Eating fat helps you lose weight by training your body to burn fat more efficiently.
As a fitness trainer, I have never gone wrong by encouraging my clients to eat healthy fats. This doesn’t mean “only eat fat” and it also doesn’t mean “eat the same amount of calories you were eating before and then add on 1,000 more calories of fat.”
First, Let’s Talk Macronutrients
Paying attention to macronutrients is a key part of any weight management program. Whether you are a muscular man looking to maintain muscle mass or a mom looking to improve your body and shed some weight, this is something that you should keep in mind.
The three macronutrients are:
- Carbohydrates (which just turn to sugar)
That is what you eat, but these aren’t necessarily the things you burn. Unlike a truck where you put gasoline into the tank and then the engine burns it, your body changes most substances a bit before burning them.
For example, an orange has a specific type of sugar called fructose. In order to burn the fructose as fuel after you eat it, the fructose has to go to your liver to turn into glucose. This is a very fast process. Before it is changed, it is completely useless to our bodies.
Another example is olive oil. You put some on your salad and eat it, but your body doesn’t burn it in that state. The fat is broken down from triglycerides into fatty acids and are then used by the muscles. This is not a very fast process and when sugar is around, this pathway gets put on the back burner. There is a specific and logical reason for this which I will get to shortly.
Protein can be turned into sugar and then used as fuel. But proteins are mainly the building blocks of our muscles and other structures in the body.
The Role Fat Plays in Our Lives
Fat does amazing things and I feel it has gotten a bad rap. Fats are the key component in our cell membranes. Fats have more than twice the energy stored in them as compared to carbohydrates and protein. They got associated with heart disease a while back and the world pendulum swung to what I call the “low fat fad.” Unfortunately this just means that the world started eating more carbohydrates.
Now, here is something that you may disagree with: the fact that our bodies can store fat is a good thing. It is what helped humans continue living in times of food scarcity. You may not think that a large belly is a good thing, but then again there aren’t many people around you (hopefully) that are dying of starvation.
The Role Carbohydrates Play in Our Lives
Sweets taste amazing for a reason. It is because it is energy that can be used immediately. Our body is built to enjoy the taste and rewards us when we eat it. The difference between now and the majority of the time our bodies were evolving is that we have an abundance of sugar in our environment.
ENERGY DENSITY OF FATS VS PROTEINS VS CARBOHYDRATES
- One gram of fat contains 9 calories.
- One gram of carbohydrates contains 4 calories.
- One gram of protein contains 4 calories.
Think of a molecule of fat like a well organized storage unit with a bunch of small boxes. They are neatly organized and fill up the whole space. It takes time to pack them in and when they get unpacked, it is also a slow process.
Now think of a carbohydrate as a storage unit with only a few light boxes in it. To load it up, you just toss them in and you’re done. If you need to unload it, you only need one guy to get it out and it takes him no time.
Training Your Body To Burn Fat
A “metabolic pathway” is the fancy term for talking about how your body breaks down and uses a particular macronutrient (carbohydrates, protein or fat). If you want to build up the fat burning metabolic pathway, you need to cut off your carbohydrate (sugar) metabolic pathway. The reason your body WILL NOT burn fat when sugar is around is because it is always, always, always concerned for your survival and potential future need of energy. It is programmed to burn sugar when sugar is present and will not devote resources to emptying out the fat reserves.
Technical note: If you wanted to dive into this deeper, it is actually the presence of a hormone called insulin that keeps your body from burning fat. Insulin is released when you consume sugar.
So the solution is simple:
1. Figure out how many calories you eat on a daily basis by keeping a log and doing the math.
2. See how many calories you are eating from carbohydrates.
3. Stop eating the carbohydrates and eat a comparable amount of calories in fat.
This Is the Touchy Part…
So as a fitness trainer, the quickest way to upset your clients is to tell them they can’t have food. In fact that would upset just about anyone. We spend a lot of time eating food and worrying about what we are going to eat, so this is not a minor subject.
But if you have an excess amount of weight and you want to lose it, you’ve got to eat less food. I have helped thousands of people lose weight and the common denominator of those who actually lose weight and keep it off is that they had the ability to consistently lower their calories. There were also some who were successful by lowering the amount calories by just a little, but significantly increasing the amount of calories they burned through exercise.
The truth is that most Americans overeat and are tired as a result. As soon as most people feel the slightest tinge of hunger, it becomes something that must be handled right away. If you need to, take a vacation and put yourself in an environment that is far away from the comforts of life – and don’t bring sweets along with you!
How Exercise Helps Burn Fat
There are multiple types of exercise, but here’s a major piece of information for you: The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn at rest. Muscle is metabolically expensive to maintain. Your body will lose it if it doesn’t see a need for it. Regular resistance exercise (mostly on the legs) will help burn significant amounts of fat at rest (assuming you aren’t snacking on sweets every day).
Doing any kind of exercise or movement requires energy so get out and do something. Your body stored up all this energy for you to use, so use it! Some people like to go to the gym and enjoy that type of environment. Others prefer to do lawn work or gardening. I suggest finding something that you like doing and if it happens to involve moving your body, then it’s a win-win. The worst clients I’ve ever had were those who hated the gym environment and made themselves go. Don’t live your life that way and please don’t pay a trainer just to be upset with the gym, the trainer and yourself.
Build a brick fence, renovate the garage or storage shed, landscape your yard, repaint your house or go walk around a museum for hours to get some steps in. If it is more exercise than you have been getting, you won’t hear a peep out of me for “not giving it your all.”
Approach this stuff on a gradient that’s right for you.
What Are Healthy Fats?
At the beginning of this, I mentioned “healthy fats.” Unsaturated fats are commonly referred to as healthy fats. Unhealthy fats would be saturated fats and have been deemed “unhealthy” by their association with elevated levels of cholesterol. Talk to a doctor to see if you have a condition that requires limiting your intake of saturated fats.
Unsaturated fats are mostly liquid at room temperature and saturated fats are mostly solid. For example, the fat found in beef is solid, but when you heat it up, it turns to a liquid and starts dripping off. That’s mainly saturated fat.
Every person has a different genetic makeup, family history, blood types are different, exercise levels and existing conditions are all unique. Specific questions like “Do I need to limit my intake of saturated fats?” can be answered by a qualified professional. Take responsibility of your body and go and ask them.
Why Do They Call Them Unsaturated and Saturated Fats?
The word “saturated” refers to the chemical structure of a fatty acid. “Saturated” fat is full of hydrogen molecules whereas the unsaturated fat is not. There’s nothing more to it.
What Is a Low Glycemic Diet?
The word “glycemia” refers to the presence of glucose (sugar) in the blood. So a low glycemic diet would be one that doesn’t dump a lot of sugar into your system.
The glycemic index is a list of foods rated on how much they affect blood sugar. It was developed by having a person consume a piece of food and then watching the response of their blood sugar levels. The higher the response, the higher the food is on the glycemic index.
It would behoove you to stock up on foods low on the glycemic index and clean your pantry of those high on the glycemic index. Whether or not you’re trying to lose weight, this is good advice for a healthy lifestyle. It is vital if you are trying to lose excess fat.
An Approach That Works
After years of pushing fat people to eat fat, I am convinced that it is the right way to go. I obviously worked them in the gym to the best of their abilities and at what level was appropriate for them. I get results.
To increase fat burning, it is necessary to consume more fats and less carbohydrates. This turns your fat burning metabolic pathway into what used to be a two-lane back country road over to an eight-lane superhighway.
The Benefits of a Low Carbohydrate Diet with a Normal Amount of Fats
The number one response I get from putting people on a diet like this is that they have increased energy. They just keep going.
The number two response is that my clients have less fluctuations in their energy levels. The impact that this has on their lives and on the lives of others around them cannot be understated.
As you decrease your need for carbohydrates for energy and transition over to getting most of your energy from fats, you also lower your risk of diabetes. I have taken people from being pre-diabetic to having completely normal blood tests as if nothing was there. Diabetics with Type II diabetes can – through diet and exercise – completely free themselves from the need of any medicine and recover their true energy levels.
How To Trick Your Body Into Being Full
Eat your fats first, then your protein, then your carbohydrates.
Sometimes we have to go to parties or social functions. Sometimes we have dinners out with friends and there is so much birthday cake, it is stupid. Apparently no one cares about your stupid diet.
What I do in these situations is eat the most boring thing on the plate. The glycemic index is also an index of boringness. If a food is boring to eat, it is probably low on the glycemic index. Seriously, who deeply craves peanuts or cashews and has to work to keep themselves from eating them?
The benefit of approaching this sequence of eating is that by the time you get to the carbohydrates of the meal (the cake in the case of a birthday party), you can have a bite and be satisfied. If you eat it first, you are likely to eat the whole thing and then come back for extras.
How To Implement a Higher Fat and Lower Carbohydrate Diet
As with anything in life, you should do it on a gradient. In this specific case, you may feel considerably fatigued if you pull yourself off a high-carbohydrate diet. I can’t give specific advice or recommendations because I don’t have all of the facts related to your situation, but the safe bet is to do it slowly.
It is also helpful to let those close to you know what you are doing, why you are doing it and how they can help. And hold them to it. Make it clear to those around you that they are cutting your goals short by offering you foods high on the glycemic index. You’ll see who helps you eat healthy and who continues to offer you sugary treats. Then you’ve found out who your real friends are – and aren’t.
Take a wider look at the scene, see how you to got to where you are and set yourself up on a general meal plan for the next ten years. Thinking in this time span will put you in the right mindset for a life of healthy eating.
An Awesome Documentary
After writing the above information, I came across a documentary that covers exactly what I’ve been trying to teach for so many years. This is highly recommended material: