The best way to lose weight is to let your body do the work
The best way to lose weight is to enable your own fat burning mechanism. Our bodies can produce energy in two different ways: by converting it from fat or from carbohydrates. Nothing new here, but there are some important details on how this two systems work and interact. The body can be either on carbohydrate mode or on fat burning mode. You can also switch between the two modes many times a day; and this is how it should really work. Most people are on carbohydrate mode in part due to the amount of carbohydrates they consume on a daily basis. Not just simple carbs, but any carbs.
Your body doesn’t necessarily switch from “carb mode” to “fat burning” easily because it is more work for the liver to burn fat. If there is glucose from carbs available we’ll use that first. You can work out really hard one day thinking that you finally was able to burn fat. Actually you don’t ever burn fat (and keep it that way) until your fat burning mode is turned on. In other words you don’t burn fat; the fat burning system does. Your energy allocation system has to make a decision and in part, that is totally out of your control. You have to teach your body how to switch modes. For diabetics who are insulin resistant but still produce insulin normally or near normally; converting energy from fat may revert your hemoglobin A1c to pre diabetes levels .
It is so common to see people trying to lose weight and not getting anywhere. They find a new exercise routine, they feel excited about, they go to the gym everyday and work out really hard. They go on a diet and eat less. They begin to lose weight and they feel great. After the initial phase the weight is all back. They reduce the insane workout to 3 days a week and now they are right back where they started. What happened?
When you see a 500 calories flashing on your workout machine dial you think you used up those calories but unfortunately this is not so simple. The calorie number you see might be right but those calories did not come out of your belly; they reflect your blood glucose energy expenditure. That is because you are still on the carb mode. Some fat was lost and that was due to your system temporarily switching to the fat mode but it switched right back to carbs. This system tend to follow a habitual pattern. The more carbs you eat the more a carb burner you become; the more fat you gain and the less fat you burn .
The two energy producing pathways
Your body’s energy requirements are diverse and energy production is complex. There are several ways in which we produce and process energy. Our bodies will produce energy from muscle if needed. For the purposes of this article let’s focus at how our body makes energy from fat, and from carbohydrates. The first is simply the availability of glucose after we eat starch or carbohydrates. The second is the action of the liver producing energy from fat and also storing glycogen to be used when needed (when we are not eating). These can be seen as two different processes. Let’s call them “fat burner” and “carb burner”.
Some organs run on glucose only (i.e. the brain). All cells on our body run on ATP (adenosine triphosphate). The process used to obtain ATP is called Oxidative Phosphorylation. Glucose is first converted from foods you eat by a process called glycolisis. Without glucose cells cannot create ATP and will die. That’s why ready available glucose is so important. When glucose is not available from carbs, the body can create glucose from just about anything. Carbohydrates are the most easily obtainable form of energy. So carbohydrates are sort of the “default choice”. Carbohydrates are the first choice in part because we are always loaded with them 24/7.
If the body lacks carbohydrates or you skip a meal your liver will produce glucose from fats or will release glycogen. In theory that is what should happen. If you are a mostly carb burner you don’t burn fat for energy easily; you just get hypoglycemic, really hungry, and really cranky and you crave more carb foods. Since is so easy to find more carbs, we just go for it.
If you begin to eat less carbohydrates permanently; your liver will turn on the “fat burner” engine. Whenever there is a lack of carbohydrates your liver comes in the picture and begins to metabolize fats and proteins for energy. If you eat more fat then carbohydrates, lets say you eat 75% of your calories from fat and protein it wont take long before your liver makes the switch and you became a mostly “fat burner”. You must also exercise vigorously for this switch to happen; and you actually use the potent form of energy which is fat.
The liver and sometimes the kidney, are able to process anything into glucose if needed. In this case fat and its derivatives are an excellent form of energy. Fat has 9 calories compared to 4 in protein and carbohydrate. That is 37.7 kilojoules compared to 16.7 for protein and carbohydrates. So fat is pretty powerful fuel we just need to make some changes in order to use it. It is like adjusting an engine to be able to burn a different combustible mixture. The good thing about fat is that you don’t have to eat too much because it is so powerful .
The advantages of becoming a fat burner
The very first advantage of becoming a fat burner is that – you got it: you burn fat instead of storing it in your tissues. When you are a fat burner you are able to effectively tap into your fat storage for energy anytime you need. If you haven’t made the switch you can work hard, spend lot’s of energy but you just run out of glucose and feel wasted and hungry and reach for more carbs. Eating a lot of carbs is like giving too much money to your teenager, they never learn to save.
By making the switch to become a fat burner you’ll notice something delightful. You have a steady stream of energy throughout the day. You might be hungry or 2 hours pass your lunch time but you feel OK. Hunger have a different meaning. You’re hungry but don’t feel hypoglycemic. You hardly ever become irritated if your are hungry.
If you become a fat burner you also become more efficient at switching modes from fat burning to carb burning. Carb burning is the easier mode, so if you are conditioned to burn fat, you’ll also do a better job at switching back and forth which is a plus. This means you’ll be able to better handle carbs mixed with fat. This means you can eat high carbohydrates and not experience crashes after a few hours, your energy system becomes dynamic. Our ability to switch modes is associated with better handling of glucose, fat and fat storage – in other words we store less fat [1,2].
Diabetes and fat
Diabetes have a strong association with high hyperlipidemia and obesity. The hallmark of preventing diabetes progression is to loose weight. New studies have demonstrated that high levels of fatty acids in the blood impairs insulin action. This causes a decrease in glucose uptake which leads to hyperglycemia. Fatty liver disease caused also by excess fatty acids in the blood will impair every liver function such as the release of glycogen and fatty acid oxidation (burn fat). Other studies have shown that when fat is ingested, fat oxidation is stimulated and glycolisis is suppressed [2,8]. Here is the paradox: eating more fat will cause your body to burn more fat. Eating more carbohydrates will produce more insulin and you’ll store more fat. This bring us to a interesting conundrum where eating more fat actually causes us to burn more fat because that is the nutrient we have available for energy and your body was adjusted to use it. However this chance has to be implemented correctly or you might as well stay where you are.
How to become a fat burner
- Stop carbohydrates. The first thing you should do is to stop eating carbohydrates. Culturally you’ve been told that you must eat carbohydrates or you’ll die. That is not true. Your body will make energy from any food you eat. Stop eating carbs. Start slow, first eliminate all the starches, bread is the worst food you can eat (there are other genetically modified issues with bread too). Stop eating rice, pasta, pastries, junk food, cookies, anything packaged. If you eat any carbohydrate eat nuts, fruits, and vegetables, some grains are OK.
2. Eat more fat. Here is the part you’ve been waiting for. Protein and fat. Yes. We’ve been eating mostly protein and fat for millions of years, all the way up to the 1960’s when someone came up with the idea that fat was bad for you. The obesity epidemics have coincided with the fat ban of the 1960’s. Eat wholesome fats, stay away from trans fats (i.e. margarine). Substitute poly saturated vegetable oils for mono saturated olive oil, eat more fatty fish like salmon. For a more detailed list of what to eat look at Choosing Healthy Fats.
3. Build muscle. This is the most important part of this equation. Muscle is the power engine behind becoming a fat burner. Muscle eats fat, and fat eat muscle. If you build muscle you’ll be burning fat as you sit to watch TV. Muscles need lots of energy even if they are just at rest. Once you star building muscle and eating less carbs you’ll notice a dramatic difference in your digestive system and your energy level .
4. Lose fat. This should come as a bonus or byproduct of the three items above. Any effort you do to lose fat will help with the process of becoming a fat burner and improving your overall health.
Teach your body
Change takes time. This is more so when it comes to your health. Whatever you implement using incremental and constant action creates an pattern or a habitual pattern. This is true with bad habits such as smoking and drinking but it is also true with the good habits. If you start working out slowly but constantly, your body will crave it; it will become part of your life. To become a fat burner is the same thing. You have to teach your body with patience and persistence. So if you have to work it out and keep a diary, just do it. Start today but be gentle. Abrupt changes end up in abrupt quitting.
How come everyone says fat is bad for you: a word of caution
So you read this post and this guy is saying that if you eat more fat you’ll lose weight and beat diabetes: wow I love this guy. Not so fast. If you just begin to eat more fat without lowering your carbs dramatically and start strength exercises you might as well stop now and don’t do anything. The safest way is to cut the carbs and start exercises first. After that start adding more fats, slowly. You must start these changes gradually. Get in tune with your body and see how you feel. You should feel good, energetic and lose weight. Then you know you’re on the right track.
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Learn more about carbohydrates, fats, and proteins and how these nutrients are processes in your body
- Metabolic flexibility in the development of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes: effects of lifestyle.
- In type 2 diabetes, randomisation to advice to follow a low-carbohydrate diet transiently improves
- Dietary carbohydrate restriction in type 2 diabetes mellitus and metabolic syndrome: time for a critical appraisal
- Metabolic interactions between glucose and fatty acids in humans
- Blood glucose patterns and appetite in time-blinded humans: carbohydrate versus fat
- Saturated fat, carbohydrate, and cardiovascular disease
- Carbohydrate Restriction has a More Favorable Impact on the Metabolic Syndrome than a Low Fat Diet
- Lipid-induced insulin resistance: unravelling the mechanism
- Building muscle, browning fat and preventing obesity by inhibiting myostatin
- An increase in dietary protein improves the blood glucose response in persons with type 2 diabetes
- Dietary fats and prevention of type 2 diabetes
- The effect of a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet versus a low-glycemic index diet on glycemic control in type 2 diabetes mellitus
- Extended effects of evening meal carbohydrate-to-fat ratio on fasting and postprandial substrate metabolism
- Saturated fat, carbohydrate, and cardiovascular disease
- The Soft Science of Dietary Fat
- Essential fatty acids in health and chronic disease
- Effects on Coronary Heart Disease of Increasing Polyunsaturated Fat in Place of Saturated Fat: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials
- A Reduced Ratio of Dietary Carbohydrate to Protein Improves Body Composition and Blood Lipid Profiles during Weight Loss in Adult Women
- Dynamics of insulin secretion and the clinical implications for obesity and diabetes
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