Educated Choices

Why Nutrition Is So Confusing

By GARY TAUBES for the New York Times

Nearly six weeks into the 2014 diet season, it’s a good bet that many of us who made New Year’s resolutions to lose weight have already peaked. If clinical trials are any indication, we’ve lost much of the weight we can expect to lose. In a year or two we’ll be back within half a dozen pounds of where we are today.

The question is why. Is this a failure of willpower or of technique? Was our chosen dietary intervention — whether from the latest best-selling diet book or merely a concerted attempt to eat less and exercise more — doomed to failure? Considering that obesity and its related diseases — most notably, Type 2 diabetes — now cost the health care system more than $1 billion per day, it’s not hyperbolic to suggest that the health of the nation may depend on which is the correct answer.

Since the 1960s, nutrition science has been dominated by two conflicting observations. One is that we know how to eat healthy and maintain a healthy weight. The other is that the rapidly increasing rates of obesity and diabetes suggest that something about the conventional thinking is simply wrong.

In 1960, fewer than 13 percent of Americans were obese, and diabetes had been diagnosed in 1 percent. Today, the percentage of obese Americans has almost tripled; the percentage of Americans with diabetes has increased sevenfold.

Meanwhile, the research literature on obesity has also ballooned. In 1960, fewer than 1,100 articles were published on obesity or diabetes in the indexed medical literature. Last year it was more than 44,000. In total, over 600,000 articles have been published purporting to convey some meaningful information on these conditions.

It would be nice to think that this deluge of research has brought clarity to the issue. The trend data argue otherwise. If we understand these disorders so well, why have we failed so miserably to prevent them? The conventional explanation is that this is the manifestation of an unfortunate reality: Type 2 diabetes is caused or exacerbated by obesity, and obesity is a complex, intractable disorder. The more we learn, the more we need to know.

Here’s another possibility: The 600,000 articles — along with several tens of thousands of diet books — are the noise generated by a dysfunctional research establishment. Because the nutrition research community has failed to establish reliable, unambiguous knowledge about the environmental triggers of obesity and diabetes, it has opened the door to a diversity of opinions on the subject, of hypotheses about cause, cure and prevention, many of which cannot be refuted by the existing evidence. Everyone has a theory. The evidence doesn’t exist to say unequivocally who’s wrong.

The situation is understandable; it’s a learning experience in the limits of science. The protocol of science is the process of hypothesis and test. This three-word phrase, though, does not do it justice. The philosopher Karl Popper did when he described “the method of science as the method of bold conjectures and ingenious and severe attempts to refute them.”

In nutrition, the hypotheses are speculations about what foods or dietary patterns help or hinder our pursuit of a long and healthy life. The ingenious and severe attempts to refute the hypotheses are the experimental tests — the clinical trials and, to be specific, randomized controlled trials. Because the hypotheses are ultimately about what happens to us over decades, meaningful trials are prohibitively expensive and exceedingly difficult.  It means convincing thousands of people to change what they eat for years to decades. Eventually enough heart attacks, cancers and deaths have to happen among the subjects so it can be established whether the dietary intervention was beneficial or detrimental.

And before any of this can even be attempted, someone’s got to pay for it. Since no pharmaceutical company stands to benefit, prospective sources are limited, particularly when we insist the answers are already known. Without such trials, though, we’re only guessing whether we know the truth.

Back in the 1960s, when researchers first took seriously the idea that dietary fat caused heart disease, they acknowledged that such trials were necessary and studied the feasibility for years. Eventually the leadership at the National Institutes of Health concluded that the trials would be too expensive — perhaps a billion dollars — and might get the wrong answer anyway. They might botch the study and never know it. They certainly couldn’t afford to do two such studies, even though replication is a core principle of the scientific method. Since then, advice to restrict fat or avoid saturated fat has been based on suppositions about what would have happened had such trials been done, not on the studies themselves.

Nutritionists have adjusted to this reality by accepting a lower standard of evidence on what they’ll believe to be true. They do experiments with laboratory animals, for instance, following them for the better part of the animal’s lifetime — a year or two in rodents, say — and assume or at least hope that the results apply to humans. And maybe they do, but we can’t know for sure without doing the human experiments.

They do experiments on humans — the species of interest — for days or weeks or even a year or two and then assume that the results apply to decades. And maybe they do, but we can’t know for sure. That’s a hypothesis, and it must be tested.

And they do what are called observational studies, observing populations for decades, documenting what people eat and what illnesses beset them, and then assume that the associations they observe between diet and disease are indeed causal — that if people who eat copious vegetables, for instance, live longer than those who don’t, it’s the vegetables that cause the effect of a longer life. And maybe they do, but there’s no way to know without experimental trials to test that hypothesis.

The associations that emerge from these studies used to be known as “hypothesis-generating data,” based on the fact that an association tells us only that two things changed together in time, not that one caused the other. So associations generate hypotheses of causality that then have to be tested. But this hypothesis-generating caveat has been dropped over the years as researchers studying nutrition have decided that this is the best they can do.

One lesson of science, though, is that if the best you can do isn’t good enough to establish reliable knowledge, first acknowledge it — relentless honesty about what can and cannot be extrapolated from data is another core principle of science — and then do more, or do something else. As it is, we have a field of sort-of-science in which hypotheses are treated as facts because they’re too hard or expensive to test, and there are so many hypotheses that what journalists like to call “leading authorities” disagree with one another daily.

It’s an unacceptable situation. Obesity and diabetes are epidemic, and yet the only relevant fact on which relatively unambiguous data exist to support a consensus is that most of us are surely eating too much of something. (My vote is sugars and refined grains; we all have our biases.) Making meaningful inroads against obesity and diabetes on a population level requires that we know how to treat and prevent it on an individual level. We’re going to have to stop believing we know the answer, and challenge ourselves to come up with trials that do a better job of testing our beliefs.

Before I, for one, make another dietary resolution, I’d like to know that what I believe I know about a healthy diet is really so. Is that too much to ask?

Educate Yourself…Don’t Continue to Listen to Myths

How to Win an Argument With a Nutritionist

by Kris Gunnars
I love nutrition, but I really hate the way it tends to be practiced.

Many dietitians are NOT basing their nutrition advice on the latest science (1).

The general guidelines are completely outdated. They have barely changed in the past few decades, even though nutrition science has advanced greatly.

Female Doctor Holding Two Apples

I’ve personally stopped getting into arguments about nutrition online, because it is time consuming and frustrating.

But I know that a lot of people do get into these arguments often, so I’ve decided to write an article to give people some “weapons” to win these arguments easily.

By far the best way to win an argument about nutrition is to have a link to a good scientific study. Nutrition is science, after all, although it often tends to resemble religion or politics.

If you ever find yourself in an argument with an outdated nutrition professional, vegan or low-fat zealot, then feel free to use the answers and studies listed below.

Make sure to bookmark this page if you tend to get in these types of arguments often!

Disclaimer: Many nutritionists are good, highly intelligent, competent people. But unfortunately… the ones that are the most prominent in the media usually spew the same anti-fat, high-grain nonsense that got us into this public health disaster.

Nutritionist Says: “The Best Diet is a Low-Fat Diet, With Carbs at 50-60% of Calories”

Boy Eating Salad

Answer: The low-fat diet has been put to the test in several huge randomized controlled trials. It does not cause any weight loss over a period of 7.5 years and it has literally no effect on heart disease or cancer.

The low-fat diet is a huge failure. All the major studies show that it doesn’t work.


  1. Howard BV, et al. Low-fat dietary pattern and weight change over 7 years: the Women’s Health Initiative Dietary Modification Trial. Journal of the American Medical Association, 2006.
  2. Howard BV, et al. Low-Fat Dietary Pattern and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease. Journal of the American Medical Association, 2006.
  3. Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial: Risk Factor Changes and Mortality Results. Journal of the American Medical Association, 1982.

More: Show them this article.

Nutritionist Says: “Sugar is Bad For You, But Only Because it is Empty Calories”

Different Types of Sugar

Answer: The harmful effects of sugar go way beyond empty calories. When consumed in excess, it can lead to severe harmful effects on metabolism and cause insulin resistance, fatty liver disease and various other metabolic disorders.

The studies show that in the long run, a high consumption of sugar is strongly associated with the risk of obesity, type II diabetes, heart disease and even cancer.


  1. Stanhope KL, et al. Consuming fructose-sweetened, not glucose-sweetened, beverages increases visceral adiposity and lipids and decreases insulin sensitivity in overweight/obese humans. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 2009.
  2. Stanhope KL, et al. Adverse metabolic effects of dietary fructose: results from the recent epidemiological, clinical, and mechanistic studies. Current Opinion in Lipidology, 2013.
  3. Ludwig DS, et al. Relation between consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and childhood obesity: a prospective, observational analysis. The Lancet, 2001.
  4. Schulze MB, et al. Sugar-Sweetened Beverages, Weight Gain, and Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes in Young and Middle-Aged Women. Journal of the American Medical Association, 2004.
  5. Bostick RM, et al. Sweetened beverage consumption and risk of coronary heart disease in women. Cancer Causes & Control, 1994.
  6. Fung TT, et al. Sugar, meat, and fat intake, and non-dietary risk factors for colon cancer incidence in Iowa women. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2009.

More: Even more studies here.

Nutritionist Says: “Eggs Raise Cholesterol and Lead to Heart Disease”

Young Man Holding a Chicken and Eggs

Answer: The cholesterol in eggs does not raise the “bad” cholesterol in the blood. It raises HDL (the “good”) cholesterol and eggs actually improve the blood lipid profile.

The studies show that egg consumption is not associated with heart disease. Whole eggs are among the most nutritious foods on the planet.


  1. Rong Y, et al. Egg consumption and risk of coronary heart disease and stroke: dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. British Medical Journal, 2013.
  2. Fernandez ML. Dietary cholesterol provided by eggs and plasma lipoproteins in healthy populations. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care, 2006.
  3. Blesso CN, et al. Whole egg consumption improves lipoprotein profiles and insulin sensitivity to a greater extent than yolk-free egg substitute in individuals with metabolic syndrome. Metabolism, 2013.

More: Details on the health benefits of eggs and more studies here.

Nutritionist Says: “Protein is Bad For Your Kidneys”

Housewife With Meat

Answer: It is often claimed that a high protein intake can cause harm to the kidneys, but this is false. Even though it is important for people with pre-existing kidney disease to reduce protein, the same is not true for people with healthy kidneys.

The studies show that a high protein intake has no detrimental effects of kidney function in healthy people, not even in bodybuilders that eat massive amounts of protein.


  1. Manninen AH. High-Protein Weight Loss Diets and Purported Adverse Effects: Where is the Evidence? Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 2004.
  2. Martin WM, et al. Dietary protein intake and renal function. Nutrition & Metabolism, 2005.

Nutritionist Says: “Saturated Fat Raises Cholesterol and Causes Heart Disease”

Man at a Restaurant Eating Steak

Answer: This is a myth. Saturated fat raises HDL (the “good”) cholesterol and changes the LDL from small, dense to Large LDL, which is benign and doesn’t increase the risk of heart disease.

This has been intensively studied in the past few decades and the studies consistently show that saturated fat is not in any way related to the risk of heart disease.


  1. Siri-Tarino PW, et al. Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2010.
  2. Mente A, et al. A systematic review of the evidence supporting a causal link between dietary factors and coronary heart disease. Archives of Internal Medicine, 2009.
  3. Dreon DM, et al. Change in dietary saturated fat intake is correlated with change in mass of large low-density-lipoprotein particles in men. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1998.

More: The saturated fat myth has been debunked thoroughly here and here.

Nutritionist Says: “Low Carb Diets Are Unhealthy”

Angry Man Holding a Knife and Meat

Answer: This is simply not true. Since the year 2002, low-carb diets have been studied extensively and over 20 randomized controlled trials have been conducted.

They consistently lead to much better health outcomes than the typical low-fat diet. They cause more weight loss and improve all major risk factors for disease, including triglycerides, HDL and blood sugar levels.


  1. Westman EC, et al. Low-carbohydrate nutrition and metabolism. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2007.
  2. Hession M, et al. Systematic review of randomized controlled trials of low-carbohydrate vs. low-fat/low-calorie diets in the management of obesity and its comorbidities. Obesity Reviews, 2008.
  3. Santos F, et al. Systematic review and meta-analysis of clinical trials of the effects of low carbohydrate diets on cardiovascular risk factors. Obesity Reviews, 2012.

More: Many more studies and a thorough review of the science here.

Nutritionist Says: “Red Meat is Unhealthy and Should Only be Eaten in Moderation”

A Little Girl Eating Meat

Answer: It is true that consumption of processed meat is associated with an increased risk of many disease, but the same is not true for unprocessed red meat.

Unprocessed red meat is harmless, although it may form harmful compounds if it is overcooked. The answer is not to avoid red meat, but to make sure not to burn it.

The association between unprocessed red meat and cancer is highly exaggerated, large review studies show that the effect is very weak in men and nonexistent in women.


  1. Micha R, et al. Red and processed meat consumption and risk of incident coronary heart disease, stroke, and diabetes mellitus: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Circulation, 2010.
  2. Rohrmann S, et al. Meat consumption and mortality – results from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition. BMC Medicine, 2013.
  3. Alexander DD, et al. Meta-analysis of prospective studies of red meat consumption and colorectal cancer. European Journal of Cancer Prevention, 2011.
  4. Alexander DD, et al. Red meat and colorectal cancer: a critical summary of prospective epidemiologic studies. Obesity Reviews, 2011.

More: More studies on red meat here.

Nutritionist Says: “Protein is Bad For Your Bones and Causes Osteoporosis”

High Protein Foods

Answer: Although it is true that protein can cause calcium loss from the bones in the short term, this effect does not persist in the long term.

In fact, the studies consistently show that protein actually improves bone health in the long run, NOT the other way around. Therefore, the terrible advice to keep protein low is likely to increase the risk of osteoporosis.


  1. Kerstetter JE, et al. Dietary protein and skeletal health: a review of recent human research. Current Opinion in Lipidology, 2011.
  2. Bonjour JP. Dietary protein: an essential nutrient for bone health. The Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 2005.
  3. Munger RG, et al. Prospective study of dietary protein intake and risk of hip fracture in postmenopausal women. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1999.

Nutritionist Says: “People Should Cut Back on Sodium”

Woman in Salty Sea, Large

Answer: Even though sodium restriction can lower blood pressure, it does not appear to reduce the risk of heart disease or death.

Some studies even show that if you restrict sodium too much, that it can increase some risk factors for disease.

There is no science behind the 1500-2300 mg per day recommendation and people that are healthy can eat “normal” amounts of sodium without any harm.


  1. Taylor RS, et al. Reduced dietary salt for the prevention of cardiovascular disease. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2011.
  2. Jurgens G, et al. Effects of low sodium diet versus high sodium diet on blood pressure, renin, aldosterone, catecholamines, cholesterols, and triglyceride. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2003.
  3. Garg R, et al. Low-salt diet increases insulin resistance in healthy subjects. Metabolism, 2011.

More: Many more studies on the sodium myth here and here.

Nutritionist Says: “Polyunsaturated Fats Lower Cholesterol and Reduce Heart Disease Risk”

Vegetable Oil in a Plastic Bottle

Answer: There are two types of polyunsaturated fats, Omega-3 and Omega-6. It is true that Omega-3s reduce the risk of heart disease, but the same is not true for the Omega-6s.

Even though the Omega-6s (soybean oil, corn oil, etc.) can lower cholesterol, the studies show that they actually increase the risk of heart disease.

Therefore, the horrible advice to increase polyunsaturated fat, without regards to the type, is probably contributing to heart disease instead of preventing it.


  1. Ramsden CE, et al. Use of dietary linoleic acid for secondary prevention of coronary heart disease and death. British Medical Journal, 2013.
  2. Lands WE, et al. Dietary fat and health: the evidence and the politics of prevention: careful use of dietary fats can improve life and prevent disease. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 2005.
  3. Ramsden CE, et al. n-6 fatty acid-specific and mixed polyunsaturate dietary interventions have different effects on CHD risk: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. British Journal of Nutrition, 2010.

More: Many more studies on vegetable oils here.

Nutritionist Says: “People Should Choose Low-Fat Dairy Products to Reduce Calories and Saturated Fat”

High Fat Dairy Products

Answer: There is no evidence that people benefit from choosing low-fat instead of full-fat dairy products. Plus low-fat dairy is usually high in sugar, which makes this misguided advice seriously questionable.

Full-fat dairy (especially from grass-fed cows) contains many important nutrients like Vitamin K2 and butyrate, which are very scarce in the diet.

High fat dairy products are actually associated with a lower risk of obesity. In countries where cows are largely grass-fed, people who eat the most high fat dairy products have a drastically reduced risk of heart disease.


  1. Kratz M, et al. The relationship between high-fat dairy consumption and obesity, cardiovascular, and metabolic disease. European Journal of Nutrition, 2013.
  2. Bonthius M, et al. Dairy consumption and patterns of mortality of Australian adults. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2010.
  3. Smit, et al. Conjugated linoleic acid in adipose tissue and risk of myocardial infarction. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2010.

Nutritionist Says: “Weight Loss is All About Calories in and Calories Out”

Apple and Calculator, Large

Answer: This is completely false, different calorie sources go through different metabolic pathways in the body and have varying effects on hunger, hormones and the brain.

Also, let’s not forget that health is about way more than just weight. Certain calorie sources (added sugar, vegetable oils) can cause harmful effects on metabolism that have nothing to do with their caloric value.


  1. Feinman RD, et al.“A calorie is a calorie” violates the second law of thermodynamics. Nutrition Journal, 2004.
  2. Johnston CS, et al. Postprandial thermogenesis is increased 100% on a high-protein, low-fat diet versus a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet in healthy, young women. The Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 2002.
  3. Veldhorst MA, et al. Presence or absence of carbohydrates and the proportion of fat in a high-protein diet affect appetite suppression but not energy expenditure in normal-weight human subjects fed in energy balance. British Journal of Nutrition, 2010.

More: Many more studies on the calorie myth here.

Nutritionist Says: “It is Best to Eat Many Small Meals Throughout The Day”

Woman Frustrated With Tiny Meal

Answer: It is a myth that it is best to eat many, small meals instead of several bigger meals. The studies show that it doesn’t have any effect on health or body weight.


  1. Bellisle F, et al. Meal frequency and energy balance. British Journal of Nutrition, 1997.
  2. Cameron JD, et al. Increased meal frequency does not promote greater weight loss in subjects who were prescribed an 8-week equi-energetic energy-restricted diet. British Journal of Nutrition, 2010.

More: A thorough debunking of this myth here.

Nutritionist Says: “Fat Makes You Fat”

Protein Rich Foods

Answer: Even though fat has more calories per gram than carbs and protein, it is not any more fattening. Eating foods that are naturally high in fat tends to reduce the appetite.

The studies consistently show that diets that are high in fat (but low in carbs) lead to much more weight loss than diets that are low in fat.


  1. Brehm BJ, et al. A randomized trial comparing a very low carbohydrate diet and a calorie-restricted low fat diet on body weight and cardiovascular risk factors in healthy women. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 2003.
  2. Yancy WS, et al. A low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet versus a low-fat diet to treat obesity and hyperlipidemia: a randomized, controlled trial. Annals of Internal Medicine, 2004.
  3. Westman EC, et al. The effect of a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet versus a low-glycemic index diet on glycemic control in type 2 diabetes mellitus. Nutrition & Metabolism, 2008.

Anything Else?

Are there any other ridiculous myths you would like me to cover? Leave a comment below and I’ll see if I can add them to the list.

It would be awesome if this article could become a “weapon” for us all to change the world, one nutritionist at a time.

Eat Protein, Carbs and Fat…in appropriate quantities for YOU

Six Incredibly Simple Nutrition Rules To Be Lean & Muscular For Life

By Poliquin Group

Six Incredibly Simple Nutrition Rules To Be Lean & Muscular For Life
The year 2013 was marked by new heights of nutrition insanity. You’re not alone if you found yourself more confused than ever about what to eat in light of the obscure nutrition recommendations from the government and outrageous claims from food marketers.

What’s the solution to all this nutrition madness?You need an individualized nutrition approach that speaks to your energy needs and genetics, but that is based on science. This article will give you six nutrition rules for a sane and simple way of eating.

Before we get to the rules, let’s look a bit closer at why good nutrition has become such a demanding endeavor. In fact, nutrition never has been especially simple.

We often get nostalgic, thinking that nutrition was easier in another era. For example, a lot of people are turning to the Paleo diet for leanness and health as seen with the fact that it was the most searched nutrition term on Google in 2013.

The Paleo diet can provide a practical, simpler approach to eating. Yet, a lot of people make the mistake of idealizing the way our ancestors ate or assuming that all cavemen had access to pure, abundant food. Not so.
Our hunter-gatherer ancestors spent the vast majority of their days searching for food to survive. Not only was finding food a huge time investment, chewing took hours because they subsisted partly on raw and extremely fibrous foods, such as uncooked root vegetables, such as potatoes.

With present-day understanding of how our genes are affected by diet and a “paleo-template,” here are six nutrition rules to be lean and muscular life.

#1: Understand Why High-Protein Diets Promote Leanness
Do you have to eat a high-protein diet to lose fat?

There are other fat-reducing methods, but high-protein, lower carb whole food diets consistently work well for the majority of people who try them. You should be familiar with the four primary reasons higher protein diets improve body composition:
•    If your goal is fat loss, preserving lean muscle mass should be a primary focus of nutrition because it is critical for maintaining your metabolism. If you lose muscle, your body burns fewer calories daily, which is a main contributor to rebound weight gain on the typical calorie-restricted diet.
For example, a recent study that compared the effect of three different protein intakes (the RDA of 0.8 g/kg, double the RDA of 1.6 g/kg, and triple the RDA of 2.4 g/kg for protein) as part of a calorie-restricted diet illustrates this.
All groups lost about the same amount of weight. The double the RDA dose of 1.6 g/kg of protein effectively protected lean muscle mass. The higher triple RDA dose of 2.4 kg didn’t have any additive effect, whereas the RDA dose of 0.8 kg led to muscle loss over the 3 week study.
•    It costs the body more calories to process protein than carbs or fat, which is referred to as thermogenesis. Quality is paramount here: A study showed that when subjects ate animal protein (meat) they had 17 percent higher increase in resting energy expenditure than a group who ate vegetable protein (beans and plant sources).
•    Protein is filling. When people eat a greater percentage of their diet from protein, they feel more satisfied and eat fewer calories overall. A review of the issue found that for every 1 percent increase in protein intake, people naturally decrease calorie intake by between 32 and 51 calories daily.
•    High-quality protein helps manage blood sugar and insulin, decreasing cravings for sugar.
The easiest way to lose fat is to eat a fairly high-protein diet. The ratios of protein, carbs, and fat are variable and based on all those unique traits that make you different from your peers: genetics, current body composition, fitness, goals, stress level, preferences, and so on.
Take Away: Increasing your protein intake is the best place to start if your goal is leanness because it protects muscle muss, increases energy use, and is sustainable because it reduces hunger.
#2: Focus On Protein Quality For Fat Loss: Get 10 Grams of EAAs Per Meal
High-quality protein is defined as a protein source that provides at least 10 grams of essential amino acids (EAAs) at every meal. The EAAs must be present in the body for muscle tissue repair to occur, and they can’t be stored in the body, which is the reason you need a steady supply of these building blocks.

Research shows that eating the 10-gram-threshold of EAAs per meal is associated with having less body fat and more muscle mass in people of all ages. For example, over the course of a 5-year study, individuals who had higher quality protein intake had the greatest reductions in waist circumference.

In another study, scientists found that those who ate the EAA “threshold” of 10 grams per meal in a 24-hour period had significantly less visceral belly fat.

In another approach, a German study identified metabolic markers that were associated with body fat percentage and found that the higher the serum level of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), the less body fat subjects had. BCAAs include three of the most important EAAs, leucine, isoleucine, and valine.

The association between higher BCAA levels and less body fat was consistent for both men and women and was independent of exercise participation. BCAA levels were also associated with greater lean muscle mass.

Eating high-quality protein is so effective at optimizing body composition because providing a consistent stream of 10 grams of EAAs will maximally stimulates protein synthesis to keep you body repairing tissue and building muscle.

Of interest, researchers believe that overweight, sedentary people have dysfunctional BCAA metabolism and an inability to stimulate fat burning. They experience a “derangement in muscle metabolism that favor the development of obesity and metabolic diseases.”

This is one reason that, although we often say “fat loss starts in the kitchen,” exercise is absolutely essential to achieve it because it optimizes metabolism for protein synthesis and the burning of fat for energy.

Take Away: For leanness, plan your diet so that you achieve the threshold 10 grams of EAAs per meal. Eggs, fish, beef, milk, and whey protein are the highest EAA containing foods.

#3: Enhance Fat Metabolism With Balanced Macros & Whole Food

In order to lose fat or simply maintain your body composition, your body must be capable of metabolizing the dietary fat you eat and the fat you’ve got stored.

First, you need your body to effectively metabolize the fat you eat so that it can be used to make hormones, optimize brain health, and absorb essential vitamins. Something as simple as a stressed out liver or chronically poor sleep will impede metabolism of dietary fat.

Second, your body must be “metabolically flexible” so that it is able to readily mobilize and burn stored body fat as well as glucose (carbs). A failure in metabolic flexibility leads to fat gain and insulin resistance.

How do you ensure healthy metabolism of the fat you eat and the ability to burn the fat you’ve got stored?

Two methods of improving fat metabolism are exercise and replacing carb intake with fat. When you reduce the percentage of your calories that come from carbs, you decrease insulin and shift the body to burn fat rather than blood sugar. However, obese people don’t respond to this strategy as effectively as lean people.

In one study, 12 lean and 10 obese men were given a high-fat diet (70 percent fat, 15 percent protein, 15 percent carb) for three days. The lean subjects increased the amount of fat their bodies burned for energy, whereas the obese subjects did not. Researchers think that over the longer term, obese people would respond to the shift in macronutrients, but the process is uncomfortable because energy levels are compromised.

Using exercise to teach the body to burn fat is more effective for obese people. In the study just mentioned, the same two groups of men went through a washout period, then did 10 days of aerobic exercise (1 hour a day at 70 percent of maximal). This time, both the lean and obese subjects increased fat burning, indicating that exercise is a catalyst for the overweight to become more metabolically flexible.

A contributing factor to optimal fat metabolism is the amino acid carnitine. Carnitine is a potent fat burner because it is responsible for the transport of fats into the cells to be used for energy in the body.

In the German study mentioned in #1, along with BCAAs, subjects with higher free carnitine levels had significantly less body fat. The researchers interpret this link between carnitine and lower body fat to be evidence that people with more muscle mass will have an enhanced ability to burn fat.

Take Away: If you’re overweight, you must exercise because this is the most effective tool you have to improve their body’s ability to burn fat for energy. Eat a higher fat, lower carb diet with high-quality protein to supply carnitine and EAAs.

#4: Don’t Get Confused By Protein Backlash

high-carb culture, protein backlash is understandable. Nutrition, medical professionals and the media incorrectly warn us that a high-protein diet will tax kidney function, cause kidney stones, and leech bones of calcium, increasing the risk of osteoporosis.

In fact, protein intake up to 2 g/kg/body weight a day is completely safe for healthy kidneys and appears to improve bone health. A study of competitive athletes concluded that daily protein intake, as high 2.8 g/kg won’t damage the kidneys in healthy athletes. The National Kidney Foundation recommends that the one group that should not eat a high-protein diet is those who have clinical kidney dysfunction or who are on dialysis.

Meanwhile, a large-scale analysis in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition of 31 studies found a small but significant benefit from greater protein intake on bone strength at several skeletal sites including the lumbar spine in every category of the population, from children to elderly men and women.

In addition to observational evidence that higher dietary protein benefits bone strength, we know that bone building requires a steady pool of amino acids in the body and over 50 percent of bone is made of protein. Eating more protein increases levels of insulin-like growth factor-I, which is a major regulator of bone building.

So you fully understand how it works, higher protein diets do tend to increase acid formation in the body, which leads to a loss of calcium (this is calcium that’s already been absorbed). However, calcium absorption during digestion is increased with diets higher in animal protein, which may offset that loss.

In addition, there’s a wealth of evidence that other factors such as lean mass percentage and muscle strength are more important for bone health than the calcium issue.

For example, sports scientists are well aware that the most effective way to strengthen bone is with activities that load the spine with heavy weights. Weight-bearing exercises that produce a large ground reaction force such as jumping also build bone.

Take Away: Don’t get confused by the misinformation about protein intake in a high-carb culture. Higher protein diets are safe for healthy people and they convey benefits for bone strength, muscle maintenance, and fat loss.

#5: Improve Gut Health to Optimize Protein’s Benefits For Muscularity

Do you remember the media storm that reported that carnitine and red meat were associated with heart disease? Although these reports completely missed the boat, there are some dangers to a high-protein intake that have to do with gut health.

Gut bacteria will live off of what you eat. People who eat more animal protein tend to eat fewer fruits and vegetables and consume less fiber, though this tendency may not be typical in people who follow a Paleo-type diet. Low-fiber, higher animal protein diets have been found to increase inflammatory gut bacteria.

For example, a recent study from Tufts University of young (ages 18-35), normal-weight healthy people found that those who had more lean muscle mass had higher levels of biomarkers of inflammatory gut metabolism. These markers are considered metabolic toxins that have been linked with adverse health conditions, including gastric cancer, obesity, and type II diabetes.

The Tufts researchers suggest that although a high dietary protein intake is important for the optimization of muscle mass, an overconsumption of dietary protein that leads to the growth of inflammatory gut bacteria is dangerous.

A possible solution is to support the growth of beneficial anti-inflammatory gut bacteria with a diet high in vegetables, fruit, and something called resistant starch, which is found in foods such as bananas, oats, peas, maize, and potatoes. According to Mark Sisson, one of the easiest ways to improve gut flora is to consume raw unmodified potato starch.

This approach is supported by what we know about present day hunger-gatherers such as the Kitavan Islanders in Oceania who eat an ancestral diet that is high in resistant starch and other fibers that stimulate the production of anti-inflammatory bacteria in the gut. The Kitavans eat no Western foods (grains, flour, sugar, oil) and are lean and virtually free of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.

Take Away: Don’t let a blind spot such as lack of fiber in your higher protein diet compromise health. Support gut health with a variety of vegetables, fruit, probiotic foods, and resistant starches.

#6: Balance High-Quality Protein With Fruits and Veggies

You won’t be surprised to learn that the Tufts University study also found that higher metabolic markers of BCAAs were associated with greater lean mass and insulin sensitivity. However, the news was not consistently positive for subjects who had better body compositions.

There was strong evidence that subjects with more lean mass had more oxidative stress and inflammation. Scientists were concerned with this association and suggest that people who eat diets rich in protein should increase fruits and vegetables because they are well documented to increase blood antioxidant capacity and reduce inflammation.

A related benefit of phytonutrient-rich foods is that they support mitochondrial health, which is suppressed on a high-protein diet. You may recall from elementary biology that mitochondria turn energy from food into ATP to provide energy for cells to fuel activity. The byproduct of this process is free radicals, which bounce around, damaging everything in sight, and accelerating aging.

The best way to avoid free radical production is to not eat. No joke! This is the reason calorie restriction and fasting are beneficial for longevity since they improve mitochondrial health and prevent aging.

A more practical method is to get your carbs from plants, and eat the rest of your energy from high-quality protein and beneficial fats. The nutrients in plants eliminate free radicals that cause inflammation. Favoring fat at the expense of carbs provides a “cleaner” burning energy source, generating fewer free radicals than carbs.

Take Away: Get your carbs from protective phytonutrient-rich foods such as blueberries, grapes, kiwi, tart cherries, raspberries, blackberries, leafy greens, peppers, pomegranates, and some starches. Avocado, olives, coconut oil, whey protein are other antioxidant-rich foods to include as you go high in fat and protein.


Seasons Greetings Fellow CrossFit Flagstaff Athletes!We are kicking off the New Year right with an 8-week Nutrition Challenge starting January 6, 2014!  More details will be announced during the initial meeting, January 5, 2014 at 11:00 am.Change
You will have to log everything you eat.  For this challenge, we are encouraging the Zone/Paleo Diet and need to track your eating habits.  There will be a spreadsheet provided for you through Google docs, alleviating the hassle of carrying a bulky binder and the ability to use your smart phone to log.   We will utilize the Nutrition Challenge Facebook group to help support everyone on their nutrition endeavors.

We need to know who is interested in committing to the January challenge.  Please email Chelsey and/or Tara to let them know you are attending the meeting January 5, 2014.

Details of the challenge will be presented during the meeting.  Here’s the stuff you need to know:

  • There is a mandatory meeting January 5, 2014 at 11:00 am to answer any questions
  • The challenge will be 8 weeks long and begins January 6, 2014
  • There is a $80.00 buy-in and is due at the meeting
  • You will get prizes every two weeks for meeting goals and “no treating”
  • “Fran” will be programmed on January 1, 2014 and must be done before doing the Nut Challenge and you will have to do “Fran” again after the challenge.
  • We recently have done the CrossFit Total (December 2, 2013). If you did not partake, you will need to make this up before the Nut Challenge.
  • Get you body measurements completed with Tara, Lisa, Lindsay or Chelsey by January 6, 2014
  • Read the attachments to this email and come to the meeting with questions


If you have any questions don’t be afraid to contact us!
Train Hard, Eat Clean, Breathe Fire!

Why your grandparents didn’t have food allergies…but you do

Why your grandparents didn't have food allergies |
Did your grandparents have food allergies? Mine sure didn’t. A stark comparison to the growing epidemic of food allergies, worsening with every generation.

So why did your grandparents not have food allergies? It’s really quite simple…

1) They ate seasonal real food.

Food came from farms and small markets in the early 1900′s, and because food preservatives were not widely used yet, food was fresh. Because of the lack of processed food, their diets were nutrient dense allowing them to get the nutrition they needed from their food.

For babies, breast milk was valued and it was always in season.

2) They didn’t diet, and play restrictive games with their body and metabolism. They ate food when food was available.

Our grandparents did not fall victim to fad diets, food marketing, calorie counting, and other detrimental dieting habits that are popular today (in part because the marketing infrastructure didn’t exist yet). Because of this they had a healthy metabolism, and ate according to their body’s needs and cravings.

3) They cooked food at home, using traditional preparation methods from scratch.

Buying processed food was not an option, and eating out was a rare luxury. Lucky for our grandparents these habits actually increased their health.

4) They didn’t eat GMO’s, food additives, stabilizers and thickeners.

Food was not yet treated with additives, antibiotics and hormones to help preserve shelf life and pad the pockets of food producers in the early 1900′s at the expense of the consumer’s health.

5) They ate the whole animal that included mineral rich bone broths and organ meats.

Animal bones were saved or bought to make broths and soups, and organ meats always had a special place at the dinner table. These foods were valued for their medicinal properties, and never went to waste.

6) They didn’t go to the doctor when they felt sick or take prescription medications. Doctor visits were saved for accidental injuries and life threatening illness.

When they got a fever, they waited it out. When they felt sick, they ate soups, broths and got lots of rest. They did not have their doctor or nurse on speed dial, and trusted the body’s natural healing process a whole lot more than we do today. Their food was medicine, whether they realized it or not.

7) They spent lots of time outside.

Our grandparents didn’t have the choice to stay inside and play on their phones, computers and gaming systems. They played on the original play-station:  bikes, swing-sets and good ol’ mother nature!

And what do these things have to do with food allergies?

Nutrition affects EVERY cell in our body. The health of our cells is dependent on diet and lifestyle. Cells create tissues, tissues create organs,  and we are made up of a system of organs. If your nutrition is inadequate, the integrity of each cell, tissue and organ in your body will suffer, thus you may be MORE sensitive to certain foods.

from Butter Nutrition

Keep It Simple


Why obesity is not your doctor’s problem.

Fat City

What can stop obesity?

by Karen Hitchcock
Why obesity is not your doctor’s problem.

In the late 1980s I spent a year in the US as an exchange student. The exchange organisation allocated me a local support person named Emily. Emily was white and loud and the fattest person I had ever seen outside a caravan park. She looked different from the rare very fat people I’d seen in Australia. She smelt good and her climate-controlled house meant she did not sweat. She was very well dressed. Her husband was some kind of professional; I didn’t know they even made suits that big.

Emily’s family ate like the bejesus. I went to her house once a month for pizza: heavy, oily discs of cheese half a metre across. One each. Before pizza one night I watched the daughter eat a huge bowl of guacamole with a dessertspoon. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. I had no concept of calories; I’d simply never seen anyone eat so much avocado in one sitting. I wondered if it would make her vomit. I kept watching as she put down the empty bowl and turned the page of her novel.

I loved Emily. She cared for me the same way she ate: enthusiastically, generously, without restraint. Her bulk did not disgust me. But I never once ate any pizza. The thought of her pizzas made me sick. All those pools of fat. Twenty-five years later I am a physician and Australia is filling up with Emilys.

Louise was an educated 35-year-old who had recently lost her high-ranking job and was making ends meet by freelance consulting. Admitted to my ward with pneumonia, she had a high fever and a fast pulse, needed oxygen and was coughing up large amounts of purulent sputum. She was also fat, weighing about 120 kg. I knew that – barring underlying lung disease – obesity was one of the greatest risk factors for life-threatening pneumonia in young people. I felt a responsibility to tell her that her excess fat had harmed her in a way she may not have realised. Every day before my ward round I would say to myself that I was going to broach the subject with her. It seemed a good opportunity to intervene. And yet each time I stood by her bed and looked at her bedside table piled high with literary novels, open blocks of chocolate and teddy-bear biscuits, each time I lifted her pyjama top and pushed my stethoscope into her soft white flesh, I couldn’t do it. I was embarrassed to mention her weight; it felt like I was a puritan taking the high moral ground. It felt mean.

As a doctor, I no longer know what to do about the obese. Australians are getting fatter, and our society is geared towards making them that way – consumption doesn’t just drive economic growth. So is fatness a doctor’s problem? Studies show that verbal interventions during an episode of serious acute illness can result in a change in behaviour – people quit smoking, cut down on their drinking and sometimes lose weight. But usually counselling people to lose weight is hopeless. Then there are the questions of morality, personal responsibility, associated diseases, resource allocation, quality of life and aesthetics. I have moments of clarity – I think of the way Emily ate – and obesity seems simple: more in than out. Then I am engulfed once again by the high science of genetics, by the concept that obesity is a disease.

I love reading articles with titles like ‘How I Lost 25 Kilos’, even though the answer is always the same: I ate less. Barring the gravely ill and a couple of men, everyone I know wants to lose weight. We live in a society that judges people for being fat, yet has in place every possible means for making them so. Who wants to eat less – of anything – when food is so good and plentiful? It’s hard to say no to something that is right in our faces, promising a bit of easy pleasure. It is especially hard to say no when the consequences of overeating come about in such a distant, gradual and mysterious way. I find it difficult to believe that an extra scoop of ice-cream will end up as fat somewhere on my body, even though I know how it happens at the enteric, metabolic and cellular levels. Perhaps this is what happens when we reach the head of the queue and order too much: a fantasy where eating has no consequence, where that pile of French fries and the burger with extra cheese are not our future bodies.

Battles with our appetites and with our bodies are played out on television, in magazines, in the workplace, in families and in hospitals. Be fat in public and you will be weighed by strangers’ eyes. The most radical thing on television this past year was the ordinarily flawed 70-kilo naked body of Lena Dunham in Girls: little girlish tits above big soft lumps and bumps. How shocking: the protagonist has a paunch and eats cupcakes in the bath. She blatantly displayed her body, a lone counterpoint to the usual stick-insect romantic heroines.

I have heard people say thinness is beautiful and coveted because it is difficult to achieve and rare now, the way curves apparently appeal in times of famine. There are activists who have set out to challenge the fat-is-ugly paradigm, to curb all this body hatred. I am sympathetic to many of their aims. However, their attempts to manipulate what we find beautiful have been crashingly unsuccessful. The Adipositivity Project – which uses artful photographs of morbidly obese half-naked models to reframe fatness as a thing of beauty – remains separatist and marginalised. And the occasional cover shot featuring a so-called plus-sized model is hardly cause for jubilation. These models – often thinner than the nation’s average – are freakishly well-proportioned Amazons with flawless faces. The pro-fat bloggers are smart, sassy and pissed off. I’d hang out with them. Yet, if they could click their fingers and be thin, would they? Would Lena Dunham? “I don’t want to be skinny like a model,” I’ve had more than one patient tell me, “I’d just like to look like Kate Winslet.”

I don’t know if there is any force that could purposefully change a culture’s definition of beauty. Is fat inherently ugly? Ask Aristotle, Susie Orbach, Naomi Wolf. Their answers are different, their arguments from different places. It is not an empirical question although it reads as one. Today when we look at those who are thin, part of what we see is a triumph of will over gluttony, so the beauty is a moral beauty; it has little to do with health.

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OMG!!!! Thanksgiving stuffing that is GOOD!

I made this stuffing for Thanksgiving and my family KILLED it.  They loved, loved, loved it – despite the fact that it contained no bread!  We doubled the recipe and ate the remains for breakfast the next morning!  DELISH!  It’s a keeper!


Thanksgiving Caramelized Onion & Sausage Stuffing

Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
  • 1lb ground pork sausage
  • 2 yellow onions, sliced
  • 1 sweet potato or yam
  • 1 container of mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ⅓ cup chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fat of choice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with foil, throw diced sweet potatoes/yams on it, sprinkle with olive oil and salt and pepper. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until sweet potatoes are tender, then set aside.
  2. While those cook, pull out a large skillet, place it under medium-high heat and place a tablespoon of fat along your minced garlic clove and your mushrooms in it to begin to cook down. Add a bit of salt and pepper and cook until soft. Once they are done cooking, add to a large bowl.
  3. While your mushrooms are cooking down, add a tablespoon of fat to another large skillet over medium heat and add your sliced onions. Continuously move onions around to help coat and caramelize. The caramelization will take about 10-15 minutes. Add a bit of salt and pepper, to taste.
  4. When your mushrooms are done cooking, add your pork sausage to the hot mushroom pan (the mushrooms have been removed at this point). Use a wooden spoon to break up sausage and cook until almost cooked through.
  5. Once the sausage is all done, add mixture to your mushroom bowl to cool. Now beat your eggs, add to your sausage mixture, and add your chicken broth and vinegar, along with your sweet potatoes, pecans, and chopped herbs. Mix well.
  6. You can now either use a 9×13 baking dish to place your stuffing in OR place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Either way will work.
  7. Bake at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes, then add your caramelized onions and cooked for 5 more minutes.
  8. Eat it up!!!! OMG OMG, its so good.

many thanks to for this one!

Lessons Learned From Food

Congratulations to those who have been on the Whole30 Challenge until Thanksgiving!  Keep up the good fight!  A couple of inspirational stories and insights have been shared with us and will hopefully inspire you to make changes and share stories of your own!

From Lindsay:


Thoughts About Food

After a few fairly deep interactions regarding food that randomly occurred in my life recently I got to thinking about my relationship with food. I really like food. Actually, I would go as far as saying that I am in love with food. I think about food all the time. I recently came to the realization that my relationship with food has transformed into something amazing.

Some background about me… In 2008 I was sitting in a doctor’s office waiting to be seen when I came across an article about a nutritionist in New Mexico that was using food as medicine, developing individual food prescriptions for each of his patients. I made sure no one was looking and tore the article out of the magazine and shoved it into my pocket. I saw the doctor and was handed a new prescription to add to the already long list of pills that I was taking to combat Type 2 Diabetes and Rheumatoid Arthritis. That night I read the article again and decided that for my 27th myself to New Mexico. After mailing every possible bodily fluid to various laboratories I received disturbing results about the state of my body. I was put on a strict paleo plan, more rigorous then the Whole 30. It was prescribed for 6 months.

I recently was traveling through New Mexico with Tara and as we passed Gallup I remembered the day that I was returning from Santa Fe after receiving my test results and food prescription. On that day I pulled into the Gallup McDonalds, ordered a Big Mac, a butt- load of fries and a chocolate shake. I sat there and read my results eating that pile of shit thinking about everything I was going to have to give up. No whisky, no potatoes, no corn chips, no taco shells, no whisky, no whisky… The panic attack began. All I could think about was getting really drunk and eating Jack in the Box tacos at least a few more times before starting the program. At that time I could only see what I was giving up. I had no concept of what I was about to gain.

When I decide I am going to do something there is no turning back, so after a few weeks of heavy drinking and smoking, yes smoking, I gave it all up cold turkey. I ate nothing but meat and vegetables and very limited fruit. No eggs, no dairy, no potatoes, no nuts, just meat and vegetables. My meat choices were limited to grass fed beef, chicken, and a few other options. No bacon or anything that had been processed. It took about 3 weeks for me to feel human again. I am lucky I did not kill anyone. It was the most intense three weeks of my life.

I remained on all my medication for the first month of this process. The first to go was the drug that controlled my blood sugar levels. After only one month there was no need for it. I eliminated all my prescriptions by the end of the second month. I was virtually pain free. It was a feeling that I had not experienced for years. I was so excited about feeling good. I was like a televangelist preaching diet. I would tell anyone that would listen what they needed to do to feel good. I was undoubtedly annoying as hell.

Long ass story, short… I made it through the first 6 months with no variation from the prescription. I was off all the drugs. I had a new appreciation for food. I was using food as my medication, not as a means of comfort. I started the process of adding back in things like eggs and nuts to see if my body could handle them. Red wine was also allowed. The battle of finding balance began. I would go for months eating birthday I was going to send really clean and then because I felt good I would cheat and one cheat meal would lead to a month of cheat meals. Feel good, eat a cheat meal. Feel bad, drink to feel better. Feel worse, eat clean again. So the cycle went.

Crossfit provided a new prospective for me. When I started about a year and a half ago there was a nutrition challenge, one month of Whole 30, followed by one month of Whole 30 Zone. Food choices coupled with exercise and community was an entirely new experience for me. I realized the importance of experimentation. What worked for me was not necessarily the same as what worked for others. There is no one right way to eat and to train, and the way that you do so is likely to vary over time. What your body needs today might not be what it needs 6 months from now.

My relationship with food is now dynamic. I journal about how I feel and what I eat so I can track what works and what doesn’t. For me, food has become about community. I can share my journey in hopes of inspiring others to be their own scientists, to control their own experiment in this life. In the moments that I used to turn to food to fill a void I now turn to community and share good food and conversation. Food is a means of making connections. Your health and happiness becomes apparent and people start asking questions. People see your food in your grocery cart and at the checkout and they want to know more. Other gym members see changes in you. You don’t have to be an annoying food televangelist; your life is an example. As you finish this Whole 30, I challenge you to experiment and create a healthy relationship with food. Find the balance that works for you. Enjoy the connections that you make with other people. In the words of Hippocrates, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine by thy food.”

From Kristin:


It’s not just about the food in front of you or the food you’re trying to avoid…

I have decided to stop the Whole30 a bit early. As of this morning I lost another pound and now I’m at 113 lbs. So I feel it’s better for me to stop here. I did want to share what I learned and experienced this time around. Of course, last time was much more difficult but I made some permanent changes that seemed to make this time a lot easier, like sticking to black coffee. Not having a glass of wine occasionally was sometimes a challenge but again, not hard. When I thought it was hard for a second, I thought to myself how lucky I was that we get to think that not having a glass of wine when we want it is “hard”. It not. Coming off heroine is hard, being tortured is hard, being away from loved ones for years is hard. Our minds are funny and they do a good job of making things hard when they really are not.

The other thing is this time around, I not only looked at ingredients of food, I started looking at ingredients for other items that are absorbed into our bodies through our skin, like laundry detergent, lotions, ect. Now, I make my own laundry detergent, I make my own lotion and face wash as well. I also am making my own vanilla extract. Realizing that chemicals are in everything manufactured is what I really learned this time around, so thank you for doing the whole 30 again! It’s been another growing experience.


Some FAT Truths

How To Lose Stubborn Fat: Belly, Butt, Hips & Thighs

If you want to know how to burn stubborn fat, you have to understand a few key points. I realize many people who read the Metabolic Effect blog are not interested in the science and just want to know what to do.  For those types please skip down to the section called “Overview and Action Steps”

First, lets review the fat burning process.  In order for fat to be lost from a particular area the following events need to occur

  1. Fat needs to be released from a fat cell (this process of fat breakdown and release is called “lipolysis”).
  2. Fat needs to be carried to another cell through the blood stream (poor blood flow to an area means slow fat loss from an area).
  3. Fat needs to enter another cell to be burned (this process of fat actually being burned is called “lipid oxidation”).

It is important to note here that just because fat is broken down and released (lipolysis), does not automatically mean it will find its way to another cell and ultimately be burned (lipid oxidation).  It could be restored and this is often the case in people who are very insulin resistant.

Brief biochemistry overview

To further understand stubborn fat we need to cover some basic biochemistry first. Fat enters or leaves fat cells mainly due to the activity of two enzymes, lipoprotein lipase (LPL) which acts to store fat and hormone sensitive lipase (HSL) which acts to release fat. Notice the name of the major fat releasing enzyme? Is called hormone sensitive lipase and not calorie sensitive lipase for a reason.

IMG_0641HSL releases fat due to signaling of a compound called cyclic AMP. And this is impacted by the activity of hormone receptors in fat tissue called adrenergic receptors (AR).

There are two type of adrenergic receptors.  Alpha adrenergic receptors and beta adrenergic receptors.  The alpha receptors slow fat release and beta receptors speed fat release.  To keep this straight in your head think “A” for “anti-burn” and “B” for “burn”.

In addition to having an impact on fat release directly, these receptors also impact blood flow.  More alpha receptors mean less blood flow to an area, and more beta receptors mean greater blood flow to an area.

Hormones & Stubborn fat

So what makes stubborn fat more stubborn? Fat gain or loss is about two things, calories and hormones. But stubborn fat may be more impacted by hormones compared to other types of fat.

Many types of hormones impact fat gain and fat loss.  These hormones have this impact because of their direct or indirect effects on the enzymes and receptors we just mentioned. Hormones that store fat tend to increase the number or activity of alpha receptors and/or LPL.  Hormones that stimulate fat release increase the number or activity of beta receptors and/or HSL.

Certain hormones have a very straightforward impact on fat gain or loss.  For example, Insulin is a fat storing hormone because it increases LPL activity and suppresses HSL activity. Insulin also impairs the normal function of beta receptors, which is another form of HSL inhibition (i.e. insulin lowers HSL activity directly and indirectly via beta receptor disruption).

Catecholamines (adrenaline & noradrenaline to our UK/European friends and epinephrine & norepinephrine to us Americans) speed fat release when they bind beta receptors, which would increase HSL activity. But they can also slow fat release when they bind alpha receptors. This is one of the reasons stubborn fat, which has a higher concentration of alpha receptors, can be so slow to respond.

Other hormones have more complex and overlapping activity. Estrogen seems to both increase the number AND activity of alpha adrenergic receptors. The female fat distribution, where fat is stored in the lower body, is primarily due to the impact of estrogen (the subcutaneous fat and especially the lower body subcutaneous fat of women is richer in estrogen receptors).

Thyroid hormone increases beta receptor activity, blocks the activity of alpha receptors and works in opposition to estrogen making stubborn fat less stubborn.  However, thyroid hormone is disrupted itself by estrogen (one of the reasons women have larger thyroid glands compared to men).

Is your head spinning yet? Don’t worry, it will all make sense soon. Here are a few takeaways regarding stubborn fat in general and some hormonal effects to keep in mind.

  1. Stubborn fat has more alpha receptors
  2. Stubborn fat has less beta receptors
  3. Stubborn fat stores more fat and releases less of it under the influence of insulin
  4. Stubborn fat has less blood flow through it
  5. Hormones that increase HSL activity and/or inhibit LPL activity stimulate fat release
  6. Hormones that decrease HSL activity and/or stimulate LPL action encourage fat storage
  7. Calories matter too.  It is impossible to store fat regardless of hormonal action in a low calorie state and it is unlikely to lose fat if you are in calorie excess
  8. Stubborn fat is stubborn not because it can’t be released, but rather because it releases fat much more slowly compared to less stubborn fat.
  9. The sex steroids (estrogen, progesterone and testosterone) have receptors in fat tissue and play an important role in HSL/LPL activity as well as impact alpha versus beta receptor number and activity

The most stubborn types of fat

So based on the points above, where are the most stubborn types of fat? We store fat in several different places.

There is fat stored just underneath the skin. We call this fat “subcutaneous fat”. This is the stuff that hangs over your belt.  Then there is fat we store deep in our middle area around our organs (another name for organs is viscera) and under our abdominal muscles.  This fat is called visceral fat.  This is the stuff that gives many men that large protruding belly. You can’t pinch this stuff. Finally there is fat stored in and around our muscles.  This is called intramuscular fat.

The most stubborn fat on the body is the fat under our skin, the subcutaneous fat. Female subcutaneous fat is more stubborn compared to male subcutaneous fat. The most stubborn fat in the majority of women is lower body subcutaneous fat around the hip, butt and thighs (also called saddle bags, thunder thighs or bubble butts). The most stubborn fat on men is the subcutaneous fat of the lower abdomen (often called the love handles)

IMG_0724So here is how it breaks down:

  • Subcutaneous fat is far more stubborn compared to visceral fat
  • Subcutaneous fat is stubborn because it is more reactive to insulin, has lower blood supply AND has more alpha receptors
  • Visceral fat is less stubborn because it has more beta receptors, greater blood flow and is less reactive to insulin
  • Female subcutaneous fat in the lower body has about 9 to 10 times more alpha receptors compared to male lower body fat
  • The place on men that is most stubborn is the lower belly fat and love handle area
  • The places that are most stubborn on women are the saddle bags, inner thighs, butt and lower belly fat.
  • Another reason stubborn fat is stubborn is due to poor blood supply.  Both the fact that it is in colder areas AND has more alpha receptors make this so
  • Stubborn fat is impacted directly or indirectly by many different types of hormones. These hormones have varying effects on the activity of HSL and LPL as well as alpha and beta receptors

The shocking truth about dieting and stubborn fat

 One of the most frustrating things related to stubborn fat is that dieting does not help it.  In fact, dieting makes stubborn fat more stubborn!!

Let me slow down here and let you take that in for a minute. When you go on a diet, and by diet I mean the popular approach of “eating less and exercising more”, the end result is that you will often make your fat parts fatter.

Many people are not aware, but dieting has never been proven by research to work over the long run.  In fact, it has actually been proven not to work. 95% of people who go on diets end up gaining all of the weight back and 66% of those people end up fatter than they were before they started the diet. When they gain the weight back most of it goes straight to the stubborn fat areas.  Very depressing I know.

When you diet by the popular method of “eating less and exercising more”, the law of metabolic compensation kicks in (I call it a law because it is probably the most predictable and agreed upon phenomena in all of dieting). I am not going to go through this compensatory effect of dieting in detail here, but I did an in-depth blog on this in the past you will want to review. That article is HERE.

In short, this is how dieting (eating less and exercising more) makes your fat parts fatter. First, compensatory changes take place that make you more hungry, cause unstable energy and create insatiable cravings for high calorie palatable food. This is why 95% of people gain all the weight back or more. At the same time thyroid hormone levels decline and the fat cells themselves become more reactive to insulin. This means HSL is turned down (less fat release), LPL is turned up (more fat storage) and alpha receptor activity is elevated and beta receptor activity is supressed. Remember, stubborn fat is stubborn because of the alpha receptors so we certainly don’t want those pesky guys being any more active.  All of this makes the fat cell far more greedy (more fat storage) and stingy (less fat burning).

Why did I take the time to go through all that? Because if you hope to beat stubborn body fat you have to first realize that dieting is hurting rather than helping your efforts. To beat stubborn fat one of the first things you need to do is escape the eat less, exercise more mindset.

Overview & Action Steps

Now we can get into how to lose stubborn fat. Here are the three steps up front and I will get into details below

  1. Stop dieting. Move from an eat less exercise more approach (ELEM) to either an eat less, exercise less (ELEL) or an eat more, exercise more (EMEM) approach. This fights the law of metabolic compensation.
  2. Cycle your diet. Cycle the diet in a way to have periods of more food and exercise with periods of less food and exercise. This helps build muscle and burn fat (or at least maintain it) and keeps you from becoming skinny fat or bulking up.  It also fights against the law of metabolic compensation.
  3. Target the area. Use targeted supplements, exercise and lifestyle strategies to suppress and/or bypass the alpha receptors AND elevate the beta receptors to speed fat release from stubborn areas.

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