Sunday 2.12.12

Childcare at The Compound
(I stole this from Laura, I thought it was great!)
Continued Fat Loss

So we are coming to the end of the Nutrition Challenge.  It is the final week, Saturday the 18th is when all the numbers and final food logs are due to me.  You can begin collecting the numbers starting Thursday and thru Saturday, so any day you can get in the gym and measure and complete the workouts, do it!

Hopefully those of you that participated saw the effects of how your body felt during this challenge and will make the decision to stick with it.  Food is a powerful drug and how you feel from day to day is directly related to what you put into it.

However, it will be difficult for all of us to stay eating this way 100% of the time for the rest of our lives.  We're all human and although we know it makes us feel good, we all want to splurge now and again and live on the edge and ingest something not so good for us.  No problem!  A strategically planned cheat day can help with continued weight loss. I’ve always had a hard time eating too “clean” for too long. It was just a matter of time before I’d fall off the damn fat loss wagon and go on a week-long binge because I was feeling so deprived of great-tasting comfort foods. Do you know this feeling? I’m sure you do.

Not only does a cheat day promote rapid fat burning through a series of hormonal effects, but it allows you to enjoy your favorite foods and look forward to indulging in them once a week. I think this is huge for most normal people who don’t have the discipline of a world class bodybuilder or fitness model.

To accept the notion that cheat days help your body to lose fat more rapidly, you need to know about a super important hormone, Leptin. Leptin’s main role is to tell your brain and body about your overall nutritional status. There are two ways leptin levels are controlled.

The first is the amount of body fat you have. Basically, people with higher levels of body fat will have greater leptin levels than those with lower body fat percentages. Because leptin is released by fat cells (STUPID fat cells), you’d think that under everyday conditions there would be a direct relationship between the amount of fat you have and the rate of leptin production. But when you try to lose fat by following a diet plan and restricting food intake, your internal conditions become a little screwy.

The second way leptin levels are adjusted by your body is affected by the amount and types of calories you eat.  Therefore, a fat loss diet causes your body to reduce leptin levels, regardless of how much body fat you have. This means you can be really overweight and still have low leptin levels… just by starting on a diet in attempt to shed some body fat.

Why is this important?  Normally, leptin levels are hanging around at a typical level and the brain therefore thinks that nutrition intake is sufficient. Your metabolic rate is operating at a good clip and technically, your body is ready to burn fat. But almost as soon as you decide to go on a fat loss diet, problems arise… After just 6-8 days of dieting, leptin levels will drop by at least 50-60%. This sends a signal to the brain that you’re starving and not eating enough food.

Unfortunately, your body responds by shutting down your metabolism (ability to burn fat) and creating a hormone response that’s even worse… your thyroid hormones are also reduced substantially (this causes an even slower metabolism) and you release more cortisol (a nasty stress hormone that likes to store fat, especially in your stomach area — it should be noted that the more stress you have in your life, generally the more cortisol you body produces).

So what’s the solution? We have to find a way to keep leptin levels high and our bodies ready for fat loss during a dieting process that produces a caloric deficit.  By eating calorie dense foods (essentially anything you want) on purpose one day per week, you’ll give leptin levels (and your metabolism) a “reset” before your body starts to work against you.  This keeps your fat-burning potential maxed out. I think it’s equally important, from a mental and emotional standpoint, to allow yourself to indulge once a week on the foods we all love. Plus, you can plan this cheat day around your life, birthdays, weddings, post workout meals, etc.

But with everything, moderation is important.  Those of us with higher amounts of fat to lose may be better off sprinkling a few smaller cheat items inside a day of clean eating.This is because you are more likely to be slightly leptin resistant and would benefit from getting the ball rolling, losing some fat, regaining leptin sensitivity and then bringing on the all-out cheat day.  Also note, the cheat day strategy may not be appropriate for those with a serious history of binging or for anyone who thinks they may have issues cutting the unclean eating off after one day. Although there are no calorie restrictions on your cheat day, I wouldn’t recommend going totally overboard – just enjoy whatever you want throughout the entire day, without gorging yourself.

The cheat day is not a new invention.  It has been packaged in special diet trends, like "carb cycling", "zig-zagging", "carb rotation", anything anyone can do to repackage free info and making a buck out of it (and it is can find real scientific studies supporting the cheat day by just googling it!).

I like to look at it simpler.  I can make small goals throughout the week and succeed easier than I can by telling myself I will fit in a size 2 dress in 4 months by eating as little as possible.  That latter goal will never get me into that dress come summer time, it has fail written all over it!

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