When talking about body fat the world is full of unhappy people:
- Those who started to restrict their diet obtaining some results quite soon, followed by a stalemate that makes them give up. After some time, they find themselves fatter than before.
- Those that “my friend eats like a horse and still ripped as hell!”
- Those who have a good body composition but never manage to reach low body fat percentages.
There could be hundreds of reasons: we are all different with a different lifestyle, genetics, and metabolism. So this doesn’t pretend to be a comprehensive guide on what to do but gives just some aspects to take into account to succeed in your fitness goals. Some of them may look trivial but you could have surprises!
YOU DON’T MOVE ENOUGH
There’s a balance in your body between caloric intake and energy expenditure. This balance in 24h (or even better in weeks) indicates whether you are losing or gaining weight. It looks simple, but how can you know if you are burning more energy than you assimilate from food? You may think that walking half an hour a day it’s enough, but that are only thirty minutes in 24h! What really makes difference is your main daily activity, the job for example. To recover from 8-10h sitting in front of a computer you should do some medium to high-intensity sport unless you prefer walking for several hours: sadly, your brain activity it’s not enough. The best way to be sure about your caloric expenditure is to calculate it using the formulas for the particular sport you are doing or buying those smartwatches which directly show the calories you are burning. We will better discuss the importance of the sport in other articles.
YOU EAT TOO MUCH
It’s an obvious concept and directly related to the previous argument. Here the only way to know if your caloric intake is excessive for your capacity to burn it is to count every kcal from your food. It’s really boring but even this time the technology is helping us. There are many apps which facilitate this task, in which you can choose the foods and/or even scan the barcode to obtain the nutritional facts. Now, do you think it’s better to obtain the caloric restriction by simply eating less or by doing more sport while eating the same way?
YOU DON’T EAT ENOUGH…CARBOHIDRATES
There are some people who eat very little but still really fat. They often try to limit carbohydrates as much as possible because they heard somewhere that “carbs make you fat”. It’s one of the worst urban legends of our days. It’s not a matter of carbohydrates, fat or proteins, but as we said the basis of your weight gain relies upon caloric imbalance. But there’s more: the carbohydrates contribute boosting your metabolism by the stimulation of a hormone called leptin. This hormone is also produced by the body fat cells and has the task to signal to the brain that your energy level (so the fat stored) is enough. This induces the sense of satiety, the restriction of the synthesis of new fatty acids and the increase of lipolysis. This is the reason for the failure of many low-carb diets kept for a long time, and also explains the difficulty to obtain very low body fat percentages. Moreover, people with really high body fat produces so much leptin that their body starts to be resistant to this hormone and its signaling activity is compromised, just as happen with insulin resistance. This starts a vicious circle which makes things even more difficult.
So we can answer the previous question: it’s surely better to obtain the caloric restriction by doing more sport without sacrificing too much your food, especially carbohydrates. The body can be “trained” to handle more and more carbs and this is the key to have a good metabolism.
An example of a meal totally made of carbohydrates. This increases blood sugar level and insulin, but with no triglycerides to be fixed in your adipocytes.
YOU EAT TOO MANY PROTEINS
It may sound unlikely since differently from fat and carbohydrates, proteins have fewer calories per weight. They are also essential to our body, have a good satiating capacity and help to prevent muscle loss in hypocaloric diets. The problem arises when many sportsmen (especially bodybuilders) abuse proteins because they think the more they train, the more proteins they need. Unfortunately, it’s not like this because the proteins demand to sustain muscle anabolism is quite low (for natural people, without steroid use). The quantity needed depends upon your activity and ranges from 0,8 g/kg to even 2,5g/kg in case of endurance and power sports at high levels. If you are not in these categories and eat more proteins than you need, a part of the excess will be burnt and the other dismantled and converted to glucose and fat. If you are in a hypercaloric diet for mass building, you already have an excess energy and too many proteins would be just wasted or converted to fat, so it’s better to stay around 1,2 – 1,8g/kg. Otherwise, if you are in hypocaloric diet you can take advantage of all the protein properties above mentioned, even reaching 2-2,8g/kg.
BAD FOOD COMBINATIONS
Even if it’s the total amount of calorie which determines the body anabolic or catabolic trend, the timing and food pairing still has their role. There are so many theories and legends about these aspects, but one thing is sure: the easiest way for your body to start storing fat is when there are triglycerides and high insulin levels at the same time in the blood flow. Since insulin is directly stimulated by blood sugar levels, this means that you should avoid many carbohydrates and fat in the same meal. What does “many” mean? If you are a sedentary person you should stay below 1gr per kg bodyweight, but if you did some intense sport before eating or you are only eating carbs, this value can be exceeded.
Pizza: the most amazing food in the world, but the worst macronutrients combination for losing weight. You have carbohydrates, sugars, fats (mostly unsaturated), and proteins all together.
YOU DON’T HAVE PATIENCE
Every change in your body composition requires time. Your body acts on longer time lapse than just a couple of days; this means you could be on slimming diet since a couple of weeks and start to see results after more than 1 months when you less expect them. Another point is that the more you rush, the more difficult will be to maintain the obtained results, and usually, a too restrictive diet over a long period leads to a relevant loss in muscle mass. Last but not least, when the fat cell loses its content it normally doesn’t shrink suddenly as we wish, but the fatty acids are replaced by water. This means that you’ve actually lost fat, but your weight it’s not changed and your belly appears fluffier than before. The solution is to just wait, stay well hydrated, and keep following your diet program with patience!