Are you having trouble losing body fat? You aren’t alone – one of the top reasons people schedule evaluations with me is because they just can’t seem to lose weight, no matter how hard they try. It’s the age-old story: body fat seems to accumulate over the years and it gets harder and harder to lose that weight.
Body fat is a health concern. Excess fat around your midriff increases your risk for heart disease, diabetes, stroke and even cancer. But as a health-conscious person, you probably already know the reasons you need to lose that body fat, and you would do it in a heartbeat if you could. The problem is that the fat just won’t go away, no matter what you do.
Patients walk through our doors every day of the week, baffled because they are doing everything “right” or that they are working harder than ever before to lose the pounds but they just can’t shake the weight. They are sweating it out in the gym, meeting with a trainer four or more days a week, and nearly starving themselves on the newest diet crazes.
What they are forgetting, though, is that our bodies change as we get older. Unfortunately, some of these changes make it harder to keep body fat off and lean muscle mass on. Different periods of our lives require different approaches to our health.
So how do we help our patients lose weight and maintain lean muscle mass? We introduce them to four fat loss strategies that really work. The first two may seem familiar at first glance, but the details may be different from the ones you are accustomed to seeing. The second two strategies are commonly overlooked.
Diet & Exercise: The Two Obvious Solutions (That People Often Do Wrong)
It’s probably not surprising to you that diet and exercise are major factors in how much fat you put on or take off. You might be surprised to find out that you have been looking at diet and exercise all wrong.
When it comes to a weight loss diet, people often focus on calories and design their lives around burning more calories than they take in. And that’s where they go wrong.
It’s not really about restricting calories. Fat burning is all about controlling your insulin levels. Insulin is a hormone that allows cells to absorb sugar from the bloodstream. The cells then use that sugar for energy. Insulin also tells the body to store any excess energy you’ve consumed in food as fat.
When you eat food, your pancreas secretes insulin. When you eat certain foods, especially carbohydrates, your pancreas secretes a lot of insulin. The problem is that the typical Western diet is a high-carbohydrate, high-sugar diet that renders the body incapable of burning fat. Here’s why: the body digests carbohydrates (sugars) first, proteins next and fat last. Leftover energy is stored as fat, somewhat like a “reserve tank.”
Your pancreas produces enough insulin to help cells absorb as much energy as they need from your meal, and to store leftover energy as fat. High insulin indicates that our bodies are storing fat.
Everyone’s body is different when it comes to controlling insulin levels, but one rule of thumb works well across the board – stick with a low-refined-carbohydrate diet. This means staying away from breads, pastas and sweets, of course, but it also means cutting down on fruit juices, many sauces and other foods. Most of my patients report the best fat-loss results when they get their daily carbohydrate intake down to 50-60 grams per day.
Exercise is the other obvious solution people often do wrong. When it comes to working out, most people simply think that more is better. When they get on the treadmill, they might say, “Instead of doing 30 minutes, I’ll do 45!” Or they decide to do seven days at the gym instead of four.
All that extra time won’t amount to any fat loss if you are not doing the right kind of exercise – anaerobic exercise. It’s the type of exercise that leaves you breathless.
Your body uses the oxygen you breathe to get energy from the food you eat. When your body cannot get enough oxygen to use food as energy, it turns to an alternate source of energy – the fat you store earlier.
Anaerobic exercise is a short-lasting, high-intensity workout in which the body’s demand for oxygen exceeds its available oxygen supply. This causes the body to rely on energy stored in the muscles.
There are several types of anaerobic exercises, including sprinting and jumping. Weightlifting, especially weightlifting that focuses on compound movements that use large groups of muscles, is an anaerobic exercise that helps melt away those fat reserves. Also helpful is any cardiovascular exercise that brings your heart rate above your anaerobic threshold, which is the unique heart rate at which your body starts to burn fat instead of carbohydrates.
Sleep & Hormone Optimization: Two Overlooked Solutions
You know what’s great for burning fat? A good night’s sleep!
Many of us consider sleep to be an interruption to our lives, instead of an essential part of it. We consistently overlook and undervalue sleep, and it’s beginning to show on our waistlines.
In a 2010 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers looked at the relationship between the number of hours a person sleeps and the amount of fat he or she loses on a calorie-reduced diet. Participants in both groups lost weight, but those who slept 8.5 hours a night burned 55 percent more body fat than did participants who slept only 5.5 hours nightly.
Sleep also helps control cortisol, also known as the stress hormone. Cortisol is the “fight or flight” hormone that readies the body for fighting or fleeing by increasing blood sugar and insulin. Rises in cortisol ultimately lead to fat storage; sleep helps bring cortisol levels down.
Because of this, my number one recommendation to all my patients trying to lose weight – specifically body fat – is to sleep more.
Finally, let’s look at hormone optimization. Several hormones are involved in the storage and burning of body fat. Testosterone, HGH, estrogen, DHEA and thyroid burn body fat, while insulin and cortisol store fat. As we age, the fat-burning hormones tend to fall while the fat-storing hormones tend to rise. As the result, we tend to have an easier time gaining fat and a harder time burning the fat we gain.
The good news is that you can keep your hormones at healthy levels through diet, exercise, lifestyle management and, most importantly, with hormone replacement. Many physicians, trainers and nutritionists do not have the knowledge or information about the relationship between hormones and body fat.
Chances are, if you in your 30s or older, you’re experiencing some degree of hormonal decline. For more information and an evaluation, see a physician who specializes in Age Management & Hormone Optimization. Call The Body Well today at (323) 874-9355 and schedule a hormonal evaluation.
Free Quiz: Are You At Risk For Hormone Decline?
Want to find out if you’re at risk for hormone decline? First, take our scientifically based hormone decline risk assessment – completely free (takes no more than 5 minutes).
After completing it, you will find out your risk level for hormone decline and, most importantly, how to proceed with beating your symptoms. Click here to take the male version, and click here to take the female version.
Then, if you’re interested in learning more about our comprehensive Age Management & Hormone Optimization program, contact us through this form to schedule your free consultation, or call us at 323-874-9355.