Are you interested in fat loss?
If you’re like most people, you think this means you need to start working out more. Now, I’m not going to discount the benefits of exercise; I am a strength coach after all. But if you think you can lift or run enough to allow your abs to show through then you are missing key pieces to the puzzle.
The key to fat loss is stress management. I know those sound like two completely unrelated topics, but they are intimately tied together. Usually when we think about stress we think about mental or emotional stress, being late for a meeting or arguing with your significant other.
There are many other forms of stress, including eating foods your body doesn’t tolerate well, eating too much food, eating too little food, exercising too much, exercising too little, sleep deprivation, lack of fun and relaxation, and lack of meaningful social interactions. The important thing to understand is your brain doesn’t differentiate between these stressors – stress is stress.
The body is a very complex machine.
Without getting too lost in the science, what you need to know for the purpose of this article is chronic stress causes a release of hormones that make you more likely to gain and hold onto fat. Nutrition and exercise impact the body because of the impact they have on stress. If you eat the right types of food, and in the right amounts, and do the right types of exercise, and in the right amounts, your body releases hormones that allow you to utilize (AKA burn) fat. Conversely, if you follow the conventional weight loss wisdom you will eat too little and exercise too much, both of which are stressors on the body.
What you’re telling your brain is “there is a food shortage and I’m constantly running from a danger that I can’t escape”. In this scenario, your body gets really good at storing fat because it doesn’t know when your next meal is coming and it thinks you need to have energy in reserve to keep running from a never-ending dangerous situation. Essentially you are accomplishing the exact opposite of what you are trying to achieve.
So what is the key to fat loss? BALANCE.
The first priority is make sure you’re getting enough quality sleep. Sleep deprivation is a major stressor that can derail even your best efforts in all other areas of life. Second, eat real food. This means food that came from the ground or came from an animal, not the man-made, processed foods that comprise most of the American diet. Meat, vegetables, and healthy fats should be the pillars supporting your nutritional intake. Excess sugar can be a stressor too, so try to keep your sweet tooth at bay. And finally, when stress, sleep, and food are in order, exercise does play a role. This doesn’t mean running for endless miles, though.
The best way to speed up fat loss through exercise is to increase lean muscle mass. Don’t worry ladies, this doesn’t mean “get bulky”. The majority of women don’t possess the hormonal template to build large muscles the way men do. Your muscles actually release hormones that signal your body to burn more fat. So the more muscle you have the more fat you burn. Plus, when the weight does start coming off, muscles provide the tone underneath so there’s something good to look at. This balancing act can be seem more challenging than just running a few extra miles to lose weight, but the outcome is a more sustainable weight loss and a body that performs as well as it looks!
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