So … why do we get fat?
Let’s start with some basic information about how your body stores fat by addressing two common myths that you hear today from every magazine, TV show, exercise program, and fad diet:
Myth #1: Calorie Counting
This is the most common myth that is regurgitated by everyone, without any real thought to it other than repeating the first law of thermodynamics.
“The first law of thermodynamics states that energy is neither created nor destroyed but can only change from one form to another. If you blow up a stick of dynamite, the potential energy contained in the chemical bonds of the nitroglycerin is transformed into heat and the kinetic energy of the explosion. We cannot make something out of nothing or nothing out of something.” (Taubes)
The conventional wisdom: Consume more calories than you burn and you will retain those excess calories as fat. Consume fewer calories than you burn and you will lose fat. This appears to make sense because those calories have to go somewhere, right?
The problem with the calories-in calories-out reasoning is that it does not take into account the vastly different biochemical processes that occur inside your body when you consume 100 calories of carbohydrates from an industrially processed breadstick verses consuming 100 calories consisting of protein from a grass fed steak prepared deliciously rare. The source of the calories is the primary factor that determines how your body will respond to the foods that you eat.
Consuming calories consisting of carbohydrates will cause blood sugar and insulin to increase, send excess energy (glucose) to fat cells, and prevent your body from using stored fatty acids for energy which results in your body retaining more fat.
Alternatively, by eating the same amount of calories consisting of a combination of fats and proteins, you will keep blood sugar and insulin levels low. This sends a signal to your body to burn these incoming proteins and fatty acids as energy instead of storing them away in your subcutaneous fat layer and … killing your beach body.
Myth #2: Exercise or “why you can’t lose fat on the treadmill”
While exercising is beneficial and will build new muscle fibers, increase cardiovascular fitness, increase your metabolic rate, and do wonders for bouts of depression – exercise by itself will not help you lose weight on a permanent basis.
The energy we consume and the energy we expend are dependent on each other. This means that the more you exercise and the more calories you burn, the more your body craves to replenish this energy by giving you a bigger appetite, and consequently, you end up eating more food to replenish depleted fat stores to return your body to homeostasis.
Homeostasis is the ability of the body to seek and maintain a condition of equilibrium or stability within its internal environment when dealing with external changes.
If you attempt to starve yourself, your body adapts and reduces your appetite and caloric requirements in preparation of surviving in a calorie restricted environment. Reliance on exercise alone as a weight loss strategy will give you temporary results and you will feel constantly exhausted as you attempt to continuously restrict your food intake.
I am not saying that exercise is bad for you and I am not saying to avoid exercise, but you cannot rely on exercise alone to regulate your body weight if your diet is out of whack.
Combine regular exercise habits with the principles of unconventional nutrition and watch how quickly you can transform your body into a work of art and realize how easy it is to maintain it.
The Real Reason You get Fat:
“Carbohydrate is driving insulin is driving fat” – George Cahill, a former professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Eating fat does not make you fat.
Eating carbohydrates does make you fat.
Most people today are sedentary office workers; meaning that the day consists of commuting to work, sitting/standing in an office environment, commuting home, and performing sedentary activities at home for the remainder of the evening.
Additionally, a typical ‘Western style’ breakfast consists of cereal with fake (pasteurized, homogenized, and reduced fat) milk, a bagel or toast, coffee, juice, and maybe a piece of fruit. This ‘great start to the day’ as advertisers would have you believe, is actually shooting your insulin levels skyward every morning and preventing your body from burning fat all day – no matter if you happen to get some casual exercise in or not.
What’s happening in your body when you eat carbs?
- As soon as you think about eating that carb-packed snack, your pancreas begins to secrete insulin into your bloodstream in anticipation of a rise in blood sugar when you bite down on that delicious potato chip full of carbohydrates.
Insulin is a naturally occurring hormone produced in the pancreas and regulates the amount of glucose (sugar) in our bloodstream.
- When you begin eating carbohydrates your body quickly breaks them down into glucose (yes, even ‘complex’ carbohydrates), which increases your blood sugar and sends a signal to the pancreas to increase insulin output. When your insulin levels remain elevated, your body thinks there must be plenty of glucose in your blood to use as energy, so it instructs your fat tissue to effectively ‘store’ all the fatty acids away for later use when insulin levels (and glucose levels) decrease. As soon as insulin levels decrease, your body will use fatty acids as its energy source by breaking down triglycerides (fat) to fatty acids to be burned as energy.
- In the morning, your body is highly sensitive to insulin and your cortisol levels are at their highest. This is by far the worst time to consume the ‘typical’ western breakfast laden with carbohydrates and sugars (breads, cereals, juices).
Cortisol is a naturally occurring hormone produced by the adrenal gland that increases blood sugar, fights inflammation, and assists in the metabolism of fat, protein, and carbohydrates.
Here’s the key thing to remember: The longer that you can keep your insulin levels low, the more time your body will have to use fatty acids as an energy source instead of burning carbohydrates and storing the excess energy away in your subcutaneous fat reserves, which are also known as your muffin top, beer belly, or cottage cheese legs!
So, instead of eating carbs in the morning (bread, rice, cereal, etc.) either skip it or stick to eating fat and protein (eggs, steak, butter, etc.) for a more satisfying (and fat burning) breakfast!
Drop the carbs and drop the weight!
Got all that? Good, now you know what is causing you to put on those pounds even when you’ve been running five miles each day and lifting weights religiously. It may come as a shock, but your calorie intake is not important, rather it is the source of those calories (carbohydrates, fats, proteins) that, in part, will determine how much body fat you have.
Choose to start your day differently from now on: free-range eggs, pastured bacon or grass-fed steak, and organic vegetables. Are you already thinking that you don’t have time to prepare a proper breakfast? Simply wake up TEN minutes earlier. It takes all of TEN minutes to make and a breakfast packed with protein and fat will keep you going well past lunchtime. This will keep insulin levels low and allow your body to burn fat for energy the entire day while you are sitting at work (not exercising). Or skip breakfast and try for a 12 hour fast until lunch for an even quicker fat burn – how quick you want to lose the weight is up to you!