We all have these preconceived notions of certain methods that are sure fire ways to lose body fat, but what if you were wrong? Shit, some of those notions are backed by outdated, uninformed doctors.
So, without further ado, let’s get into it.
“Cardio” has been hailed as the cream of the crop, the pick of the litter, the dogs bollix, the preeminent form of exercise for fat loss over the years and it is still widely considered as the best way to go.
First off, let’s define cardio. Cardio, for some, is going for a long run, for some it’s going for a walk, for some it’s lifting lighter weights faster with minimal rest. With all of these versions of cardio, which one is the right definition?
In its simplest form, cardio is any aerobic or sustained exercise that increases your heart rate and requires your lunges to increase in capacity in order maintain a certain level of activity. So, all of the above are technically correct, but for arguments sake, let’s use running as our example because that’s where our mind goes first.
If your goal is to lose body fat, the basic formula is to burn more calories than you take in, right? Not always. If you do the same form of steady state (Long and slow) cardio as part of your training, you can and will lose body fat, but you will also lose muscle mass. When jogging/running, once glycogen (sugar/carbs) is depleted as an energy source, the body switches to burning fat, but sustained jogging or running will then cause the body to adapt and switch you using muscle (amino acid proteins) as an energy source and begin to store fat. If we are burning fat and muscle, we are lowering our basal metabolic rate (BMR). (BMR is the amount of calories your body needs to maintain normal function and is dependent upon your lean muscle mass, height and age. However, your BMR does not include your exercise or activity level. Your BMR multiplied by your activity level is your Total Daily Energy Expenditure. This your true caloric intake number). Lowering our BMR can be detrimental to fat loss because as the BMR decreases, we don’t take into account the need for a decrease in calories and we end up not losing the body fat we wanted to lose. So, if you are constantly doing cardio without periodizing (Changing speeds, distances, tempo, times, rest etc.) over time and not replacing those calories burned, cardio will turn you into one of those so-called skinny fat people.
2. Breakfast first thing in the morning
We’ve all been told from a young age that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. While there is truth to that statement, what time breakfast is, is a different story. We have been conditioned to think, without question, that breakfast time is right after we wake up. It is in the morning before school or work. The thing is, breakfast isn’t a time, it’s an event. It is breaking our fast from the last meal we ate the night before. Most of us, at the point of waking up, have been fasting for 10 hours or so. Intellectually, this seems like a long time. If we go 4 hours during waking hours we are “starving” but ponder this…….Are you truly hungry when you eat breakfast or do you eat out of habit?
You see, most of us don’t know when our hunger patterns are. We don’t know when we need to eat, only when we want to eat. This can lead to unconscious overeating, excess calories and difficulty losing body fat. So, pay attention to when you are hungry instead of eating at designated times and see if you the lbs start to shed.
3. Consuming Less Calories
It is widely known and understood that the formula for losing weight is to consume less calories than you burn. You may have heard or read that if you decrease your calories by 500 daily, by the end of the week you will consume 3500 less calories which equals 1 lbs of fat. As we alluded to earlier, losing body fat is not that simple. Science says, we do need to be in a calorie deficit to lose weight (notice I said weight and not body fat), however, after sustained periods of a calorie deficit (about 2 weeks), certain hormones in the body decrease, which initlally allowed us to let go of unwanted body fat. After this period, the hormones leptin, T3 and T4, drop so low that our body will now refuse to let go of body fat and actually begin to store it. It is at this point we have talk about strategic refeed or cheat days. By strategically adding in a refeed day once a week or once every two weeks, we boost our leptin, T3 and T4. This boost allows us to reboot the fat burning process again and we continue to see the results we want.
Now, the important part. Calculating your calories. I am a 36 year old, 180 lbs man that is 5’9”. My BMR based off a normal BMR calculator is about 1800 calories. (10 calories per lbs of weight). This is how most people calculate their calorie intake, but they forget about their activity level. By the previous math, if I wanted to lose 1 lbs per week, I would have to consume 1300 calories per day. Based on my activity level, I would die on 1300 calories per day. So, using on the chart below I would say I am very active, meaning I would need to multiply my BMR (1800) by 1.725 to get TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) to get my true caloric needs. 1800 x 1.725 = 3100. Then I would subtract 500 calories from this number (2600 calories) to lose the 1 lbs per week. I would then adjust intakes based on activity levels and need for refeeding to boost the necessary hormones.
With all of that said, yes consuming less calories is needed to lose body fat, but are you consuming enough for your body to function properly?
4. Just the 1 (or 2)
We all know excessive alcohol isn’t the best when it comes to fat loss, but what about just 1 or 2 glasses of wine a night after dinner, to relax or to socialize with friends? If you pour wine like I used to, each glass was about 6 to 8 oz. That would be anywhere between 140 to 192 calories per glass or 280 to 384 per night if you have 2. Multiply that by 5 nights of the week and we have 1400 to 1920 calories per week. That’s 1400 to 1920 empty calories per week that our body doesn’t know how to process. Because the body doesn’t know how to process it, it works extra hard to get rid of the toxins, putting all other digestive processes on hold, meaning more macronutrients being stored as fat. On top of this, we are also dehydrating the body, so if we are not drinking sufficient amounts of water, we are also inflamed further inhibiting our goal of fat loss. I’m not saying don’t have your glass of wine at night and most people don’t drink 1 or 2 glasses 5 days a week but know if your goal is fat loss alcohol can slow your progress.
5. 6 Small Meals a Day
There is a thought pattern out there that says if we eat 6 small meals a day, we will lose weight. The logic is that you will increase your metabolism because your metabolism must increase to digest food. While this is true, it doesn’t matter if you eat 3 meals of 600 calories or 6 meals of 300 calories. Your body still must digest and assimilate 1800 calories. The thermic effect is the same.
Another reason people say 6 small meals are good is because it balances your blood sugar. Blood sugar has a huge impact on your fat storage (insulin) and fat burning (glucagon) hormones. If our insulin is high, then our glucagon is low and vice versa. If we are eating every 3-4 hours and it take 4 hours for our blood sugar to return to normal after a meal, does it make sense to put more food in your belly? This only spikes your blood sugar again making you more insulin resistant and leaving you with the potential to store more fat. Research has shown, people who eat fewer, larger meals have overall lower blood sugar making them more insulin sensitive and more likely to burn fat.
Furthermore, when we eat more frequently, the body is constantly working to digest and assimilate food leaving no time or energy for the body to focus on removing waste products and free radicals in the body through process called autophagy. Less meals means more time for your body to take care of the cells that make us sick.