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So I'm about 2 1/2 - 3 weeks in and I've lost 3 pounds which is exactly what my goal is. One pound per week loss ensures I am losing the least amount of muscle possible, if any at all.
An amazing thing is happening actually. I am not losing any strength at all. In fact, I am making new personal records in the gym. But the change in my body is the biggest thing I'm noticing. My muscle bellies are staying full and hard because on my workout days I eat 200g of carbs and on rest days I eat 140g. So I am not deprived of the wonderful energy giving foods, yet I am dropping body fat. And guess what? This week I have dropped cardio completely and I'm still losing weight!
All in all I am loving IF and what it is doing to my physique. I never feel deprived. Some days I actually struggle to get in all my calories which is a nice change from running out of allocated calories by 5pm and still being hungry like I was when eating 7 small meals per day.
I will update you again as the weeks go on.
So yesterday was the end of the first week of Intermittent Fasting and I have lost a total of 1.8lbs. Do not assume that all that weight is from fat. It absolutely isn't. Most of it will be water. My goal is to lose no more than 1.5lbs a week. Any more and I run the risk of losing muscle. Muscle preservation is my top priority.
What I have found this past week...
1. I am not obsessed with thoughts of food like I was when trying to get 6 meals in a day.
2. Some days I actually struggle to reach my calorie goal because I'm just not hungry.
3. I am more satiated from eating larger meals and they are keeping me fuller for longer.
4. I don't appear to be losing any strength thus far.
Some arguments that come up when talking about IF are...
1. But breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
A. Do you know where the word 'breakfast' comes from? It means to 'break' the 'fast'. It doesn't matter what time you eat it. Secondly, I can argue that the 'post-workout' meal is actually the most important meal of the day.
2. Breakfast kick starts your metabolism so it runs faster all day.
A. Your metabolism doesn't actually work like that. 70% of your resting metabolic rate is determined by your lean body mass, not your food. 10% is from the thermic effect of food which happens when you eat food. Again, it doesn't matter if you eat at 7am or 12pm, the thermic effect happens whenever you eat. The rest is determined by exercise. There have been numerous studies done on metabolic rate and none of them show that frequency of food 'speeds' it up. Even low calorie diets do NOT have an affect on resting metabolic rate.
3. You are running the risk of going into starvation mode if you skip a meal.
A. 'Starvation mode' only occurs after several weeks of not eating anything, not a matter of hours. There was a study done that showed you can go 72 hours in a fasted state without ANY affect on your metabolic rate at all.
4. Your body is going to break down muscle when you are in a fasted state.
A. When fasted, insulin levels drop and glucagon levels rise. Insulin is the 'storage' hormone and glucagon is the 'break down' hormone. So first off, you certainly won't be storing any fat in a fasted state which is a big plus. Secondly, when you weight train your body is looking to conserve muscle glycogen because your muscles are being used and there is a need to preserve it. Fat is not being used so the body will break down your fat for fuel, not your muscles that you are using.
So on a personal level, lets talk about why I am loving IF. I like to eat big meals because they satisfy me and I like to eat in the afternoon and at night. So first off, IF fits my lifestyle right off the bat. When I eat 6 or more meals a day, they are small meals so are not very satisfying and I'm hungry within an hour. So by the time 5pm rolls around I'm running out of allowable calories. At the end of the day, it comes down to CALORIES IN, CALORIES OUT. It's that simple. It really is. You can eat chicken, rice and broccoli all day every day but if you are eating over your maintenance level calories then you are going to store the excess calories. I don't care who you are or what 'broscience' you have read, ALL studies show that if you eat too much you will gain weight (muscle and fat as long as you are weight training. Just fat if you are not) and if you eat below maintenance you will lose weight. PERIOD.
So for me to lose body fat, I need to eat in a deficit, and by shortening that feeding window I find that it is much easier to stay below my maintenance level calories. Sometimes I even find it hard to fit all the calories in because I'm just too full from eating bigger meals.
Now some people even say that eating larger meals gives a greater thermic effect of food thus speeding up your metabolism and that may be true in that short period of breaking down your food, but as I mentioned above it will have no affect on your resting metabolic rate. If you want to 'speed' up your metabolism, then go and lift some weights and increase your lean body mass. Muscle is far more active than fat (some will argue that fat is not active at all) so the more more muscle you have, the more energy your body needs, and where does your body get energy from first and foremost? Food.
So to sum up my first week of IF, I am really loving it! I fast for 14-16 hours and eat for the rest. I eat my first meal between 10am and 12pm then stop eating between 8pm and 9pm. I'm doing steady state cardio only 3 days per week and I'm lifting 5 days per week. I do like high intensity interval training and I may exchange one of my steady state days for a HIIT session if I feel like it. I don't want to do too much cardio at first because I want some ammo left for when I start to plateau and when I enter competition season. I eat 30% below maintenance calories on rest days and cardio only days, and I eat 15% below maintenance calories on weight training days. I am guestimating my maintenance calories so it's going to be trial and error for a few weeks. I'm eating 1.25 - 1.5g of protein per pound of body weight and I'm eating no less than .5g of fat per pound of body weight. I am eating between 160 - 200g of carbs per day, depending on whether it's a rest day or weight training day. Carbs keep my muscles full and hard so I can lift heavy whilst eating in a deficit so there is no way I want to drop those too low. Plus, I enjoy eating them so why on earth would I want to give them up?
Fat loss takes time and I am in no hurry as I want to stay healthy, preserve muscle, and still have plenty of energy.
I will write a much shorter update next week for you ;-)
If you have any questions, please email me, comment on this blog, or ask me through my media channels.
Thanks for reading!
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You've heard me talk about how too much cardio can 'eat' away at your muscle, but do you actually know how and why this happens? Read on...
There are two big reasons muscle break-down can happen in relation to cardio. There are three heart rate zones that your body goes through when you exercise. Zone 1 is up to around 65% of your max heart rate. Zone 2 is around 65-85% of your max heart rate and Zone 3 is above 85% of your max heart rate. These zones help us determine where the body is getting it's fuel from. For instance, when exercising at 65% or less of your max heart rate, the body is getting it's 'energy' primarily from the break down of adipose tissue (stored fat). Let us not forget however, that even though the percentage of calories coming from stored fat is higher when doing low intensity exercise, the total number of calories burned from fat is greater with higher intensity exercise.
Zone 2 exercise, or 65-85% of your max heart rate, is when you can no longer talk comfortably and is moderately hard. The body's primary fuel source in this zone is carbohydrates which comes in the form of blood glucose and as stored glycogen in the muscles and liver. During prolonged exercise at this intensity, amino acids are then converted into glucose and used for energy. This is what you do not want because amino acids (protein) exist in your muscle fibers and you do not want them broken down.
Zone 3, above 85% of your max heart rate, primarily uses the Phosphagen system. The Phosphagen system is where the energy released from breaking down Creatine phosphate, found within muscle cells, is used to produce ATP (energy). It is extremely limited and can only sustain small bouts of all-out exertion but can regenerate during rest periods (high intensity interval training, 30 seconds all-out, 1 minute rest). This is one of the many reasons why high intensity interval training is favored because the primary fuel source is not amino acids which is basically your hard earned muscle being broken down. However, do HIIT for too long and your Phosphagen system can no longer keep up with the demand and you enter the same risks as Zone 2 training.
Now let's talk about the second reason I, and many other athletes, prefer short duration high intensity exercise over steady-state, zone 2 training. There are many hormonal responses to exercise but the main one of focus I want to touch on is the release of Cortisol. Cortisol, or 'The Stress Hormone', is released when the body is under too much stress either from too much exercise or inadequate regeneration. Prolonged levels of cortisol in the blood (like after an endurance event) has been linked to abdominal obesity, excessive protein breakdown, tissue wasting, and weakening of the immune system. It is a highly catabolic hormone, meaning 'muscle breakdown', which is why we want to stay clear of anything that is going to cause excessive secretion of it.
To put it simply, we want to build muscle to lose fat because muscle burns more calories than fat and the more muscle we have the better our body composition and health is. We want to stay away from things that are going to break down our hard earned muscle because that can lead to a decrease in metabolism and a sure way to gain fat back.
So that is why you hear me talk about high intensity interval training and why I stay away from long, steady-state cardio, and why I don't overdo it.
When lifting weights, don't forget about the 'negative' phase of the movement. This is where you have contracted your muscle to lift a certain weight and are now returning that weight back to the starting point, or 'lengthening' the muscle. Most people will contract and then return the weight far too quickly and then contract again. You are missing out on vital muscle building potential.
You know that sore feeling the day after a workout? This is mainly due to the 'eccentric' phase of the exercises you did. When you put force on stretched or lengthened muscles, you are damaging and stressing the fibers of that muscle. This leads to a higher resting metabolic rate following the workout due to recovery and repair of those muscle fibers.
The energy cost of eccentric training is very low while the magnitude of the force produced is unusually high. Therefore, muscles respond to eccentric training with meaningful changes in strength, size and power (Lindstedt, LaStayo, and Reich, 2001).
So next time you're at the gym, don't just drop your weights and focus on the lifting phase only. Try contracting for one count and then lower for three counts. For example, during a bicep curl, count to one as you curl the dumbbell up, and then count to three as you lower the dumbbell back down to your sides or hips. For a barbell squat, count to three as you lower your body towards the ground, then count to one as you pop and squeeze back to standing.
Welcome Lean Kiwis or Lean Kiwis to-be! I'm your trainer, Gemma, and I'll be sharing with you some of my favourite recipes, training tips, nutrition facts and fill you in on what I've been up to.