Thursday, October 27, 2016

Gym-Mythbusters Episode III:

The Skinny on Weight Loss

Perhaps the most popular area of focus in the fitness industry is weight loss, although there has been a slight shift in recent years. Regardless, "losing weight" will always have its place in the fitness realm, with no shortage of diets, workouts, and supplements to aid the quest (some of which are quite useful). So, what the heck? Why so many conflicting and changing opinions? And what exactly is weight loss?

The first question that should be asked should be "Is my goal actually sheer weight loss?" Thanks to the BMI system (a chart that gives a desired weight range based off your height, taking no account for muscle mass), many people equate lighter with healthier. This is not the case. I have seen a 300 lb. power lifter/ arm wrestler knock out 8 strict pull ups. Warren Sapp, an American football player, weighed 300 lb. / 136 kg and ran 40 yards in 4.69 seconds. That's really fast. There were multiple running backs in this year's combine from big schools who didn't run as fast, even though an important part of being a running back is, well, the ability to run. Many people gain weight as their waste shrinks. Who is sheer weight loss important for? Weight class athletes, like a wrestler for example, who need to weigh a certain amount to compete in their sport. They will often use techniques like water reduction to get there. Or someone who needs to lose actual lbs for health reasons (Although improving body composition by developing muscle mass will most likely be a part of this goal).

For most however, the goal is actually a combination of fat loss and muscle development. There is a large difference between losing 10 lb. of fat and lean tissue and losing, say 7 lb. of fat while building 3 lb. of muscle. The latter is much more in line with the goal of "looking good." So, if your goal is to "be healthier", or "look good", making weight training a part of your program is key. Building more muscle mass will increase your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate, or essentially the amount of energy your body expends at rest). The higher your BMR, the more calories your body burns throughout the day. When you burn more calories than you take in, for most cases, you will lose weight) This busts the first myth that people interested in losing weight shouldn't strength train, or that strength training will make them fat.

Second myth: the perfect diet. All the best diet plans have several things in common. First, they put you in a caloric deficit (less calories in than out). Secondly, they focus on healthy, non processed foods, and try to make sure your bodies needs are met while staying in a caloric deficit. This is important, because lacking healthy fats, for example can be hard on your joints. However, no two people are alike, which is why a blanket approach is less than optimal. The best diet plan will primarily be a sustainable lifestyle, not something where you lose 20 lb quickly just to gain it all back in 4 months. Secondly, it will be designed around your goals and body's nutritional needs. If you want to gain weight, it will be designed to do so in a healthy fashion. Lastly, it's probably going to follow advice your mom gave you when you were a kid, like "Eat lots of vegetables", "Choose the baked chicken over the fried", and "Don't eat that candy." Sometimes just keeping things simple is the right answer.

Third myth: "It doesn't matter what I eat as long as it fits my macros" (amount of protein, carbohydrate, and fat prescribed to lose weight). There is a lot wrong with this mentality. There is vast difference between how your body processes and uses 30 grams of protein from a lean steak cut and 30 grams of protein from a McDonald's burger, or 30 grams of carbohydrates from blueberries versus 30 grams of carbohydrates from a candy bar. Or in another example, a high glycemic carb (like sugar) versus a low glycemic carb (like Oatmeal). The higher a carbohydrate is on the glycemic index, the faster your body processes it. Any energy not used immediately by the body is stored. The longer it takes your body to process a food, the more efficient it can be with the energy from the food and the less is stored. For most people, the goal is not just weight loss, but a healthier, stronger, body. Whether your goals are aesthetic, health, or performance related, the quality of what you eat can enhance or hinder your progress.

There are more myths on the nutrition side of the house, but I feel these three main ones should be addressed. Regardless of your goals or current progress towards your goals, there are some fundamental principles that will help you.

Good progress for sheer weight loss is 1-2 lb. a week. However, the lower your body fat %, the longer it can take, and there does come a point where losing too much weight is simply not healthy. If your goal is weight loss, I recommend using a smartphone app if you have one, such as Myfitness Pal or Loseit. They use some basic equations to put you in a healthy caloric deficit. If you follow the plan you will lose weight.

Emphasize lots of vegetables, healthy high protein sources, healthy fat sources, and low glycemic carbs with some fruit when designing your meals. In spite of recent opinion, cardio does aid in weight loss, and can be a valuable tool. If you are a strength athlete or concerned about losing muscle mass, try emphasizing sprints or strongman training.

Incorporate a sensible weight training routine that trains every muscle group and meets your current needs. Increasing your muscle mass will increase your body's ability to burn calories, lower body fat, and help with aesthetic goals.

Get adequate sleep. Adequate sleep will help keep cortisol levels low, as well as allow your body to repair and recover.

Be consistent. Don't worry about what other people think. Focus on doing the right things for you.



"Carbohydrates and Blood Sugar": The Nutrition Source. N.p., 2016. Web. 11 Oct. 2016.

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