So. You have a friend. That friend lost weight doing keto and swears it’s the answer to your problems. All you have to do is eat exactly 1 stick of butter before every meal, and your body will FINALLY learn how to burn fat. Your other friend only eats for 2 hours every 3 days and can’t believe how much weight they’ve lost! Fasting actually works! It’s a miracle! Just supplement with methamphetamines and cigarettes to battle those pesky hunger cravings and you’ll do great! IIFYM. If it fits your macros, you’re good bro. Just track your food and hit your target macros and the fat will melt off. It’s the lost piece of the puzzle called life. But seriously, why do these things work for the general public? Why are there so many diets that guarantee results, and why do you have so many friends that have made progress using different methods? Which one really works? The answer is all of them. Here’s why. Insulin. I’ll keep this simple. If you really want to understand how your body loses fat, watch this video. Settle in and prepare to learn from this 50 minute lecture. (Hint, I watched this twice in one night. That’s how interesting it is.) So, how do the nutrition programs listed above influence your insulin, and how does that lead to fat loss? Insulin, when present in the bloodstream, makes it literally impossible for your body to pull fat out of your fat stores for energy. It is the regulator (controller) of fat metabolism. If you want to get fat out of your fat tissue, you have to get insulin levels down. Why does your body produce insulin? To control, regulate and down-regulate blood sugar. Why does your blood sugar go up? In response to carbohydrates. When did the food pyramid become popular? Ya know, the one you saw in school where the base is grains, rice, cereal and pasta. The same one I grew up learning about? Well, that originated in 1974 and was introduced to the US in 1992 (source). When did we see a dramatic uptick in heart disease and type 2 diabetes + obesity? 1990-2000 marks the largest increases in chronic disease, childhood diabetes/obesity, and obesity in both men and women. Correlation or causation? You decide. (source) So, let’s circle back to the original question at hand. Why do these diet trends work? Keto – The concept behind ketosis is lowering your carbohydrate intake to the point where you consume less than 30g of carbs, and replace those calories with protein and fat. What happens when you lower your carbohydrate intake? Your blood sugar levels decline. What happens when your blood sugar stops getting elevated? Your body stops requiring insulin as frequently to manage that blood sugar. Fasting – Intermittent fasting. The most common practice is 16 hours of fasting (no food or calorie dense drinks) with an 8 hour window of eating. That puts us at exactly 24 hours. Most people will start fasting at 8pm after dinner, sleep, skip breakfast, and start eating at 12pm for lunch. 8pm-8am = 12 hours. + 4 hours gets us to 12pm. 16 hours. If during those 16 hours we can’t eat or consume any calories, inherently we are not going to take in any carbohydrates in the form of bread, rice, cereal, pasta, or sugar in our drinks. If we don’t consume any of those things, it’s inherently managing our blood sugar levels which leads to management of insulin, which allows the body to start using fat for energy. See where this is going? Tracking Macros – Made popular by the app MyFitnessPal and the idea of “flexible dieting”, this nutrition program teaches it’s followers to balance their macro intake (macros = protein, carbohydrates, and fat). By bringing awareness to what our calories are made up of, most people start to balance their diet. By balancing their diet, the average person takes their carbohydrate intake down from 65-80% down to 20-30%, and fills in the rest of their diet with a more appropriate balance of protein and fat. Can you guess what kind of hormonal change this causes in the body? I think you can (hint, it rhymes with “lower insulin”). So, there you have it. Hopefully this makes sense and sheds some light onto these diet phenomenons. Calories are still important, and most people will argue that none of this matters as long as your calories are controlled. Thermodynamics and all that jazz are useful tools, but don’t be fooled into thinking they’re the end all be all when it comes to losing fat. If it was that simple, then anyone would be able to subtract 500 calories a day from their intake, and lose a pound a week forever. Until they weighed zero pounds. Yep. That’s a bullet-proof argument. The takeaway here is that there is rarely a one size fits all, or a black and white solution to losing weight. There are a lot of roads to the goal, it just depends on which road you want to take and which one you can sustain. But, each road is going to involve less sugar and more vegetables if you’re chasing health and fitness. I can promise you that. Do you want to talk about nutrition in person with a professional? We offer free “No-Snack Intro’s” to our community as an opportunity to educate, inform and help if you have questions. There’s no catch. We just want to help answer your questions. Here’s a link to schedule if you want to learn more about how you can lose weight, gain muscle and feel better, forever. P.S., you don’t have to start your weight-loss journey with exercise. It’s just more fun if you do. In health, Coty Bradburn Owner, CrossFit Mountain Island
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