I recently issued a 10 day health plan to a client who has reached a plateau with his weight loss progress. He has seen improvements in his training intensity, strength and endurance, but fat loss has hit a block after an initial 14lb loss. It includes extra exercise, and regular portions of varied, wholesome ingredients.
The human body is a very clever piece of kit which has evolved to adapt and change according to the environment it encounters. From deciding to put on warm clothing in cold weather, to the body sweating under hot conditions, the body is constantly adapting towards optimum function.
This is the same when it comes to low calorie diets. In simple terms, under low calorie diet conditions, we will expect to lose bodyweight. However, when you do the math and realise that 1 pound of bodyfat contains 3000 calories, then realise that the (sedentary) human body burns about 1500 calories per day, and then that the body prefers to derive approximately 80% of daily calories from carbohydrates and glycogen, you can calculate approximately, that the body burns (20% of 1500 =) 300 calories per day, from fat. Under these conditions the body would take 10 days to burn 1lb of fat, purely because the muscles and brain prefer glycogen, and fat is chemically less accessible to burn as fuel.
The first thing to go when you start a low calorie diet, is muscle glycogen. These 'water-heavy' molecules are stored in the liver and muscles, and are used during normal metabolic process and physical exertion. The huge weight loss after a week eating rye-crispbread and cucumber is muscle glycogen. This happens to weigh heavy, so when we look at the scales on day 7, and see we've lost 7lb - Whoopie do - we can go on holiday and feast!
As I was saying, the body is clever. It has been evolving to survive for much longer than pancakes have been around.
After only 3 or 4 days of "fasting" or eating very little, the body balance system has already started a process of metabolic deceleration. As far as the body is concerned the environment has changed, and there is no food around. If it continues to burn calories at a terrific rate, the body will soon starve and problems will occur.
So the body adjusts by doing two things. The metabolism and general energy level is reduced - while this is happening we intuitively rest more and do less activity - and the fat storage system is alerted to retain more of what we eat, STRAIGHT ONTO OUR FAT STORES.
In the case of the pre-holiday, pre-wedding crash diet, the 8lb weight loss (mainly heavy glycogen) brings with it a low metabolism and a hyperdrive fat storage system. We then go on holiday, eat and drink for a week or more, and the body holds onto every molecule.
The resulting flimsy, thin muscles, low energy and an increasing layer of body fat, often where we least desire it, occurs every time we attempt a crash diet.
Fat loss takes time. 3000 calories per 1lb of fat. If you have 10lb of fat to lose, that's 30,000 calories. Burning only 300 cals fat a day under normal conditions, that's 100 days.
In short, low calorie dieting does not go the whole nine yards. It is an unhealthy way to live, and will sooner or later result in fat GAIN.
Tune in for the next instalment soon, or, if you're in and around Preston, Lancashire, book a consultation with Personal Trainer Paul and start your own journey to tone, optimum health, fitness and reduced FAT.