This is not an economics rant, so don’t be afraid to read on. It’s more a continuation of yesterday’s post about how people get fat so easily.
You may have noticed this before, but the hardest part of a diet is the first month or so. Once you lose those first 5 or 10 pounds, you fall into a groove and the diet hums right along.
The opposite, I’m sure you’ve noticed, is also true. You fall off the wagon a bit, gain 5 pounds or so, and then it’s almost as if you wake up the next week and you’ve gained another 20.
Whichever way you go, the trick is getting some biochemical momentum going in these two ways.
1. Testosterone and estrogen
The leaner you are, the more testosterone you’re pumping out and the more free testosterone – the test that’s actually able to have a biological effect – you have (it drops a little bit in a hypocaloric diet, but a leaner you on a normal diet has more free test than a chubbier you). Also, as you get leaner you produce less of the aromatase enzyme, which means less testosterone gets converted to estrogen.
Essentially, the leaner you are, the better hormonal environment you have to build more muscle and burn more fat. The fatter you are, the better your hormonal environment is to store more fat.
And just like that, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
Inflammation is a HUGE subject, but for the sake of your attention span I’ll boil it down as much as possible.
Here’s the basics: inflammation is essentially the biochemical indicator that something happened your body needs to adapt to. Homeostasis has been disturbed, and your body needs to respond appropriately to respond to the stress and be better prepared for the next time the stressor presents itself.
You know what increases your body’s levels of inflammation? Exercise.
Before you go, “WOAH, I should never exercise again because I heard inflammation was bad,” cool your jets, because inflammation = bad is a very simplistic and not overly accurate.
Ya know all those beneficial effects you’re looking for from exercise? Well, without inflammation, your body never gets the message that you need to adapt and improve. In the case of exercise, an appropriate inflammatory response is exactly what you want.
You know what also increases your overall levels of inflammation? Getting fatter. However, this is exactly NOT the kind of inflammation you want. This chronic inflammation associated with obesity increases your risks of all sort of diseases ranging from cancer to cardiovascular disease to Alzheimers. It also has an additive effect to exercise-induced inflammation, making it harder for your body to respond and adapt appropriately to exercise. The leaner you are and the less chronic inflammation you have, the easier it is for your body to respond to exercise-induced inflammation, thus making it easier to adapt to exercise.
Chronic, obesity-induced inflammation also screws you over in another way. Some of the genes and transcription factors that are activated to reduce inflammation also play a key role in the maturation of fat cells. The more fat cells your body produces as it’s dealing with chronic inflammation, the more fat you can store and the fatter you can become. (Not to bog you down in the semantics, but google PPAR-gamma for more information. Also, a lot of Type-II diabetes medications are PPAR-gamma agonists, which mean they increase PPAR-gamma activity. Doing so increases insulin sensitivity and decreases inflammation, but at the cost of weight gain which makes the problem worst in the long run. That’s a rant for another day, though).
So, in essence, as you get leaner and have less inflammation, your body stops pumping out as many new fat cells, making it increasingly easy to lose weight.And just like that, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
“But Greg, why would dieting get easier as you go? Doesn’t your metabolism shut down from prolonged dieting?”
The common critique, and one of the more common excuses for why diets fail.
My rejoinder: The number one factor contributing to metabolic rate is lean mass.
For emphasis: The number one factor contributing to metabolic rate is lean mass.
Are you still training hard when you’re dieting (i.e. with heavy weights; not 3 hours a day on the treadmill)? Are you getting enough protein in on a daily basis?
If you answered yes to both of these questions, then congratulations. You will hold on to the vast majority of your muscle. By extension, you will not experience much of a drop in your metabolism (if you experience one at all).
If you find yourself having to consistently drop your calories lower. And lower. And lower. Then you’ve either not been lifting hard enough, you’ve been doing too much cardio, or you’ve been eating too little protein.
Otherwise, just get the ball rolling, and you should experience increasingly smoother sailing from there.