I spend a lot of my free time reviewing research articles about fat loss on the Internet. I always make a point of jotting down the key notes/takeaways from each one. If they are exceptional, I share them with my social network.
Of the many questions that I am asked, the majority concern fat loss. Many of us are obsessed with being lean. We have been programmed to believe that having excess adipose tissue on our bodies is detrimental to our health and well being. And with good reason.
Being obese or even marginally overweight, dramatically increases your chances of developing just about every common cause of early mortality that exists, such as heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes. If you have aspirations of inhabiting this planet for an extended period of time, it’s in your best interest to start getting lean. Some of us have an easier time staying lean, while others must be more diligent with their diet and exercise to stay in the healthy range. That is a given, but it is not an excuse. With the right behaviours, there is no reason we can’t all get leaner.
People run for a number of reasons. They love to challenge themselves and compete with others. Running is great for anxiety and stress relief, but if your sole purpose for running is to achieve fat loss and improve body composition, the research suggests otherwise.
The majority of your training should be anaerobic (strength training/interval training), as opposed to aerobic (traditional lengthy and low-level) in nature. Attempting to alter your physique goes beyond simple calories in versus calories out. The key is to elevate your resting metabolic rate (via anaerobic work) to promote better post-workout fat burning and muscle building. Strength training, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), and anaerobic-based circuit training are much better options than long-distance running or plodding away on a treadmill for an hour. After 40 minutes of long steady-state aerobic training, your body will start to use a greater percentage of protein stores (your muscle) to fuel your activity which is counter to what you are trying to accomplish.
A more controversial issue is fat consumption: How much fat should you be eating and where should it come from? The following is the latest thinking.
Since we began reducing our intake of animal fat and cholesterol, numerous diseases have increased dramatically: metabolic syndrome (heart attack, stroke and high blood pressure), type 2 diabetes, obesity. Study after study has conclusively shown that the culprit of heart disease is neither saturated fat nor dietary cholesterol. Low-fat recommendations were based on a small group of studies that have been proven wrong over and over again. More recent studies1 have found there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk. If we look to our friends across the pond, Europeans who are consuming the most saturated fats have the lowest risk of heart disease.
The obesity epidemic started in the mid 1970’s and it was followed by the diabetes epidemic in the early 1990’s. These diseases have increased even more as animal fats have been replaced with vegetable oils and trans fats. When saturated fat began getting a bad rap in relation to heart disease, high-fat dairy products such as butter were considered evil. It turns out that saturated fat is not damaging and trans fat is more dangerous. These diseases have increased even more as animal fats have been replaced with vegetable oils and trans fats. In a large study2 that was conducted with women who ate a high-fat and low-carbohydrate diet, the subjects actually lost twice as much weight as compared to those who ate a restricted low-fat diet. Additionally, all major risk factors for heart disease and diabetes declined exponentially.
While I realize that these recommendations are counterintuitive to everything we have been raised to believe, they are legit. The studies that I have referenced have been replicated over and over again and the people who follow these recommendations see dramatic changes for the better in both their internal markers and their outward appearances. The two generally go hand in hand.
1 – Siri-Tarino, PW. et al., “Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease.” American Society for Nutrition
2 – Brehm BJ. et al., “A Randomized Trial Comparing a Very Low Carbohydrate Diet and a Calorie-Restricted Low Fat Diet on Body Weight and Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Women