Archive for January 2, 2015

What you want may not be what you need. It may not necessarily be good either. If you want to lose 2 kg of your body weight in one week, what good does it do for you? The easiest way to do it is to be dehydrated. But once you are fully hydrated you would regain the lost weight. Sudden weight loss via dehydration is not good. It may be used but as a last option for athletes who need to be in their weight class under limited time. Rather than just “lose weight”, it is better to improve your body composition. It means lowering your body’s fat mass while maintaining or increasing your lean mass. Fat mass is stored energy. Energy is used when you do work – when you move a lot. The more work you do, the more energy expended. Lean mass is composed of your bones, organs, and mostly muscles. You move using your muscles and muscles require energy to move. The higher lean mass means more muscles moving and more energy will be used. In short, when we move a lot we use or “burn” a lot of energy and some of it comes from our fat cells. More muscles moving means more energy (which includes fats) is “burned”.

There are 3 energy systems in our physiology but to make it simple, the first 2 energy systems are for shorter duration activities but of higher intensity. The third energy system, called the oxidative system, provides energy for sustained activities, including your body’s normal functions while resting. It uses FAT for energy. A high metabolic rate means a lot of energy is being used even when resting. In any given day, we eat food which can be measured in terms of energy. Let’s say an average of around 2000 calories. This is our energy intake. All our activities and normal body functions require energy. This is our energy expenditure. If the average of our energy expenditure is always equal to our energy intake, then we do not gain excess energy. If our energy expenditure is always less than our energy intake, then we gain excess energy. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed but it can change form. This excess energy is stored in our body in special storage cells called adipose tissue or simply fat.  If our energy expenditure is always more than our energy intake, then our body will use up stored energy to augment the deficit. Our metabolic rate increases. This is when we start to lose body fat. If, like most ladies… ok, and some men, you want to lose weight, then these are your options:

energy balance2

  1.  Decrease your energy intake while maintaining your daily energy expenditure. This is what most people do. Eat less. It works BUT in reality it works for a short period of time like 2 weeks to maybe 2 months, then the lost weight is regained. because it is hard to sustain this a low calorie – low volume diet. It is simply uncomfortable. Another alternative is to eat food with lower caloric value but has high bulk. A very good example is water, next is vegetables. The drawback is that these foods  would not satisfy our tongue so it is also unsustainable for the majority. But those who are on this diet are so strong and so cute. Just look at horses and rabbits .
  2. Maintain your energy intake but increase your energy expenditure. This is what some people do. It works for some, not for some. Some get a totally different result from what they initially wanted.  You need to allocate time to train. Take the stairs instead of the lift. Jog or cycle to work. You’d save transportation costs too.  Doing a regular and  consistent training program with appropriate intensity is the key. Drink water instead of soda or sports drink after running. Remember the horse?
  3. Decrease your energy intake and increase your energy expenditure. This combination of the first two is the fastest option. But it is the hardest. It obviously works but most people are weak both mentally and physically that this is too much for them. There are particular types of athletes who do this approach and it does work for them. The more determined they are, the better they look. They are called bodybuilders and the more determined ones are specifically called Champions. Remember, you really have to be determined. This approach is not for the weak.

If you are reading this because you want to lose weight, please continue reading. Looking at the three options may not be very encouraging but it is because people are conditioned for quick fixes. People are not willing to pay the price for what they want. Or people are confused by all the hype that they start to want something which they may not need or want it for the wrong reasons. It is EXCESS body weight that we want to lose because it lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and joint problems. The overall quality of life is improved by losing the excess weight. But losing weight just to lose weight makes one lose. Running is usually prescribed but it may be hard for obese individuals. Walking and cycling are better options and so is Strength Training. Strength training demands great amount of energy during the training itself plus the energy used during the recovery process. It elevates metabolism. This is probably the misunderstood role of strength training in making ladies more sexy. Admit it, most ladies say they want to lose weight but what they really want is to look sexy and beautiful. Losing weight may be just a byproduct of the process of becoming sexy. Except for the obese population, becoming sexy may even mean gaining some weight due to the increase of lean mass. Most of the thinner lady athletes that I trained through the years started mostly with straight lines – very few curves. After a few years, they gained a bit of weight but they are far stronger than when they first started. They now have curvaceous bodies, and better postures. But what is more important for them is that they perform better at their sport and are able to overcome injuries which enabled them to compete for many years. Being more attractive was just a by product of the years of work dedicated to the training program.

Improving body composition is a better goal than just “losing weight”. Having a better body composition makes you healthier, you will look better (sexier if that is what motivates you), and you would be more productive since you would tire less. Anyone starting a regular exercise activity like Strength Training should first answer the PAR-Q. If needed, talk to physicians and state that you plan to start a regular physical activity. The physician would advise about your health issues. A good and credible Fitness Professional would assess you and prescribe a sensible training program that would address your needs. Do your homework and do some research first so you will have a general idea of your options and you can set your expectations too. So instead of aiming just to “lose weight”, its better to think of improving the quality of your life by improving your body composition. That way, you would be more motivated to train better, live better.