This one really drives me crazy. When it comes to considering which foods to eat or not eat, we should consider all foods on the planet in two ways. First – is the food good or bad for your body and secondly – what is the calorie value of the food?

First question – Is the food good for you? The amount of salt, saturated or trans fat, sugar ect. in any food has absolutely nothing to do with adding or reducing body fat. High amounts of these indicate that the food is not good for your system or that it is an unhealthy choice. In other words, consumption of these foods could lead to health problems such as heart disease, hypertension and many other conditions.

Second question –What is the calorie value of any given food?

 This is the only consideration when it comes to adding or reducing body fat.  It is merely a matter of physics, or heat energy. Any human body, no matter what size or age requires a certain amount of calories or energy to be in balance. Let’s call this your ”maintenance calorie level.” If you eat more than this amount, you will store the number of calories over your maintenance calorie level as fat. If you eat less than your calorie maintenance level, your body will use its storage or body fat to get you back up to calorie maintenance level for the day.

 Here’s an example, Say that your ”caloric maintenance” level is 2000 calories/day.  If you eat 2000 cal today, you will not store any extra fat or burn any stored body fat. You will be in balance. If you eat 2100 cal today you will store 100 calories as body fat. When you accumulatte a total of 3500 extra calories you will have added 1 pound of fat. On the other hand, if you eat 1900 cal,today your body will be forced to use 100 calories of existing body fat and when it uses 3500 over time, you will have lost 1 pound of fat.

Herbal Supplements

 Are you familiar with the term snake oil salesman? In case you’re not,  snake oil salesman is a term used for someone who sells a product or elixir touted to cure or resolve anything that’s wrong with you.

In the 17 and 1800’s this was usually a guy who traveled in a wagon from town to town. When he arrived in your town, he would park his wagon and set up shop selling some sort of potion that would cure all your ills, make you healthier, or help you lose weight, live longer, etc. etc.

Fast forward to today. The majority of supplements you see advertised in the media sort of fit the same category. That’s not to say that all supplements are fakes or forgeries because some have real value when it comes to your health. However, when it comes to weight loss I would say that the majority of products you see advertised really don’t do the job.

Back in the 1990’s ephedra was isolated and sold as a weight loss product. It really worked well, but it came with some health concerns, more specifically heart and nervous system problems. When ephedra was eventually banned from the market, supplement companies scrambled to find other ingredients to stimulate metabolism and weight loss.

Today, most all supplements that claim to create weight loss contain some form of caffeine, nitrous oxide and or some other herb that will stimulate metabolism.

Stimulating metabolism is what this is all about. Let me explain. The average 165 pound male has a resting metabolism of about 1000 calories/day. This means that if he lies on his back, awake for 24 hours with no movement, he would burn about 1000 calories (imagine a car motor at idle speed). Now let’s add the extra calories he burns in his typical day. Every movement he makes creates heat and requires energy (revving up the engine and burning more gas/calories). The average additional calories from movement for a person his size is about 800 to 1000 more for a total of about 2000 calories/day.

The truth Is, if he adds a good herbal weight-loss supplement as directed, his 2000 cal /day total would be increased by about 400 calories to about 2400 (resting metabolism-1000 plus the added “movement “calories-1000 plus herbal addition-400). The increase of 400 cal is caused by two things. The herbal stimulants and caffeine raise the resting metabolism, plus, our subject becomes more energized thereby moving more during the day burning more “movement” calories. So now is total caloric need is 2400 calories/day rather than 2000.

You should know from my earlier blogs that consuming your maintenance calories per day creates neither weight gain nor weight loss. In this case, if his is caloric need is 2400/day per day he can eat 2400 calories/day rather than 2000 without adding body fat. On the other hand, if he continues to eat 2000 calories/day he will lose body fat at the rate of 400 calories/day, or about 1 pound of fat every eight days.

If you really want to increase fat loss you have several tools at your disposal. you can Increase your activity which will raise your caloric need, if you like add a fat burning supplement and thirdly, increasing muscle mass over the long term raises your resting metabolism. If our subject has and uses all three of these tools he could potentially have a daily caloric need of over 3000 calories/day. Then he would really have control of his body composition.

Can Cortisol Cause me to Store Extra Belly Fat?

"Stubborn" bellyfat

One of the latest products you see advertised on TV relates to Cortisol and belly fat. The commercial tells you that the hormone Cortisol, when released causes you to store fat around your belly.

The supposedly mechanism for this is as follows; when we get stressed our bodies release hormones to cause the sugar in our bloodstream to enter our cells rapidly so that we are able to move quickly as part of the “fight or flight” mechanism, that is we can fight with or run away from whatever is stressing us with a burst of energy. In today’s society we don’t generally respond to mental or physical stress by running away or fighting so we don’t use up this rush of blood sugar into our cells, therefore it is stored as body fat. Is this true? Absolutely not!

While it’s true that the hormone Cortisol is released during stress and is designed to cause the sugar in your blood stream to enter your cells quickly, this doesn’t increase your body fat.

Let’s go back to my blog about maintenance calorie levels. Say you’re an average male that weighs about 170 pounds. Your caloric maintenance level is approximately 2000 cal per day. This means that if you eat more than 2000 cal, you will add body fat, and if you eat less than 2000 cal you will lose body fat. Now let’s say that today you eat 2000 cal and that’s your total for the day. You haven’t gone over 2000 or under 2000 cal today. If you did not eat excess calories today, how could you possibly get fatter.

Even if you had a stressful moment and your hormones created these changes in your bloodstream you still couldn’t get fatter because you didn’t eat excess calories today.

This example represents a tactic that is typical in advertising. It sounds reasonable that if the sugar in your blood entered your cells and you did not use the energy in the fight or flight mechanism, then you would store this sugar as fat but it’s simply not true and not possible.

depressed, fat and old

There are several reasons for the fact that we have to watch our diet more as we age. First of all, as we age we tend to move less. Every movement we make burns calories, therefore if you move less you burn less calories. Secondly, as we get older our systems become more inefficient. Thirdly, we lose muscle tissue as the years go by.

Muscle tissue burns more calories than fat. So if you’ve got less muscle tissue, you’re burning less calories.

We don’t naturally eat less as we get older because the reasons we eat are still present. We still go out on the weekends and eat generally large meals. We still have birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays and we still enjoy the taste of food as much as we did when we were younger. All these societal temptations are still there too. We tend to exercise less because we don’t have time, or at least that’s what we say.

As we age into the workforce we also tend to have jobs that require less physical activity, and finally, to make matters worse, we tend to not be as active at night because either we’re married and settled down or just don’t feel like going out (You could easily burn 600 cal dancing on any given evening).

We probably also consume more calories at night because that’s the time of day that were relaxed, watching TV or just sitting around eating the types of foods that are calorie dense (sweets, chips, cookies, soft drinks, etc.).

Why am I not losing weight?

I am continually amazed by the human body’s intricate and efficient design. When it comes to nutrition the body has the amazing ability to store energy.  This energy is stored as fat and is actually a good thing. Let me explain. If we lived in a primitive society, it would be to our advantage to have some storage energy. You never know when a crop might fail, or there could be a drought or some otherwise extended period of time when food would not be available. Unfortunately, in today’s culture with our diets including fast and engineered foods we seem to be storing a lot  more than we need to last one season of drought or famine.

The body also is designed to protect body fat and use it as a last resort in time. There are two lines of defense; blood sugar and stored sugar in the muscles and liver. In order to get to your stored body fat you must burn through these primary and secondary defenses. This is typically why it takes about 5 to 7 days to begin to lose body fat (low-carb diets notwithstanding-rapid water loss). Once you begin to use your body’s fat stores for energy, you can process or burn about 2 pounds of fat per week. If you try to do it any faster you will lose muscle mass.

Now to answer your question. When you burn body fat the end products of the burning are carbon dioxide and water. Sometimes the  water released will be retained in your system for up to several days. This can cause you to not lose pounds on the scale even though you have less fat. After these several days pass you will typically lose 2 to 3 pounds in one day when the water is finally released. This is the primary reason you can go as long as seven days or so without losing anything and all of a sudden you lose three pounds.

Also, remember that water is the random element that can change your body weight, moment to moment. If you drink 16 ounces of water. You just drank on 1 pound of weight and until you either breathe it out, it is eliminated through waste products or sweated off, it’s inside you.

Here’s the best method for eliminating water as a variable factor. Take your body weight in the morning right after you wake. Go to the bathroom first and be sure to weigh with no clothes on. Pick a day, like Monday, weigh seven days in a row and then divide your total weight for the week by 7. This way you get a weekly average, which will almost always surely drop week to week in a predictable and consistent fashion.

As you may have read in some of my earlier blogs I’ve stated that it doesn’t matter what time of day you consume your calories, their effect on your percent of body fat is the same. That is the truth; however there is a way to increase your metabolism simply by eating multiple and smaller meals daily.

The reason for this is a phenomenon called specific dynamic action or thermal effect of food. Simply put it’s the energy required to digest a meal.

There are muscles all along your digestive tract that contract in the process of digestion. From your jaw muscles through your esophagus, your stomach, and your intestines there is a caloric cost of moving and digesting a meal. Your stomach is especially involved. It has three groups of muscles designed to squeeze twist and compress a meal once it is in your stomach. These are muscles just like skeletal muscles. Well almost like skeletal muscles. They are constructed little differently however they do contract just like other muscles. From basic physiology we know that when a muscle contracts it uses energy or calories.

There is a caloric expense involved of between 20 and 30 cal per meal. So logically if you eat, say five meals a day your thermal effect of food would simply be 5×25 or 125 cal. If you ate only one meal a day you’d burn an extra 25 cal. That’s a difference of 100 cal a day. Over 30 days that’s nearly 1 pound of extra fat you would add following the one meal per day plan versus the five meals per day plan. Over a year, on the one meal per day plan that’s 10 pounds of fat you would add.

Given, that’s not a whole lot but using this information in conjunction with a lower total calorie diet, more activity and better food choices, you get a combined effect that is really the answer. We like to call this a lifestyle change.

There is another bonus for eating multiple meals. As a meal is digested your system extracts the various nutrients needed for maximum health. These nutrients circulate in your body for between two and three hours going round and round and exiting at the various cells where they’re needed. It stands to reason that if you eat five meals you get 10 to 15 hours of vital circulation (5x 2 to 3hrs.) feeding all your cells as opposed to just 2 to 3 hours on the one meal per day plan.

Your system is healthier when you get a more constant and enduring flow of nutrition feeding your cells rather than a shorter period of time each day.

Just what is a Calorie anyway?

We are always hearing about calories. We say cut your calories and you lose weight or if you want to gain weight add calories to your diet. Well, I bet you’d like to know just what a calorie is.

A calorie is not an object that you can touch. It’s actually a unit of heat or measure of heat. Let me explain it this way. All foods are composed of some combination of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals, fiber, water or some amount of micronutrients. When you put food into your body and I do mean through the hole that is your mouth it becomes one of four things: part of your body such as muscles ,skin, bones, guts etc., Body fat, waste products, or heat.

Now, your specific body mass or body weight, whatever it is, requires a certain number of calories to maintain that mass or weight. Let’s say for example it’s 2000 cal per day. If you take the total calories consumed in a day and it is more than 2000 cal you will store the extra calories in the form of body fat.
Conversely, if you consume less than 2000 cal in a day (let’s say 1800) your body will take 200 from its storage (body fat) and you will lose weight.

Here’s the tricky part. We are talking about the total calories in a day, including all fat, carbohydrates, and protein. Fats and carbohydrates are used almost exclusively for energy. Protein on the other hand is used for multiple purposes including maintaining structures and transport of nutrients and even though it’s primary purpose is not energy it can be used as energy and certain situations, therefore it is included in the calorie total for the day.

What your body actually does is convert the carbohydrates or fat you have eaten either into body fat or actual heat that radiates from your body into the atmosphere and is recycled.

I have been asked several times over the years if it s possible spot reduce. The correct answer is no.
Body fat is stored under the skin and on top of the muscles. Let me explain how fat is stored using the abdominal area as an example. Let’s say you’re fat is 3 inches deep around the belly button. Move up 2 inches to the mid abdominal area, Here the fat is 2 inches deep. If you move up another 2 inches to the upper abdominal area it the fat will be about 1 inch deep and so on.

Now, when you go on a diet your body will use stored body fat for energy thereby reducing the total fat on your body. Here’s the key, as your body uses the stored fat up and down your abdominal wall it uses the fat at the same rate all along the abdominal wall from the belly button up to the chest.

Now, remember the 3 inches deep, 2 inches deep, and 1 inch deep visualization. When the body has used up the 1 inch in the upper abdominal area the 2 inches deep mid abdominal area is reduced to 1 inch and the 3 inches deep lower abdominal area fat has been reduced to 2 inches. Now, if you continue to diet the same way the 1 inch deep mid abdominal area will be reduced to zero and the 2 inch deep lower area will be reduced to 1 inch of depth. Now all of a sudden it looks like you lost all the fat from your upper and middle abs and you haven’t lost any off your lower abs, when in reality you just had more fat on your lower abs to reduce than you did on your mid or upper abs.

The fact is the lower abdominal area fat is the last to go and of course the first comeback.
Also just in case you ever wondered, there’s a good reason that most of our fat is stored around our central area or midsection. This is where our center of gravity is. It’s the most logical place to store fat because this is where extra body mass will not throw us off balance. Yes it’s true that some of us store it in the front, some of us store it on the sides and some of us store it in the back area but never the less fat is generally stored around our midsection.

Eating late at night will make you Fat

Myth number 2 in the series..Eating after 8pm makes you fat

The truth is, we usually eat our quota of calories (the number of calories needed to maintain our current weight) by 8pm, then we eat excess calories after 8pm. These calories don’t make us fatter BECAUSE we eat them then lay down and sleep but rather because these calories represent excess calories for the day. In addition, the foods we generally eat after 8pm are the sweeter, better tasting, higher calorie foods.  It does’t take much of these choices to add lots of calories to our day.