Is there anything more exciting than the rapid weight loss that characterizes the first weeks of a planned beach-body transformation? The pounds just melt off in January and February as we put new summer clothes in our online shopping carts and research tropical destinations. These pounds are the easy ones, of course, and part of us knows that. They're water weight and the excess fat most recently gained since last summer or over the holidays.
But our bodies, caught by surprise by this new period of presumed famine, surrenders them easily enough, and we are happy to imagine that this time will be different. Surely the fat loss will continue until we reach our goal, right? Unfortunately, our bodies have other plans in store for us. Once our bodies sense that the current state of caloric deprivation isn't temporary, it starts to shut down. Your metabolism, heart rate and blood pressure slow down. Your body begins to sacrifice calorically expensive muscle and preserve easily maintained body fat. Your mood suffers and you may actually begin to feel cold. You have less energy because, frankly, your body isn't going to expend energy it doesn't have.
We all expect this to happen and, to some extent, prepare for it. What we did not know until fairly recently is how long this state of affairs persists, even after our diets end. In a study recently published in the scientific journal Obesity, researchers investigated the long-term effects of weight loss upon fourteen participants in the network weight-loss reality show "The Biggest Loser."
Subjects began their regimens weighing an average of 328 pounds and ended the 30-week program at an average of 200 pounds. Their average body fat percentage started at 49% and declined to 28%. Six years later, researchers found that the subjects' average weight had rebounded to 290 pounds and their body fat percentage had returned to 45%. This unfortunate result is typical of what we call "yo-yo dieting."
The biggest surprise is what didn't return to normal. Participants in the program began with resting metabolisms that burned 2,607 calories per day and ended the program burning 2,000 calories per day at rest. This is the diet-response metabolism reset. Six years later, the program participants' metabolisms had slowed even further, falling to a burn rate of 1,900 calories per day. In effect, the Biggest Loser dieters had permanently reset their metabolisms.
Now this study reflects a small sample size and it isn't clear whether weight loss on a much smaller scale than that experienced by the Biggest Loser participants will result in such dramatic and long-term reductions in resting metabolism over such a long period. But what is clear is that successful and lasting weight loss requires a lot more than a temporary reduction in calories. You have to adapt your weight-loss strategies to conform to new physiological realities as they emerge. In short, this means adopting new methods of supporting energy levels, maintaining muscle mass, and nudging your body out of fat-conserving stasis.
Is this a challenge? Yes it is. But it is not impossible. Let's take a look at four ways to accomplish these tasks.
Support Metabolism and Workout Performance with a Quality Fat Burner/Energy Catalyst
So here you are, eight or sixteen or twenty-four weeks into your ambitious fat-loss physique transformation and you are . . . very tired. You've lost some weight and not all of it has been fat. You've lost some muscle as well, which is the beginning of the slippery slope toward decreased metabolism. Your energy levels are crashing, especially right before your late-afternoon/early evening workout. Your focus and intensity is off, and this is manifesting itself in less than stellar workouts. Fortunately, advanced science has your back.
An advanced thermogenic formula like BioQuest’s BetaStax Elite is just what you need to keep your transformation on track. BetaStax Elite contains energy-support catalysts that will ensure that you hit your performance benchmarks during your workout. At the same time, BetaStax Elite contains PureWay-Slim®, a patented proprietary blend of ingredients that delivers clinically validated and significant reductions in body weight, waist and hip circumferences in as little as two weeks. Indeed, in a clinical trial performed at the University of Miami, PureWay-Slim achieved more weight-loss in two weeks than other leading weight-loss compounds achieved in eight weeks. BetaStax Elite provides ideal support for your weight-loss program, while also supporting energy levels during a caloric deficit. That's a long-term recipe for fat-loss success.
Go All In On Quality Nutrition
One of the biggest obstacles people encounter when they're trying to lose excess fat is that they do not have a realistic concept of what constitutes portion size. Never mind restaurant food, where a single typical entree would meet the caloric requirements of a dieting family of four. Just the portions people dole out for themselves at home are far too large. Would you like some toast or cereal for breakfast? A breakfast-sized portion of whole grains is one slice of bread or half a cup of Cheerios. Would you like some soup? A standard-issue 19-oz can of Progresso soup contains 2 1/2 servings (and too much sodium anyway). How about some chicken? A 5-oz serving is the size of your palm. No, not your whole hand, just your palm. You get the idea.
And here's the thing. Cutting back on portion size is just half the challenge. The other half is getting all the healthy nutrition required to power the bodily processes -- digestion, energy production, fat mobilization, muscle maintenance -- you're counting on to power the positive physique changes you're trying to achieve. Put simply, every empty calorie you consume during your calorie-restricted day is a lost opportunity. Saturated fats and added sugars account for about 800 calories in the typical American's daily meal regimen. That's roughly half of your recommended reduced-calorie total for the day!
Here's where it pays to really scrutinize your eating habits. And yes, we mean writing it down. Nutritionists have long advised this practice, and it just makes sense. Generally speaking, you're less likely to cheat on portion sizes if you have to write the cheat down. And you're certainly less likely to grab a bag of Cheetos at the Quickie Food, if you have to write that down too.
Just as importantly, writing down your meal intake gives you a chance to root out empty food sources like processed carbs (sugar and white flour), dairy products (especially butter and cheese) and fried foods. Sugar, in particular, has a way of showing up in places where you wouldn't expect it. It appears in virtually every form of processed food (in one of 56 different forms from cane sugar to fructose to rice syrup to "fruit concentrate"). Manufacturers add it to low-fat yogurt, whole-grain bread, oatmeal, even hamburger meat. Sometimes it's to make things taste better and sometimes it's just to add bulk. Either way, it's bad for you. If you're not already keeping a journal of what you eat every day, start doing so now. Successful dieting doesn't just mean eating less, it means eating better.
Support Muscle Maintenance and Recovery with Creatine and BCAAs
Every pound of muscle in your body burns about 50 calories per day at rest. So it makes sense to maintain as much of it as possible, right? Unfortunately, muscle mass is the first thing thing to go when your body shifts into survival mode. Your body will only retain muscle tissue if it is convinced it needs that tissue to survive. Since you're probably not fleeing a bear, that muscle-retention stimulus is coming from bouts of high-intensity, high-volume resistance training. We've already addressed energy production above, but now it's time to move on to strength and post-workout muscle repair and recovery.
Let's start with strength. Strength is the key to maintaining and increasing workout performance and output. Strength also correlates directly with energy production which, if you're restricting calories, is already subject to diminishment. To support strength, you need to turn to supplemental means of augmentation. Far and away the most investigated and validated supplemental means of supporting strength gains is creatine monohydrate. And yet, many people seeking fat loss shy away from creatine because they associate it with water retention and weight gain. This is a mistake. Creatine plays a role in helping to synthesize adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in muscle tissue, a compound that releases energy used for muscle contractions. This in turn boosts strength and overall athletic performance, which drives increases in muscle mass. The more muscle you have, the more fat you burn.
On the other side of the muscle mass equation is recovery. High-intensity resistance exercise literally destroys muscle tissue. When we destroy muscle tissue during exercise, we do so with the intention of building it back, bigger and better. But we can't do that if our bodies are under-fueled (as during caloric-restrictive dieting). Fortunately, there are calorically efficient ways to fuel the protein synthesis that is the foundation for muscle recovery and repair.
Branched-chain aminos (the essential aminos leucine, isoleucine and valine) facilitate protein synthesis in muscle tissue. Restoration and growth of muscle tissue, in turn, results in increased metabolism, and will also encourage the release of insulin when taken before your workout, which is a factor in fat mobilization for energy. Best of all, you can supplement with BCAAs without adding much to your daily caloric intake. A single serving of a high-quality whey isolate formula like ProSource's Original NytroWhey contains 24 grams of protein with high amounts of BCAAs at just 150 calories, with negligible amounts of fat, sugar and lactose. Or you can supplement with a straight-up BCAA supplement pre- or intra-workout. Again, every ounce of muscle you can retain will help keep your metabolism revving along.
Vary Your Exercise Regimen
If you're adhering to the same training regimen day after day and week after week, you're most likely bored with it and your body is too. Your body will acclimate pretty swiftly to a stagnant routine, which will make strength and muscle mass increases difficult to achieve. So what to do? If you're hitting the same circuit of machines and free weights every time you hit the gym, sign up for a group exercise class. Or try high intensity interval training as a substitute for long-interval, static distance running. Swimming, basketball, and yoga are all worthy alternatives as well. The key is to challenge yourself, both physically and mentally.
In any case, make sure you exercise for at least thirty minutes per day and consider wearing a heart-rate monitor. Most people associate heart rate with cardio, but during resistance training you should be trying to eliminate excessive rests between sets and maintaining a heart rate that's around 50% of your maximum heart rate. For cardio, your heart rate would vary between 50% and 85% of maximum. To establish your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220.
Fothergill E, Guo J, Howard L, Kerns JC, Knuth ND, Brychta R, Chen KY, Skarulis MC, Walter M, Walter PJ, Hall KD. Persistent metabolic adaptation 6 years after "The Biggest Loser" competition. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2016 Aug;24(8):1612-9. doi: 10.1002/oby.21538. Epub 2016 May 2.
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