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Weight Loss – Weight Management – The real issue is fat loss and fat management – the mirror, not the scale, tells the truth!
In times past, carrying a goodly amount of fat on our belly was thought of as a sign of prosperity and even good health. But now we know for certain that a vast host of ills accompany carrying excess body fat. In the month of January 2006 Google saw 1,022,127 searches on the phrase “weight loss”. Very few subjects had higher search numbers, and most of those were in the category of ‘adult’ topics. So, just below sex and food, weight loss is one of the world’s most sought after goals. That goal, however, is the wrong one to chase. The real goal is fat loss, and the most maintainable path to fat loss is muscle gain combined with a ‘real food’ lifestyle to control the hormones that regulate fat storage.
Most of your metabolic rate is controlled by your muscle mass. I recall some years back reading about Aaron Baker, a bodybuilder preparing for a major contest, looking very massive and ripped to about 5% body fat, and the guy was eating 10,000 calories a day just to maintain his muscle structure.
Muscle burns calories all day and all night. Few people understand that when you ‘pump iron’ to the point of exhausting the muscles, creating micro-trauma in the muscle fibers, the repair process is a massive burner of energy, 24 hours a day for 4 to 5 days after the workout. It is incredibly easy to stay lean when you weight-train correctly, just 2-3 days a week like I do, even at 70+ years of age.
The rest of the secret to staying lean is related to hormone sensitivity, particularly to leptin, insulin and maintaining healthy levels of testosterone (for both men and women). Over the last decade scientists have learned that body fat is not an inert storage medium for energy, rather, deposits of fat cells are an active endocrine organ. Fat produces hormones that affect many of the body’s regulatory systems. High body fat increases appetite and cravings for carbohydrates, slows energy expenditure, increases conversion of testosterone to estrogen, raising estrogen levels in both men and women, and releases adipokines, some of which are pro-inflammatory and lead to chronically high levels of inflammation, C-reactive protein and insulin. High levels of body fat bias the body to build more and more stores of fat, in most cases leading to the familiar Metabolic Syndrome, Insulin Resistance and Type II Diabetes. So how does one reverse this age-related progression of increasing fat storage and recover the fitness of youth? We have to start with an understanding of how the body uses food as fuel and what it does with any excess in our diet.
The basics of blood sugar, leptin and insulin:
When you eat anything your digestive system breaks it down into sugars (mostly glucose and fructose), fiber, amino acids and fatty acids, making it available to the blood stream. When the pancreas senses the increase in sugar in the blood, it begins to make and release insulin to ride along with the nutrients to the target tissues that are in need of them. Insulin is the signal hormone that tells the body’s cells of all types to take up glucose and other nutrients. About 65% of the sugars get taken to the liver where it can be stored as glycogen for use between meals or converted to triglycerides (TGs) for storage in adipose tissue (fat cells). The rest (35%) gets shuttled to the muscles, which can store sugar as glycogen, and to the brain and other organs.
While the body’s cells use glucose for fuel, they are very careful about how much they take in, because any excess beyond immediate needs causes glycation, a process wherein glucose bonds accidentally to proteins or fats and kills whatever function they were performing. It forms useless and pro-inflammatory clinkers that stick where formed and eventually incapacitate the cell and force it to become senescent. Glycation is the primary destructive aging process in diabetes. When a cell is satisfied with its intake of glucose, it blocks insulin from shoving any more in, and any excess in the blood circulates back to the liver and gets converted to triglycerides, again for storage in fat cells.
To prevent the excessive rise of blood sugar, fat cells sense the incoming sugar, activate their metabolism and produce leptin. Leptin goes to the brain and tells the hypothalamus to kill your appetite. It is the ‘stop eating now’ signal that normally regulates eating to prevent excess fat storage. If the leptin signaling system is working correctly, your appetite starts to shut off and a feeling of satiety convinces you at the subconscious level that it’s time to move away from the table. When high enough levels of leptin are reached it signals the pancreas to stop making insulin and signals the fat cells to secrete another hormone called adiponectin. Adiponectin starts to rise which tells fat cells (sort of a self-communication) that it is OK to break down the stored triglycerides (TGs) into fatty acids and glucose if called for. In other words, adiponectin is the key signal allowing us to burn stored fat for fuel. Leptin resistance prevents this signaling system from slacking your appetite until you get a distress signal from the stomach that it just can’t hold any more – and by then you have way too much food in the pipeline to handle it without fat storage.
Leptin resistance is the tipping point for health; it it is the first and most critical step on the path to metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, obesity, type 2 diabetes and a whole host of inflammatory-based degenerative diseases. Leptin resistance occurs because one or more of several causes prevents leptin from crossing the blood-brain barrier (BBB) to reach the hypothalamus. Among these are increasing C-Reactive Protein (CRP – an inflammatory marker that binds to leptin) and elevated triglycerides that also impedes leptin crossing the BBB. Both of these are secondary effects of the primary dietary or stress-related causes.
Causes of leptin resistance
The foremost cause of leptin resistance is the huge simple carbohydrate consumption in the modern diet; in a word, sugar, the most detrimental of which is fructose in the form of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). Fructose normally comes in small doses, with a lot of fiber and water, as in fruit. Fructose does not cause an insulin response, which would allow it to be absorbed by the body’s cells; it is processed by the liver and largely converted to triglycerides and put back in the blood stream. If you overload on fructose, you block leptin from the brain, and load the blood with TGs to be taken to fat cells for storage. If you eat predominantly manufactured food items, pre-made meals to toss in the microwave, most canned soups, salad dressings, and fast-food in general, you are getting a load of HFCS in them. Sweetened sodas are the most common source, but many supposedly healthy juices and juice ‘drinks’ are loaded with HFCS. But sugars and starches in general are the primary dietary culprits that after years of use drive us down the path to the degenerative diseases of aging.
The second most significant cause is inadequate sleep promoted by today’s fast-paced lifestyle. These two factors will push you into leptin and insulin resistance faster than any others. You can try to fight it, but the healthy, active body needs 7 to 8 hours solid sleep per night to avoid leptin resistance. Recent studies have shown that men in their mid 20s will manifest the clear signs of metabolic syndrome within a week when sleep is limited to 5 hours a night. The antidote for lack of sleep is food; haven’t we all experienced that? And the craving is largely for carbs to provide some quick energy and get the brain happy again.
Strategies to reverse leptin resistance
Once leptin resistance is established, all diets and weight loss efforts will be doomed to failure, with yo-yo weight loss and regain the ultimate outcome. The cycle cannot be broken without re-establishing leptin sensitivity. The healthiest dietary means to restore leptin sensitivity is to drastically increase consumption of essential fatty acids, especially omega-3 oils from flax and cold water fish, while drastically reducing or eliminating simple carbohydrates, sugars and starches. The healthiest exercise approach is to start a body-building routine, three days a week, with moderate aerobics on the off days. Put these two together and in four months you will have an entirely new body, that can run, jump, dance and enjoy life to a much higher degree. You can find the best strategies for doing this at Wellness Resources, a brilliant website published by Byron J. Richards that deals specifically with metabolic problems centered on leptin resistance. If you want permanent healing from being fat, this is the place to go.
Strategy: Start a ‘muscle-building’ program in parallel with a nutrition program that provides for muscle growth AND fat loss.
See our Nutrition Category for details on eating to accomplish that purpose. Focus on strength training over protracted aerobics to foster increased testosterone production (builds muscle, lowers inflammation, down-regulates fat storage in both men and women) as opposed to increased cortisol which encourages fat retention. A major development in the battle against metabolic syndrome, obesity, and fat Americans has just been offered by Life Extension Foundation in their new product Advanced Anti-Adipocyte Formula. I think this is a breakthrough of major proportions in that studies performed using Irvingia (a component of the product) show very significant drops in triglycerides and LDL cholesterol, with increase in HDL cholesterol along with decreases in leptin resistance and insulin resistance. It blocks the conversion of carbohydrates to triglycerides, lowering storage of carbs as fat, while reducing fat cell size and lowering the inflammatory factors produced by fat cells. A third effect is to increase the signal protein adiponectin. Adiponectin has been shown to reduce plaque buildup in blood vessels, improve insulin sensitivity and lower inflammation and C-reactive protein (CRP), all very good outcomes. I started taking it at the end of ’08 and have continued to use it as part of my fat management strategy. Life Extension Foundation’s article by William Faloon on how the product works can be found by following this link: Read it soon!