Archive for May, 2011

You’re fat not because of fate


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Our everyday life consists of several decision-making process. What we wear to work, the time you go to bed, the amount of hours you spend sitting on the toilet etc, etc. In short, almost everything happens because we chose to do so. The choices that we make can be either poor, neutral or productive. In terms of how our body looks, this is also a result of our decisions made in the process. Take a look closely; the amount of the foods that we eat, what we eat, when we eat, whether you exercise or not, the amount of time you’re sitting doing nothing or what have you are all personal choices. People get fat not because they chose to be so at least not directly but through the poor decisions that they have made.

Although genetics plays a huge part in the context of some people may be able to lose weight easier than the others or vice-versa while some may need more complex strategies to prevent themselves from gaining unnecessary weight, there is always a solution to every scenario. The only reason why people get fat is due to acute surplus calories that accumulates overtime. There might be some hormonal changes that may get in the way but the primary predictor whether we lose weight or not is the law of thermodynamics:

Calories in = calories out

Eat less, move more or both. And vōila! Magic eh? Your infinite excuses will not take you anywhere. People who have nice physique outside good genetics made correct decisions in terms of modifying their eating habits, exercise regimen and they made themselves efficient on time management.

P.S.

No one forced you to eat that whole bag of cookies. It’s not your neighbors’ fault if you couldn’t mow your lawn because you prefer watching tv than doing some work.

Reality check


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I think it’s quite normal to idolize somebody who has an admirable physique. In fact, sometimes print ad models, famous celebrities and certain people icons are the reason alone that inspires us to get “fit.” The problem with this however is that our imaginative expectation exceeds what’s realistic in terms of desired leanness or amount of muscle mass. It doesn’t mean that we are doomed to our current physique progression but we need to realize what is attainable and what isn’t. It is very important to be aware of the reality so that we can avoid frustration in the long run.

You may have encountered an online calculator which “predicts” our potential body weight, body fat and amount of lean body mass based on specific formula but the truth is that it may not apply to you. I used the word “predict” because these calculators simply predict which is not necessarily accurate. I’m talking about realistic genetic potential. For example: an online calculator predicted that you will weigh 200 lbs. with 8% body fat as your maximum genetic potential but this may not be true. Why? Because it depends on many factors. These online calculators are made using certain group of people which may have different genetics and ethnicity to you.

Speaking of genetics and ethnicity, these are the two things that we should look at as a more accurate way of assessing our genetic potential. Try to find your biggest and skinniest relative. Chances are, you’re both running on the same genetic pattern. So, you’re probably reading some fitness magazines or you may be looking at a print ad model and you are aspiring to acquire the same physique that he has. Another way of predicting realistic expectation is to observe the leanest and the most muscular people of your same ethnic origin. How many of those people are lean and muscular? How lean and how muscular are they? Are they natural(not using steroids)? These are the correct questions that we should ask ourselves regarding our realistic genetic potential outside drugs. These people are probably few compared to the majority(of your own race) but they can serve as the basic template to predict our realistic progress in terms of physique enhancement. No one is born with high end muscularity so the amount of training spam should also be considered. Although we shouldn’t use our genetics to hinder your progression. Laziness and poor eating habits aren’t judged by genetics alone. It’s big part of the game but certainly doesn’t end with it.

Many people quit their diet and training program due to lack of seeing desirable results. Genetics play a huge role in terms of how our body will look like but the remaining part of it will be dictated on how we optimize our diet and training. Fitness is a marathon and not a sprint meaning it takes patience and lots of it to see results.

Obesity: What causes and how to be solved


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Obesity is primarily caused by an imbalance on the energy balance where the intake of calories exceeds the output. At this sense, it makes the solution to the obesity sounds simple; eat sensibly, do a plenty of physical activities and problem solved. If the solution to obesity was that simple then how come obesity crisis has risen it’s numbers worldwide? It is because our environment has a massive impact on the disruption of our body’s normal physiological state.

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The human body runs on the same obsolete complex machinery as it used to be before modern technology arrived. Back in the days, there were no automation, no cars, no computers, no electricity, no processed foods and no other products that promotes convinience to the modern lifestyle. Does it mean that the technology has to be blamed for the obesity crisis? Does it necessarily mean that we must devoid the use of modern equipments to combat obesity? The answer is no.

“Correlation does not imply causation.”

In my opinion, obesity has no one solution. It takes multifaceted strategies to solve this global epidemic. The best practical solution that I can think of is becoming aware of the causes of obesity and by learning how to adapt to our environment. We don’t have to be a rocket scientist to learn the basic science of nutrition. We need to be aware about the calorie content of the foods that we eat and we need to make sure that we keep ourselves active. Outside that equation, the environment we are interacting with strongly influence both our behavioral and psychological relationship towards food.
Many of us eat even though we were not hungry at all just to socialize with our coworkers, classmates, family or what have you. There’s really nothing wrong with that but we must learn how to adapt to our environment — meaning we need to be aware how to respond to a specific situation by manipulating the basic science of nutrition. For example, if you want to eat socially, then eat less calories prior to that social event so that you can enjoy a meal eating with other people.

It is very common to see vending machines that sells high-calorie foods in schools, offices and other public places. Just because those foods are high in calories doesn’t mean that it automatically make people fat. Remember, it’s how we respond to a particular scenario and how we plan our overall diet and physical needs. The problem with many people these days was we are so busy doing other things that we neglect monitoring our health. Buying vendo-foods once in a while factored within your calorie budget won’t make you fat. If you do it constantly on a regular basis along with a sedentary lifestyle, you’ll gain weight.
The thing is, many people does not track their calorie intake. Even if they do, either they are doing it inaccurately or they are either consciously/ unconsciously underreporting their real food intake.

Technology isn’t a bad thing after all because in fact technology made calorie tracking possible and it’s becoming even more convenient now these days. You can buy a food scale, you can download a computer/ smart phone application that allows you to track your food intake. There’s even the calorie expenditure-tracking device that let you track the calorie you used during physical activities such as the body bugg, go wear fit, etc. I’m not saying that everyone must count calories or be obsessive about dieting and exercising. Different ways can work to every individual but the whole point was to make lifestyle plans and be prepared how to make an optimal response to a specific scenario.

The best way to minimize the calories that we eat is to cook our foods at home. This way we can control both the ingredients and the taste based on our own personal palatability thus it can boosts the nutritional quality of the our diet. We can still get fat eating home-prepared foods but this will again depend on how we setup our lifestyle. For folks who doesn’t know how to cook their own food who often buys food from restaurants and fastfoods, they might want to consider calorie-counting strategy to prevent themselves from overeating. Anyway, most restaurants nowadays often lists the calorie content of their menu.

The bottom line is, there are so many environmental factors that causes disruption on the energy balance which promotes obesity but by getting aware and making ourselves adapt to our environment are the best practical ways to combat obesity. Modern technology is all about moving forward. We cannot bring back those jobs where manual labor is a must. We cannot limit the production of highly processed, high-calorie foods in the market but we can certainly lean how to adapt in our environment for us to be able to incorporate effective strategies against obesity.

“Every right comes with a responsibility.”

“If there’s a will, there’s always a way.”

References:

http://www.endotext.org/obesity/obesity7/obesity7.htm

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2932668/

Eating less is easier said than done


Most people know these days that if we eat less food, we lose weight. If we do more activities than the amount of calories we eat, we lose weight. Sounds simple right? Losing weight or fat loss are both complete different goals. To many people, they are actually seeking fat loss rather than weight loss. There’s just a mere confusion between the two. Losing weight is all about losing weighing scale numbers but it doesn’t necessarily imply fat loss per se. On a goal of fat loss, of course we still need to lose weight (take note) in the form of body fat.

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I only mentioned that just to make sure that we are on the same page. Both losing or gaining weight follows the law of the energy balance. The first law of thermodynamics says:

“An energy cannot be created nor be destroyed.”

Or simply put: calories in = calories out
The above law is correct. However, it only applies to total body mass but not necessarily to it’s subcomponents. This is the reason why even though many of us have lost let’s say 10-20 lbs. yet we still haven’t acquire the desired physique that we want. Yeah, I know you’ve always wanted that flat abs and so do I. So, what’s the deal? Now, that we are talking about fat loss, the energy balance can be compared to our daily budgeting. Think of your income and your expenses. If you’re making more money than you spend, you save some extra money that goes to savings account. Spend more money than you earn then your checking account becomes negative. Live on a paycheck to paycheck basis and you’re on a neutral balance; you neither earn nor lose money. In short, you’re even. When it comes to energy balance, it means that you are not losing nor gaining any weight. For us to lose or gain weight, we must create an imbalance.

Today, I want to put an emphasize on losing weight(body fat) and the factors that disrupts the regulation of that energy balance. So, if you’re already eating less, moving more or both to create a calorie deficit, we lose weight afterwards right? But how many of us were really able to maintain that weight that we have lost, seriously? Just like spending all our money in the bank, we cannot sustain our everyday functionality if our checking account is on a constant deficit. In return, our bank charges us overdraft fees. The bank can be compared to the homeostasis of the human body. It is responsible on regulating our expenses(metabolic needs to ensure our survival). When it comes to human homeostasis, it is so efficient that it will vigorously repel any disturbance to the energy balance(or to the stability of).

So, how does our body(bank) get back to us in terms of overdraft fees(calorie deficit)? Many things can happen such as lowering our metabolic rate(also an effect of lowered body weight), increased appetite, making less movements, etc. The primary purpose of the homeostasis is to ensure our survival. Our body loves us so much that it will do everything so that we do not die from starvation. Our body doesn’t know the difference whether we are just dieting to look better or if we are starving to death. Our body is a very complex system. From our brain to digestive system to endocrine system, etc. They are all working together to make sure that the stability of the homeostasis is on check. As we lose body fat, our supply of the hormone called “leptin” also decreases. Although some studies have shown people who are leptin-resistant. Leptin is the hormone responsible on controlling our energy intake and energy expenditure. It inhibits the hormone NPYY(neuropeptide Y), a potent feeding stimulant secreted in the gut and in the hypothalamus.

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There are other hormones that scientists are recently discovering that affects the regulation of the energy balance. If you read my blog about Stress, our invisible twin, it can also alters our appetite.

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The primary cause of weight loss or weight gain is an imbalance on the energy balance. What made it complex and complicated are the factors that affects that balance. Just like in our daily budgeting, we are not working just to pay the bills, there are also the things we wanted to buy, emergency expenses, etc. I told you, eating less is a lot easier said than done.

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Stress, our invisible twin


Last night, I watched the documentary Stress: Killer of a Portrait. If you have an access to Netflix, you will be able to find this documentary by Robert Sapoltsky, a neurobiologist. It amazed me how stress is really affecting the longevity and quality of the human life.
According to the excerpt from the documentary:

“All of us have a personal relationship with stress. But only few of us know it operates within us.”

I found this link on YouTube: complete video of the documentary Stress: Killers of a portrait

When we think of stress, we often think of adrenaline or the flight or fight hormone. Back in our ancestral age, this is the same hormonal response our body reacts in response to any threat from any danger such as wild animals trying to prey on us.

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This is also the same hormonal response we get during the feeling of excitement such as driving cars fast, riding roller coaster, doing some stunts, bungee jumping, etc. In short, adrenaline’s primary purpose is our survival. The human body is a smart, complex system. Our body is an ultimate survival machine. It protects us from being eaten or being starved to death. Remember, way back then during the Paleolithic era or during the war, food scarcity was a very huge problem.

People can react to a stressor in different ways. For instance, if an individual perceives the stressor as a challenge to his/her control of a situation, norepinephrine, the “fight ” hormone is predominantly released. And, if the stress arousal increases and a possible loss of control is felt by the individual, then epinephrine, another “flight/anxiety” hormone is released.

When the stress is prolonged and seen as hopeless, the individual becomes more distressed and feels defeated. This activates the hypothalamus in the brain. What follows is a cascade of hormonal pathways resulting in the final release of cortisol from the adrenal cortex of the kidney.

The brain has the ability to selectively activate the fight, flight, or defeat responses. This usually occurs in day to day living when an individual perceives his/her hassles as a challenge to control or a loss of control. Although the stress pathways work together, they each can uniquely affect the function of bodily processes. For instance, the “fight” or “flight” stress responses cause the heart to beat faster and harder as well as release more free fatty acids (disassembled triglycerides) into the blood. The “defeat” response stress pathway can lead to enhanced lipogenesis (fat creation), visceral obesity (deep abdominal obesity), breakdown of tissues, and suppression of the immune system.

If you read all my previous blogs, I endlessly mentioned about the importance of the first law of thermodynamics which is calories in = calories out. However, this law only applies to the total body weight but not necessarily to it’s subcomponents. So you may be wandering if what’s going on? This is the reason why I am writing this blog because since our body is a complex system, there are constant biochemical changes that happens in our body and stress is one of those factor/s that affects our body composition.

In the modern days where there are no more wild beasts trying to hunt us, there are no more famine because in fact accessible to food is so convenient that we could eat as much as we like, anytime we want but our body is not capable of distinguishing the difference between old age stress and modern stress. See, stress is our invisible twin. It’s a part of reality. We experience it everyday such as traffic jams, irritating coworkers, bills to pay, love life, etc.

Whilst stress is inevitable, the best way to respond to stress is to change our attitude. Easier said than done right? Well, when there’s life, there is hope. When there is a will, there is always a way. There are many things and unfortuitous events that are happening in our lives that are both in our control and not in our control. Since, there is nothing we can do about the latter, we need to focus on the former.

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The keyword there is “control.” Our modern lives consists of everyday multitasking to the extent that we are tend to neglect to value the quality of living. We need to linearly stick this word in our head like a sticky note. Instead of worrying about the things that we cannot control and have our body release the defeat stress response, it makes more sense to activate our flight/ fight response to win a specific scenario plus it’s good for fat loss. Since when we are stress, your body breaks down it’s stored fatty acids to provide immediate energy supply. If we are able to manage our attitude/ stress response, we can voluntarily activate our stored fatty acids in the abdomen thus it’d improve our feeling of well-being because we were able to fulfill something. Be reactive to stress, you lose control and you will also tell your body to store body fat(in the abdomen) because our body thinks that you are in danger so it’s reaction would be bias on storing fats because you might be in a potentially dangerous scenario. Our environment have changed(modernized) but our genetic and metabolic response were still the same in terms of stress. There are many events that happens independently to each other but they are often synergistically interconnected within each other. Change your attitude into a positive attitude and you are also more likely to manage your body composition as well. Personally, whenever I feel frustrated, angry or rejected, I tend to use that energy(flight/fight response) into a positive, more productive energy such as lifting weights(or exercise) or doing other productive things. To some people(or probably to many), they often eat their way out of stress to the point that they often end up losing their control(defeat response).

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Generic fitness & nutrition advice: Not your typical generic over the counter medicine


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We frequently opting in buying generic grocery brands and medicine to save money. Cheaper is better right? Especially if the product is capable of giving us the same results. When it comes to fitness and nutrition, we may think that the rules are the same. In a way, yes, we also get cheaper and less optimal results. So let’s enumerate some of those generic advice.

Eat healthy to lose weight

What is a healthy food in the first place? There are so many confounding variables that affects one’s health such as lifestyle, body composition, type of diet, foods included in the diet, etc. In short, healthy food has no one exact meaning. Eating healthy depends on the context of application. You may be eating nutritious foods but if you are constantly eating too many calories beyond your daily needs, you won’t be able to achieve the goal of losing weight. Losing weight and eating “healthily” are two separate goals which often overlaps to one another although the optimal way is to aim for both. Whether a food should be eaten on a diet or not, it totally depends on the dose and the context.

Do the Xtensity exercise to maximize fat burning

There is no single exercise that would cater to the goal of solely losing weight. Some people would argue that you should do unlimited cardio exercise to lose weight while the other group will tell you to do high repetition resistance training and the rest will have their tiny bit of advice. Who’s correct? The answer can be found somewhere in the middle. Losing weight is a result of creating an energy deficit meaning you either need to eat less calories than you need or expend more calories through body movements/ exercise or by doing both. Many fitness gurus, tv infomercials and alike(I know you’re familiar with these) would try to convince you that they found the True way of burning fat(TM) but in reality(read the fine prints), their program is also based on eating less calories while increasing calorie expenditure.

Avoid sugars, avoid fats, avoid blah blah blah

Better avoid listening to this whomever know-it-all diet guru at all! Here’s the hint: if this person cite one specific type of food or certain macronutrient as if it’s some sort of a tool of the devil, most likely that this person has no clue on what he’s talking about or he’s probably deceiving you to buy something from him but the truth is, he was just voluntarily/ involuntarily misleading you from facts. This type of fallacy aka broscience doesn’t die because it often works! But the rationale behind these claims are often fraud. Just like what I said above, the key is “dose and context.”

The primary reason why these advice are called generic is simply because it applies to specific type of population and scenario. One major mistake many people often does is generalizing advice as if everyone’s situation are the same. The best advice be it training or diet will always depends on the context of application which means it must include critical analyzation of the situation to identify the possible solution to a given problem.
People are creatures of emotions that’s why it is so easy for the most of us to be confused from false advertising. A good way to identify whether a fitness hype is true or not is by familiarizing ourselves to logical (types of)fallacies.
Remember that everything produces results. These results however can be distinguished between what works(often so-so results) and optimal results(satisfactory, wow results).

Muscle turn into fat myth


Fat and lean muscle mass are complete different body tissues so this common misconception simply will never happen. Many people seeking improvements in their body composition join their local gym to start doing a strength training routine or any form of exercise that involves resistance-training regimen. In short, at least in the average people, they aim to build muscle while losing body fat which at least happens on untrained individuals and/ or people who are formerly obese/ overweight with minimal training experience. Of course, a novice trainee who is previously sedentary(not doing anything other than walking) has a lot of potential to see results even from non-supervised strength training program. On a typical scenario, at least on the average people, once they’ve seen results or due to some lifestyle changes such as students go to the gym during summer then they’ll quit working out when their school have started again or when some people lost their jobs, relocate to another place and other changes that may occur to their daily lives, so they’re often ending up going back to their former lifestyle being sedentary individuals or being busy doing something else.

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What happens next is these people often gain weight in terms of body fat. It happens not because those muscles that they have developed are turning into fat but simply because when they quit training those muscles, they are not giving their body the command to maintain those muscles and because normally, when people quit working out, they also lose both their motivation and attention about their diet. People gain weight(includes body fat) because they tend to eat more calories than they need which used to be compensated by their exercise.

An example is like this:
If you’re eating 2,000 calories to maintain your current body weight, then you combine the calories that you expend during exercise, let’s say 300 calories + the deficit from your diet = calorie deficit. Now, stop exercising with the same appetite or stop thinking about your diet = weight gain.

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A regular exercise is also a good way to expend additional calories, improves nutrient partitioning(where the calories go), a good way to add strength and has plenty of health benefits. What many people fail to realize was that a regular exercise also boost the psychosomatic drive to stick to their diet. The problem there was inconsistency. Whatever fitness goal a person has, there is always a way to incorporate an exercise routine in their lifestyle. The key is adaptation to the environment in the form of manipulating the things that are in our control which in this context means diet and training. If we let those inevitable factors dictate our lives, we will always find an excuse not to achieve what we always wanted to get.

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