I’ve been on quite a food kick lately. Here’s one thing I can tell you: I’m definitely sick of Five Guys food. I’ve only had it a few times after work when I’ve had a long day and don’t have time to make dinner, but I’m already looking forward to saying au revoir to those burgers and fries.
On another note, I found grass-fed beef at Shaw’s this week, buy one get one free. Pretty much a steal at $3.99/lb and I might go back tonight and see if it’s still on sale. I’ll stock up for a bit.
*Update* It’s Friday night and, by all accounts, the grass-fed beef will be on sale until the end of February. Boo-yah!
Keeping with the trend, I’ve been fiddling around with different rice recipes, just to add some flavor to my typical long-grain white rice. Two tablespoons of lime juice and a hefty shaking of cilantro tastes pretty much awesome. No oil or anything.
The reason I’ve been on a food kick is I’ve been playing around with my own diet a lot recently, specifically attempting to increase my own intake. My progress has been slow (read: none) and I’d like to hop back on the progress train. Admittedly, I had a bit of a tough time adjusting to my work schedule at first and I had to learn on my own that I was going to have to ditch the four square meals idea. I’ve been doing two big meals with snacks whenever I can fit them and it’s working well.
So What Is This Post Actually About? (The science you don’t want to read)
I’ve learned quite a bit from the guys (and gal) that I work with now, everything from customer service strategies to nutrition to training. Everyone that I work with comes from a slightly different background and the range of experiences and experience levels makes for a good environment where we exchange a lot of ideas.
One thing that we always tell our clients at FT is that they need to eat to lose. Yes, you read that correct. You probably need to eat more to lose weight.
We live in a world that’s dominated with “less, less, less” when it comes to weight loss and it just isn’t fair for the average person to be bombarded with these Weight Watchers-type notions.
So we say eat more and the first response is, “Oh no, I’m in starvation mode aren’t I?!”
Well, no. Starvation mode (a.k.a. starvation response IS a real thing). However, it’s not really happening to you. Starvation mode is characterized by muscle loss, reduced bone density, and an overall reduction in mass, eventually resulting in death from tissue degradation.
What’s happening to you is a phenomenon known as adaptive thermogenesis or metabolic adaptation. This is a fancy way of saying that when you eat too little or diet for too long, your body will adapt to the reduced caloric intake by reducing total energy expenditure. While this adaptation results in similar symptoms to the starvation response, your body isn’t really starving. In fact, adaptive thermogenesis can happen to people who are at or above their Basal Metabolic Rate (the very lower limit of calories that your body needs to survive at 100% battery, so to speak). This is where the “less, less, less” mantra becomes problematic.
The problem with being underneath the BMR is that calories are too restricted for the body to lose fat mass. If anything, the body draws from other sources (like muscle tissue) to provide energy for itself. This would only further reduce the metabolism. And it’s called metabolic damage. Additionally, you’re probably nutrient deficient. Adaptive thermogenesis can vary from person to person and not everyone experiences the same rate of adaption.
In fact, your caloric intake should be based on your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure), which can be over 1,000 calories higher than your BMR.
Let’s take a step back. We can all appreciate that as overall bodyweight and fat mass are reduced, the metabolism is reduced as well. You’re smaller, moving less, and leptin is telling you to reduce energy expenditure because your body fat percentage is decreasing. As muscle mass increases, your metabolism increases because muscle tissue is much more metabolically active than fat tissue. However, adaptive thermogenesis goes a step further. Your metabolism will actually decrease beyond what you would expect from total weight loss alone.
Back to the “less, less, less” mantra. If you are eating too little and are experiencing adaptive thermogenesis, you will not continue to lose weight. Here’s the easiest way to explain it: if you were actually starving, your body would eat itself until if could no longer sustain life. This adaptive thermogenesis not only prevents weight loss, but makes binging easier. Since our metabolism has decreased, overeating becomes much easier.
Exercise Iz Good, Right? (The stuff you want to read)
If you are already close to your BMR, exercising can do further damage to your metabolic rate.
Think of calories as a checking account. Let’s say that every day, you only put 1,500 doll-hairs (dollars, for those of you that aren’t hip) into your account. Your BMR automatically draws $1,200 (calories) from your account each day. Furthermore, you perform an hour of steady-state cardio and draw an additionally $700 (again … calories) from your account. You are now in the red, as they say.
Let’s say you lift weights intensely for an hour. You only draw 400 calories from your metabolism-account, but it still puts you underneath your BMR by 100 calories.
I’m not saying don’t exercise. What I’m saying is that a person at 115 lbs and 25% body fat (an average elementary/middle school boy) would need 1217 calories to meet his BMR. Furthermore, a moderate activity level would put him somewhere around 1,900 calories per day. Just to maintain his current weight!
Conclusion: you must be above your BMR to lose weight. That being said, you must be underneath your maintenance calories to lose weight. You should be in, as my coworkers call it, the “sweet spot” of weight loss.
So, What Should I Eat (The stuff you really wanted to read)
If you find yourself in a situation where metabolic damage might be an issue (as may be the case for someone who has been crash dieting for months, or even years), the trick is to slowly increase calories. A dramatic, prolonged increase will lead to unwanted weight gain. You must slowly increase calories and build muscle through a proper training program (which I can write for you). Fortunately, muscle is easy to gain in this state, but you must put your body back in balance before you can expect more rapid, sustainable fat loss.
In the photo above, you can see that 100 grams of protein isn’t unreasonable for anyone. Simply considering the amount of calories that your body needs to run and taking 25% of that (a low, but not uncommon recommendation for protein breakdown), you can see that even a tiny person would do great with over 100 grams per day.
Especially if you’re losing weight, protein is imperative to reducing muscle loss. Carbs are necessary to restore muscle and liver glycogen stores and fuel the central nervous system. Fats are important to help as absorb certain vitamins, fuel the body, and maintain cell function, among other things.
As a blogger, I can’t tell you what and what not to eat exactly. I can tell you that I use a moderate-high protein diet comprised of primarily whole foods. I don’t overdue it on carbs, fat, gluten, sugar, or dairy. As they say, everything in moderation. For more information on nutritional strategies, check out my insulin-based nutrition saga, Part I, Part II, and Part III.
Conclusion (The part after the part you wanted to read, but are disappointed in for it’s lack of substance)
Here are the conclusions we can draw here, in bullets, of course.
- Eat to lose, you must be above your BMR but under your maintenance calories. (Hint: these numbers are higher than you think, especially if you’re exercising).
- Lift weights and eat protein to maintain muscle. It’s more metabolically active, will make you look better (on guys and girls), and will help you keep the weight off in the long-run.
- Avoid prolonged steady-state cardio on a low-protein, low-calorie diet. Substitute sprints or some type of interval training.
- Eat to lose (this bears repeating). You have to eat!
Eat.Stretch.Lift.Sprint.Sleep. These are your keys to being awesome. Go do them. Specific questions? Feel free to email me, Facebook me, or embarrass me by Tweeting at me.