Fat: Burning It – Part 3
So now that we understand the two main types of body fat – visceral and subcutaneous – the burning question is how to get rid of it. The simple answer is: We oxidize (burn) it.
Fat gets used as energy to support muscle contractions and other bodily functions, whether during exercise or at rest (holding yourself upright, digestion, blinking your eyes, breathing, beating your heart). Because exercise requires your body to burn more energy than when you are at rest, exercise can play an important role in getting rid of it, but there’s more to it than that. Exercise alone will not get rid of it.
We’re conditioned to think reducing calories is the key to fat loss. The standard diet rule is, “Eat less.” However, calories, while important, are only part of the fat issue. Equally important is where the calories come from because the type of macronutrient – fat, carbohydrates, proteins - in the food has a profound impact on whether fat gets released from a fat cell into the bloodstream for transfer to your cells to get burned as energy.
After decades, the health Establishment is waking up to the fact that the key to fat loss is not eating a “low-fat” diet. Rather, the key is to eat fewer carbohydrates, processed foods containing sugar and refined grains. Check out this NY Times report on a recent study demonstrating the superiority of low carb eating versus low-fat.
There is a very simple physiological reason why eating fewer carbohydrates encourages fat loss. High carb foods cause a rapid increase in the hormone insulin. The presence of insulin interrupts the action of a key enzyme called hormone-sensitive lipase (HSL). HSL signals the release of fat out of fat cells into the bloodstream for oxidation (the energy production process your muscles use when, for instance you walk, blink your eyes, digest, fidget, breath). Insulin stops fat burning. In fact, more fat collects because insulin increases the effects of the enzyme lipoprotein lipase (LPL), which stores fat.
Here’s where exercise plays a critical role in fat loss. First, exercise increases your metabolic rate which burns more energy, both while exercising and for hours afterwards. Second, exercise stabilizes insulin levels. By so doing, HSL can do its job to rid your body of excess fat.
The food prescription to lose body fat is to eat mainly vegetables, protein and healthy fats, such as olive oil and nuts, all foods that satisfy hunger. Minimize sugars (deserts, breads, salad dressings, alcohol, ketchup) and starches. Avoid processed foods because they are mainly carbohydrates. It’s that easy.
If you want to shrink the fat parts of your body, first understand that it took a long time to accumulate that fat, likewise it will take time to get rid of it. There is no safe, healthy, long-lasting means to get rid of it that is quick. No pill, no powder, no magic exercise program, no herb used by a primitive tribe in Brazil.
When you lose fat, you’ll lose it everywhere. There is no such thing as spot reducing. The visceral fat goes faster than subcutaneous fat. You can watch it disappear by measuring your waist right above the belly button before you change your food selections and start to exercise more. If you want to see changes in subcutaneous fat, measure you upper arm and thigh at the same time. Check them every couple of weeks. Whether you measure or not, you’ll feel your clothes are looser.
Never forget that there’s no going back. Lots of people “diet” and lose fat. Most gain it back. It’s not because their body chemistry mysteriously changed. It’s because they relapsed and re-adopted a fat forming and fat preserving way of life.
Note: If you want to learn more about body fat and how to get rid of it, read books by Gary Taubes, Jeff Volek, PhD and Stephen Phinney, MD, Jimmy Moore, or any of the Paleo lifestyle books by Loren Cordain or Robb Wolfe.