Summer is pretty much here and that means it’s time for washboard abs, suns out guns out, sky’s out thighs out, etc. to benefit the most from these sayings, one needs to be ripped. To be ripped, one has to have a low body fat percentage. How does one achieve the art of rip-ness? I’m glad you asked because there is a science to it. It’s a complicated science so I’m going to simplify it for myself (and you).
Don’t get me wrong. Fat is not bad. There are many things that fat does for us. It’s responsible for providing us warmth, protecting our internal organs, making our sex hormones, protects the integrity of our cell membranes, protects the myelin sheath that surrounds our nerve fibers, and it helps the intestines absorb the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. It can also work against us if we consume too much and I’m pretty sure we know the consequence of that.
Let’s start with what body fat is. Body fat cells are basically stored sacs of adipose (also known as adipocytes). We get these adipocytes from consuming fatty foods. The stored fat is basically potential energy for us to use when we need it. Fat is a very calorie dense food. It has 9 calories per gram. So for example, if a food product has 10 grams of fat that means it has 90 calories from fat. There are also many different types of fat such as, monounsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fats, saturated fats, unsaturated fats, and trans fat. Some of these we need more than others. Especially with a typical American diet that involves a lot of fast food/fried food. Our ratios of fat can get out of proportion. The two good types of fat are the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. The ones we get too much of in a typical American diet are the saturated and trans fat (also known as hydrogenated fat so look out for that on labels because some labels will say trans fat free but then list hydrogenated/partially hydrogenated oils. Thanks FDA).
There’s also an important ratio to know. We need somewhere between 4:1 to 1:4 ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. The average today is around 16:1 of omega-6 to omega-3. Some of the polyunsaturated fats have essential omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) meaning we must get these from our diet by consuming food such as hemp seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts and fish. Our omega-6 (our other polyunsaturated fats) intake may be a little high due to consumption of foods like pizza (cheese), meat, whole milk, cookies, and of course the fast food. That doesn’t mean cut out our omega-6 sources and sub them for only omega-3 sources, but we need to cut but on the omega-6 sources. Again, we need a ratio which means we don’t cut one completely out.
Alright that rant is over. Now onto how we shrink the fat cells. Notice how I said shrink and not burn. That’s because the adipocytes do not just appear and disappear out of thin air. They are always there. Think of it as a gas can but the gas can is a balloon. When we have stored fat, the adipose tissue swells up. When we “burn” fat the fat is pulled out of the cell through a bunch of complicated chemical processes and so the adipocyte shrinks. This is what sucks about fat cells. We never lose them, but we can add more of them through a poor diet. This is where exercise comes in handy especially weight training. Fat and muscles don’t like each other. In fact, they are enemies. Fat tries to deplete muscle. Fat lowers metabolism. Visceral fat is the worst of it though. This is the fat that surrounds your internal organs and the more you have, the slower your metabolism and the higher the risk of heart disease, strokes, diabetes, and other not so fun stuff.
So we want to make sure we are burning more calories than we are taking in the fight against this. 60%-70% of fat burning comes from just resting (this is called our Basal Metabolic Rate/BMR). Another 10-15% comes from digesting food. No that doesn’t mean all you have to do is rest and eat to burn fat… sorry. You also have to exercise (WEIGHT TRAIN) to burn an additional 15%-30% of fat. Remember I said higher body fat percentages mean slower metabolism? Well higher muscle content increases metabolism which means more calories burned. As we exercise, the majority of fat is burned through breathing out carbon dioxide. My recommendation is box breathing (2-3 seconds inhale, hold 2-3 seconds, exhale 2-3 seconds, don’t breathe 2-3 seconds, then repeat). This is why I stress deep breathing between sets. It not only promotes fat burning, but it delivers oxygen and nutrients to the muscles to promote recovery after a workout. The rest of the fat is released through sweat and urine.
This just skims the surface of fat and fat burning. There is a lot of biochemistry involved and I didn’t major in organic chemistry, thank God. I’d probably still be in school. I did major in exercise science though. So I know enough to be informative. If you’re looking for a meal plan, I can’t provide one for you, That’s outside my scope of practice. You can ask me about what I think, but don’t take that as the end all be all. There are a lot of people more qualified and smarter than I am regarding this stuff. But I’m here to help you understand the process to the best of my ability. I hope this helped.
- Coach Brent
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