There are not many “sure things” in life. Almost every worthwhile endeavor comes with a certain degree of risk and no assurance of the outcome. In the case of chiseling your body into a lean machine, there’s always some trial, error and experimentation necessary, especially because each person’s genetics, body type and physiology are so unique. “Sure Things” For Burning Fat, Part 1
There can be great value in the trial and error process as a learning experience, but what if you could skip the unnecessary trial and error by placing your bets on “sure things” instead of guessing or gambling? Don’t gamble with your diet, bet on SURE THINGS
That would be great wouldn’t it? Unfortunately, in the health and fitness field, there appear to be fewer “sure things” than anywhere else!
Fitness experts are known for having opinions and theories that range from one extreme to another. Many competing fat loss programs represent polar opposites: high carb vs low carb being the most common example.
Scientists often end their papers with, “more research is needed” and they rarely stick their necks out and take a strong stand, unless the evidence is air-tight and rock-solid.
But amidst all the chaos, confusion and conflicting advice of the nutrition and fitness world, there are a small handful of “SURE THINGS” and you’re about to learn them all.
These are things that most of the researchers and most of the fitness and dietetic professionals agree on.Of course, We will never get 100% consensus on the subjects of exercise or nutrition, because science is continuously unfolding and one decade’s “sure thing” has been known to become the next decades “myth busted.” Should we close our minds and accept our current “sure things” as final, we may be closing our minds to future discoveries and potential for advancement.
Even if we get a nearly unanimous vote, there’s almost always a lone dissenter out there somewhere, and people sometimes believe weird things, even in the face of science. People also often believe in their dietary approaches NOT for scientific reasons, but for environmental, spiritual or humanitarian reasons.
Nevertheless, if we use science as our guide, then the weight of the current evidence is heavy enough that these are as close to SURE THINGS as we can get, and that you can’t go wrong by applying these principles in your own fat loss program immediately.
SURE THING #1: FOCUS ON THE CALORIC DEFICIT
One thing that virtually the entire scientific community agrees on is that the law of energy balance is always with us. In order to lose body fat, you must burn more calories than you consume.This is known as having a “caloric deficit.” Although there are a few people who still claim that “calories don’t count,” I will be as bold as to say that those people are mistaken. PLEASE NOTE CAREFULLY: There is a huge difference between saying “you don’t have to count calories” and “calories don’t count.” Some diet programs are “ad libitum” in nature. This means they do not advise calorie counting; they simply tell you what to eat and what not to eat. You eat as you please, as long as you follow the food restrictions provided. What they usually don’t tell you is that the eating restrictions are the equivalent of having built-in automatic calorie control. These programs do not refute the law of energy balance, they confirm it.
When a diet program claims, “Eat as much as you want and still lose weight”, you are hearing a Big Fat Lie. Incidentally, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says it is illegal to make this claim in advertisements and they can sue you if you do.
Many people still deny the law of calorie balance in the face of scientific evidence.
For example, some of the old school low-carbers are notorious for disputing the calorie balance equation, in favor of believing in some type of “metabolic advantage” that comes from low carbs. I.e., “eat X grams of carbs or less, and you can eat as much as you want.”
I assure you, if you have a caloric maintenance level of 2000 calories a day and you eat 3000 calories a day of protein and fat (no carbs) you WILL gain fat!
Perhaps it will be harder to consume that many calories in the form of protein and fat as compared to sugar and protein and fat, but if you manage to pull off that gastronomic feat, you will gain weight nonetheless (and low carb writers might be surprised at how much food some people can shovel down their throats – even sans carbs!)
Fortunately, the low carb community today has some intelligent voices speaking out, saying that low carb does not mean “unlimited calories” and that low carb diets also require a caloric deficit; they may simply make it easier to achieve that deficit, automatically without counting calories.
While I am very much in favor of doing things “by the numbers,” programs that tend to make you “automatically” eat less without counting calories are not a bad thing at all (the spontaneous reduction in caloric intake often occurs due to an appetite-suppressive effect of certain diets, and or due to the selection of low calorie-density foods which are highly satiating).
That said, no combination of foods, elimination of foods, or arrangement of macronutrients will totally override the law of calorie balance. To lose fat, you have to eat less than you burn, period.
You have to be diligent about maintaining your deficit too, because:
(1) Energy balance is dynamic, and what is a deficit for you today, may not be a significant deficit six months from now, and
(2) If your maintenance calories are 2000, and your intake is 1500 one day (a deficit) and 2500 the next (a surplus), you have NOT achieved a caloric deficit over the two day period – you are in energy balance. Conveniently, most people seem to have some kind of selective “amnesia” and they only remember the days they were in a deficit! Consistency over time is the key!
The sooner you accept that the cornerstone of fat loss is a caloric deficit, the sooner you’ll be able to think clearly about your nutritional choices and the better you’ll be able to judge everything you ever read, see and hear about nutrition, for the rest of your life.
By the way, did you know that there are two corollaries to the law of calorie balance, which almost no one teaches?In my Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle program, I reveal these little-known calorie corollaries (chapter 6) and I teach the exact, scientific formulas for calculating your ideal calorie intake for burning the maximum amount of fat, without losing muscle or slowing down your metabolism.
“Sure Things” For Burning Fat, Part 2
It seems almost unthinkable that there would be any question about the value of exercise in weight control, but believe it or not, this is the topic of a very heated debate. I’ve always felt that much of the energy that is spent arguing about “the best way” to achieve weight loss would be better directed at finding the best way to maintain weight loss after all, losing weight is as simple as calories in versus calories out and there’s about a bazillion different ways you can do it. The hard part is keeping it off. Well, finally, here’s some good news for leaner physique seekers: You don’t have to debate or search anymore, because we already KNOW the best way to keep weight off for good and it’s a sure thing!
SURE THING #2: EXERCISE IS THE KEY TO LONG TERM MAINTENANCE
There’s no debate in the weight control world about the need for a calorie deficit. In fact, focusing on the calorie deficit was fat loss sure thing number one!
However, scientists and practitioners alike often argue about whether you should create a calorie deficit by decreasing food intake or by increasing exercise and other activity (or, a combination of both) A study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism in early 2007 had fitness professionals and exercise addicts up in arms when it said, “Diet and exercise take off the pounds equally.” The study found no difference in weight loss between one group that created a deficit with exercise and another group which created a deficit with food reduction and no exercise. Other studies have produced the opposite results – distinct weight loss benefits were achieved with the addition of exercise to caloric restriction. Differences in study design, including the type of exercise used, may have influenced these conflicting results. The point is, a debate does exist. But even if you take the weight off with severe caloric restriction (starvation diets) and no exercise, the real question is: What happens next? What happens to the person who loses weight with exercise and continues to exercise after achieving an ideal weight compared to the person who loses weight with caloric restriction and no exercise? That is the question the researchers in the recent study failed to ask. Fortunately, many others have, and they all came to the same very decisive conclusion:
The difference between “losers” and “maintainers” is exercise:
Most people in our quick fix society just don’t seem to care about what happens in the long term. They want the weight off fast NOW! Ironically, it’s these short term results that continue to be advertised, highlighted and remembered. What a different story would be told if we did some follow up case studies How about a “reunion” for all these starvation diet “success stories” along with all the extreme makeover and rapid weight loss reality show contestants but with one “Venuto” catch: The “reunion” has to be a surprise. Call up people randomly after 2-5 years and tell them they have 24 hours to show up for reunion pictures (so they would’nt have time for another crash diet). What do YOU think would happen? (predictions, anyone???) I think that you’d see confirmation of the statistics we’ve all heard before: 90-95% of dieters gain back the weight they lost. IF you look at the long term. (maybe I’d give these TV show folks slightly better odds, as they have a little more motivational leverage from having been in the public eye, but my guess is the long term re-gain rates will still be high). At around 6 months, most people hit a plateau or rough patch and many fall off the wagon. At 12 months, most people are defeated and have already started gaining back the weight. After 3 years, almost everyone has gained back the weight, and some have gone through several unsuccessful cycles. What are the successful maintainers – the top 5% – doing differently? Fortunately, a lot of research has been done in order to answer this question. One study was published by Judy Kruger and colleagues in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.
Major differences were seen between “losers” and “maintainers”:
A higher proportion of successful maintainers reported exercising 30 minutes or more daily, and they also reported adding other physical activity such as recreation, sports, physical work, and so on, into their daily schedules. Lifting weights was also a distinguishing factor between groups, as substantially more maintainers included weight training in their exercise regimens than did the losers. “Reducing sedentary activities” (less TV watching, etc), was also a significant difference between those who successfully maintained and those who did not. Clearly, exercise was the difference that made the difference and results like these have been reproduced in study after study. One group which has been the subject of much study is the National Weight Control registry (NWCR), which consists of men and women who have lost at least 30 lbs and kept it off for over a year. Many NWCR participants have kept off large amounts of weight (60-70 lbs +) for 5 yrs or more. Although conclusions drawn from these types of questionnaire-based studies can’t prove causation, this is the type of group, in my opinion, that you should study the most and is a great place to look for patterns of success. In the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Mary Klem, Rena Wing and their colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh published their research about the NWCR in a paper called, “A descriptive study of individuals successful at long-term maintenance of substantial weight loss.” The part where subjects were asked how they maintained their weight loss was important and worth quoting: “Perhaps most important, nearly every member of the registry reported using a combination of diet PLUS exercise to both lose weight and maintain the weight loss. This finding provides further evidence that long term maintenance of weight loss is facilitated by regular physical activity.”
So what does all of this mean to you?
well, that probably depends on what stage in the game you are currently at: (1) If you haven’t started a structured fat reduction program yet, then choose one which emphasizes the long term and not the quick fix, and which includes nutrition and exercise (not just a diet). One program that fits these criteria perfectly is Burn The Fat, feed The Muscle (2) If you’re currently on a diet program that doesn’t include exercise – then add an exercise program immediately and you will skyrocket your odds of long term success. (3) If you’ve already lost weight and you’ve done it with a combination of caloric restriction and exercise, congratulations but keep in mind that if you want to join the successful maintainers you have to keep it up! You may be able to cut back on the amount of exercise, but you have to keep training! (4) If you’ve lost weight and you’ve done it with ONLY caloric restriction, you should be also congratulated, but also be warned: NOW is the time to start exercising. At this time, adding an exercise program into your lifestyle is the single most important thing you can do to maintain your ideal weight long term. Which type of exercise you choose is far less important than simply choosing some type of cardiovascular or aerobic activity which will cumulatively burn a lot of calories, and combining that with strength training.
In conclusionMany things are debated among obesity researchers and exercise scientists today, oddly enough, even whether exercise is necessary during a weight loss program. One thing, however, that almost EVERY expert and researcher now agrees on is that to keep the unwanted pounds off and to maintain your perfect weight for life, exercise is a SURE THING.
“Sure Things” For Burning Fat, Part 3
Writing a series of lessons on “sure things” for fat loss is not as easy as you’d think. There are so many opinions about the “right way” to eat for getting leaner, that getting all the experts to agree on anything occurs about as often as Haley’s comet flies by. Even the subject of dietary fat is hugely controversial. Just try mentioning “saturated fat is bad for you” in a nutrition forum these days and you’ll see exactly what I mean. But when it comes to one particular type of fat, the vote is virtually unanimous:
Omega-3 fatty acids are sure things for your health. Even better: Scientists are beginning to uncover the important roles they play in the fat burning process as well.
Omega-3 fatty acids are labeled “essential” because your body can’t manufacture them, so you must get them from the food you eat (much like certain amino acids, vitamins and minerals).
Omega-3 fatty acids can be obtained from plant or animal sources.
The richest animal source of omega-3 is fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, albacore tuna, rainbow trout, sardines or herring.
The fat in fish contains two important long-chain polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These appear to be the major players responsible for the biological activity in fish oil that produces the long list of benefits.
The richest plant sources of omega-3 fats are seed oils, flaxseeds or flaxseed oil in particular. Flaxseed contains alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which your body can convert into DHA and EPA.
The list of potential health benefits from eating these “good fats” is so long, that if you couldn’t look up the scientific references to confirm them for yourself, you would swear I was just pulling your leg.
Peer-reviewed research has been published on fish oil and omega-3 fats for the treatment, management or prevention of ALL these conditions:
cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis, hyperlipidemia, high blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmias, inflammatory diseases, joint pain, arthritis, osteoporosis, kidney disease, prostate cancer, colon cancer, breast cancer, skin cancer, crohnï¿½s disease, ulcerative colitis, Alzheimer’s, asthma, cystic fibrosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, sickle cell anemia, glaucoma, lupus, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, cirrhosis, epilepsy, chronic fatigue syndrome, menstrual symptoms, psoriasis, diabetes, insulin resistance, migraines, response to stress, bipolar disorder, depression, psychological disorders, and metabolic syndrome.
Although it should not be implied that omega 3 fats cure all of these conditions, it’s easy to agree that omega 3 fats are healthy stuff.
Here’s why I also suggest that omega-3 fats should be added to the list of “sure things for fat loss”:
At least a half a dozen human studies and more than two dozen animal studies in the last 10 years suggest that the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish may help you burn more fat or at the very least that they play an important role in the fat burning process, or that a deficiency could inhibit fat burning.
Some studies found that omega 3 fats may function as fuel partitioners and increase fat oxidation. This means that omega-3’s shift glucose toward glycogen storage and direct fatty acids away from body fat formation and toward fatty acid oxidation.
Omega-3 fatty acids also enhance the expression of the Uncoupling protein 3 (UCP3) gene in skeletal muscle. Scientists say that this may indirectly increase energy expenditure by dissipating calories as heat.
Other potential mechanisms include increased sensitivity to the “anti starvation hormone” leptin, decreased insulin, reduced fat cell proliferation and improved cell membrane fluidity.
It’s an exciting area of research and a highly publicized one as well.
If you pay attention to the news or read any fitness or nutrition literature, you probably already knew about the benefits of omega-3 fats – it’s no secret anymore.
What’s shocking is the fact that most people are still deficient in omega-3 fats, according to the latest statistics.
As with that other “super food” – vegetables – most people seem to know that they “should” be eating more healthy fats, but they still don’t do it.
This gap between knowing what to do and actually doing it is a real problem, when it’s so easy to take advantage of the benefits of this incredible “power nutrient.”
Here are 7 tips that can accommodate both vegetarians and fish eaters alike:
1) eat fatty fish at least twice per week and even daily if practical and economical for you. If not, you could supplement with fish oil (1.5-3 grams of combined DHA/EPA daily)
2) Omega 6 fatty acids are also essential, but most people have an unbalanced omega 3 to omega 6 ratio. This can be remedied by increasing the omega 3 consumption and or reducing the omega 6 consumption (by decreasing intake of processed foods, refined grains, and supermarket cooking oils, with the exception of extra virgin olive oil)
3) grind up flaxseeds and sprinkle them on salads or add them to oatmeal, protein shakes or morning cereals. Alternately, supplement with flaxseed oil; 1 tbsp is equivalent to 3 tbsp flaxseeds (use as a supplement; Not for cooking)
4) snack on walnuts, which contain modest amounts of omega 3 fats (other types of nuts and seeds can also contain significant amounts of omega 3 fats)
5) increase your consumption of leafy greens which contain small amounts of omega 3 fats.
6) if you eat red meat, try game meats or grass fed beef or bison. they don’t have nearly the quantity of omega-3 as marine sources, but they are higher in omega-3 and have a better omega-3 to omega-6 ratio than conventionally raised and fed beef.
7) Try omega-3 fortified eggs instead of regular eggs.
See how easy it is to get more omega-3?
With all the health benefits stacked on top of the potential fat loss benefits, you simply can’t go wrong by making this one change to your diet program – eat more omega-3 it’s a sure thing!
IF you’d like to learn how to burn fat naturally – without drugs or fat burner pills – visit the Burn The Fat website.
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Tom Venuto is a lifetime natural bodybuilder, personal trainer, gym owner, freelance writer and author ofBurn the Fat, Feed The Muscle(BFFM): Fat Burning Secrets of the World’s Best Bodybuilders and Fitness Models. Tom has writtenover 140 articles and has been featured in IRONMAN magazine, Natural Bodybuilding, Muscular Development,Muscle-Zine, Exercise for Men and Men’s Exercise. Tom is the Fat Loss Expert for Global-Fitness.com and the nutrition editor for Femalemuscle.com and his articles are featured regularly on literally dozens of other websites.