diet to lose weight, run as fast as you can. It’s a sure sign of someone who doesn’t know his/her job well.
There’s only two real “secrets” that you need to know when you’re wondering why you’re stuck and can’t lose further weight. These two rules are all you need to achieve all your fat loss goals and get as lean as you would like to be.
- Eat slightly more calories than you need every day (your “maintenance” or TDEE).
- Lift Heavy Weights (challenge yourself!) and exercise enough to create you daily calorie deficit and produce more GH in the body.
That’s it! Strangely, it’s not the popular opinion online but it should be and after you start seeing the pounds fall off while eating far more food and enjoying your diet, you’ll wonder why you ever had a difficult time dropping weight.