Changing perceptions: From fit to fat in an instant

You are getting stronger and a bit heavier; surely most of that weight is muscle. Some refer to this phenomenon as bulking up. You might subconsciously have a bias when you look in the mirror, as you stand a little straighter, you suck your gut in a bit, and square your shoulders. You could be fooling yourself. 

Several years ago I used to weight myself at the health club where I worked. I was the heaviest I had ever been. No problem, I was the strongest I had ever been. Instead of asking if I once played basketball people would ask me if I had played football. 

Shortly after that I went to work at a different health club. They had no scale, but when they did get one I was told it was five pounds off. The scale indicated 250, so I subtracted five pounds to get 245 pounds. I had gained an additional five pounds. Still no problem, I was bulking up and getting stronger.

I was later informed that the scale registered a number that was five pounds too light. I was not 245 pounds as I had thought; I was really 255 pounds! Looking in the mirror I did not see the strong-bulking-up me; I was horrified to see the fat me. I was seeing myself without the bias. I did not have a pot belly; my fat was distributed over much of my body, mostly my back (See before picture), but still, I was fat.

A water immersion fat test determined that my fat percentage was 24.6%. That was my wake-up call to lose weight. I cut calories, did the right kind of exercise to lose weight, and got down to 8.8% body fat (see after picture).

When you cut calories the body, as an act of self-preservation, will lower its metabolism by consuming lean body mass. Strength training sends the opposite message - you need to maintain that lean body mass to survive the demands placed on it by strength training.

A stronger body will have a higher resting metabolism, and proper strength training will burn calories four ways. At New Orleans Fitness Training and Austin Fitness Training we can show you how to workout effectively and efficiently, get stronger, and burn more calories.

A study: Strength training plus additional protein results in fat loss and added muscle

The body makes adaptations to survive. Don’t eat enough and the body will catabolize calorie-consuming lean body tissue to lower your metabolism. Lift weights and the body will build lean muscle and raise your metabolism. In order for that to occur sufficient protein must be consumed. To fight the resulting lower metabolism of a restrictive diet it makes sense to lift weights and consume adequate protein to keep your metabolism up.

From this study, More Protein Combined With Exercise May Lead to Weight Loss and Muscle Gain | McMaster University Research Snaps this quote:

“Weight loss regimes that involve a low-calorie diet result in a major loss in fat mass, but can also cause a loss in muscle mass.”

To avoid that loss of muscle mass the study concludes:

“A low-calorie, high-protein diet, combined with resistance training and high-intensity training, can promote fat loss and muscle gain.”

It is vital to remains strong if you are trying to lose fat. High intensity training for strength burns calories four ways. It is the type of training we do atAustin Strength Trainers and New Orleans Strength Trainers.

Chocolate another charmed substance?

The study: Heavy chocolate consumption may be linked to heart health  

The result: From an analysis of seven studies with 100,000 participants, five of the studies reported “a beneficial link between higher levels of chocolate consumption and the risk of cardiovascular events. They found that the ‘highest levels of chocolate consumption were associated with a 37% reductionin cardiovascular disease and a 29% reduction in stroke compared with lowest levels.’ No significant reduction was found in relation to heart failure.”

And this: 

“A number of recent studies have shown that eating chocolate has a positive influence on human health due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. This includes reducing blood pressure and improving insulin sensitivity (a stage in the development of diabetes).”

Of course, everything in moderation, you can’t just gnaw on a great big chocolate bunny to achieve optimal heart health. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), the type we do at  Austin Personal Training and New Orleans Personal Training, has been shown to lower blood pressure, It is also beneficial to diabetics; one of our clients went from five insulin shots a day down to one.

60 studies say exercising is not the key to weight loss

The opening lines from this article, Why you shouldn't exercise to lose weight, explained with 60+ studies: "'I'm going to make you work hard', a blonde and perfectly muscled fitness instructor screamed at me in a recent spinning class, 'so you can have that second drink at happy hour!'

At the end of the 45-minute workout, my body was dripping with sweat. I felt like I had worked really, really hard. And according to my bike, I had burned more than 700 calories. Surely I had earned an extra margarita."  

She exercised “really, really hard”. It would be nice if all those calories burned on exercise translated into fat loss. That equation does not take into account that exercise can stimulate the appetite, or that strenuous exercise lends itself to less activity (compensatory behaviors) and fewer calories burned for the remainder of the day. It does not account for the body’s response to exercise. The body adapts to a daily dose of running or other aerobic activity by becoming more efficient. It is inefficient to lug around a lot of muscle on long runs; muscle is metabolically expensive to maintain. The body will catabolize calorie-consuming lean muscle tissue to conserve the body’s energy stores (metabolic compensation). One researcher called it part of the survival mechanism. A quote from the article: "A review of exercise intervention studies, published in 2001: It found that after 20 weeks, weight loss was less than expected, and that 'the amount of exercise energy expenditure had no correlation with weight loss in these longer studies." Other meta-studies reach similar conclusions. A quote: "Adding physical activity has a very modest effect on weight loss — 'a lesser effect than you'd mathematically predict'". Other quotes: “You cannot outrun a bad diet”, and “There are all kinds of reasons to exercise that are good for your health”.  

Good health is the reason. Our focus at New Orleans Personal Training and at Austin Personal Training is on the long list of health benefits provided by strength training. Additional calories burned are just an added bonus, and strength training produces the largest added bonus. Strength training burns calories four ways and burns calories long after exercise has been completed. For more on the subject of strength training and calorie burning go here.

The results of a study on the effectiveness of targeting fat loss

A woman did a quarter million leg raises in a year, and there was no change, not a scintilla.  There was no spot reduction of fat deposits from her amply marbled hips. Well, that is just one person, and a sample size of one has no statistical power.  Maybe a larger sample size and more accuracy (MRI assessments) would produce a result of statistically significant spot reduction of fat from the area targeted with exercise.

Maybe not, from this article, Targeted Fat Loss: Myth or Reality?, this quote from a study:

“Tennis players constitute a population whose right and left arms have been consistently subjected to very different amounts of exercise over several years. Consequently, if spot reduction were a valid concept, one would expect the players’ dominant arms to have thinner layers of subcutaneous fat compared to their non-dominant arms. When the researchers measured the thickness of subcutaneous fat at specific points along the players’ arms, however, they found no statistically significant difference between right and left arms.”

Fat burned as fuel during exercise or even resting can come from anywhere in your body, not just the part that is being worked the most.  You don’t have a say, your genetics do. It is best to choose a form of exercise that burns the most calories and will continue to burn calories long after the exercise session is completed.

Another quote:

“High-intensity interval training (alternating between brief periods of high-intensity and low-intensity exercise) can be particularly effective, due to the phenomenon of after-burn – that is, an increase in resting metabolic rate that occurs for up to 24 hours post-exercise. “

That after-burn is excessive post-exercise oxygen consumption, (EPOC), and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) results in more EPOC than any other form of exercise. HIIT is the type training we do at Austin Personal Training and New Orleans Personal Training

Losing weight and keeping it off - what you are up against

This New York Times article, The Fat Trap, explores how people lose weight, but almost without exception, gain it right back.

In one study, 50 obese men and women consumed just 500 to 550 calories a day for eight weeks and lost an average of 30 pounds. A year after the study, subjects had regained an average of 11  pounds and reported feelingfar more hungry and preoccupied with food than before they lost the weight. Yeah, I know the diet was too restrictive, but regardless, it is interesting to note what is going on hormonally. A quote from the article:

“A full year after significant weight loss, these men and women remained in what could be described as a biologically altered state. Their still-plump bodies were acting as if they were starving and were working overtime to regain the pounds they lost. For instance, a gastric hormone called ghrelin, often dubbed the “hunger hormone,” was about 20 percent higher than at the start of the study. Another hormone associated with suppressing hunger, peptide YY, was also abnormally low. Levels of leptin, a hormone that suppresses hunger and increases metabolism, also remained lower than expected. A cocktail of other hormones associated with hunger and metabolism all remained significantly changed compared to pre-dieting levels. It was almost as if weight loss had put their bodies into a unique metabolic state, a sort of post-dieting syndrome that set them apart from people who hadn’t tried to lose weight in the first place.”

And this:

“How long this state lasts isn’t known, but preliminary research at Columbia suggests that for as many as six years after weight loss, the body continues to defend the old, higher weight by burning off far fewer calories than would be expected.”

Who wants to lose significant weight only to feel pangs of hunger more often than not and have a lower metabolism? That is kind of bleak, but there is a solution. To offset that undesirable metabolic adaptation begin strength training, preferably high intensity straining training.

High intensity training (HIT) for strength will burn more calories than other forms of strength training.HIT effectively burns calories four ways. HIT produces higher sustained excessive post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) than any other form of exercise. Muscle is metabolically expensive. HIT will make you stronger, and a stronger body will burn more calories even at rest.

At Austin Personal Training and New Orleans Fitness Training we offer high intensity training (HIT)that has been show effective for weight loss. All you have to do is stick with it and make modest changes in eating habits. You will lose fat and more likely keep it off.

Caloric restriction and longevity

A New York Times article, The Calorie-Restriction Experiment, details a study where researchers attempted to find out if eating less increased longevity. 132 men and women reduced their daily calories by 25 percent for two years to see if a Spartan diet affects the aging process and its associated diseases. 

Subjects experienced “astounding drops in cardiovascular risk factors”.

BUT, another quote:

“Ninety-nine percent can’t do it,” John Holloszy, a medical doctor who is the lead investigator at Washington University, told me. “The people in the study are not going to stick with it” after they leave.

Damn.  Two years to figure that out?

The study was about factors effecting longevity, but what I found interesting was that subjects lost about 15 % of their body weight and reached a plateau at a “weight stability” level. It is important to note that subjects were of normal weight to slightly-overweight to start. They did not have much to lose. I am guessing that weight loss was not all fat tissue. If you attempt to lose weight by calorie restriction your body will catabolize lean body mass to lower the body’s metabolism to compensate for the decreased caloric intake. Who wants a "weight stablity" level where you have to go through life under-muscled and hungry?

A more reasonable approach might be to cut back eating just a bit and exercise a bit more. A different study found that more muscle was positively associated with longevity. If you add proper strength training to the mix your body will make a positive adaption to withstand the stresses placed on it by the strength training. The body does so by maintaining or even adding muscle mass and thereby increasing metabolism.

At Austin Personal Training and New Orleans Fitness Training we offer high intensity training (HIT) that has been show effective for weight loss. All you have to do is stick with it and make modest changes in eating habits.  You will lose fat and more likely keep it off.

The right kind of exercise to lose weight

A NYT article concluded that To Lose Weight, Eating Less Is Far More Important Than Exercising More:

Reasons for that mentioned in the article:

  1. Exercise stimulates the appetite.
  2. Exercise over time makes us more efficient.  A more efficient body burns less calories.
  3. Exercise burns precious few calories.

You can eat three less Oreos or run an extra mile to have the same calorie deficit.  You can exercise strenuously for 30 minutes or drink two less 16 ounce cokes. That is an easy call for me.

The article states:

“When you lose weight, metabolism often slows. Many people believe that exercise can counter or even reverse that trend. Research, however, shows that the resting metabolic rate in all dieters slows significantly, regardless of whether they exercise. This is why weight loss, which might seem easy when you start, becomes harder over time.”

I think that depends on the type of exercise. For more on the right type of exercise go here.  The right kind of exercise can counter a diet-induced slowed metabolism. A stronger body will have a higher resting metabolism, and proper strength training will burn calories four ways.  When you restrict calories the body, as an act of self-preservation, will lower its metabolism by consuming lean body mass.  Strength training sends the opposite message -–you need to maintain that lean body mass to survive the demands placed on it.  

A stronger body will burn more calories even at rest. At New Orleans Fitness Trainers and at Austin Personal Training we can show you how to workout effectively and efficiently, get stronger, and even burn a few calories. 

One study says exercise targets visceral fat

Belly fat is visceral deep fat, while subcutaneous fat settles just beneath your skin.  Visceral fat potentially increases the risk for many diseases; it produces biochemical signals that promote inflammation in the body. 

According to a NYT article, Ask Well: Reducing Belly Fat  sit-ups are useless for losing belly fat, and you would be better off taking a walk. That I knew.  What didn’t know was that exercise might actually target visceral fat more than subcutaneous fat.

One study showed that exercise disproportionately targets visceral fat,and a meta study concluded:

“A comprehensive 2013 review concluded that programs combining aerobic exercise and occasional sessions of weight training were superior to either type of exercise alone at reducing belly fat.”

At Austin Personal Trainer and New Orleans Personal Trainer we can get rid of the visceral fat with just the plan out-lined above.

Charmed substances that contain life preserving properties. Saccharine?

From the Woody Allen movie, Sleeper, describing health foods, “Those charmed substances that some years ago that were felt to contain life preserving properties”.

There have been changes in the conventional wisdom regarding a number of charmed and not so charning substances – margarine versus butter,eggs, salt intake, dark chocolate, cholesterol, coffee, high carb diets versus diets with more meat and fat, and now saccharine. From this Medical News Today article, Could saccharin be used to treat aggressive cancers? comes this quote:

 ‘Saccharin is utilized as a sweetener in many sugar-free products, and now researchers are proposing that it could be used as a key ingredient in new drugs for treating aggressive cancers with fewer side effects.

 "It never ceases to amaze me how a simple molecule, such as saccharin - something many people put in their coffee every day - may have untapped uses, including as a possible lead compound to target aggressive cancers," says study author Robert McKenna, PhD, from the University of Florida.’

 Another area where the things have changed is strength training. We have been saying this long before the conventional wisdom gave it the imprimatur.  At Austin Personal Training and New Orleans Personal Training we have been getting people stronger and healthier for years.

Rethinking eggs versus grains in the diet

From this article A big fat surprise for dietary dogma comes this quote: “Last month, in an epic climbdown, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advice Committee, whose guidelines influence millions of people, finally dropped its recommendation to restrict cholesterol. “Cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption,” it said. And this:  "Just about everything we thought we knew about the evils of cholesterol and fats has turned out to be wrong. The doctors, the nutritionists, the dietitians, the heart societies, the experts at Health Canada, the food pyramid that hung on the wall in school – the entire health and medical establishment, in fact, have been perpetuating a big fat fraud." Strong statements. The article goes on to say the previous prevailing wisdom that grains, pasta, starchy vegetables and refined carbohydrates are better than eggs and meat turns out to be wrong. They have actually made us fatter and sicker. Another reversal occurred with butter versus margarine years ago and now researchers are rethinking the dangers of salt. It is amazing how many things we thought to be bad or unimportant turn out to be the opposite. In a similar vein in the field of exercise, the importance strength training to good health and fitness has steadily gained currency, while the importance of aerobic exercise has waned.   You might want to do both.  At Austin Personal Trainers and New Orleans Personal Training we recommend that clients strength train and also do something they enjoy whether it be running, swimming, or walking the dog.  We feel that is prescription for sticking to a program - oh, and a good diet of course.