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Blog - XL Fitness

The truth about Calories in – Calories out. What you may not know about dieting and weight loss.

Most of us that have ever dieted or tried to lose weight have heard it time and time again, it’s all about calories in verses calories out. If we just eat less and move more then we are sure to lose weight. What about the person who keeps eating less and exercising more, but still struggles to lose weight? How far can you keep cutting those calories before it actually starts to make a difference? I am here to tell you that there is a lot more to it, and I’m talking about hormones.

Calories in and calories out has been the advice from just about every weight loss coach and fitness trainer every overweight person has talked to and, for the most part, they are correct. There is a delicate balance between how much energy you consume verses how much energy you expend. If you take in more energy and have some left over at the end of the day, then it gets stored as fat. If you take in less energy than you used in a day then your body will use some of those stores to make up the difference and you lose fat. It sounds easy enough, but for some people it just doesn’t seem to work. You keep eating less and exercising more but your weight stays the same or comes off at such a slow pace that it just doesn’t seem worth it to keep working that hard and depriving yourself of the foods that you love. For you, there may be much more to consider than energy in/out…you may need to see what your HORMONES are up to.

A decade ago, I was class II obese and needed to lose 30 pounds just to be obese. I though about my weight often and wanted to lose a lot of it but I didn’t know how. I tried a few things here and exercised a bit there and saw some results, but not enough to keep me motivated. Eventually, I stumbled onto a great fad-diet that finally had me losing a lot of weight and I lost it quickly. I had lost a total of 75 pounds. I felt pretty great about my current weight and was ready to maintain it. So I stopped eating the way I had been in this “miracle” diet and started eating more regularly. When I say regularly, I do not mean the way that led to my weight gain in the first place, I mean I was making sensible choices but no longer restricting my calories to the extreme level that helped me lose my weight.

What baffled me was how quickly I started gaining weight. It was startling to say the least. I gained 30 pounds back in 2 months and I was devastated. I thought that I could eat like a normal person again and just maintain like so many of my friends do. I cut my calories back down but still continued to gain slowly. I was frustrated and confused because the app that tells me how many calories to eat to maintain my weight was wrong. I had to constantly diet to maintain my weight and had to resort to very extreme dieting to lose any amount of fat. I knew something was wrong.

It wasn’t until years later when I was studying exercise science and nutrition that I discovered what I had done to my body from years of chronic dieting. My hormones were a mess, my adrenals were fatigued, and I had turned my body into the perfect fat storage machine. The good news is that I also found out how to fix it. Here is what I learned about hormones and weight loss.

What do hormones have to do with weight loss? A lot actually. Several hormones our bodies produce can affect how much fat we store and how much fat we burn. Adrenal fatigue, high cortisol levels, high insulin stimulation, and the hormones produced by your thyroid can all lead to slow weight loss and rapid weight gain. They can also influence the rate and speed of your metabolism. But what causes our hormones to become out of balance in the first place? Several things…

High Stress – when we have a lot of stress in our lives, our sympathetic nervous system can activate and release higher levels of adrenaline and cortisol into our system. These hormones are essential when we are in a situation where we need to be alert and have more energy but can be overstimulated by daily stressors from work, school, and life in general. When your body releases cortisol into your system, the cortisol tells your hypothalamus to have the pituitary glands produce less TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone). Less THS means less fat burning T3 hormones that are produced by your thyroid and more fat storing RT3 hormones. As if that isn’t enough, if our bodies overstimulate these hormones for long periods we can suffer from adrenal fatigue.

Adrenal Fatigue – When your adrenal glands are stressed from over-stimulation, they can get fatigued. Adrenal fatigue robs you of energy and makes you tired. It also can cause you to crave salty foods. Since adrenal fatigue suppresses the production of fat burning T3 and favors production of Fat storing RT3, those salty foods you are craving are quickly broken down and stored as fat. Now we find ourselves overweight, suffering from chronic fatigue, and craving salty foods. Could there be a better recipe for weight gain?

Malnutrition – When we think of malnutrition, we typically think of starving kids living in third world countries. In reality, anybody who is not getting 100% of their recommended daily vitamins and minerals is suffering from some level of malnutrition. If your nutrition is lacking in certain essential vitamins and minerals or is made up from poor quality foods, your adrenals will stimulate aldosterone to break down the muscle mass in your body to produce glucose. Your body is now working like a well-tuned fat storing machine, as the aldosterone breaks down your muscle to turn it into glucose and the RT3 from your thyroid turns that glucose into fat for storage. Hello rapid and easy weight gain.

Starvation – Are you thinking about those third world kids again? Starvation comes in many forms, like skipping breakfast and not eating until afternoon or the latest fad diet. Chronic dieting can have a huge impact on your metabolism and cause your body to store fat at every opportunity it gets. Every one of us has a certain number of calories we need to survive over a 24-hour period if you did not move a muscle. That is your Basal Metabolic Rate. Your BMR is based on your age, gender, and the size of your body. Let’s look at my BMR as an example.

I am a 46-year-old male, I’m 5’6” and weigh 183 pounds. Based on that information, my BMR is 1651 calories. Remember, that is how many calories I need in a day if I do not move a muscle. Since I am planning to get up, eat, walk around, and use the restroom, I will need more calories than that. If I exercise, I will probably need closer to 2500 calories in a day to maintain my weight. Here comes the calories in/out part. If I eat less than 2500 calories, I should lose weight. If I eat less than 1651, then the weight should come off faster right? Maybe for a while but eating less than our BMR puts our bodies into starvation mode. It doesn’t take long before we start to produce more of that nasty RT3 again and store fat every chance we get, even from healthy food choices. Plus, starvation is also a huge stressor for our bodies. Chronic dieting becomes chronic stress that leads to adrenal over-stimulation and fatigue.

Let’s wrap that all up and see the results. We are now breaking down muscle to turn it into glucose (less lean muscle mass means we need less calories each day), our RT3 converts that excess glucose into fat, we are chronically fatigued and burning less calories, and the addictive craving for salty foods from adrenal fatigue causes us to overindulge on snacks foods. We have become very efficient fat storing machines as we are now taking in more calories, requiring less calories, and storing more of those calories as fat.

There are plenty of apps out there that will tell you how many calories you should consume to maintain your weight and how much you should cut to lose weight and I highly recommend using one if you are trying to lose weight. The unfortunate truth is that they only work accurately if your hormones are behaving nicely and not telling your body to store as much fat as possible. Fortunately, there is hope. You can re-balance your hormones, reset your metabolism, ignite your fat-burning furnace and crank it up to high. And it’s easier than you think. My Weight Loss Jump Start Program includes a 28-day nutrition plan designed to reset your hormones and speed up a slow metabolism so you can lose weight. It also comes with weeks of fat burning exercises that will have you burning extra calories and fat for hours after your workout ends. Sign up today and get results.

Cardio

I will post a LOT about the benefits of cardio. I believe it is the REAL “chicken soup” for our bodies and it is the first type of exercise that I did when I started exercising for the first time. When you are obese, like I was, it’s a great place to start and easy to do without any equipment.

How much is too much or too little and where is that sweet spot you need to get that “chicken soup” effect?

Let’s start on the low end. If you aren’t getting at least 3 day per week for 30 minutes each day, you are a smoker. Sorry, but that is the brutal honesty that I promise I will always give you.

What do I mean by that? Guidelines for defining a sedentary person is anyone who is not exercising at least 3 days per week for 30 minutes each day. In 1995, the US surgeon general discovered, and pointed out, that the health risks of living a sedentary lifestyle were almost exactly the same as the risks of smoking. And I am serious when I say that the risk factors are almost identical!

What are the risk factors I am talking about?
Increased risk of:
Heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, atherosclerosis, stroke, heart attack, high overall cholesterol, reduced HDL and increased LDL cholesterol.

That is a pretty scary list! What is even scarier than that…are you a sedentary smoker? The good news is that you can reduce all of these risks by starting a cardio program right now.

How much is too much? There isn’t a whole lot of consensus on too much but you get the most benefits when you get between 30-60 minutes in a day. More than an hour isn’t necessary and, unless you are an athlete getting ready for competition, I get concerned if I learn that someone is getting cardio exercise in excess of that.

So where is that sweet spot? Right around 5-7 days of 30-60 minutes per day.

What I tell ALL of my clients about cardio is that if you are exercising less than 3 days per week (for 30 minutes), you are a smoker.

If you are getting 3 days per week of cardio exercise then your health pretty much stays the same. You are getting enough to prevent further risk but not enough to improve your health.

If you are getting 5 days per week, your health is improving, and there is nothing wrong with 7 days of cardio.

So get moving, and walking counts (try to make it a brisk walk).
If you are looking for something more exciting than walking, try going for a hike, biking, or swimming. If the weather isn’t great for outdoor activities, or you just don’t like exercising outside, join your neighborhood gym and use the plethora of cardio equipment.

It’s only 30 minutes a day, you still have 23 1/2 hours for everything else.

Surviving the holidays

It is that time of year again! Time for being thankful, time to be with our families, time for presents and yes…time for an abundance of feasts and treats. The holidays are here and although this is a time of happiness and joy for so many of us, it can also be a time that tests our willpower on a level like no other time of year. I lost that battle year after year causing me to have serious issues with my self esteem and confidence. Looking back, this was one of the main reasons I became obese. I would typically gain about 10 pounds every year around the holidays. Seriously, how many years in a row can you gain 10 pounds before you are 80-100 pounds overweight??? About 8-10 seems right. So what can we do about it?

I have a plan and I will share it with you. First I want to tell you a little story about me, my history with holiday weight gain, and what I did to nip it in the bud.

It would all start for me in the first week of October, right about this time of year. I would tell myself that I was being proactive by buying a bag of candy for the trick-or-treaters early before the stores sold out of the “good stuff”. Of course, I would sample a little bit here and there, but how can you resist those little fun size morsels? They are just little pieces anyway and don’t have that many calories so no real harm, right? After eating the entire bag in the first week, I would go get another and promise myself not to eat it all…this is for the kids. The third week I would buy another bag because I did eat the second one, but I didn’t buy my favorite candies so it will go better this time. Halloween morning, I would buy the bag for the kids since I had eaten every piece of candy I had brought home so far. As if I had not already indulged enough, the day after Halloween I would take a 10% candy tax on my son’s haul to teach him about life and taxes. You know, life lessons (sarcastic font). That was an easy 2-3 pounds to gain, and I did it every year.

I would start November feeling a little defeated from my recent weight gain. Thank goodness there is just one feast day this month. I can do this. But as the month moved along, I would remember that there was also the extended family Thanksgiving on the Wednesday before, the annual soup party that I absolutely must attend, and a few friends who invite me over for mini feasts. All said and done, I easily gained another 2-3 pounds.

After gaining as much as 6 pounds in 2 months, I had given up on trying to do well for the holidays at this point and would just go for it all December. That may not sound too daunting for some, but I have a huge family and a lot of celebrations. I would have 2 parties at my place, Christmas dinner at home, Christmas breakfast at my Dad’s, Christmas Eve with my extended family, Christmas with my wife’s immediate family, Christmas with my wife’s extended family, and…how many Christmas parties is that??? Add a few friend gatherings throughout the month and it was easy to gain at least another 5 pounds. But that’s okay, I have the New Year to get back on track and start a new diet. I will lose all my winter weight then.

I averaged about 10 pounds each year. Each January 1st I resolved to make healthier choices, start exercising, and lose those 10 pounds. Except I had no clue how to actually lose weight so, like many of my New Year’s resolutions, my motivation was short lived. Some years I managed to lose a pound or two, but I never once lost all the weight I gained over the holidays. A decade passed and I found myself trying to recognize the class II obese person looking back at me in the mirror.

In 2012, with a lot of hard work and determination, I finally broke the cycle and lost 75 pounds. But that first October after I lost my weight, I didn’t want to take that same road and slowly gain it all back over the next decade. So I came up with a plan, several of them actually. Before every event, feast, and celebration, I would come up with a plan for that event. I didn’t just go to a party and hope that I wouldn’t over-indulge, I had a plan for each party.

I also knew myself well enough to know that I was not perfect and would fail at times and gain a pound or two even with my carefully laid out plans. So my biggest plan was to lose a few pounds before the holidays, that way the few pounds I would gain over the season wasn’t such a big deal. That plan has been working for me the last several years and it can work for you too.

To help you implement your own plan for surviving the holidays, I am giving you a FREE copy of my Holiday Survival Guide
With a solid plan in place, you will greatly improve your chances maintaining and not gaining this year.

Set a goal to Maintain and not Gain this year. If you want to lose the weight before the holidays, like me, join my Weight Loss Jump Start plan today and lose 10 or more pounds in 4 weeks.

To your health,
Jake

Diabetes…and what to do about it.

Type 2 Diabetes, what used to be referred to as Adult Onset Diabetes is now affecting a growing number of kids and teens. 100 million Americans have it and 1.5 million more will develop it in the next year. So what’s the big deal, everyone gets it eventually right? Not really, and you can prevent or delay it too.

Aside from having to worry about controlling your blood sugar, other side effects of type 2 diabetes are: [1]
Heart disease
Stroke
Blindness
Peripheral Nephropathy (numbness often felt in hands and feet)
Damage to arteries and blood vessels
Kidney disease caused by damage to blood vessels
Thyroid issues
Higher risk of infection
Sexual dysfunction
Nerve damage
Dry skin
Tooth and gum disease
Some cancers 

Type 2 diabetes is what I like to call “the real silent killer”. I know, that is how we refer to strokes in the US, but diabetes is right up there…you know because it can cause strokes, and heart attacks, and maybe you’ll go blind and lose a leg. But there is hope in preventing it. In fact, 9 out of 10 cases can be prevented by making a few lifestyle changes. [2]

Studies have shown that weight loss can have a huge impact on type 2 diabetes. Losing between 7-10% of your body weight can cut your chances of developing type 2 diabetes in half. For a 300 pound person, that is between 21-30 pounds. Being overweight increases your chances by 7 times and being obese makes you 20-40 times more likely of developing diabetes. [2] Even if you already have type 2 diabetes, participating in a healthy diet and exercise routine can help manage healthy blood glucose levels.

Exercise is another great way to help prevent type 2 diabetes. Exercise helps facilitate moving glucose out of your blood and into your cells. That means less insulin is needed and less stress is placed on your endocrine system to make insulin. So get up and get moving! 30 minutes of cardio a day is all it takes to improve your health and reduce your risk of diabetes. Did I mention that a brisk walk counts as good cardio?

Don’t wait until you are diagnosed with pre-diabetes, get started on a healthier you right now. Consult your doctor about starting an exercise routine, and find a weight loss program that works for you. 21 pounds could make all the difference!

Not sure where to start? Try our Weight Loss Jump Start program. It’s low cost, effective and our average client loses 18 pounds in the first 4 weeks!

[1] https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/diabetes-long-term-effects
[2] https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/disease-prevention/diabetes-prevention/preventing-diabetes-full-story/