Modern day fat loss, what the professional athletes know that you don’t.
Over the last decade I’ve noticed that it’s taking about 50-75% longer to achieve fat loss now than it use to.
We all know that weight management is a result of energy balance, if you don’t know this then you must be new to the industry but let me explain.
Everything that goes into your mouth has an energy value (we measure energy in this instance as calories) and everything that goes out has an energy value as well.
So every time your heart beats, it requires calories, every lettuce leaf you eat, contains calories.
These are the fundamental laws of thermodynamics which explains that to lose weight you need to consume less energy than you require and if you consume more energy than you require you will gain weight, all pretty simple right.
Simple but never easy.
So if weight management is as simple as energy in vs energy out how can it, on average, take longer to get the same result compared to 10 years ago.
Well the professional athletes normally have world class coaches to assist them and world class coaches know the importance of balancing human biology in this equation.
A calorie deficit will create weight loss but only when everything is equal and if there is a biological imbalance or dysfunction somewhere in the physiology of the athlete then the rate at which the calorie deficit takes place will be hindered.
For example, if an athlete has low testosterone then his health is less than optimal which will result in a less than optimal rate of weight loss.
Ok so now it all looks a bit clearer right?
So what’s different now to 10 years ago?
Well from my work and experience, 8 times out of 10 there’s some level of dysfunction when it comes to stress and sleep. Even though, on the face, these seem very insignificant, they can have a massively detrimental effect on body composition and weight management.
As far as the everyday person goes who’s just trying to lose weight, disrupted sleep can lead to cravings, reduced willingness to train the next day, lower testosterone, lower levels of adaptation to training stimulus, reduced insulin sensitivity among other physiological reactions.
Chronically elevated cortisol levels can have similar effects as well, reduced insulin sensitivity, reduced testosterone and impaired fat oxidisation.
For the professional athlete, these margins all become even more relevant and even a 0.5% reduction in overall results can mean the difference between first and second.
But we all knew that anyway.
Ok, so let’s be a bit more detailed,
If an individual has impaired sleep length or quality it will reduce the adaptation to the days training meaning they won’t get the gains he/her should expect, their nutrient partioning won’t be as favourable (less muscle, more fat) and they’ll be less enthusiastic to get in the gym and beat their previous performance so potentially they won’t be progressing optimally.
Whilst cortisol levels are elevated human physiology has a reduced ability to activate Para-Sympathetic Nervous System activities meaning less ability to burn fat and build muscle. These anabolic pathways only occur when we are relaxed, rested and well fed.
Sympathetic Nervous System pathways are designed for performance, blood goes to the limbs, pupils dilate and we’re ready to perform and react not grow muscle and burn fat.
Two different pathways for two completely different outcomes.
So this is where things are different now to 10 years ago.
We all live busier more stressful lives (on average) and this is ever increasing, there’s more pressure on us to perform and produce better results at work, more social events, kids want more, more pressure from social media to have more, do more which all push stress levels up and affect sleep length and sleep quality.
So with all this comes slower rates of weight loss.
The basic fundamentals of weight management account for energy balance but the world class coaches know that the health of the individual is what determines the speed at which the calorie deficit takes affect.
Stress and sleep are the two most common dysfunctions that we come across but digestion is another one as well, not quite as common but certainly worth mentioning before we sign off.
If you want world class results, balance biology to optimise biology and that goes for every aspect of your health it’s not just a calorie deficit.
Stephen Arnold Health and Nutrition Specialist