Updated: May 5
In modern day society there are fat loss experts and gurus everywhere promising you instant, sustainable, and everlasting results. All you have to do is follow workout A, eat food B, and don’t listen to person C. If that’s the case then why is our obese population growing by the day, with some statistics indicating that nearly half of our entire population here in the United States is labeled as fat and overweight? The answer ladies and gentlemen is pretty damn simple, but it is by no means easy. You first need to consider that there is upwards of 4000 calories in a single pound of fat adipose tissue. Multiply that by several pounds of fat and you have a staggering number to try and somehow move relatively fast from your body so that you can look good and feel better. Not to mention, science has confirmed that we have built-in governors which operate much like a thermostat does, keeping you from burning too much of one single tissue or exceeding a certain number of calories per day. You can try as hard as you want, and we all commend the effort, but the harsh reality is that there is still going to be a prolonged period of time you are going to have to manage still being overweight or fat while still maintaining discipline and stay committed to the process even when things aren’t going your way. Lets quickly discuss two important regulators of calorie burn that are going to highly dictate how quickly you can lose weight and how fast in a general sense.
#2-The Metabolic Adaptive Component
Before we continue, please note that both of these highly logical and valid theories were brought to light by Lyle McDonald years ago and help explain in part why some people lose fat and weight quickly while others just kind of drag through the process. Also, none of this is considering the composition of your diet, how you train specifically, your genetics, training background/experience, or other influential factors.
P-Ratio is the type of weight you will lose from endogenous protein stores as you complete the dieting or weight loss process. In other words, where your calories go when you're overweight, and where they are removed when you are burning more energy or under-eating. You may already be aware of this scientific concept, but it definitely bears worth repeating: “When talking about partitioning of calories, researchers refer to something called the P-ratio. Essentially, it represents the amount of protein that is either gained (or lost) during over (or under) feeding. So a low P-ratio when dieting would mean you used very little protein and a lot of fat. A high P-ratio would mean that you used a lot of protein and very little fat. It looks like, for the most part, P-ratio is more or less the same for a given individual; as I mentioned above, they will gain about same amount of muscle when they overfeed as they lose when they diet. This is yet another example of the body’s attempts to maintain itself at a ‘normal’ level.” 1 Furthermore, much of P-Ratio is genetically regulated so we shouldn’t get wrapped up too much in it, but still try to optimize your diet and training as much as possible. Lyle went onto mention that Testosterone to Cortisol ratio’s, insulin sensitivity, thyroid levels, and nervous system activity all contribute positively to how your body will compose itself as you diet and train over the long-term.
#2-Metabolic Adaptive Component
The next thing you have to consider when you diet is your brain recognizing that you are depriving yourself of energy. And since you know that our body is naturally trying to conserve energy through acts of fatigue, strength reduction following training, etc. there will be a concurrent decrease in metabolic rate along with the reduction in calories you burn as you lose weight. Yes that’s right, leaner and smaller people generally always tend to burn less calories, and this is yet an advantage for people that are overweight. They burn more calories and can afford to lose more calories and weight in the process before their body starts to fight back. “That is, the drop in metabolic rate is greater than what you’d predict based on the drop in bodyweight. That extra 5% is the adaptive component of metabolic rate reduction. And it’s hormonally driven, the drop in leptin, the drop in thyroid levels (conversion of T4 to T3 is impaired on a diet), there is a drop in sympathetic nervous system activity (part of why the ephedrine/caffeine stack helps, it offsets this drop), you get the idea.” 2 So unless you are a competitive bodybuilder or someone else who has acquired substantially low levels of body fat you have really no concern for enrolling in any specialized approach to nutrition and should just get off your ass and train hard and eat right and good things will happen eventually.
Another real concern for people trying to lose weight deals with their limbic system, which is the “emotional” center of the brain. There has been a lot of discussion centered around this topic, but it still comes down to simple brass tacks. How bad do you want to lose weight and are you willing to alter your current life behaviors to shut down these pathways that are driving you to continue to eat the wrong foods in copious amounts? If you aren’t willing to first recognize that and then determine other alternatives to shut down these pathways then they will remain open. As long as the stimuli (poor food selection) is being thought about or re-introduced into the bloodstream, these pathways will not be terminated and will ramp up to maintain the poor habits you or whomever created at some point in the past. This is why knowledgeable trainers advocate the compete visual removal of the problematic food source from your pantry. Every time you see it, your salivary glands and enzymes start to activate in anticipation for the pleasure response created from the food. But keep in mind that the food’s pleasure response is short lived and you need constant supply to satisfy the urge, much like a drug. You are better off eating healthier and more satisfying foods for both the mind and body even though their chemical response isn’t near as acute.
Unfortunately, the only alternatives to eating food that makes you feel bad and guilty in the aftermath of your binge session is hard regular training, a strong passionate sex life, a career you enjoy, your family, and a healthy social life. Remember that food manufacturers knew the chemical dependency they were creating when they made these foods and so many in our country continue to fill their pocketbooks. Junk food rewires our neurochemistry negatively and its harder to rewire this destruction compared to the quick addiction that was covertly created. Until you can muster up enough courage and discipline on a routine basis and overcompensate temporarily with much more beneficial alternatives, the road to obesity will always remain open.