Monthly Archives: April 2011

Cravings

Today I’m going to address the issue of dealing with cravings and/or hunger pains when you’re attempting to lose weight and get in shape.

First, I would like to distinguish between cravings and hunger:

  • A craving, or appetite, is the desire for a specific type of food, most often related to conscious thought or the environment rather than to the needs of the body. For example, “I could really go for a California Burrito” or “Ice cream sounds good right now” are cravings.
  • Hunger is more general and occurs when your body urges you to replenish its fuel supply (it doesn’t matter if you’re already carrying more reserves than you’d like). Anything will satisfy hunger, from fresh fruit to fruit pie, even stale bread.

When you’re in a sufficient calorie deficit to lose weight, invariably one of these two symptoms will come up, most often hunger.

So how do you deal with it when it does?
You either feed it or you make progress. It’s as simple as that. I hate to sound like a downer, but that’s science; you can’t eat your cake and get abs too.

I’m not saying you won’t get in shape if you continue to eat; this is far from the truth. What is true is that you will experience hunger almost every day that you’re losing fat. And you should actually spend more of your hours in this state than in the food-satisfied, or worse yet, food-coma state. Cravings won’t be as big of a deal because wanting food in general is a stronger drive than fantasizing about a specific type of meal.

Even if you are a very active person or you do a lot of cardio, you will still get the appetite when your fuel supply drops low enough. And it’s getting through these moments that is the key to fat loss. It’s essentially the workout, and you get guaranteed results. You’re either in, or you’re out.

I don’t know of very many people (even genetically gifted) who stay in razor sharp condition; who also don’t take their diet very seriously. The irony is that if you work hard enough at it, people will assume you’re genetically gifted.

I’ve come to accept this and now I actually seek huger, knowing that it is part of the lean lifestyle.

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The Dose Makes The Poison

My Human Physiology professor in college had a saying: “The dose makes the poison”.

What this means is that something like a medicine, for example, may have a beneficial dose, but too much can be counterproductive at best and fatal at worst.

The same is true for a lot of other beneficial factors.

For example, sun exposure is a necessary element for health, but too much sun may cause skin damage and accelerate aging.

Likewise, exercise has obvious benefits but overdoing it can lead to nervous exhaustion and injuries.

And, most importantly, food is a source of essential proteins, sugars, fats, vitamins, minerals, water, fiber and enzymes, but too much food leads to indigestion, excess weight and all of the obesity-related diseases.

How much body fat is enough?

From reading my blog posts, you would think that all fat is bad; on the contrary, some adipose tissue is necessary for the production of hormones, for padding, insulation, and obviously as a backup fuel source. So how much is enough from a health standpoint?

You don’t need to have this measured. Stand in front of a full-body mirror naked and once you get past the “eek! aah!” stage, having just enough fat to round out the musculature is plenty. Any more than that represents a love for food, not a health requirement.

“Bulking” vs. “Toning”

Weight training is an integral part of any shaping program and the biggest misconception that will never die regarding women and lifting weights is that heavy training makes women “bulky”.

Those familiar with me know that I hate the word “toned” so I’m abolishing that word from the rest of this post; I  prefer the word lean and coincidentally this is what a lot of women want.

This is a picture of the first ever Ms. Olympia (1980), Rachel McLish–the only Ms. Olympia in history to never use steroids. She was featured in Pumping Iron II: The Women and from clips I can tell she trained like an animal. Yet, she doesn’t meet the standards of what women today would consider “bulky”.

The first Ms. Olympia, Rachel McLish

A more recent photo of Rachel, still in phenomenal shape

The next shot is of the current and reigning Ms. Olympia, Iris Kyle. I’m not making a statement about what looks better as I am a huge fan of Iris Kyle’s physique (and I’ve seen her up close–she is freaky and statuesque); but from the pic, you can clearly tell the difference in physique compared to 30 years ago.

Six-time Ms. Olympia, Iris Kyle

My point is that both of these women trained (and dieted) hard–the difference is in the drugs that were available then vs. now.

As a woman, if you think doing so much as picking up anything heavier than a 5 pound dumbbell will blow you up into a man, you are mistaken. Even the hardest training girls will have a hard time becoming muscular; and limiting your progress for fear of doing so will keep you closer to the “skinny-fat” end of the spectrum.

A bigger concern should be to optimize body composition. In other words, don’t worry about the weights making you big; it’s the calories that will have more power to do so!

And that’s a another issue entirely . . .

Keeping It Real

I’ve been around the world of bodybuilding/fitness for so long that I no longer want to be involved in the “sport”, at least in the hardcore sense.

The use of hormones is par for the course and it’s not an option for me. Testosterone alone is so potent that a person using it without training would gain muscle mass faster and to a greater degree than the most dedicated and consistent trainee on the best program without steroids.

This is not a judgment against the current state of physical culture. I still enjoy the spectator sport and I gain a lot of inspiration from it; it just comes with the territory–along with breast implants (female), artificial tanning, diuretics, and anything else to get a leg up.

The illegal aspect of bodybuilding drugs is only one aspect of their use. I think other legal practices are far more harmful (second-hand smoke, alcoholism) but that’s another discussion.

In fact, chemical enhancement is so commonplace in these circles that a truly natural bodybuilder wouldn’t look right on stage or in a magazine next to the hardcore bodies. I’m genetically slender as it is, but I believe that most lean, muscular bodies would tend towards wiry if it weren’t for the discovery of steroids.

To determine your true natural potential, use the following equation:

Height in centimeters – 100 = Maximum kg of lean body mass

Additionally, most supplements are a joke. I don’t think they’re completely useless, as they can certainly aid your training and nutrition; but what they’re marketed for and the fact that they’re advertised using models who are on black market drugs is beyond misleading.

Just to retract my seeming negativity; I still love modern physical culture. I’m only calling it like it is.

Diet is Everything

A common expression of getting in shape is, “Nutrition is 70% of your results”.

What does it mean to get in shape? This can mean a number of things, from performance to general health; but in the context of aesthetics, getting in shape mainly involves two things:

1) Building or maintaining muscle mass

2) Losing fat mass

I’ll focus on losing fat mass.

Diet is everything when it comes to losing fat.

Here’s why:

  • The major calorie-burning “furnace” of your body are your internal organs (brain, heart, liver, kidneys, lungs). This is an automatic process as long as you are alive.
  • Skeletal muscles (the muscles that move your bones) are much less metabolically active (about 5 times less per unit of mass). Even adding pounds of dry muscle to your frame is not an easy feat.
  • The difference is when your muscles are active (as they are when you are exercising or moving). However, there is still a practical limit unless you’re an Olympic athlete and assuming your body doesn’t break down from overstress or injury.

It’s a numbers game

  • I’m 5’11–my body would require about 1750 calories a day just to stay alive.
  • If I add in exercise/activity, I can probably increase this amount by 750. To illustrate, that’s 75 minutes at a moderate pace on an upper/lower body elliptical (10 calories per minute).
  • So that’s 2500 calories over a 24-hour period, or just a little over 100 calories per hour. This is my Energy Expenditure.
  • There are about 3500 calories stored in one pound of fat.
  • Fat cells are dynamic–at any moment, they’re either storing or releasing energy (until they’re completely depleted, at which point you are technically starving).

So what’s the best way to shrink my fat cells?

  • Remember, your body burns most of its calories just by staying alive.
  • Exercise contributes an additional amount, but not much.
  • It’s super easy to consume calories. For example, a “medium” bag of Pretzel M&M’s contains approximately 14oo calories. For someone my size, that would blunt fat-burning for 14 hours (100 calories/hour) or would require 140 minutes of cardio activity (10 calories/min.) just to break even.

Diet is everything. Effort, big or small, is always rewarded. Sometimes, the resistance to not take that bite far outweighs the time you would lose if you did or the amount of exercise you would have to do to compensate.

12 Day Transformation

I did a personal mini-experiment during March. After succumbing to the winter bulge, I wanted to do some spring cleaning on myself to see how fast I could transform.

In 12 days, I lost 8 pounds and decreased my waist measurement by 2 inches. I did this simply with diet, exercise, and mental techniques. (Simple, but not easy)

I was happy to have remove the holiday “baggage” in a short time period. 🙂