Into the mystic…

Into the mystic…

Yesterday I wrote on my Contemplative Fitness Facebook page about how I believe an extended calorie deficit is required to promote fat loss.  By and large what I wrote was accepted, but there were a few comments, and a few more private emails which suggested (reminded me) that at some point a calorie deficit may not be enough for fat loss to continue.  This is true, and at some point there does exists a gray area.

The ideal of fat loss is based on manipulating a system.  Like all systems, the metabolic system has varying components and influences.  Components and external forces work with or against each other to determine the result of that system.  Examples of these variations included quantity of caloric intakes, insulin resistance, hormone production/fluctuation, sleep, activity level, and food intolerances to name just a few.  These all can influence metabolism, and subsequently fat loss.

I’ll suggest that most people attempting fat loss, be it for aesthetic reasons or for reason of improved health, don’t have a clue where they stand with regard to many of these factors, with the exceptions of caloric intake, and activity level.  Thus, people focus on primarily on caloric intake, and activity level because these are within an individual’s mental grasp, and immediate control.  Ghrelin production?  Food allergies…?  Not so much.  Many people reading this will have to use The Google to find out what ghrelin even is.  Few people know of their food allergies, intolerances, or hormone discrepancies.


When I talk about these intangibles in metabolism, the analogy I like to use is that of cardio activities.  Many people who attempt fat lost engage in a cardio activity to help accelerate the fat loss process.  It’s clear that burning calories is good, and that cardio burns calories.  With this in mind, people take to their cardio theater somewhat intelligently, yet somewhat blindly, and go 30, 45 or 60 minutes at a time – whatever.

Rarely (never) have I seen anyone calculate the precise cardio duration required on a given day to meet their goal based on these variables; BMR, BMI, age, blood sugar at inception of exercise, KCals of the current 24 hour span, and caloric intake of the current 24 hour span.

If someone were to calculate their required cardio duration for a given day based on these variables, it would probably not be the cookie cutter 30 minutes, 45 minutes, or 60 minute of cardio commonly done.  I don’t know of anyone who uses that kind of math to accurately calculate their daily cardio activity to the precise minute needed in order to maximize fat loss on a given day.  I don’t even do that myself. I just choose 30 minutes, or 45 without knowing the details of what I truly require on that day.  In short, I eyeball it.

Back to calories in vs. calories out.  The broad brush stroke that I painted yesterday is just that; a broad brush stroke.  By and large if one lives in a calorie deficit for an extended period of time, one will lose body fat – we just eyeball it as best we can, despite the many unknown intangibles involved.

Should someone live in a calorie deficit for an extended period of time, and not lose body fat, I will suggest the following things:

1.      Know your BMR.

2.      Accurately track your ingested calories daily to ensure there is a continued deficit.

3.      Accurately track your kinetic calorie expenditure to ensure you are promoting a deficit.

4.      Track your sleep patterns.

5.      Spread your calories out as evenly as possible through the course of a day.

The science of metabolism is getting better, but like all sciences in this era, there are at least as many unknowns that there are knowns.   If you follow the steps above, ensure their accuracy, remain true to them for an extended period of time, and still do not lose body fat, see an experienced endocrinologist to explore potential hormone imbalances, and food intolerances.

Your general practitioner or primary care physician may be a good person, and may have even coached your kid’s ball team, but he or she probably knows slightly less about the many variables in fat loss than the monkey-see-monkey-do editors of Shape magazine, or the Fitness Blogasaurus you put such blind trust in.

It’s a science, but not a science wholly understood just yet.  I will always suggest that when questions arise, you yourself should dawn the lab coat, be the note taker, collect the data of you, study that data as it applies to you, be the scientist, and hopefully master your system before you place it in the hands of professional amateurs.  Just my opinion…  rc


Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from Spain.  Enjoy…

Dinner And Everything After…

There is an ideal in fitness – a false meme that can be a contributing factor working against a person with a weight loss agenda.  If I had to narrow my list of fitness pet peeves down, this one would be top 5.  What I would like to illuminate, and help people conquer is the age old idea that a person seeking weight loss should not eat after dinner.

Tina’s Energy Crisis

I will use the example of a 30-something female who I’ll call Tina:

Presumably Tina eats dinner around 6:00 in the evening – whatever Tina’s dinner might be is not too relevant.  If she’s an average American 30-something female, she’ll not actually eat breakfast until after 10:00 in the morning, and it will be scarcely healthy – enter the scone or the energy bar with a latte.


A slower metabolism is just a scone’s throw away…


As a 30-something, active female Tina requires about 1,800 calories per day to maintain her body weight.  This means Tina is burning approximately 75 calories per hour to break even.  To evoke a safe, sustainable weight loss, a calorie deficit of about 150 calories less per day would be recommended.  This will place Tina at 1,650 calories per day.  This means Tina will be living off approximately 68 calories per day on her journey to an  improved body.

Relative to Tina’s BMR, she will be burning slightly more than those 68 calories per hour while she is awake and active – even if she sits on her ass all day and does little.  What is often misunderstood about calories burned during the course of a day is that Tina will be burning only slightly fewer calories while she is sleeping – calories necessary for the energy it takes to sleep and recover from any would-be exercise or activity during her day.

If Tina stops eating at 6:00pm – after dinner, as is often recommended by the fitness media, and doesn’t eat again until 10:00am, then Tina has not fueled her body for a 2/3rds of the day – fuel which is required around the clock to bolster and enhance the metabolic effect for fostering weight loss.  A majority of the day spent not eating – not fueling.  How is a car supposed to make such a long journey without fuel…?

There is no shortage of published work suggesting hibernation theory; that by not eating often enough the body senses a decreased energy income.  In order to overcome that decreased energy income, the body slows the metabolic process down to use less energy.  Body fat is stored increasingly, and used only sparingly as fuel.  This is how bears get through winter.

A Smeal Is A Hell Of A Deal

In a weight loss endeavor there’s little difference between snacks and meals – I just call them smeals.  Every successful weight loss success story I have been associated with, male or female, young or not-so-young, has had several things in common, not the least of which is the rhythmic eating of smeals throughout the day.  A smeal after waking up in the morning, a smeal at bedtime, and a few smeals every three to four hours in between can add up to a loss.

Eating rhythmically throughout the day, the brain and body conclude that since more energy is on the way, it’s not as urgent to slow down the metabolic process or to store energy as quickly in the form of body fat.  That is, the motor runs fast, efficiently, and uses the best fuel.  Add to that, additional calories burned due to increased activity, and the energy reserves (body fat) are utilized.  This is one scenario in life when it’s good not to have reserves.

Sumo Slow

I often use the Sumo wrestler as an example of slowing down the metabolic process.  We envision these large men who hail from Japan, a predominately demure culture, as being able to eat whatever they want.  In part that’s true, Sumos take in a majority of their calories from a calorie-rich stew called, Chankonabe.   However, Sumo wrestlers coax their metabolism by eating great quantities of Chankonabe, but only do so only once per day.  This intake of substantial calories only one time per day enables weight gain at an exponential rate.  Sumos train, eat, and sleep in an environment called a stable.

Life in the stable. I wonder how stable is heart is…?

A thought:  For those reading this believing they will lose weight by eating just a little during the day and having a large dinner at night, remember Sumos live in stables, athletes dine at tables – and do so frequently.  Be well.  rc