The Science Of Fat Loss Part One
Calories And Metabolism
Become A Fat Burning Machine!
When I first started going to the gym, I became obsessed with counting calories.
I tracked everything I ate and spent hours in the gym doing cardiovascular exercises to burn it off. I wouldn’t get off the treadmill till I reached 800 calories and then I’d move to the bike, rower and finally the elliptical. On average I would burn about 1400 calories every session.
For some crazy reason I thought I needed to burn every calorie I ate in order to lose weight. This of course, did not actually work. I only ended up very tired, very hungry and extremely cranky ALL THE TIME. Not only that but I actually gained weight, because at the end of each week I would crash and binge like crazy.
I was so obsessed with losing weight that I forgot why we actually needed to eat. I had a very morphed perception of calories.
It took me awhile to realise calories are not this evil entity that magazines were making me believe. Yes it’s true, if you want to lose weight you need to be in a calorie deficit. But there is a lot more to the story that you need to be aware of.
The only thing your body actually cares about is SURVIVAL and it will do anything to keep you alive.
So let’s break down my awful training regime.
In order to complete a cardiovascular exercise, your body needs calories to be able to handle the endurance. It doesn’t have as much need for strength so if you don’t have the calories in your body (from food) it’s going to take them from your muscles.
In order to prepare for this type of exercise your body will aim to be more EFFICIENT with calories. This means your muscle mass will reduce and your metabolism will slow down so you don’t burn as much.
Due to our sedentary lives and our access to highly palatable/ high calorie food, having a slow metabolism is really not ideal.
In your bodies mind, it’s doing the most amazing thing for you and deserves to be WORSHIPPED. In your mind, you haven’t lost the fat so instead of worshipping the system that keeps you alive, you loathe it.
No matter how strong you think your willpower is, you’re natural survival instinct will always kick in and override it.
If your body wants calories, you don’t really have a choice in the matter. So why not avoid the agony and just give your body what it needs?
Calories - The Ins And The Outs
You can skip this part if you find the science stuff boring and only want fun storytime. I’M KIDDING - all my words are important.
The calories you consume from food and drink are combined with oxygen to create energy.
About 10% of the calories from carbohydrates and protein are used for digesting, absorbing, transporting and storing the food you eat.
Other calories are used for breathing, circulating blood, growing and repairing cells, adjusting hormone levels… to name a few.
All of this is known as your resting metabolic rate, which is the amount of calories you need just to stay alive.
If you want to know what your RMR is, get out your calculator:
For men: 9.99 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) - 4.92 x age (years) + 5 = RMR
For women: 9.99 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 4.92 x age (years) –161 = RMR
And then you have your NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis). This accounts for any kind of movement, (even fidgeting, like tapping your foot while sitting at the desk burns calories, neat huh?).
NEAT can account for 100-800 calories a day.
(Can you imagine the amount of stress I was putting my body under when I tried to burn off everything I ate?)
It’s funny how obsessed we are with burning calories, yet naturally, without any effort our body is already a calorie-burning machine.
Unfortunately though, because of how cosy modern life is – you know sitting all day and having unlimited access to food - our bodies are getting more calories than they need.
So in the spirit of keeping you alive, your body stores these processed calories, condensed into lipids, in your cells just in case you might need them at a later date. Cute huh?
It’s actually a really beautiful process when you think about it. It’s a pity our society doesn’t see this as an incredibly sensitive and reactive storage system that ensures our survival, but instead negatively portrays fat as greed, bad health or abnormality.
As Sara Pascoe likes to joke,
“Fat is a magnificent organ with the worst PR team in history”.