Don’t you just love a catchy title. Catchy, effective, and truthful. If we’re going to define “fat” as having more body fat than the ideal amount for health (ie overweight/obese) then at least 2/3 of the population falls into that category. That number is also on the rise, by the way, which means there is a pretty high probability that if you’re reading this you’re probably either overweight or obese or will likely be one day down the road. But why is that? Why is that at a time when more people are exercising than ever before, more people have access to healthy nutrition choices than ever before, and more people are making more health concious decisions than ever before that we still see the weight and body fat levels of our nation continue to increase? Lucky for you I am going to reveal the reasons why in this month’s article. Read on…
As complicated as we tend to make nutrition sound with all the different dietary methods and strategies, the truth is that weight loss and gain comes down to simple math. If you consume more calories than you burn you will gain weight. If you burn more calories than you consume, you will lose weight. Pretty simple. The complexity comes in two different forms. First, the amount that you consume can effect the amount that you burn (metabolism) and the form in which that weight gain or loss occurs (muscle, glycogen, or fat). We’ll discuss how to affect these later, for now, let’s focus on the simple math.
The Caloric Roller Coaster
One of the common mistakes people make with thinking about the calories they consume is only looking at it through one time frame, ie total calories in a day. Your body is constantly going through metabolic reactions, building and breaking down tissue, and thus we need to look at energy consumed over multiple time frames (meal, day, week, month, etc). The truth is that the average American isn’t in a constant state of energy surplus and isn’t overweight because they eat cheesy puffs and drink cokes all day everyday. The ones who do are easy to point out. They’re 400 pounds and ride scooters through Walmart. Most Americans find themselves gaining weight because they have a roller coaster of calories over multiple time frames. They have a protein bar for breakfast, a chicken salad for lunch, but after a long ass day at work they have a couple glasses of wine to relax and a bowl of ice cream. On the weekends they have a night where they go out for Mexican and margaritas. Over the holidays they enjoy the pot lucks at work and different parties.
These time frames of consuming excess calories are short: a meal a couple times a week and a few extra over the holidays. But each time they come from foods high in fat, high in sugar, or alcohol. All of which are very easily converted into excess body fat. They’re not gaining a pound of fat a day but just a little bit each week. Maybe a 1/8 to a 1/4 of a lb. Just two to three pounds over the holidays. But week after week, year after year these add up and 20 years down the road they’ve gained 30 plus pounds of body fat. Sounds familiar? I’ve heard this story a thousand times. So are you just supposed to never enjoy food or drink again? Of course not! You just have to do 2 things:
1. Consume plenty of calories to sustain you throughout the day from quality food choices and in sufficient amounts of each macronutrient. You need calories and nutrients to function. If you provide yourself with that, you are less likely to cheat in between meals or when you get home because you will have remained satiated and sustained throughout the day. Doing this will allow you to eat more food, more calories, and gain less body fat.
2. Give your body a reason to need more calories. Life isn’t meant to be lived in a state of constant calorie deprivation. You’re going to have times where you want to enjoy the flavors of this world, have a beer with some friends, and celebrate the holidays. You can do all that without the excess fat gain that comes with it, you just have to give your body something to do with those calories. Here is how:
Your Workouts are Weak
Your body is made to adapt to stress which allows it to do really cool things like lift heavy weights, build muscle, run fast, etc. Besides poor nutritional choices, the second reason that most people are fat is that they just never train hard enough to warrant the extra calories they consume. Two hundred years ago when people had to do a lot more physical work just to get by day to day, you could get away with splurging on some calorically dense food from time to time without any weight gain. With modern times, you have to create that physical work through the form of exercise. Unfortunately, the average American’s workout is….WEAK!!! I recognize that getting people moving is better than nothing and that not every person wants to push themselves till they puke. However, if you think going for a walk a couple times a week is going to drop 50 pounds of body fat you’re in for a rude awakening. That is a good place to start but not the ideal place to finish. If you want to give your body a reason to not get fat, you’ll need to strive for three things in your training:
- Muscle. Adding more lean mass to your frame will increase your metabolic needs. Think of the amount of muscle you have like the size of an engine. The bigger the engine the more fuel it will consume. It will also improve your physique as well as allow you get stronger.
- Strength. Increasing your strength level increases the total amount of work that you can do and therefore the total amount of calories you can burn. It takes twice as many calories to move 20 kg 1 meter in one second as it takes to move 10 kg 1 meter in one second. As your strength improves, so will your ability to output.
- Output. This final training quality you should strive for encompasses both the physical and mental sides of training. It is the ability to mentally push yourself to take on greater and greater physical demands. Output is building your strength up to a double body weight squat and then building it up to doing double bodyweight for 20 reps. It’s going from being able to do a pull up to being able to do Fran Rx (95 lb thrusters, pull ups: 21,15,9). It’s going from completing a 5K to running a 5k with a 7 minute mile split time. Output is pushing yourself to be more badass.
The cool thing is I’ve seen people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds achieve all three of the qualities above so there really aren’t any limitations. It’s going to be hard, you’re going to hurt but you’re going to grow and adapt and become a better person. You’ll amaze yourself with what your body can do and what you can accomplish. And you can have that margarita and not stress because you know over the next week you’re gonna burn it off. So now you know why you’re fat (or will be) and what to do if you want to change it. Either way the decision and power lies within you. What are you going to do?