Thursday, December 6, 2012

Transform your body: phase II - make a plan

In the previous post I discussed the important step of making clear goals. This post will deal with how to make a plan that will achieve your desired goals. The question you must answer first is: do you want to be a sugar-burner or a fat-burner?

[A|2012/12/07] - Removed almond butter from recommended fats. Added peanuts, almonds, cashews to fats to avoid due to high Omega-6 and phytic acid content.
[B] - Debunked standard assumption that it takes 3500kcal to burn 1lb of weight.
[C|2012/12/10] - Added section on why sugar burners are always hungry.
[D] - Edited Axiom 3.


  1. Your body can use three different fuels; fat, glucose and keytones.
    1. fat is the preferred fuel for aerobic (i.e. low exertion) activity and provides ~9kcal/g
    2. glucose is the preferred fuel for anaerobic (i.e. high exertion) activity and provides ~4kcal/g
    3. the brain can use glucose or keytones for proper function
  2. There are two sources of fuel; internal (i.e. endogenous) and dietary (i.e. exogenous).
    1. gluconeogenesis is an endogenous process which uses fats and proteins to produce glucose and keytones
    2. ketosis is an endogenous process that allows the brain to run primarily on ketones and lower glucose levels
  3. There are two hormones that control storage fuel into/out of the cells; insulin (storage input) and glucagon (extraction).
    1. carbohydrate raises insulin, protein raises insulin and glucagon, fat has little effect
    2. if insulin > glucagon --> fuel into cells
    3. if glucagon > insulin --> fuel out of storage
    4. [D]insulin can direct fuel into cells for immediate or for later use (storage)
  4. Fuel has three primary storage sites; muscle, liver and fat cells.
    1. glycogen (i.e. stored glucose) is stored in muscle and liver cells
    2. triglyceride (i.e. stored fat) is stored in fat cells (i.e. adipocytes)
    3. glycogen storage is limited to ~400-500g
    4. triglyceride storage is dependent upon the # fat cells you have
    5. **it is possible for glucose to be stored in fat cells and vice versa**
  5.  Water is required to store fuel.
    1. 3g of glycogen : 7g of water (i.e. 9g:21g)
    2. 9g of triglyceride : 1g of water

Putting it all together

There is nothing controversial about the above axioms. They are all found in introductory biology books. The problem is that most health professions (e.g. nutritionists, physicians, personal trainers) do not take the time to understand these basic principles and the results that logically follow. One could write an entire book from these five axioms alone, but that is not the intent of this article. The intent is to provide the conclusions to enable one to make an informed decision about whether or not to be a sugar or a fat burner.

The SAHP (Standard American Health Professional) statement that "a calorie is a calorie", or "calories-in vs calories-out", is a half truth. It misses the underlying fact that the body can use different types of fuels for specific types of activity. Of course a calorie is a calorie. This is like saying a kilogram is a kilogram. A kcal is nothing more than a measurement of kinetic energy, just like a kg is nothing more than a measurement of mass. Our bodies do not store calories (i.e. kinetic energy); they store grams of fuel that can be converted to calories (i.e. potential energy). If you are carrying more fat-mass than you prefer then you do not have a calorie storage (kcal) problem, you have a fuel storage (kg) problem. 

Your body will store and use fuel based on demand. If you are eating a diet high in carbohydrates then you will constantly be storing fuel driving fuel into cells. If you eat a low-fat, high-carb (LFHC) diet then your body will adapt itself to use glucose for aerobic activity because it cannot use stored fat (because your insulin is high) and it cannot use dietary fat (because there is none). This also means that any dietary fat will be stored, and stay stored, because your body is addicted to sugar. [C]Instead of driving fat into energy producing cells, your cells become filled with glucose. Recall that glucose (carbs) only have 4cal worth of energy per gram. Your cells will quickly become empty and send out a signal for hunger, despite raised insulin levels. This is why LFHC's always feel the need to eat every 3-4 hours.[C] As this process continues your glycogen stores will be maxed out and, with no other place to store glucose, your body will begin to build new fat cells to store the excess.

[B]The standard assumption is that you need to burn 3500cal to lose 1lb of weight. Once again the devil is in the details. The SAHP is assuming that the fuel you are using to burn those calories is fat (1lb=454g=400g-fat:50g-H2O=3600cal). Most people, however, are not burning fat. They are burning sugar and it only requires 540cal to lose 1lb of weight (1lb=454g=135g-glyc:320g-H2=540cal). The healthcare industry is filled with so many people that refuse, or lack the ability, to critically challenge (i.e. to think) what they have been taught  that they will claim that the body prefers to burn sugar and at the same time say that it takes 3500cal to lose a pound! It is crucial for you to understand your fuel-type intake versus your fuel-type use to properly manage your weight.[B]

This helps to explain why a LFHC person who begins a typical weight loss program of complex carbs and exercise they will rapidly lose weight followed by either a slowed weight loss or a gain in weight. The reduction simple carbs helps to keep insulin response low but because you are a sugar burner your body is not pulling out fat stored in fat cells, it's extracting glycogen that's stored in fat cells. As this stored glucose enters the bloodstream it elevates insulin levels and if not immediately burned for fuel will get stored again. It's a vicious circle that usually leaves the SAHP blaming the client for being lazy or insubordinate and the client becoming convinced that they are meant to be overweight.

Remember that it takes 21g of H2O to store 9g of glycogen whereas it takes 1g of H2O to store 9g of triglyceride. This means that you will gain 3X's more weight to store the same amount of carbohydrate as compared to fat (and vice versa)! If you consider that the purpose of all energy storage is for future energy use then you realize that you are gaining 3X's more weight (9g-carb*4=36kcal; 9g-fat*9=81kcal) for 44% LESS energy potential. Now you know why sugar-burner athletes are constantly carbo-loading: their fuel stores are extremely inefficient. You should also realize that the SAHP's advice to constantly drink water is treating a symptom and not the disease.

Enter the Dragon (aka High-Fat, Low-Carb)

With insulin levels consistently at a level that allows the glucagon (extraction) pathways to dominate, the HFLC'er will be able to excess stored fat for aerobic exercise and stored muscle glycogen for anaerobic exercise. They will also be able to go for extended lengths of time between meals (i.e. intermittent fasting) due to the high energy density of fat. In addition, their thirst for water and overall weight will be less due to the low water requirement for storage.The ability to constantly burn fat means that they will be able to maintain low body fat (8-12% men; 15-20% women) without having to engage in constant exercise or worry about "cheating" on their diet (80/20 rule).

Sugar (i.e. glucose) is welcome, especially after anaerobic training, because the HFLC'er wants to refill glycogen stores quickly so that they can return to a fat-burning state. They realize that SAHP advice to eat complex carbs is precisely backwards as it elevates insulin levels (albeit at lower levels) for a longer period of time (not to mention all of the anti-nutrients) which reduces time in fat-burning mode. They also experience improved brain function because the body is now able to produce, and the brain is able to use, keytones.

The decision

This lifestyle change is not only for those that feel they are overweight but also for those that are at their ideal weight but have to workout 4-7 days per week to maintain it. After making this change I went from 195lbs@12%BF to 180lbs@8%BF and working out 4-6 days/week to 2-3 days/week. If you do the math it works out that I lost 15lbs, 9lbs of which were fat. I may have lost some muscle in the process but I feel better than ever. As an added bonus I spend my free time focusing on things other than going to the gym and not worrying if I miss a day.

If the preceding has not convinced you to reconsider your approach to weight management and diet then I'm not sure if anything will. The comparisons of a LFHC vs a HFLC diet are not the result of internet quacks running around spreading myths. They are the necessary conclusions of knowledge learned in the study of cellular biology.

I specifically focused solely on the weight-loss benefits of being a fat burner to keep the article as brief as possible. I will deal with the health benefits and criticisms later. Something to consider: if our bodies are built primarily for fat burning (as basic biology shows), then why would it lead to health problems?

If you are interested in becoming a fat-burner, I want to help. I will continue to post articles to this site for free but I also plan to start taking on a limited number of clients to help them achieve their goals at a low cost. I'm currently seeking clients for a trial program of about 4-6 people (preferably 50/50 guys to girls). I would like to start this program in January and expect it to last anywhere from 4-6 months. The program will be completely free with two exceptions; 1) you must provide an honest evaluation of the program, 2) if you'd like me to work out with you then you must pay for any guest fees.

If interested, please email me at

The plan

Here is a general plan for becoming a fat-burner:
  1. Plan
    1. set a start date, preferably a Friday due to the "carb-flu" (the period of time in which your brain adapts to reduced glucose and starts using keytones)
    2. set an end date, about 30 days from start date
    3. empty your house of all processed foods and grains (once you reach your target you can begin re-introducing grains)
    4. fill your house with healthy fats, proteins, and green vegetables
  2. Do
    1. reduce carbohydrate intake to 30-50g (no grains!) for roughly 30 days
    2. replace carb intake with healthy fats, proteins, and green vegetables
    3. don't worry about intermittent fasting yet, if you get hungry then eat (but not carbs!)
    4. drastically reduce/eliminate anaerobic activity until you hit your target weight (you're trying to lose weight, not get stronger/faster...this is for cross-fitters!)
    5. increase aerobic activity (e.g. take long walks, work on mobility)
  3. Check
    1. getting results? feel good?
  4. Act
    1. if yes, keep it up
    2. if no, figure out why and make a change

The food

Soon I will set up a new page with an Amazon store that displays products that I use on a regular basis. In the event the product is not on Amazon I will post I link to the product website directly (disclaimer: I receive about 4% from anything you buy through my Amazon store).

For now here is an overview list of recommended foods (everything should be organic):
  • Fats
    • coconut oil (room temp, low heat cooking, high heat cooking)
    • palm oil (same as coconut, great alternative for Crisco)
    • egg yolks (from free-range chickens, uncooked)
    • krill/fish/cod liver oil
    • coconut milk (the stuff in the can, not the processed junk in a carton)
    • full-fat greek yogurt (raw if you can find it, if not look for minimal pasteurization)
    • full-fat milk (if you can tolerate it and see full-fat greek yogurt)
    • coconut/almond/macadamia nuts & butters (eat it like peanut butter)
    • olive oil (room temp, low heat cooking)
    • extra-virgin olive oil (salad dressing only, no cooking, store in low-light areas)
    • vegetable/corn/soy oils (AVOID; high Omega-6, prone to rancidity, high phytic acid)
    • [A]peanuts/almonds/cashews (AVOID; see vegetable oils)
  • Protein/Meats
    • grass-fed red meat (rare to mid-rare, low-heat)
    • free-range chicken (cage-free/farm fresh does not equal free-range!)
    • organic pork
    • wild-caught seafood
    • whey protein concentrate (look for cold-processed, sweetener-free, grass-fed cows)
  • Vegetables
    • anything green and leafy
    • cauliflower
    • tomatoes, peppers, eggplant (avoid if you have joint pain)
  • Fruit
    • berries (good luck eating too many of them)
    • apples
    • melon
    • bananas (1/2-1 per day will not hurt)
  • Desserts (to keep you sane)
    • full-fat greek yogurt with berries
    • dark chocolate coconut mousse (dark does not mean 55%, dark means >70%)
    • dark chocolate (see the mousse)

Meal plan

Below is what I eat on a regular basis.
  • Breakfast
    • protein shake (whey protein, coconut milk, ice, water, cinnamon, (2) egg yolks)
  • Lunch
    • skirt/sirloin steak (some of the cheapest, best tasting grass-fed steak you can get)
    • creamy cauliflower (excellent mashed potato substitute, blend with greek yogurt, butter, season)
    • balsamic reduction (after done cooking steak add balsamic to pan to make sauce)
  • Dinner
    • grass-fed burger
    • broccoli with balsamic reduction (blanch in boiling water 2mins then saute in same pan you cook burger in and add balsamic, season)
    • herb salad with homemade dressing (just mix olive oil, balsamic, season)
  • Post-Workout
    • whey protein (sometimes I add glucose)
  • Dessert
    • greek yogurt with cinnamon (sometimes I add whey protein to make a pudding)

Note: Shortly after this post I will be posting a detailed method of how to calculate your target weight and how to set your macro-nutrient intake.

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