I get Shin's newsletters. I really liked this one. I do intermittent fasting along with low-carb and find it very effective. Sorry it's so long but it's a good read.
by: Shin Ohtake, Fitness & Fat-Loss Expert
Author of MAX Workouts, The Ultimate Lean Body Fitness Program
Are you frustrated with the lack of results you’re seeing… even though you bust you butt working out day in and day out?
You’re eating better… you’re exercising more… you’ve even reduced your alcohol consumption and yet… nothing.
Well if that’s the case, let me explain what may be going on. It may be that you’re fighting against your body’s innate survival instincts to keep your body fat… and if that’s the case… you’re in losing battle.
When you workout you burn glycogen (stored glucose) for energy… not fat. When you count how many calories you burned working out, no one ever mentioned where those calories came from… did they? You probably just assumed that you were burning fat…right? Unfortunately that’s not the case.
Wait… but what about if I workout longer? Hmmm… I bet that when you started working out, you couldn’t last much more than a few minutes without going out of breath or needing a break. But after a few weeks of consistent dedication to your fitness regimen, you’re suddenly noticing that you have more stamina. You’re able to workout longer and harder without getting tired as quickly. And that’s a good thing, because you’re definitely getting in better shape… BUT it does mean you’re burning more fat.
In fact, if you’re able to workout longer and harder, you’ve successfully made your body better at storing more glycogen (stored glucose) which is great for building endurance. But that also means you’re further limiting yourself from burning fat.
Also keep in mind that if you workout too long, you’ll eventually run out of glycogen, at which point you’ll have to consume more carbs (ie. sugary drinks disguised as sports drinks) to replenish fuel in order to keep going and, at the same time, you’ll also start burning your lean muscle mass as fuel because your body prefers to burn protein before fat.
Seriously… your body is fat hoarder!
I know it’s not what you wanted to hear… but it’s true.
Here’s the unfortunate news… your body doesn’t care if you have a six pack or not. In fact, it could care less what it looks on the outside. It’s only concern is survival.
Keep in mind that back when we were hunters and gatherers, we could go for days without food. Which is why your body acts like a hoarder when it comes to fat. Remember the more fat you have stored the more likely you’ll be able to survive in famine situations.
Fortunately for most of us, that’s not a concern anymore.
But it doesn’t change that fact that our body remains steadfast in it’s survival instincts… It loves to store fat, but it hates to let it go. And so it’s up to us to modify and adapt our lifestyle if your primary goal is minimize the amount of body fat you store.
The one modification you must make if you want to burn fat effectively, is to minimize the amount of glucose in your body. Glucose is the most preferred source of energy… so if it’s available your body will use it in favor fat (or protein). So if you want your body to burn fat (instead of glucose)... here are 3 effective ways to do it.
1. Fasting. This is an evolutionary way to shift your body into burning fat. By not eating for prolonged periods of time you’re essentially putting your body into “survival” mode which automatically shifts your primary energy source from glycogen (stored glucose) to stored fat. There are various fasting methods, but in the last few years the intermittent fasting protocol has really become popular. Here are a couple of good references: Leangains and Precision Nutrition.
2. Ketogenic diet. This is an extremely low carb diet, where no more than 50 grams of carbohydrates can be consumed in a day. The daily diet mainly consists of fat and proteins. The lack of carbohydrates (...hence no glucose in your blood) shifts your body to convert stored fat into fatty acids (which fuels your body) and ketones (which fuels your brain). If you were told that your brain can only function on glucose… you’ve been misinformed. Your brain is completely capable of functioning with ketones as the primary fuel rather than glucose.
3. Low carb diet with short high intensity workouts. My personal favorite… it combines a low carb diet (about 100 g or less of carbohydrates per day) along with performing short but high intensity workouts. These brief but intense workouts have been proven to be more effective at burning fat compared to other more traditional longer workouts where you’re working out at a moderately intense pace, typically for an hour or more. These short but very intense workouts are even more effective at burning fat when combined with low carb diet where the availability of glucose in your body is minimized.
Now, I’ve experimented with all 3 methods and for me personally, I like the last method, because I find it the easiest to sustain. It’s the method I’ve been using successfully for years and it’s what I recommend to the majority of people.
If you’re following the low carb diet along with doing short high intensity workouts, there are a few important things to keep in mind to ensure that you’re getting the most out of it:
A. Make sure that you’re eating whole foods and minimize or eliminate any processed (refined) foods… whether it’s healthy or not. Eating whole foods is KEY to this (any any diet for that matter) diet.
B. Make sure that you’re protein intake is adequate but not too high. I recommend a range of 0.7 to 1 g of protein/lb of bodyweight OR 1.6 - 2.2 g of protein/kg of bodyweight. Generally speaking the more active you are the more protein you’ll need to sustain the lean muscle mass.
C. Eat adequate amounts of fat. Keep in mind that when you’re on a low carb diet, it’s important that you consume enough good fat, so you can eat enough calories. Protein only has a total of 4 calories a gram, but in actuality it ends up being closer to 3 calories a gram since it requires a decent amount of energy to digest it. And since you’ll only be eating 400 calories or less from carbs, the rest of the total daily calories have to come from fat. Don’t skimp out on fat!
D. Keep the workouts hard but short. It shouldn’t last more than 20 minutes… not including the warm up. In fact, if you’re hitting the right intensity it can be as short as 3 - 10 minutes of actual work out time. Here’s a good example… the other day I did 10 repeats of 100 meter sprints with 1 - 2 minute rest between sprints. The sprints took less than 15 seconds each, for a total of 150 seconds (less than 3 minutes) of actual work time. With warm up and rest included the entire workout took less than 30 minutes. Remember doing more volume isn’t the answer. When you workout, you’re going to use glycogen as your fuel source… and doing more volume is only going to train your body to become more glycogen dependent . Not only that but it’s also going to increase your ability to store even more glycogen! And that’s not our goal. We want to burn fat… and that depends on how “intense” the workouts are. The shorter the work time and the harder the intensity… the more efficient you will be at burning fat.
Now that you know how your body works, you can tailor your lifestyle, diet and fitness regimen to make sure that you’re doing the right things to burn fat.
P.S. If you’re a serious athlete or even a weekend warrior training for an upcoming event like a triathlon, obstacle race or even a marathon. You’ll probably need to consume more carbs than what I described here. But than again, you’re goals are slightly different. You’re more concerned about performance than trying to look good naked…right? Wait… you want to have the best of both worlds…? Don’t worry you’re not alone and it’s doable with a little discipline. I’ll talk about it next time.Article