Carbs, fat & protein
How fat burning in the body actually works
Hybrid petrol-natural gas engine analogy of the human body
Why cardio doesn’t actually burn fat
Cardio vs HIIT vs Strength Training
In terms of getting in shape, cardio is definitely not the most efficient form of exercise ( though it’s not completely irrelevant). Why? There’s very little Exercise Post Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) with cardio, which means you only burn calories when running; not much happens afterwards.
A study (PDF) from the University of New South Wales followed the fitness and body composition changes in 45 overweight women in a 15-week period.
The women were divided into two groups and assigned interval or continuous cycling routines. The interval “sprint” cycling group performed twenty minutes of exercise, which repeated eight seconds of “all out” cycling and then twelve seconds of light exercise.
The continuous group exercised for 40 minutes at a consistent rate. At the end of the study, the women in the interval group had lost three times the body fat as the women in the continuous exercise group.
Role of strength training in burning fat
Alwyn Cosgrove wrote a great article discussing the Hierarchy of Weight Loss loaded with numerous studies highlighting the benefits of weight training in comparison to cardio. This is the best part:
Overweight subjects were assigned to three groups: diet-only, diet plus aerobics, diet plus aerobics plus weights. The diet group lost 14.6 pounds of fat in 12 weeks. The aerobic group lost only one more pound (15.6 pounds) than the diet group (training was three times a week starting at 30 minutes and progressing to 50 minutes over the 12 weeks).
The weight training group lost 21.1 pounds of fat (44% and 35% more than diet and aerobic only groups respectively).
Basically, the addition of aerobic training didn’t result in any real world significant fat loss over dieting alone.
Thirty-six sessions of up to 50 minutes is a lot of work for one additional pound of fat loss.
However, the addition of resistance training greatly accelerated fat loss results.
It’s fairly obvious that the bulk of calories burned are determined by our resting metabolic rate or RMR. The amount of calories burned outside of our resting metabolism (through exercise and the thermic effect of feeding) is a smaller contributor to overall calories burned per day.
Starting between the ages of 25 and 30, most people lose roughly 5 to 10 pounds of muscle during each decade of life. Muscle is metabolically active, which means is needs a lot of calories just to maintain itself. Fat (except a specialised form of fat the body carries called brown fat, which I’ll talk about in a future post), on the other hand, is metabolically inactive.
So the more lean muscle mass you have, the more calories you’ll burn at rest. At the same time, strength training while trying to lose fat by eating at a caloric deficit will help preserve your muscle mass.
So why not do all three to cover all fat loss bases?
- Limited time
- Limited recovery
- Limited cognitive bandwidth & willpower
Rather than trying to do everything at once, you should focus on the 20% of work which will give you 80% of the results. This will get you most of the way there, but while also saving precious mental, cognitive & willpower resources, not to mention faster recovery.
Dietary approaches for Effective & Effortless Weight Loss
Low-carbohydrate diets or low-carb diets are dietary programs that restrict carbohydrate consumption. Foods high in easily digestible carbohydrates (e.g., sugar, bread, pasta) are limited or replaced with foods containing a higher percentage of fats and moderate protein (e.g., meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, eggs, cheese, nuts, and seeds) and other foods low in carbohydrates (e.g., most salad vegetables such as spinach, kale, chard and collards), although other vegetables and fruits (especially berries) are often allowed. The amount of carbohydrate allowed varies with different low-carbohydrate diets.
Low carbohydrate diets typically stipulate getting less than 40% of calorie intake from carbohydrates. Some diets restrict carbohydrate intake sufficiently to cause ketosis.
The reasoning is that with a low enough carb intake, over time your body will adapt more & more towards fat-burning as the default mode. The Paleo & Atkins diets are popular examples of the low carb diet
With low carb, some highly active people report hormonal down-regulation if also eating at a high calorie-deficit for faster fat-loss. This effect is even more pronounced for women.
There are strategies like high carb cheat days (sometimes called as refeed days) which will help both with this issue as well as with maintaining mental sanity while dieting.
Ah, keto, the trending diet of the moment. Keto is now where the paleo diet was 4-5 years back in terms of popularity.
First thing first, you *cannot* do keto as a vegetarian. There is no “vegetarian keto” diet which will magically melt off all your fat. The reason for this is there are no high protein vegetarian foods (except eggs & unsweetened whey isolate) which also don’t come with a boatload of carbohydrates.
So, if you’re vegetarian & ever come across a dietician or nutritionist who refers to the program she’s giving you as keto, RUN, don’t walk to the nearest exit: they don’t know what they’re talking about, as you’ll see in the next paragraph.
The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, medium-protein, low-carbohydrate diet that nudges the body to burn fats rather than carbohydrates. Normally, the carbohydrates contained in food are converted into glucose, which is then transported around the body and is particularly important in fueling brain-function. However, if there is little carbohydrate in the diet, the liver converts fat into fatty acids and ketone bodies. The ketone bodies pass into the brain and replace glucose as an energy source. An elevated level of ketone bodies in the blood leads to a state known as ketosis.
The most common adverse effect is constipation, affecting about 30% of trainees.
A cyclic ketogenic diet (or carb-cycling) is a low-carbohydrate diet with intermittent periods of high or moderate carbohydrate consumption. This is a form of the general ketogenic diet that is used as a way to maximize fat loss while maintaining the ability to perform high-intensity exercise. A ketogenic diet limits the number of grams of carbohydrate the dieter may eat, which may be anywhere between 0 and 50g per day. The remainder of the caloric intake must come primarily from fat sources and protein sources in order to maintain ketosis (the condition in which the body burns fats and uses ketones instead of glucose for fuel).
Intermittent fasting (IF) is an umbrella term for various diets that cycle between a period of fasting and non-fasting during a defined period.
Intermittent fasting protocols can be grouped into 2 categories: whole-day fasting and time-restricted feeding.
Whole-day fasting involves regular one-day fasts. The strictest form would be Alternate day fasting (ADF). This involves a 24-hour fast followed by a 24-hour non-fasting period. The 5:2 diet allows the consumption of 500–600 calories on fasting days.
Time-restricted feeding (TRF) involves eating only during a certain number of hours each day. A common form of TRF involves fasting for 16 hours each day and only eating during the remaining 8 hours, typically on the same schedule each day. A more liberal practice would be twelve hours of fasting and a twelve-hour eating window, or a stricter form would be to eat one meal per day, which would involve around 23 hours of fasting per day.
Recommendations vary on what can be consumed during the fasting periods. Some would say only water, others would allow tea or coffee (without milk or sugar) or zero-calories drinks with artificial sweeteners. Also many people take coconut oil during the fasting window.
Who shouldn’t do IF
High stress. Overtraining. Chronic lack of sleep. SAD dieting. Also those who are underweight or adolescents who’re still growing should not push the Fasting window too much. They should also make sure that they’re meeting their daily caloric requirements.
May not be suitable for people with high calorie demands (activity) and still not eating enough overall.
The Snowflake Principle
While the range of diets & training approaches might seem overwhelming, it helps not to get caught up in hype & micro-management. Just focus on the 20% which is important, & ignore the rest.
Remember, fad diets & workouts are just that: fads! The human body has evolved over millions of years, & humans have had that much time to try out a variety of dietary & training approaches. All humans (with certain differences between males & females) have similar bodies & nervous system, & how they respond to training stimulus is also the same. You are NOT a special snowflake. There’s a high probability that whatever challenge you’re facing right now has already been faced & solved by someone before.
My advice will seem repetitive, because THE BASICS ALWAYS STAY THE SAME.
Don’t beat yourself up, because ultimately the best workout routine and diet plan is the one you STICK WITH!
Is there something you wanted to ask but I haven’t addressed here? Leave a comment or reach out to me.