How can we use food for fat loss?
Today, it is time to address Nutrition – the most important factor for weight and fat loss and a powerful tool to prevent diseases and speed up healing processes in our body.
How does macronutrient intake effect fat loss? And does it matter when we eat certain things?
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Nutrition and its effects on fat oxidation
Carbohydrates and Fat Oxidation
In the first part explained that an increase of Insulin levels in our body leads to a decreased rate of fat oxidation. As Insulin is released from our pancreas when we eat carbohydrates, having a carb source right before training will increase the rate of carbohydrates burned during exercise and decrease fat oxidation.
This makes sense, as carbohydrates are easy to break down and burn fewer calories. If you have just eaten a big meal containing carbohydrates, your body will readily use that as fuel for your workout.
However, like all physiological processes in our body, this cannot be said for all carbohydrates. The type of carbohydrates consumed plays a major role here, as well as timing.
Carbohydrates consumed about 1-2 hours before the training session decreased the rate fat oxidation in individuals. If the carbohydrates were consumed right before the training session, fat oxidation was not effected as much.
However, if the individuals performed high intensity training fasted and had a source of carbohydrates during the session, fat oxidation levels did not change at all.
Interestingly, carbohydrates consumed 30 – 60 – 90 min after low-moderate intensity exercise did not have a major depressing effect on fat burning, if individuals trained either fasted (or several hours passed after their last carb meal) or had carbohydrates right before training.
The reason for this is that lipolysis increases during exercise to such a high extend, that even the Insulin spike of the post-workout meal is not sufficient to fully decrease fat oxidation rates.
What about high intensity training?
The same experiment (training fasted, consumption of carbohydrates during exercise and 30-60-90 min after exercise) was repeated with high intensity training. In this case, the intra-workout carbohydrates induced nearly no elevation of Insulin levels and post-workout fat oxidation was pretty high.
To sum it up:
- Carbohydrates consumed 1-2 hours before training decrease fat burning.
- Carbohydrates consumed right before training still decrease fat oxidation but not to a high extend.
- Carbohydrates consumed during the session do not effect fat loss at all.
- Carbohydrates consumed in your post-workout meal do not decrease fat loss.
Fat Intake and Fat Burning
A diet high in fat is generally lower in carbohydrates. If we look at the finding above, it makes sense that a higher fat intake, aka a lower carbohydrate intake, leads to increased levels of fat loss.
In the study, researchers found that only 3 days of a high fat diet resulted in a significant decrease of body fat. In fact, high fat diets seem to increase levels of enzymes in our muscles that are crucial for fat oxidation. Thus, our muscles might be depleted of glycogen, but get very efficient at using fat as fuel.
So, are low carb diets the answer?
No, they are not.
The study investigated further and the results are not surprising: Our body adapts to any given circumstance.
After 7 days of a high fat intake, fat oxidation levels during exercise decreased significantly. The levels of enzymes in our muscles responsible for fat oxidation were still very high though. The researchers went one step further: All individuals had 1 day of a high carb diet. Again, their diet was high in fats for 6 days, followed by one high carb day.
On the next day, their fat burning rates were measured. This time, their fat oxidation rates during exercise were the same as at the very beginning of the study. Thus, by throwing in the high carb day, metabolic adaption of the body was disrupted and fat oxidation levels did not decrease!
Further investigation still needs to be made though. It has to be studied what kinds of carbohydrates need to be consumed and what role protein plays in all of this as well. For now, we can summarize the findings as such:
High fat intake increases the body’s ability to utilize fat as fuel.
Prolonged low carb diets decrease fat burning.
It is best to cycle your diet for fat loss: High fat intake on some days, high carb intake on other days.
Positive side effects
The nutrition facts I explained above are the same I used to reset Insulin and Leptin levels in our body. Although the study does not go into detail about the kind of carbohydrates best for fat loss, I am 90% sure that complex carbohydrates result in a much lower decrease of fat oxidation, than sugary or processed ones.
A diet consisting of high healthy fats and complex carbohydrates will not only lead to fat loss but also plays a major role in prevention and treatment of metabolic syndrome, autoimmune diseases, diabetes and heart disease. Thus, if you struggle with any of these diseases, these dietary changes might benefit you.
Make sure to talk to your own doctor first, of course! Every body is different and your diet should suit your body’s needs. I can only give tips that might benefit a wide range of people.
Now that we covered the science, we will continue to talk about the right kind of training and nutrition to build muscle and minimize fat gain/ lose fat. The challenge is going to be published the last week of february, so make sure you read all Parts of this program to be properly educated.