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It is not about calories

Have you heard people saying “I am not eating much, but I can’t lose any kilos”? Has this happened maybe to you as well? There are a lot mis-conceptions around the calories-in-calories-out concept and as with most things we need to strike the right balance in order to keep our body working as good as a Swiss watch.

Let me invite you to a little trip today to the world of metabolism.

What does metabolism mean?

Metabolism describes all the chemical processes that go on continuously inside your body to keep you alive and your organs functioning normally, such as breathing, repairing cells and digesting food. 

All these processes require energy. The minimum amount of energy your body requires to survive is called the basal metabolic rate (BMR).

Your BMR may account for up to 80% of your body’s daily energy requirements, depending on your age and lifestyle. A slow BMR means a slow metabolism, and unfortunately there are many lifestyle choices that can mess-up our metabolism.

It is not about calories-in vs. calories-out

"In order to lose weight our energy expenditure needs to be higher than our calorie intake."

You have heard the model of course that states that losing weight is just simple maths right? If only it was so simple. If this was true I really wonder why we have an obesity epidemic and so many people yo-yo dieting or are unable to lose those unwanted kilos.

When it comes to our metabolism there are many variables at play. Let’s have a closer look.

Hormones

Hormones are very important. If your hormones are messed up then it will be very difficult to keep a healthy metabolism.

The most important one is insulin. If you are insulin resistant and have an insulin level greater than 5 mIU/L you are pre-disposing yourself to store fat. This is because in a state of insulin resistance the cells reject using the sugar that is floating in the blood and since high blood sugar can be lethal it will be stored as fat. You can read more about IR in my recent blog here.

The second hormone is cortisol. Cortisol is our stress hormone that ensures we are alert in the face of danger. Unfortunately too many people are in a chronic state of stress which only leads to overeating, being tired, angry and eventually to disease. Pulling your hair so to speak means we are in a constant fight-or-flight mode which messes up with our metabolism. Consider not sleeping for example. When we don’t sleep properly we not only wake up grumpy, moody but also with high levels of cortisol. In this state it has been proven that it is very difficult to control your metabolism and lose weight!

Nutrients

So you fixed your hormonal issue and still struggling to keep your energy levels or lose kilos? This would require burning the food you eat in order to produce energy and keep your BMR up and running, right? What do you require for this to happen? Nutrients!!

You see the body does not know anything about calories. This is a human derived concept. The body only knows about energy and nutrients. If there is demand for energy (simplified statement) it will try to break down the food and produce energy (also called ATP). However in order to efficiently do it, there MUST be enough nutrients available. There are so many vitamins and minerals involved in every single metabolic process in the body that a deficiency in just one vitamin can cause a serious side-effect to your metabolism!

It is not the same to eat 1000 Kcal of pasta and 1000 Kcal of steak and a salad simply because of the difference in the nutrient content. And being deficient for example in magnesium will lead to a less effective energy production line. It will lead to a broken metabolism.

Busted!

  • The calories-in vs. calories-out theory is busted.
  • Hormones such as insulin and cortisol have a strong influence on our metabolism.
  • Nutrient deficiencies playing a big role to our BMR.

It is all about adaptation

You need to be healthy to lose kilos, and even more importantly you need to have a healthy metabolism. Are you eating too little calories? Your body will adapt. Are you eating too many calories? Your body will also adapt.

The reason we are unable to lose kilos is that our body adapts. It adapts to the state we are in, and tries to address the issue in the best way it can. We have high sugar? Then it stores it. Are we stressed-out? The elevated cortisol levels will cause cravings for sweet, fatty and salty foods. This means, forget your perfect meal plan for the week.

Too few calories

Eating too few calories can cause a major decrease in metabolism. Although it is true that a calorie deficit is needed for weight loss, it can be counterproductive for your calorie intake to drop too low and/or for too long. When you dramatically lower your calorie intake, your body senses that food is scarce and lowers the rate at which it burns calories. Controlled studies in lean and overweight people confirm that consuming fewer than 1,000 calories per day can have a significant impact on your metabolic rate.

It is quite amazing to observe how increasing calories by have more healthy nutritious meals can actually lead to sustainable weight loss. 

Too much cardio

In the same way the body adapts to less of something it also adapts to too much of something else. And in this case it is important to mention too much cardio. You cannot unfortunately out-run a bad diet. 

Although I am a supporter of running 1-2 times a week, cardio will not result to weight loss. It will help at the start but once your body gets used to the demand, it adapts, so there will be less energy required for the same outcome. You will then either need to start running faster or longer which is not the best approach (in my perspective) since there are much better ways to keep the stimulus high and keep burning fat (even after you have finished your workout). This is called HIIT.

Final Thoughts

When trying to lose kilos don’t start reducing your calorie intake. Instead try the following steps :

  1. Fix your insulin levels by following a low-carb diet. Ensure you get all the nutrients you need everyday.
  2. Sleep better and control your stress levels.
  3. Incorporate intermittent fasting into your day.
  4. Do strength training 2-4 days a week.
  5. Eat until satisfied but not full.
  6. If you are doing all the above you will reach your ideal weight with no problem.

You might still need to be in a slight calorie deficit to lose the last few kilos, but since it is difficult to be exact with your calories I would suggest that you just listen to your hunger. That should be more than enough.

I hope it is now clear why you never want to restrict your calories as a strategy to lose weight. Focus on your lifestyle and your overall health!

Further Reading




Breathe with your diaphragm

Breathing is what keeps us alive. And yet so many of us can’t breath right. 

Breathing properly is life

The ability to use your diaphragm IS to breathe properly.
Your diaphragm, like anything else, gets stronger with repetitive use, and the more you use it, the more you’re able to breathe deeper gasps of air.
When breathing with your diaphragm, you’re lowering the possibility of your chest and shoulders rising and falling. Yes, you’re going to have air enter your lungs so there may be a little action of your chest and shoulder rising and falling. However, it should be your abdominal area that expands and contracts. You’re breathing with your stomach when using your diaphragm.

Breathing with your diaphragm has a wide variety of benefits:

  1. Helping regulate your blood flow
  2. Relaxes your mind and body by reducing cortisol (stress hormone)
  3. Allowing more oxygen to enter your brain
  4. Used for proper core bracing technique when exercising
  5. It lowers your heart rate
  6. Lowers blood pressure
  7. Increases your VO2 max allowing you to withstand more intense exercise sessions
  8. It slows your rate of breathing, so you use less energy

We’ve lost touch with our diaphragmatic breathing as we sit a lot more for work, drive more commuting, and relax a lot more for down time. All these conditions affect one thing: the reduction of movement in the ability to expand and contract our abdominal area. It is because there’s little room for our diaphragm to move that we resort to chest and shoulder breathing. As a result, our mental and physical health deteriorates with added stress and a cortisol hormone that simply won’t shut OFF. You’re stressed constantly, you can’t relax, and you can barely breathe without near hyperventilation. 

Summary

  • Breathing through the nose and with your belly is the only way to breathe.
  • Ensure you breathe with your diaphragm at ALL times to help you manage your stress, be relaxed and the best version of yourself.

How can I breathe correctly

If you’ve never breathed with your diaphragm before, here is your chance to try it out.

  1. Begin by getting to the floor and lying on your back.
  2. Relax your body and begin by sucking air through your mouth as if you were sucking in through a straw. Breathe out through your nose. Don’t be afraid to look down and see if your abdominal area is rising and falling.
  3. Once you’ve got the hang of it with your mouth, close it, and try breathing the same way with your nose.
  4. You’ve got that down? Perfect, now with every exhale, try contracting your abdominal area as if Mike Tyson were about to punch you in the stomach (that’s gotta hurt).
  5. That’s it! If you feel your diaphragm doing most of the work, you are certified at breathing properly with your diaphragm. Now don’t forget it because that’s how you’ll be breathing for the rest of your life! You can also try this exercise standing up for a greater challenge.

There is more – Jaw alignment

Jaw alignment changes the structure in your face. The proper combination of diaphragm breathing and jaw alignment is quite important. Too many guys have weak or soft jaws from breathing with their mouths all the time. Their jaws hang low to the ground and the muscles used to chew and keep your mouth closed are overstretched and weak. Their mouths are weak and lazy.  When it comes breathing through their nose, they have a difficult time because they haven’t used that muscle in a long time. If you don’t use it, it’ll get weak and your neuromuscular receptors (muscle-mind connection) actually disappears over time. The muscles turn off in a sense, and this applies to ALL MUSCLES.

Here are simple steps to follow for proper jaw alignment in conjunction with diaphragmatic breathing:

  1. Move your jaw around in your mouth. Really feel it there. Warm it up. Don’t just let it hang with your mouth open.
  2. Push your jaw forward to the front of your face. You should feel a light stretch, even discomfort in the front part of your neck if this is your first time.
  3. Push your entire tongue to the roof of your mouth. Behind the teeth. Don’t push your teeth forward otherwise your body will adapt to that and you’ll have forward facing teeth.
  4. Push your head back so your ears are in alignment with your shoulders. This is proper neck position for a strong neck.
  5. Breathe through your nose and diaphragm and feel the deepness of the air inside you.

That’s it! Now you know how to have a proper alignment and breathe with your diaphragm as every human should. This may seem difficult at first, but continuously put in the reps and like anything else you WILL get stronger at it. I have no doubt about it.

Apply these exercises daily so they become part of your daily routine. Like any new movement your body adapts with time and practice. So keep putting in the reps and you’ll be breathing deeply along with a sharp jawline in no time. 

Apply what you learned in the gym

Everything you have learned above applies to daily life whether you’re standing, sitting, or sleeping. But what about during vigorous exercise?

It is important to calm your heart rate faster in between sets. This will allow you to

  • Able to run longer distances without raising your heart rate too much
  • Workout for longer and more intense workouts
  • Keep your Resting Heart Rate low
  • Go for greater distances or even harder sprints during cardio workouts

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, learning how to breathe with your diaphragm in conjunction with the jaw alignment technique will allow you to enjoy the most of life: being able to breathe normally. For too long people have stressed themselves out physically and mentally due to improper breathing, but no more. Now is the time to get your life back with these simple steps.

Further Reading





Snacking is emotional

Is there a thing like healthy snacking? Should we be eating 5 times a day to retain optimal health?
The answer is pretty simple. NO!
The average human should be eating 1-2 days, if there are following a nutritional dense diet.

About snacking

If you google for “is snacking healthy” here is what you will find:

"Even though snacking has developed a "bad image," snacks can be an important part of your diet. They can provide energy in the middle of the day. A snack between meals can also decrease your hunger and keep you from overeating at meal time."

Everything about this paragraph is so wrong. Snacking is not part of a healthy human’s diet. Let me explain.

  • Needing energy 2-3 hours after eating

Animals that graze all day, like cows, have to eat in this pattern in order to get adequate nutrition, because what they eat has low nutritional value. On the other hand foods with adequate amounts of protein and fat are more satisfying and you end-up eating the less often. They are more nutritional dense which means they have the right nutritional profile.

Therefore, when you eat snacks (which are mostly processed food) your blood sugar goes up and down all the day. You will be always hungry, emotionally and viscerally. This will also lead to more snacking and is a sign of being metabolically unhealthy.

Feeling hungry means you did not eat what your body needed. It also can mean that you are hypo-glycemic especially if you are looking for something sweet!

  • Snacking will keep you from overeating

It is actually the exact opposite! Snacking will keep you constantly hungry since you are not sending any satiety signals (via the hormone leptin). The advice of keeping the meals frequent and often is behind the calorie restriction philosophy which is leaving millions of people hungry and overweight!

Fasting

The practice of fasting really means to abstain from something and it can apply to every aspect of life. As we eat more often then we also need to use social media too much, and watch too much TV. And many of these daily habits are addictive as much as food can be. Everything we do in life that is too much is too toxic in some way and we need to practice fasting as a means of cleansing our body and our mind!

Here comes intermittent fast. Fasting should not be even a thing. It is part of who we are. That is normal. Eat 2 times a day and get some coffee just for fun!

Intermittent fasting will eliminate the emotional aspects of snacking.  We should be going through long periods of time without food and still feel great. We should be eating 1-2 meals a day and this is the normal for every single human. We just have forgotten what normal looks like!

Of-course, the benefits of fasting extend to much more than what we discussed.  Fasting is so embedded into our physiology that eating and drinking through out the day will switch off normal physiological pathways such are Human Growth Hormone secretion, autophagy, recycling of old and dead proteins, balancing mTOR and AmPK and more.

Snacking is emotianal

A snack is always an emotional event! A snack is for the brain. It is a phycological state not a nutritional activity. When we snack it is an emotional activity which has nothing to do with nutrition. It might be boredom, procrastination, stress but it is almost never about nutrition.

If you are really hungry then sit and eat a proper meal until you are satisfied. Being satisfied is a state where the brain signals to the body (and vice-versa) that we got all the nutrients we needed.

Summary

  • The need for snacking is an indication of poor sugar management.
  • More often than not, snacking is an emotional event which will lead to poor quality food choices and overeating!

What you can do

Listen to your body : If you are not hungry don’t eat. If you are hungry eat your proper meal until satisfied.

Prioritise protein and fat :  In order to feel satiated always start with protein, then add some healthy fat and finish off with some healthy carbs and veggies. This simple approach will provide you with the right satiety since it will give you the nutrition your body is looking for.

Hydrate : Ensure you are well hydrated. Many people are not hungry just thristy!

Final Thoughts

  • Snacking can’t be part of a healthy diet.
  • Try to remove the emotional aspects of snacking by eating nutritional dense meals and until satisfied.

Further Reading