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 How Important are Calories When Trying to Lose Weight?

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MessageSujet: How Important are Calories When Trying to Lose Weight?    Jeu 24 Fév - 14:22

Written by Chris Aceto
Thursday, 24 February 2011 02:20



Q) In terms of getting lean, how important is counting calories?



A) I'll get right to the point. A lot of nutritionists still stick exclusively with calories as the one and only factor that determines a person's ability to gain fat or lose fat. They conceptualize or water-down the fat burning process to a simple math equation. I like to kid and say "That's why a lot of math teachers are fat." In other words, while mathematics are clean and concise measuring tools, when it comes to fat loss, they don't always work. Let me explain a bit more.



Years ago, when I was studying nutrition in college, all the teachers used the energy balance theory in explaining how the body adds or drops body fat. The energy balance equation holds that getting lean is nothing more than a math equation. There are "calories in" from the food we eat on one side of the equation and "calories out" (burned up) on the other side of the equation; sort of like a scale in perfect balance. The overwhelming belief then is that a person only has to create a calorie imbalance by eating fewer calories and the result will be non-stop fat loss. See the math? "If you eat 2000 calories but your body burns 2700 calories, then you'll lose body fat." But, is this really how it works? Absolutely not; there's more to it. In addition to calories, hormones play a monumental role in regulating fat loss. There are fat-storing hormones and fat-burning hormones. In general, when you eat fewer calories than the body burns, the body will release a greater amount of fat-burning hormones. And, if you eat more calories than the body burns, the body will release more fat-storing hormones. However, with prolonged dieting, the body sometimes changes its mind and actually stops releasing fat burning hormones even when calories remain low. At that point, the math no longer works. Additionally, there are many other factors that determine whether you'll produce fat-storing or fat-burning hormones. The types of calories you eat-carbs, protein, or fat-- affects fat-storing and fat-burning hormones, as well. In general, carbs tend to release fat-storing hormones while protein tends to release fat-burning hormones. Dietary fat can do both depending on what sources you consume. It can increase fat-storing hormones or increase fat-burning ones.



Meal frequency (how many times a day you eat), protein intake in relation to carbohydrates, the time of day you exercise, the type of meal you eat before and after exercise, and supplements all influence whether you will release fat-storing or fat-burning hormones. All these factors tend to make the calorie balance theory somewhat obsolete. At the very least, you cannot expect to follow the calorie balance theory exclusively and burn away as much fat as you want. You have to gain control of your hormones.



I'll outline how the above factors play a role in skewing the calorie balance theory.



(1) Carbohydrates

Carbs release insulin, which is a potent fat storing hormone. Insulin drives carbohydrates (glucose) into fat cells causing the body to accumulate body fat. Hormonally, carbs are a fat-storing food.



(2) Protein


Protein increases thermogenesis; heat production. In short, when you eat protein, the body experiences a mild increase in body temperature. As body temperature rises even slightly, calorie burning rises. The result is that when you eat protein, your metabolism actually increases. Protein also influences thyroid levels so it can definitely be considered a "fat-burning" food.



(3) Ratio of Carbs to Protein.


If fat-burning is your goal, then no meal should contain radically more carbs then protein. Why? The carbs override the fat burning and thermogenic boost associated with protein. So, if you eat 3 cups of rice and a small chicken breast yielding 800 calories or 2 cups of rice and 2 chicken breasts also yielding 800 calories, you can expect greater fat storing effects when the meal is higher in carbs then closer to a 50-50 balance of carbs to protein.



(4) Meal Frequency


This one is huge. If you want to lose bodyfat, eat 6 times a day. First, every time you eat, you experience a small increase in metabolic rate just by virtue of a greater thermogenic effect. Second, smaller meals suppress the release of cortisol, a hormone that decreases testosterone levels. Maintaining a higher testosterone level helps support fat-burning hormones. Finally, multiple meals keeps blood sugar - the amount of digested carbohydrates floating around in the blood - stable. Stable sugar levels, in turn, tend to keep fat-storing insulin in a neutral state.



(5) Pre-Training Food


If you're going to hit the weights, stick with low glycemic carbs-- oatmeal, cream of rye cereal, yams and buckwheat noodles- in the meal prior to training. These carbs digest slower which keeps insulin levels lower. Lower insulin levels before training allow the body to tap fatty acids from body fat as a back-up fuel source to muscle glycogen.







(6) Post-Training Food


Here's where you need to eat. You should eat a higher protein and carb intake (from mostly high glycemic carbs) post-workout because it speeds growth and recovery. After training, you want insulin levels to rise (not explode!) because it's at this point that the body enters a serious rebuilding mode. Insulin under normal circumstances can store body fat; however, post-workout it kick-starts the rebuilding process, exclusively. That means no fat storage. You see, insulin is both a fat-storing hormone and muscle-potentiating hormone. Here's the catch; higher insulin levels after training is desirable. It causes growth without stimulating fat storage. That being said, a lot of bodybuilders eat a silly amount of carbs post-training which simply kicks up fat storage. There's a happy medium here. You need the insulin to kick start recovery but "shoot for the clouds not the moon".



(7) Night-time Eating


When you sleep the body releases growth hormone, which not only helps rebuild muscle but also increases fat burning. However, when you eat a lot of carbs just prior to bed, the body's natural GH release tends to get suppressed. Stick with protein-- chicken, turkey, lean beef, egg whites and fish-- at night and add some low calorie vegetables to them. That will keep your carb intake under control allowing for maximal GH release to occur.



(Cool Pre-cardio


Cardio burns fat by dragging fatty acids out of fat cells and burning them within the muscles in small areas called the mitochondria. Cardio also causes changes in the body that favor fat burning; greater total calorie expenditure and an increase in fat-burning hormones. Eating before cardio can put a damper on that hormonal shift. In other words, when you eat before cardio-- especially carbs-you'll experience a smaller increase in fat burning hormones which translates into less fat loss. That's why you should do cardio on an empty stomach. Or, at the very least, don't eat any carbs. You can probably get away with a small protein snack since that won't alter the beneficial hormonal change brought on by cardio exercise.

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