Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Why calories in versus calories out doesn't work

I click baited you here.  I admit it.  I'm not sorry.  

I'm even going to put a chicken breast pic in the preview so that it looks totally legit.  But keep reading.

To lose weight, you have to essentially move more and eat less. You have to have an energy deficit.  That's the end of the discussion. It really is. right?  It's all thermodynamics and energy in versus out and blah blah blah blah blah.

That's all it is, right?



If we lived in a vacuum, like a bunch of rats in test tubes and this could all be compartmentalized, then all of that would be correct. But we don't. There's something called the human condition - dealing with people and their life, their history, and their experiences that outweigh all of this drivel. If you don't understand that, then you don't know shit. I don't care how many studies you can cite or how many letters come after your name.

Losing weight is about calories in versus calories out.  Keeping it off, or maintaining the body composition you worked hard for, is an entirely different subject.

Knowledge has no power without application -

A few days ago someone said to me "you know more about relationships and all of that garbage than anyone I know. How to create healthy romantic relationships and whatnot. So why so many fuck ups in your own life?"

"Because my application sucks."

"Well, at least you're honest."

That's the truth. I could blame other people or circumstances without acknowledging my own involvement but I don't. I know my strong areas and my weak ones. My own application can at times, suck nuts. There it is. Now you know. And G.I. Joe told me knowing was half the battle.

But there's the other half. The more important half. Really, it's the only half that matters.  The application of what you know.  And existing within that half, is the applicable ability on a consistent basis.  That's what sustainability is.

Knowledge is not power. Knowledge is the metaphorical baseball in your hand. Application is your ability to throw a strike with it.  And just like learning how to throw strikes consistently, we have to practice the application of our knowledge on a consistent basis if we want to increase our chances for desired outcomes.  And that can't happen if we don't understand why it is we have trouble applying what it is we already know.

The flow chart goes likes this...

Knowledge -> application -> application applied consistently enough = change

You know how to lose weight. Yes, you. Yes you do. Yes...you do.

You put less food on your fork that goes into your mouth. You walk a little further today than you did yesterday.   You repeat this each day until you arrive at your goal.

Everyone knows these things. Everyone!

You know how to create a better relationship. You really do. No, I swear you do.  In no particular order...

1.  You spend some time understanding the needs of your partner, and they do the same for you. 

2.  You make each other a priority. 

3.  You learn how to listen to each other earnestly, and sincerely.  

4.  You don't cheat when you've told him or her that you're in a committed relationship. 

5.  You say "I'm sorry, what do I need to do to make this right?" when you screw up, then actually do what is required.   

6.  You let some arguments go, because you realize there's no real "winning" when you hurt one another.

8.  You don't keep a scoreboard of wrongs.

9.  You forgive each other.

10.  You turn inwards to each other's bids.

11.  You make sweet love as often as possible.

Ok, so the list for cultivating an amazing relationship is longer than "eat more, move less" but that's because there's two people involved, and creating an amazing relationship is infinitely more complex than losing weight.

But it's still not really that difficult to know what the right thing(s) to do is/are.  

The knowledge is not in some book that's locked away 10 floors under the Vatican in a room that only Nicolas Cage can unlock with a key made out of a dinosaur bones. Despite all of the articles and books I've written on the various forms of training and dietary witchcraft, the knowledge is quite simple.

1. Lift some weights.
2. Eat less.
3. Walk around a lot.
4. Repeat those three things for a long time and you'll look better.

So why can't people just do that? Why can't people just eat less, lift some weights, and move more? Why can't people just get into a calorie deficit, or create an amazing relationship with someone they say they love? Why can't some people, who claim they want a physical life change, do this on a consistent basis?

Because they are people.

And people have stories. And experiences and baggage.  People don't live in test labs under controlled conditions where they are fed and exercised like mice and life doesn't happen.  They live in the real world where what they would like to be able to do, is often circumvented by painful experiences they haven't resolved yet. 

"It's because they are weak and undisciplined."  

Says the meathead who can't hold down a steady job because, "gym life".

Look, being able to eat chicken and broccoli six times a day and hit the gym twice before 6 P.M. doesn't make you some mental and emotional superhero from the town of Disciplineville.  Plenty of people I've known that can do this day in and day out are about as emotionally robust and evolved as a toddler in every other facet of their life.  People tend to be incredibly disciplined in certain areas of their life, and very undisciplined in others.

here's that chicken breast pic I was telling you about earlier

Discipline is not salad dressing.  It's not something we can slather all over every part of our life in equal degrees.  We generally have a few select areas of our life that we can be consistently disciplined in.  The rest of it often gets thrown together with whatever mental and emotional energy we have leftover after we're done doing what deem to be most important.

We tend to be very disciplined in areas that we feel the greatest amount of reward from.  Even if the reward is temporary and brings about negative consequences with on a consistent basis.

People don't fail in diet adherence because they are "weak minded".   People succumb to unhealthy coping mechanisms like binge eating because it offers a retreat from confronting the fragmented parts of their life that carries a lot of emotional pain and reminders.

10-freaking-miles -

I am fond of the saying "if you walk ten miles deep into the woods, you have to walk ten miles out."  I am fond of saying it because someone wrote it to me on social media once, and I liked it and have used it a few times.  So whoever did that, you're awesome.  Brofist.

In order to even begin the walk back out, we often have to come to an understanding of why we made the walk in. Why we didn't stop at mile four, or seven.

"But why ten miles, Paul?"

Hey it's my stolen metaphor and it only goes ten miles. That's what we're working with here, so don't ask "well why not five hundred miles like The Proclaimers song?"

Because they ended up walking a thousand miles because it was five hundred MORE.

Back to that later.......

Years ago, I remember this bodybuilder who talked about how this fat kid wrote him a letter telling of how he dreamed everyday of being jacked, but lived in this state of despair because he had always been fat.  He wrote how he really wanted to go to the gym, but the thought of it brought about a great deal of anxiety so then he'd eat a whole loaf of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and drink a gallon of chocolate milk to soothe that anxiety.

Luckily, the bodybuilder gave the kid some great advice.  He told him to start by just eating half a loaf of PBnJ, and to switch to 2% milk.  Certainly, he cut his calories down, but he did so in a way that was mentally and emotionally manageable.   He didn't tell him "get your fat ass to the gym, and eat egg whites and oatmeal."  Does this even seem logical?  It doesn't take a Sigmund Freud to figure out that the answer to this poor kid's desire to be jacked wasn't a training program or a special diet.

You don't deal with the diet first.  You deal with the person.     

Telling the girl who is an emotional eater that finds solace and comfort in food in the middle of a depression that she "needs to eat less and move more" and "just shove some chicken and salad down your throat" is some real Einstein shit. Thanks for that newsflash from the city. Your people solving skills are exemplary.  She might need to deal with the underlying issues related to the depression that cause her to seek comfort foods first.  She might have to talk about the pain she had in growing up where she was bullied by other girls or ostracized for any number of reasons that girls do that to one another.

She might have to talk about how eating was the one thing that made all the pain go away temporarily because it was one of the few things she could control in her life, when everything else felt completely out of her control.  She might have to talk about how she had this great big empty inside of her, and that it felt better to eat and feel something...anything...other than the pain that existed because of that emptiness.  She might have to talk about how the shame she felt in sneaking food because she didn't want to be ridiculed for "eating more", and that the ridicule also made her eat more.

Or she may have to talk about how she eventually just accepted her obesity, and lost her identity in it.  That she ceased being "Nancy" or "Jane" or "Alice".  That she became "the fat girl".   Or even worse, THAT fat girl.

And you know where we continue to exist as adults if we don't confront all the demons that laid the framework for the fragmented parts of who we are? 

In that fat kids mind.

In that bullied kids mind.

In that abused kids mind.

In that abandoned kids mind.

I was the skinny kid who lost his best friend in a motorcycle accident when he was 13.  Who suffered at the hands of some violent events that no kid should ever have to endure.  Who experienced being abandoned and saw the effects of substance abuse in people he loved and cared about.

My coping mechanism was the gym.  I desired to build as much muscle and strength as possible because having that exterior gave me something to hide behind.  It was my comfort food.  I was lucky that it wasn't drugs, or alcohol, or food (well, food was in there but only as a means to an end).  And over time, I was able to let go of the need for that exterior armor, and I started confronting all of the awful shit I had gone through that manifested in the way of shit decisions in my life.

In essence, people have to get their soul healthy first.  Before they can center themselves enough to get their body healthy. They have to have the discipline to heal their mind, to be strong enough to overcome the fears and pain that engulfed them when they were young.  Confronting those fears takes an infinitely greater degree of courage than eating some chicken breast and bench pressing.

Some will say it's not a coaches job to fix people. I don't disagree, but I also don't fully agree.

I can't fix anyone. I can barely fix myself half the time. And when I do fix myself, I often break the shit I just fixed from the day before. Now I'm exhausted. And most likely have hurt someone else's feelings in the process as well. Now I need to fix myself and make amends.  And I only have so much salad dressing to go around.

But we can't help someone if we don't understand the reasons for their ten mile walk. We can't help ourselves unless we do the same.  The changes we need to make in our lives are often inspired by how shitty we feel.  The paradox there is that the fear and pain of change keeps us from changing what makes us feel so shitty to begin with.

Changing your body, for a great many people, isn't about chicken breasts and contractions in the gym.  It's about flexing your emotions through the pain so that eventually you're strong enough to not need something anymore.  And when you realize you don't have a need for something in your life, then it no longer has any power over you.

And that is everything. Not just dieting. Not just the training.  That is everything when it comes to being unbroken.  Not calories in versus calories out.  But exhaling the bad shit, and inhaling the good.

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Thursday, November 9, 2017

Ketones and body composition improvement

Well, here we are again.  Keto diets have made their way back around to incredible popularity and are all the rage once again.

For those not in the know, keto diets are not new, and bacon isn't the new black.  Keto diets have been around since before Twinkies were invented.  That's not entirely a joke.  Twinkies were invented in 1930, and keto diets were being used to treat epilepsy back in the 1920's.

Wait a minute...is it possible that Continental Baking Company  invented twinkies as the evil villains weapon in order to thwart the Mayo Clinic from stopping epileptic seizures? 

Keto's ultimate nemesis 

Patient - "I can't eat that, I'm keto.  Keto has stopped my seizures."

Continental Baking Company Dastardly Villain shoves twinkie into patient's mouth.

Patient - "Oh good God, what is that?????"

Continental Baking Company Dastardly Villain - "You like it, yes?"

Patient - "It's heavenly!"

Continental Baking Company Dastardly Villain - "You want more?"

Patient - "Yes I want more.  It's definitely worth a seizure!"

I bet this happened.

Anyways, keto diets are not new, and aren't even new for people trying to shed fat, or potentially use it as a way to improve body composition.  Lots of bodybuilders used keto diets to get shredded for the stage back in the day, and there's been a bit of a resurgence in that lately as well.

Let me state unequivocally here, I don't keto.  And there's a huge misconception that keto diets hold some kind of advantage over other "types" of diets that are sound in nutritional approach when it comes to achieving better body composition.  But that's not the case.

It is generally believed that because of the way endogenous (inside the body) ketones are created that it means fat oxidation is higher in keto or low carb diets.  And technically this is true.  But people need to understand how to interpret this correctly in order to understand it.

If you're eating high fat and low carb, then eventually there's a metabolic shift so that your body becomes more efficient at using fat for energy.  If you throw carbs back in, guess what happens?  You start using glucose for energy again because it's easier to access as fuel for the body.

"AH HAH!  See, you just wrote that eating fat burns fat!"

Yes, but it is due to a lack of carbohydrates being available.  To simplify this even more....

3,500 calories high fat/low carb = the body is using the fats as the main fuel source

3,500 calories higher carb/lower fat = the body is using glucose as the main fuel source

3,500 calories is still 3,500 calories.  (yes, food selection does matter as well).

I'm oversimplifying this but that's the high level overview.

If you stop and think about that, you'll realize that it's carbs that dictate the fuel selection source for the body.  In the absence of carbs, the body will have a metabolic fuel shift to fat.  When carbs are thrown back in, it will have a metabolic fuel shift to glucose again.

I'm not going to drill down into a million areas here because that's not the focus of this article.  I could even make the case due to the fact that fat has the lowest thermic digestion rate of all three macros, that the higher fat diet burns fewer calories each day than the higher carb diet, and that the higher carb diet contains food higher on the satiation index, but that would be a lot of typing that my fingers have no desire to engage in.

I don't have anything against keto diets at all.  I don't think most of the smart people in-the-know do either.  I think it's the misinformation about keto diets that get under their skin.  You cannot just go eating 10,000 calories a day of bacon and butter and be in some blistering state of fat loss "because keto".  I'm sorry, energy in vs energy out is still going to dictate your degree of fat loss or fat gain.

But some people do love eating keto, and can and have achieved magnificent improvements in body comp using keto, because they found it to be a sustainable paradigm of eating for them.  And sustainability in any sound nutritional plan is really the most important aspect.  If you cannot stick with a particular diet or eating lifestyle, then no matter how amazing it looks on paper or in research, it's not going to do you a lot of good.

"How do I fit twinkies into that paradigm, Paul?"


"Thank you!"

With that said, enter exogenous ketones.  I've written several other pieces on them and the anecdotal evidence I've seen with them has been very promising on a number of levels.  The main one being their ability to improve body composition.  And I define an improvement in body composition as the ability to gain or retain muscle while fat loss occurs.  I mean, at the most basic level that's what most everyone who is training to improve their physique is after, right?

More muscle, less fat.

This is what gives women real curves.  More muscle, less fat.  The kind you find on women that squat, deadlift, lunge, and pay attention to the quality of food that they fill their plate with.

More muscle, less fat is what gives doods rock hard abs and big shoulders.  You've never seen a single romance novel where a guy rocking a 40" waist and man boobs was holding the damsel in ovulation distress.  Because guys with beer guts and man boobs don't put women into ovulation distress.  Women want to read a story about how she peeled the shirt off of his muscular torso in the kitchen while they danced on rose pedals, and then took her to pound town.  That's what women want to read about.  Not about how they watched NASCAR while pounding a greasy bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Where was I?  Oh yeah, improving body composition.  I got hot and bothered there for a minute.

The three things I've really settled for improvement in body composition are a high degree of fat oxidation - which is obtained by being in an energy deficit either through diet, training, or a combination of both (usually the latter).  A high degree of muscle retention or muscle gain.  Muscle retention is what those who have already put in the time building muscle will be seeking, while noobs can actually put on some muscle even while using a hypocaloric diet, or in an energy deficit due to the new stimulus the body is adapting to through lifting weights.

Sound nutrition that is sustainable over a long period of time that creates an energy deficit + weight training + some cardio = the body you're after. 

lift weights, do cardio, drink your ketones, eat all the protein

The last is an improvement in insulin sensitivity.  The reason why this is important is because insulin is your storage hormone, and because it also has exceptionally powerful anti-catabolic properties.  Insulin blunts or reduces muscle protein breakdown.  And if you want to hold on to muscle and keep excess fat storage to a minimum, then it's important to improve insulin sensitivity.

So let's get to it...

Fat oxidation -

Regardless of what type of diet you settle on, in order to burn more fat, you're going to have to be in a calorie deficit.  Let me be clear about something here that you may not know.  Exercise does not burn a lot of calories.  It really doesn't.  You can use the Google machine if you like to go find this out.

In comparative fashion, doing an hour of walking (all depending on how fast you walk, how much you weigh, how much muscle you have or don't have) can be undone rather easily by a few Krispy Kremes.  Trying to achieve a high degree of energy loss (fat loss) through exercise is a great way to get really tired, make yourself super hungry (making it harder to stick to ANY diet), and deplete your motivation.

So lemme make this easy for you.

You lift weights to build muscle.  You do some cardio for your heart, and as a supplemental form of creating energy debt.  Remember, supplemental.  Don't believe for a minute that your hour of (insert type of exercise here) is going to burn enough calories to offset even a single calorie dense meal.

The people who believe they can out train a bad diet usually find that they can't do that for very long before the Continental Baking Company Dastardly Villain shows up, and they are smashing through boxes of Twinkie's faster than Sherman went through Atlanta.

So delicious.

So let's say that you pick out the diet that fits "you".  Keto, Paleo, Southbeach, IIFYM, whatever.  You know (yes YOU KNOW NOW) that you have to be in a calorie deficit with your diet in order to shed that blubber.

One of the biggest keys in finding sustainability with any eating plan is the satiation factor.  If you're hungry all the time, then it becomes harder and harder to sustain an energy deficit with the diet because of binge eating or "falling off the wagon".

The key to this suppressing your hunger hormone, ghrelin.

This actually does lead me back into talking about ketones.

If there is one advantage that keto diets have over other diets when it comes to fat loss, it's that they do a better job of suppressing the ghrelin hormone, so that you have a higher degree of satiation.

Well, as you'd sort of expect, exogenous ketones do the same thing.  As this study points out...



KE consumption increased blood BHB levels from 0.2 to 3.3 mM after 60 minutes. DEXT consumption increased plasma glucose levels between 30 and 60 minutes. Postprandial plasma insulin, ghrelin, GLP-1, and PYY levels were significantly lower 2 to 4 hours after KE consumption, compared with DEXT consumption. Temporally related to the observed suppression of ghrelin, reported hunger and desire to eat were also significantly suppressed 1.5 hours after consumption of KE, compared with consumption of DEXT.


Increased blood ketone levels may directly suppress appetite, as KE drinks lowered plasma ghrelin levels, perceived hunger, and desire to eat.

If you find the biggest culprit in your desire to shed bodyfat is that you are an emotional eater, or have trouble dealing with hunger, then using exogenous ketones offers a massive benefit in that regard.

But that's not all.  There's more.

While this study showed an reduction of power output in cyclists who used ketones, it did show that fat oxidation was higher in those that used ketones prior to exercising.

Total fat oxidation was greater in the ketone versus control (p = 0.05). Average time-trial power output was ∼7% lower (-16 W, p = 0.029) in the ketone condition. Ingestion of ketone salts prior to exercise increases fat oxidation during steady-state exercise but impairs high-intensity exercise performance.

My thoughts about the reduction in power output is that I think we need to work to find the proper dose-response ratio over a number of studies to get clearer picture here.  Because there have been other studies that showed an increase in performance, and there's also a ton of anecdotal testimonies where athletes did improve their performance with them.  Nevertheless, if we're talking fat oxidation/ fat-loss, then using ketones prior to steady state type exercise offers an advantage in that area.

Muscle sparing/retention -

I gots no study for this one, but over the last two years, everything I've hypothesized about with my own reading and work with exogenous ketones has come to fruition.  So I believe this will eventually pan out.  Just a second there to toot my own horn.

Ok, I'm done.

This one should make sense if you follow along.

If you're using a low carb approach to achieve your energy deficit, and are trying to retain muscle, (you should be, duh) one of the issues is that due to low glucose stores, your body will end up creating glucose from protein through something called gluconeogenesis.  This is where you end up robbing Peter to pay Paul, more or less.

What we've seen with exogenous ketones is that there is a reduction in glucose oxidation (using glucose for fuel) while an alternative energy substrate is present (the ketones) and that the ingestion of them (the ketones, again) induces hyperketonemia, which is an elevation of ketone bodies in the blood and body.  Wait...that sounds like ketosis....without a keto diet.

Reduction in glucose oxidation...elevation in ketone bodies in the blood.  Mmmmm that sounds an awful lot like being in ketosis.

Knowing that, what I believe is this - if you're using a low carb approach to find your caloric deficit, and weight training to retain muscle, then the use of ketones will spare muscle protein because the body won't be tapping into it to convert it to glucose.  That's my theory and I'm sticking to it.

Insulin sensitivity -

This is an area where the use of ketones ends up offering a benefit as a side effect of something else.

That sentence makes so much sense, I know.  But bear with me.  I'm actually going to make this quite simple.

BHB reduces inflammation.  I've covered that before, but here, here, here.

Our findings suggest that the anti-inflammatory effects of caloric restriction or ketogenic diets may be linked to BHB-mediated inhibition of the NLRP3 inflammasome.

These findings demonstrate that BHB exerts antidepressant-like effects, possibly by inhibiting NLRP3-induced neuro-inflammation in the hippocampus, and that BHB may be a novel therapeutic candidate for the treatment of stress-related mood disorders.

Now that we've established that BHB serves as an anti-inflammatory agent, let's understand how chronic inflammation effects insulin sensitivity.  

First off, losing fat in general should decrease chronic inflammation in the body, and decreasing excess adipose tissue should improve your insulin sensitivity.  Weight training also improves your insulin sensitivity as well.  

But reducing chronic inflammation will not only improve your quality of health, it should also improve your insulin sensitivity as well.  

Also, linky dinky........

"If we can block or disarm this macrophage inflammatory pathway in humans, we could interrupt the cascade that leads to insulin resistance and diabetes," said Olefsky.

If you want to use the Google machine you can find a metric butt ton of information connecting the dots of chronic inflammation to a key factor in insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.  

Now let me be clear........

This doesn't mean you can drink ketones and expect miracles.  If you're not reducing the amount of Omega-6 coming in and increase your Omega-3 and also lifting weights and doing some conditioning, it's fool hearty to believe that simply ingesting ketones is going to magically fix your problems.  They won't.  But they can play a major role in accelerating the reduction of chronic inflammation in the body, they can improve the degree of fat oxidation during steady state exercise, and they can suppress the appetite, making it easier to stay in your caloric deficit.  All things that will lead to a significant improvement in body composition, and land you on the cover of a romance novel.  

Ok, probably not.  You're not that good looking.  But looking better naked tends to make you and anyone seeing you naked much happier.  

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