A Scientific Approach To Losing Body Fat

In this installment I would like to discuss the common misconceptions surrounding body composition improvement and the fallacy that is calorie counting.

Despite the popularization of the “low calorie” approach to weight loss which has been at the fore front of nutrition mass media over the past several decades, scientific research has proven that approaching weight loss and body composition improvement is much more in depth than the calorie in-calorie out theory. What first must be realized is that not all calories are created equal. To get more in depth we will have to dive into the world of macronutrients.

The three categories of macronutrients are protein, fat and carbohydrates. Each of these categories has its own caloric value in that every gram of protein and carbohydrate contains four calories each and every gram of fat contains nine calories. It would stand to reason that if you were following a low calorie diet you should limit the amount of fat that you consume and since fat grams contain nine calories each your overall caloric load would decrease. Although this may be true, what you need to realize is that every single cell in your body (whether it is a muscle cell, vascular cell, neurological cell etc.) has a membrane that is made up of certain essential fatty acids and if you begin to decrease the amount of fat that you are taking in, your body will have a very difficult time maintaining cell membrane integrity. In turn this could have a negative effect on losing body fat because you will decrease your ability to get essential nutrients into cells where they can be used as energy. This may cause your body to respond by storing more of that energy (usually in the form of blood glucose) in adipose tissue or body fat.

What many people fail to realize is that there is an entirely other system in the body that plays a major role in the way you either use stored body fat for energy or store the foods that you are eating into more body fat. The system that I am speaking of is your endocrine or hormonal system. Every time you eat something your digestive tract will break it down into its most simplistic form then transfer the nutrients from that food into the blood stream. Depending on the macronutrient profile of the foods that you consume the digestion process can either be very fast or much slower. The faster you digest a food, the faster its nutrients can get into the blood stream which in turn will raise your blood sugar levels. Once sugar gets into the blood in the form of glucose (the simplest form of sugar) your pancreas will release insulin, also known as the “storage hormone”, to take that glucose and put it into storage somewhere. Your body would like to put most of that glucose into its muscle cells (where it will be stored as glycogen and eventually used as energy) but after muscle cells become completely saturated, which can happen very easily, your body must find somewhere else to store that sugar. It will then put a small amount in your liver to be stored as glycogen and then finally start storing a large majority of the glucose in your fat cells increasing body fat storage.
Your best bet to stay out of a state of elevated blood sugar and subsequently constantly high insulin production is to eat foods that have a slow digestive rate or low glycemic index (minimally impacts blood sugar). Carbohydrates have the fastest digestive rates and therefore produce the largest increase in blood sugar levels. If your goal is to decrease overall body fat and improve body composition then you would be wise to try and limit your intake of fast digesting/high glycemic carbohydrate based foods. Instead get the majority of your calories from good protein sources (organic meats and wild caught fish) and healthy dietary fat (omega 3 fatty acids) in order to maintain stable blood sugar levels throughout the day and keep your body from producing excess amounts of insulin. In addition to the intake of high quality proteins and fats it is also very important to eat a wide variety of vegetables. Vegetables contain high amounts of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fiber. All of these nutrients are vital to overall health and well being and they play a major role in the overall improvement of body composition.

Now I know what you are thinking, “don’t I need those carbohydrates for energy?” Actually the answer is NO! If your body does need to synthesize carbohydrates for glycogen storage or immediate energy you actually have the ability to take a molecule of protein and/or fat and put it through a process called gluconeogenesis in the liver that basically converts it into a carbohydrate. It typically takes about two weeks for your body to realize the decrease in carbohydrate consumption and then it will start utilizing stored body fat for energy.

For more information on how improving the function of your endocrine system can aid in a much more effective and long lasting improvement in body composition contact PTS to learn about our nutrition consultation packages at performancetrainingsystems.com.

By: Bobby DeThomasis