Weight loss, leaning out, toning up, slimming down… call it what you like but the quest for a better body has seen most of us grapple with the challenge of ‘dieting’ at some point in our lives. This challenge usually ends by day two when we throw our hands up, say ‘F$CK it’ and reach for a slice of pizza. We equate weight loss with deprivation and this puts us at an immediate disadvantage. Perhaps it also explains why obesity plagues western society so much. We prefer to associate food with habits (convenience, joy, social) rather than need (nutrients). Until there’s a shift towards the latter, we will continue to see increased rates of heart disease, diabetes and cancer too. A good book on this topic is ‘Deep Nutrition’ by Dr. Cate Shanahan if your curious to know more about western food ideals versus the natural and more sustainable methods adopted by indigenous cultures around the world. The differences are startling to say the least.
Okay, let’s get into the meat and potatoes of this weeks post (pun intended) which offers a comprehensive guide on weight loss techniques when you work in an office, spend hours commuting, raise a family and everything else that comes along with it. Even if you don’t have a family but spend hours at work, the same rules apply. The inspiration was my friend and coworker Lucy, who does all of the above yet lost an incredible 6% body fat in two weeks without starvation, bizarre supplements, or hours pounding a treadmill. (Note: I do not make any claims this will work for every one nor am I advising, it’s a collection of research and techniques I have tried over the years.)
Drink Water (lot’s of it): First and foremost, weight loss happens when your in a caloric deficit, in other words, you consume less than you use. So why waste calories on energy drinks when water has zero calories!! Secondly, water has been shown to boost your metabolism, (your body works to heat you up from that cold glass of H2O, known as the thermogenic effect). The best time to drink is before meals, a fact researchers from the UK’s Birmingham University proved last year when studying eighty four obese people for twelve weeks. Half of the group were told to consume 17oz of water pre-meals whilst the remaining population had little to no water at the same time. After twelve weeks, the water drinkers lost an average of 9.5lbs compared to the non-drinkers who only lost 1.76lbs. The third reason: our bodies are 95% water, yes 95! Our blood is made up of 82% water, our lungs contain 90%, it goes on and on. Proper hydration dictates the health of our organs and hormonal system, and enables muscular repair and cognitive functioning. As an example, if your dehydrated, your Kidneys will suffer. The primary role of our Kidneys is to remove excess toxins and fluids from our bodies. When your dehydrated the Kidneys cannot do their job and it’s your Liver that must pick up the slack. Typically, the Liver is busy converting energy from stored fat reserves thereby inducing weight loss. But now since it’s covering for the Kidneys it cannot perform its own job as well. The net effect: less weight loss. Last but not least, inadequate water intake leads to water retention. The body perceives dehydration as a threat and responds by holding onto every last drop of water as a survival mechanism. This retention shows up through swollen hands, feet and legs. Ironically, you need to drink more to lose more.
Protein and Fats: Carbs are the king of energy but unless you engage in high intensity workouts or are strength training three to four times a week, limit your intake to around 100-120g a day (this was the range cited by most studies I read). Instead work on increasing your good fat and protein consumption (everyone’s intake will differ, but using an app like MyFitnessPal is fantastic in helping you calculate your levels and stay on track). Low Fat diets were marketed by corporations to boost their profits (if you use PAM spray because it’s low fat, think again….trans fats anyone??). Instead, it is now widely accepted that sugar is the real culprit in rising obesity levels. Carbohydrates are sugar, therefore to lose weight cut back on carbs. If your reading this thinking its much easier said than done, here’s pro tip number one: start with breakfast. Replace cereals with high fat choices such as eggs (see my earlier blog post ‘Cook Breakfast’). Fat and Protein release Ketones (another source of energy within your body) which means you don’t need to rely on that sugar rush to function, especially if your day entails mostly sitting. Moreover, eating fat activates your body’s fat burning enzymes, providing you consume good fats: eggs, avocados, oily fish, coconut oil, nuts, seeds. I recently lowered my carbs to 100g a day because I am unable to strength train (violins out… my wrist injury) and one positive side effect was the adaptation that took place. Where I adapted to lower carbs, when I did reintroduce them on the weekends, I felt full on less and sometimes I didn’t even crave them.
Routines: Working out was a key driver in my friend Lucy’s weight loss, she woke up at 4am everyday to take a bus into the city for a 6.30AM class at Equinox. It was a routine she came to love and even though you don’t need to go first thing in the morning, if you can fit it in somewhere, make that time consistent because NEWSFLASH: habits lead to results. Commit to a realistic time that works for you, work it around your child’s routine, or your work schedule or social life, it cannot be overlooked, just three days a week will make a difference!
Opt for HIIT over LISS: If your already wondering WTF HIIT and LISS are, let me explain. HIIT: High Intensity Interval Training: all out max effort aerobic exercise for (usually) fifteen seconds followed by rest periods of between 30-60 seconds. It takes place for a total of fifteen to twenty minutes or if you attend a class, usually an hour. LISS: Low Intensity Steady State cardio: kind of self explanatory but a good example would be spending thirty minutes at the same speed on an exercise bike, duration is longer but effort is lower and kept consistent. HIIT has come into prominence over the past few years because it has been found to increase fitness levels significantly. One study found the aerobic capacity of participants working out HIIT style increased by fourteen percent in just six weeks. For weight loss goals however, the magical benefit of HIIT is the after-burn effect. Because of it’s intensity, HIIT requires your body to repair itself in a way that LISS does not. To do this it burns calories up to forty eight hours post sweat-session. As we are focussed on weight loss for the busy individual HIIT is way more bang for your buck.
Nutrient Dense Foods: Here I refer to fruits and vegetables, in particular vegetables. Carbs are great at providing energy short term but as we all know, after that sugar high, comes the crash. The opposite holds true for fruits and vegetables because they contain a lot of nutrients, which take longer to digest and enter the blood stream. This effectively means you’re fuller for longer as your body metabolizes the nutrients. There is some debate over whether fruits should also be limited for weight loss since they are effectively sugar. However I have yet to meet an obese fruit lover. I am of the opinion that eating an equal amount of fruits and vegetables is good enough.
Sleep: Sleep is critical to weight loss. For starters, if you stay up till 3AM, except hunger to set in. Get your body into a routine (yes that word again) and ensure you’re achieving a good amount of sleep at the same time each day where possible. More important however is the link between sleep and your hormones. Why? Because our hormones perform in response to certain times of the day (Circadian Rhythms). The fat burning hormone of Leptin is released at sunrise each day. Likewise, Melatonin (sleep inducing hormone) begins to release in the late evening around 10pm (assuming no TVs or artificial light are present). Melatonin will turn off waking brain activity and pulls oxygen from muscle tissue and other cells, thereby making it very difficult for our bodies to be active. If your body cannot make Melatonin you will not be able to sleep. At midnight Melatonin peaks and Leptin enters back into the equation, which triggers your thyroid into weight loss mode. Leptin also causes your mitochondria (energy generating molecules) to produce heat from calories, which is required since your core temperature drops when you sleep, and the body must heat itself up. Therefore, if your body’s hormones are functioning in parallel to Circadian Rhythms Leptin release will trigger your body into burning fat. Lack of sleep will confuse Leptin release, and a vicious cycle begins (lack of sleep > over eating > lack of sleep). Conclusion: the body is primed to burn fat when you sleep, if you sleep and sleep when your meant to.
I hope you can take away some of this information, use it and come back to me with your weight loss progress!! Knowledge is Power, and you have a tool kit to help you win the battle of the bulge!
Well done to Lucy!
As always, PushingForHealth xx