The Key Element For Fat Loss

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What truly causes fat loss? There are literally 1,000s of different methods to lose weight and many of them have proven to be successful (at least in the short-term). Your best friend is losing weight following a ketogenic diet, your boss is crushing it on paleo, you read an article in Reader’s Digest about something called, The Mediterranean Diet, what gives? How can so many vastly different methods all produce results?

What ALL Fat Loss Protocols Have In Common

 

Before we go any further, I want to clarify why I chose to use the term “fat loss” instead of “weight loss”.

Weight loss, is just that, the loss of weight. This weight could be in the form of: fat, water, muscle, etc. Fat loss, is specifically the loss of fat (which is what I speculate most readers are interested in). The goal for most people when they begin a diet or set out to adopt new health-promoting habits, is not to lose muscle or a bunch of water, it is to lose actual fat mass and that is who this article is written for.

It’s Simple, And It’s True

 

Those who have been in the dieting scene for a while have likely heard or read statements like, “Move more, eat less” or “Calories in vs. Calories out”. As simplistic as these statements are, they are true. The key element for fat loss is creating a negative energy balance within your body. Energy balance is:

 

Energy (Calories) In vs. Energy (Calories) Out

 

If you want to lose body fat, you need to take in less energy than you are expending. This is the crux of all successful fat loss programs.*

*There is one small caveat to this statement which we will address a bit later.

The Human Body: One System

 

What I am about to describe is a vastly oversimplified version of something much more complex, however, this description is all you really need to know to understand the above law in action.

Your body is one system that is made up of energy. At any given time, your body contains a certain amount of total energy. When you eat, you add energy to this amount. When you exercise, your heart beats, you breathe, etc., you remove energy.

Over time, if you take in less energy than you expend you will lower the amount of stored energy within your body.

One System, Different Parts

 

Where things get tricky, is determining which part of the system (your body) is contributing the energy to be “burned” during your fat loss journey. Energy is stored in various parts of your body, this includes: muscle tissue, organ tissue, adipose tissue (fat), etc. The goal of any good fat loss program, is to try to derive as much of the energy that is being “burned” as possible, from fat. This is where physical activity, resistance training, and different dietary approaches come into play.

The small caveat I mentioned earlier relates to this concept of energy contribution. Without getting into the details, because energy is stored in different parts, certain parts can shrink (fat cells) while other parts increase (muscle tissue). This is why you can lose fat without losing weight itself (because you are breaking down stored body fat while simultaneously increasing your amount of muscle tissue). In certain scenarios, with the right exercise program, it is possible (although not nearly as likely) to lose fat without being in an energy deficit.

Conclusion

 

The goal for this article was not to discuss minute details, it was to look at the core reason behind why so many different dietary strategies work for fat loss. This phenomenon can be summarized as: the dietary approach, in some way, causes the person to take in less energy (calories) than they are expending. Whether it’s low-carb, low-fat, paleo, carb cycling, the Maple Syrup Diet, etc., if the person is losing fat, it is because they are following this fundamental principle in some way (the one caveat being if they fall under the category of someone who is building a significant amount of new muscle tissue).

If you are in the process of trying to decide which approach is best for you, start by asking yourself the question, “What is my outcome for these dietary changes?”. If your outcome is sustainable weight loss, choose an approach which is sustainable for you and ensure you are in an energy (calorie) deficit.

It’s ultimately up to you to decide which approach is best for you, however personal experience and helping countless others achieve their fat loss goals has shown me that most times choosing a moderate approach that supports your long-term health works best.

 

 

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Fiber & Weight Loss

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During your fat loss journey there will be times you are hungry, this is inevitable. Therefore, developing strategies to minimize the length of time and the number of times you feel this way is critical. Not only is this critical for maintaining your sanity, a productive work day, healthy relationships, and your overall well-being, but reducing the amount of time you spend hungry also increases the likelihood you will be successful in achieving your fat loss goals.  

So, how do you do this? How do you keep yourself feeling satisfied between meals while also not eating too many low-calorie voluminous foods that you create other, almost equally uncomfortable, negative physical side effects (bloating, constipation, etc.)? This, is the topic of today’s article...

Not All Fiber Is Created Equal

 

A commonly held belief is that all fiber is the same, “fiber is fiber”, and it all functions the same way once it enters the body. Not only is this not true, but different types of fiber have entirely opposite effects.

There are two types of fiber: soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. It’s the balancing of these two types which allows us to stay satiated between meals, while also keeping our digestive system functioning smoothly. A brief explanation of each fiber type and where to find it will help guide you on how to strategically use fiber as a tool to aid you in your fat loss success.

Soluble Fiber

 

Soluble fiber (as the name suggests), is soluble in water. When soluble fiber is combined with water, it forms a thick jellylike substance that slows down the digestion and absorption of food by delaying the rate at which the stomach empties into the small intestine. This, in theory, keeps you feeling satisfied longer after finishing a meal. Because soluble fiber slows down the absorption of nutrients in general, this includes slowing down the rate at which carbohydrates enter the bloodstream. This can lead to better controlled blood sugar levels, help prevent against “crashing”, and eliminate the subsequent feelings of tiredness and elevated hunger.

Soluble fiber can also serve as a prebiotic. Prebiotics, are components of nondigestible fibers that act as food for the healthy bacteria in your digestive system to help nourish and support their growth.

A common myth, is that fiber does not contain calories and can therefore be eaten in unlimited amounts without affecting one’s caloric balance. Although soluble fiber does not directly contribute calories to the human body, the microorganisms in our gut ferment certain types of fiber into short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) which are then absorbed into our bloodstream and subsequently contribute energy (calories) to our daily total. Depending on the type of soluble fiber, it can contribute between 1 to 3 calories per gram* via these SCFAs.

*A normal gram of carbohydrate provides 4 calories.

 

Sources: Barley, oats, oat bran, legumes (dried beans, peas, lentils), nuts, psyllium, flaxseed meal, and fruit (apples, oranges, bananas, etc.).*

*Many whole foods contain a blend of both soluble and insoluble fiber.

 

Now that we’ve looked at a few of the basic functions of soluble fiber, it’s easy to see how overconsuming it could cause problems. Because soluble fiber slows down the digestive system, consuming excessive amounts can cause someone to feel bloated, constipated, and gassy. Overconsumption can also interfere with the body’s ability to absorb various vitamins and minerals, and contributes additional calories to your daily intake.

Insoluble Fiber

 

Insoluble fiber, is not soluble in water. Because of this, it does not form a jellylike substance but instead works to speed up the digestive system having a natural laxative effect. It works like a broom, helping to “sweep out” your digestive system by pushing everything through. Unlike soluble fiber, insoluble fiber is not fermented by the microorganisms in your colon and therefore does not contribute calories to your daily total.

 

Sources: Whole grains (brown rice, whole wheat, etc.), wheat bran, corn bran, seeds, nuts, fruit skins, and most vegetables.*

*Many fruits, vegetables, and whole grains contain both soluble and insoluble fiber.

The Balance

 

As we can see, both types of fiber are beneficial for not only weight loss, but also our overall health. We can see how consuming too much of one without enough of the other could cause problems. Inadequate soluble fiber can lead to elevated hunger, which consuming too much can lead to constipation. Inadequate insoluble fiber can lead to constipation, while excess consumption can lead to diarrhea. Along with the ill effects that come from consuming an imbalanced ratio, ingesting too much total fiber (regardless of the type or ratio) can also lead to negative physical side effects.

 

So how do we do it? How do we find a proper balance between the two types and ensure we are consuming enough total fiber without consuming too much?

 

The best place to start to determine how much fiber you should consume, is to look at your current fiber intake. How much fiber are you currently consuming? Are you staying satiated between meals or are you getting hungry again very quickly? Are you experiencing any of the negative symptoms we mentioned earlier?

If you are experiencing issues, look at which fiber type causes that negative effect when consumed in too little or too high of an amount, then adjust accordingly by trying to incorporate more of the lacking fiber type, decreasing the overconsumed type, or increasing/decreasing your total fiber intake.

 

As a rough guideline, the American Dietetic Association’s position statement on fiber intake is: 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories consumed, or 25 grams/day for women and 38 grams/day for men.

 

Appropriate fiber consumption will vary from person to person, but this gives you a great place to start. If you are currently under consuming fiber and feel you should increase your intake, do so slowly. Adding too much fiber too quickly can cause unwanted side effects. For example, you wouldn’t want to go from consuming 10 grams of fiber per day straight to consuming 30 grams/day. Instead, increase your fiber intake slowly (5 to 7 grams at a time), giving your body time to acclimate and seeing how it responds.

One of the easiest ways to ensure you consume a proper ratio of soluble to insoluble fiber, is to consume a majority of your dietary fiber through whole food sources. The issues which arise from consuming unbalanced ratios are often the result of consuming too many fiber-containing dietary supplements (meal replacement shakes, protein bars, diet ice cream, etc.). This is because most of the dietary supplements that contain fiber use isolated sources of soluble fiber in their products with very little, if any, insoluble fiber. The incorporation of some fiber-containing dietary supplements is okay, however if you are experiencing gastrointestinal discomfort and you eat a lot of fiber containing supplements, you may want to experiment with decreasing your intake to see if this helps.

 

 

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