Sunday, March 16, 2008

Your Smart But Dysfunctional Metabolism

Q. Could you tell me why weight loss slows down on a low-carb, low-fat woe, or even a plan like Atkins? I thought a person could lose at least 1 lb. a day on a low carb woe like Stillman's?

A. When first starting out on a low-carb woe, weight loss is extremely fast, as you said. Many people can see an average of 1 lb. a day gone with the wind - and that's exciting and motivating. But, as they say (and as we all learn through life), "All good things must come to an end."

For those new to the low-carb lifestyle, that means weight loss will slow down. The reason? Your metabolism is different at the starting point than it is after weeks of low carbing. Within a month's time, any new "way of eating" plan actually changes the way the metabolism works.

This fact is very important to remember: Since metabolism acclimates itself to new eating styles and new exercise, and since its main job is to preserve our very lives ( by using body fat, water, and glucose for our bodies' needs), low carb weight loss (like any "woe" - low carb or not!) eventually slows down or come to a grinding halt.

Btw, that first aggravating event is popularly known as the "third" week stall.

In all cases, the real question is: How much of that weight loss is fat or water, and how much is lean muscle? I've frequently heard "Oh, it was just water weight, anyway." And then people give up the low carb woe.

Between you and me, I don't care if the first 10 or 15 lbs. was "just" water in the first few weeks (or less) - that is still a lot of water hanging on the body that shouldn't have been there!

Of course, we're thrilled to lose extra fat - but lean muscle is another story. Losing some lean muscle is inevitable while losing fat, but losing too much muscle is very, very unhealthy - in fact, it's downright dangerous! Please don't ever forget that the heart is a muscle!

That's why cycling the low-carb plans is incredibly healthy and helpful for so many (including me). In many case, however, cycling from low-fat, low-carb (like Stillman's) or unlimited green veggies carbs/controlled proteins/low fat (Rapid Fat Loss) or higher carbs (South Beach) will show a gain on the scale. That's because the metabolism is once more acclimating and the thyroid is petering out. Why? The thyroid needs fat to do its job. With all three of those "low carb" woes just mentioned, there's very little fat to help the thyroid properly function. In the case of Rapid Fat Loss or South Beach, or any low-fat, low carb woe, the low-fat consumption cannot stop those extra carbs in their tracks. So the metabolism adjusts, learns to use what you give it, and slows down.

That's another reason why "fat is where it's at!" Our health requires it.

(As an aside, it's a crying shame that lovely, good foods like butter, half-n-half, cream, extra virgin coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, etc. even bear the "fat" label...yet that's only because we've all been culturally inculculated with the silly idea that fat is bad for us. Wrong-o!)

When it comes to the menu, the secret behind that slow gain problem is the amount of carbs in combination with proteins. It's not the fats so much as the amount of proteins and carbs. The reason is that proteins can and will convert to glucose - and therein lies the real problem.

What is our personal daily amount of protein consumption? It's a matter of experimentation, but we must eat enough proteins to maintain or rebuild body organs. (The first Protein Power book provides an intricate formula that is much more personalized and accurate, while Protein Power Life Plan includes a general chart for daily minimum protein requirements according to gender, height, current weight, and activity level.)

Eating too little protein is a very serious detriment to health - remember, we don't want our bodies to consume our own muscle! On the other hand, eating fats and proteins can really push down the number on the scale, but it means eating real meals; it doesn't mean little but frequent indulgences like eating chocolate-coconut bark to up the fat grams. Instead, cook proteins in good oils (extra virgin coconut oil, extra virgin or virgin olive oil, butter, ghee) - and there are the fats and proteins.

If some low-carb veggies are desired, just add just 2 tbsp. of full-fat, low-carb dressing to small salads, or drizzle a bit of butter or olive oil over steamed low-carb veggies - and did you know that we need good fats to make the vitamins from our veggies accessible to our bodies? That's why I recommend full-fat, low carb salad dressings over low-fat but higher carb salad dressings.

Adding any amount of carbs can and probably will change the fat-protein metabolic formula. So here's another tip: Keep daily fat grams almost equal or actually equal to protein grams, while keeping daily carbs at 30 total grams or less. (Please Note: Grams are not the same as you'll discover when you use Fitday or The Daily Plate.)

However, those numbers will inevitably change, too. How fast is a matter of individuality and factors like exercise or no exercise, medication or not, mineral balance, etc.

That's not a reason to get disheartened! Nor is it a reason to drop just means getting smarter at cycling!

In fact, what I call our smart-but-dysfunctional (SBD) metabolisms are the reason why the Lindora (Lean for Life) program features its own unique cycling plan. (They don't call it cycling, but that's what it is.) The SBD metabolism is also the reason why Rapid Fat Loss and Stillman's both advise switching to completely different eating plan after two weeks on their special "Quick Weight Loss" programs.

The conclusion? In most cases - after the first month on any LC woe - learning how to cycle fats, proteins and carbs keeps the metabolism on its toes.

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