Thursday, October 25, 2012

Cry "EPOC" And Release The Colpo!

In another entertaining post, AC writes about EPOC- the impact of intense exercise on post-exercise metabolism. Some have claimed that EPOC enables greater fat burn from shorter duration exercise. Perhaps it's true, but is that relevant to fat loss for the majority of us that"train to live"? In other words, it's a rehash of the more basic question - is exercise effective for fat loss? As the American College of Sports Medicine has opined, the science of the topic is not compelling.

Have a good read from the link below - AC takes a poke at Mike Eades, Gary Taubes, and CrossFit, all in one article. Funny that he should take the shot at CF since most of us have been told for years by CrossFit founder Greg Glassman that exercise should not be thought of as the best means to fat loss.

AC's idea for fat loss and exercise is simple and mirrors the "conventional wisdom" of the last 30-40 years - hold intake constant and increase activity levels in order to induce a negative energy balance leading to fat burning and weight loss. "Calories in, calories out." The problem is, in the real world, this tactic doesn't work out well for most. I've discussed why before, but in review:
1. Increased activity tends to lead to increased hunger. In the long term, hunger wins, leading to a resumption of higher calorie intake.
2. There's a limit to the amount of time most of can spend doing exercise; we exercise to live, vice living for exercise.
3. There's a limit to how hard folks are willing to work day after day, week after week, year after year, to count calories. If you worked very, very hard at it, and put calorie control ahead of nearly all other priorities in life, you could probably maintain a good body composition from calorie control alone, and skip the daily workout.  In fact, if it's just about calories, why not do just that? Most folks simply are not going to do this. Nor should they. The human body will regulate intake nicely via hunger if one does not eat a bunch of nasty, Neolithic food. In other words - there's a way the body can and should work to maintain a healthy range of body fat, and that is by eating foods the body has evolved to consume.
4. The body, unlike a bomb calorimeter, is not a closed system. There are many ways the body responds to changes in diet, changes in sleep, changes in exercise, changes in sunlight on the skin; some of those have long term effects, further complicating the mix of variables. In fact - AC's assertion that fat loss is about nothing more than calories in, calories out, is absurd for ignoring the fact that in living animals, caloric intake is a result and a cause in body composition. People with pregnancy hormones eat more. Rapidly growing children eat more. Folks who eat nasty, high carb foods, eat more calories and eventually lose their ability to tolerate same, resulting in fat gain, increased appetite and reduced activity levels.

AC uses the phenomenon of retired athletes as an example for his "calories are all you need to know" mantra; "hey, some guy quit training six hours a day and exploded with fat! That proves that a calorie is a calorie." To my way of thinking, unless you plan on training six hours a day, that's an irrelevant observation. This phenomenon illustrates another point well - it is difficult to eat enough food to support six hours of daily training. It takes work, and it is completely arguable whether the result is biased more towards health or illness, as Primal Blueprint author Mark Sisson ( argues compellingly.

AC's post is an entertaining read, but here's his most insightful blurb (hint: that's not a compliment to his insight):
"As I have stated countless times on this site and in my book The Fat Loss Bible, fat-derived weight loss is all about calories.

Yep, calories.

Calories, calories, calories, calories, calories, calories, calories, calories, calories, calories, CALORIES!

Damn I love that word. In fact, I absolutely adore it because every time I mention it some angry reality-hating low-carber out there who earnestly believes he/she knows more than me (and folks like Jules Hirsch and George Bray) about fat loss - despite the fact he/she is built like a girdle-wearing hippopotamus - is guaranteed to suffer a self-induced aneurism.

Ca-lor-ies, bay-bee!

Look, there goes another low-carber!

OK, enough funnin'.back to the topic at hand: Calories!

It bemuses me to no end to see people trying to devise all manner of clever routines that will somehow send their metabolism off into the stratosphere and burn fat like butter in a fry pan, and yet ignore the most fundamental equation that underlies every successful fat-derived weight loss attempt:


That's a good example of where AC's lack of insight becomes stupefying - there's no one who disagrees with this point.  It's like shouting "the sun comes up in the morning!"  He's picking a fight here with a straw man. Of course we know that a person who is losing fat is in negative caloric balance. The question is "why?" This is a question AC ignores, because to him it is a simple thing; just eat less, move more, any idiot can do it, and anyone who does not do it is a lazy sloth (AC tends to choose uglier, more colorful characterizations for those more fat laden than himself).

People eat when they are hungry - maybe not this minute, or even for a month, or two - but eventually, hunger wins BECAUSE IT IS SUPPOSED TO!  A million years of evolution ensures we eat when hungry! So the first answer to the question of how to get someone to negative caloric balance is to get their hunger under control.

How does one "get hunger under control"?? First, end metabolic derangement by reducing carb intake by eliminating most Neolithic foods.

When you are eating meat, eggs, vegetables, nuts and seeds, little fruit or starch, and no sugar/wheat, after the initial adaptation period, hunger is regulated because blood sugar levels are regulated; this helps to break existing positive associations to sweets/carbs, which the metabolically deranged use to treat their gyrating blood sugar levels.

By regulating food quality, carb intake is generally kept low, ~100g/day or less. You only need to eat more carbs than that if you really love veggies and/or train for competitive activity. If you have a lot of metabolic injury (high body fat or poor glycemic control or both) you will benefit from a period of ketogenic adaptation - keeping carbs below 25g/day (what the Atkins diet calls "induction").

As you learn how to convert to a diet modeled on the Paleolithic idea, exercise for the physical attributes you desire - strength, speed, endurance, agility, coordination, skill, accuracy, balance, power, stamina or whatever suits your fancy. Exercise for health, exercise for appearance if you like, exercise for performance/job requirements. There are many reasons for exercise, but fat loss is not primary among them. So, on this point AC and I agree - HIIT is not important for weight loss, it is important because you can use it to buy a lot of fitness in a small amount of time.

Over the first month of this approach, you will restore the normal metabolic process of using fat to fuel most of you activity, using sugar/ketones to feed the brain, and maintaining stable blood sugar.

You will lose visceral fat, liver fat, and likely sleep better (due to stable night time blood sugar). You will increase HDL, reduce LDL particle size, and reduce triglycerides - and these things will happen faster than if one follows AC's advice to reduce calories with no further guidance.

AC also likes to mis-characterize "low-carbers" as folks who advocate only "very low carb" intakes (<75g atkins="atkins" but="but" day="day" didn="didn" even="even" extended="extended" famous="famous" for="for" intake="intake" level="level" low-carber="low-carber" most="most" nbsp="nbsp" o:p="o:p" of="of" periods.="periods." recommend="recommend" robert="robert" t="t" that="that" the="the">

So when AC wails about the decrease in thyroid output due to low carb intake, he's talking about sustained very low carb consumption only; presumably then, he knows that someone eating 75g/day is eating a relatively low level of carbs, but does not suffer much risk of thyroid issues (at least not due to insufficient carb intake).

Eat meat, eggs and veggies, nuts and seeds, little fruit or starch, and no sugar/wheat.

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