by Briana Michel Six Pack Abs
I felt the need to write this article after I received a pretty big email response from around the globe regarding my write up on how the standard bodybuilder chicken and broccoli competition diet is unhealthy. So many people could relate to that diet and what damage it has caused or is currently causing them. I had tons of emails asking me to help people with figuring out their calories and macronutrients. It may have taken me a week, but I finally responded to each email individually. Did I give those people set macros and calories to eat? Nope. Why not? Not because I don’t want to help or I want to convert them all to personal clients, but because each person’s situation is unique. It would have been irresponsible of me to give those target numbers without knowing a lot more about the individual other than their height and weight or current caloric intake.
In my private practice it can take 8-14 weeks to drill down to the optimal nutrition for each client and more so to provide them with the education so they can be their own diet detective as their body changes in the years to come. Nutrition is an evolving journey for everyone. What serves one person well may actually put weight on someone else. What energizes one guy or woman may deplete another. There are so many factors to consider when trying to not only help someone lose fat, but boost their brain ability, hormonal health, energy, improve sleep, improve vitality and more. Food is medicine and food is poison. We are what we eat and even more importantly we are what we are able to absorb! When I develop a custom plan I focus on food sensitivities, mycotoxins, food quality, hormones, GMO’s, food pairings and macronutrient timings and more. In our program, Sixty Six Days to Six Pack Abs, you will be able to get a great jump start on my principles and teachings for effective and healthy fat loss, but there is also an emphasis on being able to customize your nutrition program and to pay attention to what works for YOU in particular.
In the meantime, lets look a little deeper at metabolism and why dropping calories might just be a long term recipe for disaster. There are many problems with the “diet industry” but one of the big ones is the school of thought that weight loss is all about dropping calories or only about abnormal hormonal function. I hear so often “I can’t lose weight or I gained a ton of weight because I have a hypothyroid or my adrenals are shot”. I recently read a study that said only about 10 pounds of weight gain can be blamed on thyroid. According to www.thyroid.org “the decrease in BMR due to hypothyroidism is usually much less dramatic than the marked increase seen in hyperthyroidism, leading to more modest alterations in weight due to the underactive thyroid. The cause of the weight gain in hypothyroid individuals is also complex, and not always related to excess fat accumulation. Most of the extra weight gained in hypothyroid individuals is due to excess accumulation of salt and water. Massive weight gain is rarely associated with hypothyroidism. In general, 5-10 pounds of body weight may be attributable to the thyroid, depending on the severity of the hypothyroidism. Finally, if weight gain is the only symptom of hypothyroidism that is present, it is less likely that the weight gain is solely due to the thyroid.” I have never, ever in fourteen years had a client with a hypothyroid problem who is very overweight come to me with ideal eating and lifestyle habits. Instead they have a false sense of what eating healthy is and then blame weight gain on their thyroid.
Calories -in-calories-out vs. hormones; these two schools tend to duke it out over who is right. I say neither is 100% correct. Our metabolism is not a rigid bank that operates solely on abundance and deficit. Instead it is more like a seesaw that requires an ongoing balancing act. Our life changes constantly, we are exposed to various stressors, travel, sleep pattern disruptions, toxins, environmental changes, activity type and level of exertion changes, we age and our vitamin and mineral deficiencies and requirements change. Our body is smart and adaptive, if our resting metabolic rate is 1800 calories per day for example, and we want to lose weight, the old school (aka mainstream) tactic is to reduce calories by 300-500 calories per day, right? Maybe even hit the treadmill for an hour at a time 6-7 days a week and cardio ourselves senseless. Now we are stressing our system, raising cortisol, tearing down muscle and attempting to get all the nourishment our body needs on a calorie deficit. But that smart machine we have inside of us says “WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO ME!?” Now the protective mechanism for your body kicks in to lower its resting metabolic rate; so you aren’t burning the same amount of calories per day at rest as you used to prior to this restrictive diet. Then it will also produce hormones to make you HUNGRY, MOODY and have CRAVINGS! Your body wants to be fed! Your weight plateaus and then you decide you must need to lower your calories even more and do more muscle eating cardio! The cycle repeats and more hormonal damage is done and it is only a matter of time until your finite willpower says “ENOUGH!” and you become a binge-asaurusrex! Devouring every high carb food in sight. But now what do you do? Do you work up the willpower again to start another bout of low calorie, cardio intense masochism?
Did you know the body isn’t a fan of losing fat and gaining muscle at the same time? That means when you do tons of cardio and restrict calories your weight loss isn’t just fat, it’s precious muscle too! (See tips at the bottom for how to lose fat and gain muscle) Months of this can lead to the dreaded “skinny fat” physique. Skinny fat is arguably more dangerous than being obese because people who are skinny fat aren’t often aware of their unhealthy habits. They believe because they look slim in clothes their nutrition, lifestyle and percentage of body fat isn’t as awful as it truly is. With obese people it is visually identifiable the urgency needed for them to correct their eating and fitness. Also, from carrying around too much extra weight, overweight people may develop more muscle than skinny fat folks. I have seen people who are much heavier than they should be have a lower body fat percentage than my much smaller clients who have high body fat! Have you seen the calves on biggest loser contestants? They always have massive incredible calves even after they get lean, why? It takes a lot of muscle to carry around 200lbs of extra fat for years on end! The skinny fat people tend to also store their body fat very closely to their vital organs instead of having it spread out all over their body or hanging over their pants. Fat is actually a live hormone-producing organ. When you are over fat you produce more bad estrogen, throwing off your hormonal balance even further.
How do we fix/avoid this problem?
1. Implement smart heavy weight training and spurts of High Intensity Interval Training (get off the long treadmill run/walks and hours of cardio mania). You want to grow and retain muscle, not break it down and lower your resting metabolic rate. Six Packs Abs trainer and co-founder, Ben Booker will guide you through this in our soon-t0-be-released
2. Get awesomely huge quantities of fat!! Yes, FAT!!!! Fats like grass-fed butter, hormone free grass-fed/grass-finished meats, avocado, sprouted nuts, coconut oil, MCT oil, XCT Oil and full fat grass-fed dairy. Our brain and every cell in our body requires good fats for optimal functioning. I can’t stress fats enough!!!! I personally take in the majority of my diet from a variety of omega-3 and some omega-6 fatty acids, with a balance of medium and long chain fatty acids as well.
3. Chill out on the high protein diets! Excess protein turns to glucose (and calls in insulin to store that glucose as fat) and stresses the kidneys. There is NO REASON to get 40-75% present of your diet from protein! That’s NUTS! I have people brag to me about how smart their diet is, with 50% or more coming from protein and I want to smack their foreheads. If your electrolytes are properly balanced and you get moderate amounts of protein you will indeed be able to grow and maintain muscle.
4. Find out what nutrients you may be deficient in and work on smart whole food and supplementation choices to boost those deficiencies. For instance if your vitamin D is lower than 50 you want to get that up asap! But I have clients who take vitamin D-3 on an empty stomach and without taking K-2 with it. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin and NEEDS fat to be absorbed by the body. If your thyroid is low and you want to supplement with iodine, you need to be taking it with magnesium for absorption. So, before you start popping pills and creating expensive urine or toxic fat soluble vitamin build up; get with a holistic practitioner who understands supplements. (or contact me directly if you are interested in becoming a client)
5. Get your hormones checked. Don’t just make assumptions based on symptoms and compound that mistake by working with someone who knows just about OPTIMAL levels and not average or normal levels. Ranges are huge and are based on the population. I don’t know about you, but in the United States I don’t want to go by the typical personas “normal” range” – we are a society 60% or more obese and grossly overfed, but undernourished.