THE FAT LOSS SECRET THAT HAS BEEN SITTING AT YOUR FEET
SOUNDS NEAT. (Part Two)
In the first episode of this oft untold story we were introduced to Eliza Do-Little and her alter ego Sasha Fierce. If you haven’t already received the spirit of those blessed texts then I suggest you go forth and make peace with your conscience. I introduced you to NEAT and the large umbrella that it covers, with that comes a large amount of potential energy to be spared or spent. We will have calculated our Basal Metabolic Rate and we also know what 10k steps a day might mean to us. Things are about to get practical in this installment. Here is a brief outline of what you are in for:
Fast and Slow Metabolisms explained with 6 KitKat Chunkies
STRIPE. Do whatever the f**k you wanna do and enjoy it.
I Go to the Gym 4 Times a Week and I can’t Lose Weight – I’m Broken!
Fast and Slow Metabolisms Explained
Remember Eliza Do-Little? Well, I’m going to factor her already tortured soul into another hypothetical situation, and of course her alter ego Sasha Fierce. The idea of fast and slow metabolisms perplexes people the world over. “Why was I born with a slow metabolism?” “I just have to look at a piece of chocolate and I gain weight”. There are two things going on here and they both directly relate to energy balance and “Joe Wicks Theory of Relativity”.
The first thing is that if you eat all whole natural foods and it leads you to consume more calories than your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE), over time you will gain weight. Where this pertains to “Joe Wicks Theory of Relativity” is that the principle of energy balance applies to everybody except those engulfed into Joe Wicks parallel universe. In this universe, not only do you get to eat more calories than your TDEE but you also get to bring your TDEE down and still lose weight. “Eat more, Move less” was the title for future Nobel Prize Winner Joe Wicks’ quintessential work on the topic.
Let’s get real. If Eliza Do-little wants to lose weight and is unknowingly non-adherent to a calorie deficit (doesn’t realise she is not eating in a calorie deficit), maybe even eating ‘healthy’ foods, anything less than 2’200 calories and she will not lose weight, unless she moved a lot more. She would be at energy balance at 2200 kcals. (BMR + TEE + NEAT = 2200 Kcals Total Daily Energy Expenditure) We figured out all those details in part one.
Active Eliza or as I will now call her Sasha Fierce for ease of contrast, was in a calorie deficit of 1’100 per day the last time we met her and would stand to lose 2.2 pounds per week. That was due only to her cycling to and from her active job. She has 1100 calories to play with and still not gain any weight. On top of her 1600 she needs to be a sloth. 1’100 calories look like 6 KitKat Chunkies. She could eat 6 KitKat Chunkies every day on top of what she needs to be a slug. Or she could be tired of eating chocolate and just have one Lean in 15 Meal.
(Credit to Apex Fitness Systems for the image; check him out!)
There is a genetic element to this. Some people when overfed by 1000 kcals every day will not store as much fat as others. They increase their NEAT without thinking about it.
Enough about mathematics and thermodynamics for now. Let’s talk about how to be more active and find the best ways to be NEAT.
This is about behaviour. Some of us, indeed most of us, don’t have active jobs and most of us don’t have the means right now to move into a more active job just because we want to lose a few pounds off our thighs. Wouldn’t it be fine if we woke with the sun rise and herded our sheep through mountains and valleys, only to do it all again tomorrow? Never mind being paid handsomely enough to retire comfortably. These are things beyond our control but there are plenty of things in our control that can make our pursuit of weight loss and weight maintenance all the more manageable.
2 BIG POINTS before I get into it. Our generation in the developed world play the most sport, do the most planned exercise and have the most access to healthful food (as well as junk food of course). If you are middle class to upper class you probably have a job with low occupational physical activity, in an office or a shop or even working from home. A 2016 study in Germany showed that total physical activity increased with lower socioeconomic status but the proportion of people engaging in sport declined.
“After mutual adjustment of the three single socioeconomic dimensions, physical activity was independently associated with lower education and lower occupational status. Regular sports engagement was observed to be independently associated with higher education, higher occupational status, as well as higher income after mutual adjustment.”
Second thing. Every study ever done that put someone in a calorie deficit over time has resulted in weight loss. We know that diets work. What we hear about all the time is how diets don’t work. Diets that don’t work are the ones with no focus on weight maintenance. The body of research shows that weight loss endeavors that include diet and exercise are more successful for the period in which the studies last. In the time after, where exercise classes are provided and monitored, about 50% of people just don’t go for any meaningful length of time. This is a problem with adherence, not with the diet and exercise per se. What we know about adherence is that if someone doesn’t want to do it, then they won’t.
What is key here is to distinguish again between exercise and physical activity or NEAT. Exercise is defined as ‘bodily exertion for the sake of developing and maintaining physical fitness’. Developing and maintaining physical fitness sounds like a pain in the ass. I certainly wouldn’t want to do it if that’s what it entailed. For the ones that do, they certainly keep the weight off, but there are fewer of them who do it by exercise alone. Here’s the good news, the people who display the least weight regain are also characterized by higher general physical activity and higher step count.
HELLO! THAT’S WHAT I’VE BEEN TRYING TO TELL YOU!
SO… Let’s Get Jiggy With It!
STRIPE. Do whatever the f**k you wanna do and enjoy it
Dr. James Levine is the source for the following section and actually for the very basis of this article I recommend listening to him speak on Sigma Nutrition Radio with Danny Lennon. Or you can watch a quick video here.
S – select, start sustain – If you value being more active based on what you have read thus far, then you know why you might want to be more active. What activity would you like to do? Has anyone ever told you that you can do whatever you want to do? Well, research has emerged to say that having a choice in what exercise you do impacts on your likelihood of overeating. Regardless of feelings of hunger or fullness, those who had limited choice in their exercise regimen ate nearly double the calories in their subsequent meal. They also tended to consume more ‘unhealthy’ foods. Seems like a classic example of deprivation leading to self-sabotage.
More reason to do what you want to do. If it gets you out of the armchair it’s a good option. Better yet, if it is an activity that you haven’t done in a while and you can see yourself doing it all the time because its enjoyable, then do it.
T – Target Goals – If you have a step counter then set realistic goals week on week. Set a baseline that you shouldn’t go below and try beat personal bests. You could try a new activity every week or each month to keep things fresh. In a month you can learn all the salsa you will ever need in order to upstage your cousins at a wedding.
R – Rewards – Be kind to yourself. That’s the most hippy thing you will read in one of my articles I hope, but in the context its true. If you are feeling good about being more active why not tell people about it? It feels good to talk positively about ourselves for once and people like to hear about it if it is genuinely good, which it is. I’m not sure whether intrinsic reward or extrinsic reward is more applicable here but I like to think about reward in this context as stopping to think about your actions in a positive light. You could just by something shiny though, that’s probably better than some hippy shit.
I – Identify Barriers – All’s well and good when nothing is in your way but this is real life and sometimes it rains and we can’t walk the dog. If you know that your goal is to be more active, and you can visualize the goal but realize that sometimes things will get in your way, it is worth having more options in the back pocket. Plan B? The shopping center to reward yourself? Window shopping perhaps? In a larger sense though, if you feel your job is the big factor holding you back because you sit at a desk for 8 hours, go and stretch your legs every 30 mins or so, we know that these things add up, don’t underestimate the value of the little things.
P – Plan – have a Plan B like I mentioned above. Have your week laid out best as you can, that’s not to say you can’t be spontaneous, by all means go kite surfing if the mood strikes you. But having routine is necessary. If your day is broken up by certain jobs that need to be done then do some activity before and/or after each job, it might refresh you and prepare you mentally. If it is meal times that form the construct of your day, do some activity before and/or after each meal, a quick walk while the oven timer is on perhaps. Make the routine and stick to it.
E – Evaluate – People don’t write things down anymore. I know firsthand that in my gym I am one of the few with a notepad and pen logging my workouts. I know for months back how much work I have done and how much I have improved. The same goes for this, if you are quite inactive then it is worth keeping a note of the positive things you do to try improve. Track some things, maybe take progress pictures. Maybe take pictures of all the places you have been on your NEAT travels.
That’s it. That’s my version of the STRIPE guide to doing whatever the f**k you want to do to lose fat and be healthier. Being more NEAT can be mundane, maybe it’s just stretching the legs in the office or circling the block a few times but if you know why you are doing it then it need not be mundane at all. Variety is the spice of life, NEAT can take many forms and lead to a more enriched lifestyle.
I Go to the Gym 4 Times a Week and I Can’t Lose Weight – I’m Broken!
So where does formal exercise come in to this? You probably do some type of exercise if you are reading this article. Exercise is planned activity with the aim to bring about a positive adaptation to one or more components of fitness. Adaptation is the key word here, whatever exercise you do should have the aim to improve on any of the following; strength, skill, flexibility, balance, cardiovascular efficiency, muscular endurance or improved body composition.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends weekly: “Out here in the fields, I fight for my meals”
150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity
75 minutes of vigorous activity
or a combination of the two, to be performed in bouts of at least 10 minutes. For added benefit, adults should aim to increase this to 300 minutes per week of moderate intensity or 150 minutes of vigorous intensity, this is due to us adapting and improving over time in the systems that we just spoke about.
Muscle strengthening activities should be done 2 times a week also, incorporating the main muscle groups.
Let’s get number crunching again:
If a 75kg adult did 75 minutes of HIIT class every week split into two days, that’s about 40 minutes a class in real life. 75kg x 8.0 (METS) x 0.625 (hours) = 375 kcals.
2 times a week = 750 kcals per week.
Add in 2 muscle strengthening workouts for 30 minutes each :
75kg x 5.0 (METS) (explosive effort squats) x 0.5 hours = 188 kcals.
That’s on top of what you would burn if you didn’t go at all. 2 times a week = 375 kcals
Over a week and 4 sessions in the gym this person has burned an extra 1’125 kcals.
Granted, if you have just started out that is almost a half a pound of fat loss in a week from exercise alone. You will be fitter, you will feel better and you deserve to, but getting fitter does not mean you burn more calories, in fact the fitter you get, the less calories you burn, due to being fitter. This part is important to absorb. Unless you do more and more work exponentially per session you will not be creating any meaningful dent in the energy balance equation. That would mean working out to the brink of collapsing at some point in the near future, That is not what exercise is about.
So no, Brian Keane if you are reading this, “finishers” will not lead to any meaningful change in body composition. The more intense the exercise the more time and resources you will need in order to recover. So going balls to the wall is a shortsighted plan if you want to see long term progress.
The point of this article is not to move you away from planned and structured exercise, far from it, exercise is inherently important to us and if you can get involved in something that brings the best out of you and you enjoy it then it is one of the best things you will ever do with your life.
Rather, this article, (if you have made it this far I am very grateful) is pointing you towards looking at the other 165.75 hours in a week outside of exercise. If 10k steps a day leads to 450 Kcals burned for Eliza Do-Little at the very least, and she has no problem doing that, then what’s to stop her doing another 2k steps? The grass probably needs to be cut and she could probably do with some eggs and milk from the shop up the road afterwards, so walk.
These small steps add up to significant change.
Train for the adaptation and all the benefits that come with it, train for sport. Live an active life always.
Thanks for reading, really.