The Fat of the Land
It used to be fat was fat and you avoided it. Yet, we’ve now learned that balanced, Mediterranean-like diets are better and healthier. Saturated fat has long been the scourge of nutritionists, but recent evaluations of the science suggest saturated fat may not be unhealthy in small amounts. Ironically, the evil player in the fat cast appears to be trans fats, found in hydrogenated oils and margarines. A clear relationship exists between various types of fat and overall metabolism. In addition to being heart healthy, omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) appear to have a fat-reducing effect. A small study published in the International Journal of Obesity reported that substituting fish oil for saturated fat (6 grams per day) resulted in the loss of nearly two pounds of body fat, in part by increasing the amount of fat burned for calories. Fish isn’t a staple for many people and aside from tuna can be quite expensive. Fish oil gelcaps offer an alternative for getting more of this nutrient.
Monounsaturated fat is another heart-healthy fat associated with weight loss through increased fat calorie burning. Another interesting effect of increasing monounsaturated and small amounts of saturated fats has been noted. These fats appear to promote higher testosterone levels in men, the anabolic hormone that builds muscle and improves mood. The FitnessRx Ultimate Muscle, Fat-loss Diet recommends 30 percent of calories (approximately 50 to 60 grams) come from fat, with small amounts of saturated fat. Consuming 3 to 6 grams of fish oil daily provides ample omega-3 fats, allowing for a generous serving of monounsaturated fat (such as the oleic acid in olive oil). Though this seems tedious, extra-virgin olive oil works well sautéed with vegetables or as a salad dressing. As was stated earlier, small amounts of saturated fats may offer some benefits and maintain a more anabolic metabolism. Using a balanced mix of all three types of fats provides the best of all worlds and also aids in improving the body’s response to insulin, keeping the fat storage signal suppressed.20
Knowing what and how much to eat is only part of the challenge, though. In order to maximize the benefits of the FitnessRx Ultimate Muscle, Fat-loss Diet, it’s important to time the diet and a few select supplements.
A Unique Metabolic Environment
Early morning exercise takes place to maximize the burning of calories derived from fat. In order to facilitate this, it’s important not to sabotage the unique metabolic environment present after a night’s sleep. Most of us don’t fast regularly, thus overnight is the only time food is withheld for long periods, priming the fat-burning mechanism. The fat cells are stimulated by hormones that signal a need for the stored calories to be released, including growth hormone and glucagon among others. The fat release signal is stopped by insulin, which is released when a meal is consumed, particularly a carbohydrate-containing meal.21 Insulin also reduces the secretion of a hormone produced by the stomach called ghrelin, which stimulates growth hormone release.22 In fact, just the taste of something sweet may release enough insulin to shut down the fat-releasing process.23 Then the energy has to come from stored sugar (glycogen) or through the breakdown of lean mass protein. So it’s vital, for the purposes of this program, that no carbs be consumed prior to training. This will reduce the strength gains quite a bit, but for getting the body in summer shape, it’s best. Even though no carbs are being consumed, hydration is vital at this time, for the same reason. Typically, no water has been consumed for hours.
Drinking a liter of refrigerated water, along with 200 milligrams of caffeine (two cups of coffee or a thermogenic fat-loss supplement containing 200 milligrams caffeine) optimizes the environment. A few people are particularly sensitive to caffeine, so it’s important to watch for signs of caffeine excess (jitteriness, tremors, headaches, blurred vision, etc.). Decrease the caffeine to a tolerable dose if these symptoms arise. In addition, a small scoop of sugar-free, low-carbohydrate, fast-acting whey protein powder or essential amino acids will help establish an anabolic environment. Studies indicate shown that consuming essential amino acids immediately prior to exercise increases amino acid uptake into exercising muscle, even more so than having a shake right after.24, 25 Also, recent research has shown that taking an amino acid or protein supplement one hour before overreaching high-intensity resistance training and after can prevent muscle protein breakdown, enhance protein synthesis and maintain biologically active free testosterone.44
Immediately after exercise is the only time high-glycemic carbohydrates make sense. The body’s primed for nutrient absorption and the rapid insulin response to carbs and proteins effectively shuttles the nutrients into the active muscle.26 Most gyms offer a juice bar that will make protein shakes. The cost-conscious can also carry their own Tupperware® shakers and meal replacement packets, blending and shaking the packets in the locker room or in the lobby. Drinking a fast-acting whey protein and high-glycemic carb shake immediately after the workout will maximize the anabolic effect of exercise. It’s important to select a whey protein isolate as this form of milk protein has been shown to be higher in branched-chain amino acids and is absorbed and assimilated into the muscle tissue better.27 This is the one time a person wants to completely avoid fat. Adding fat to a carbohydrate-whey protein blend appears to negate the effect.28 Waiting until the breakfast meeting or grabbing a shake later won’t provide the same benefit, as the exercise effect wanes quickly and is gone within three hours.29
Some do recommend waiting an additional hour or two after the exercise to eat to maximize fat loss, but this induces a strongly catabolic environment. Not only will any strength gains be minimized, but it can make a person sluggish and irritable most of the morning. After all, we have jobs and family.