Excerpt from Tom Venuto’s book Burn the Fat, Feed The Muscle
Fat Loss Lie #1: You have to starve yourself to get a lean body
What if I told you that very low calorie diets will actually make you fatter in the long term, and that there’s an almost embarrassingly simple way that you can eat more and still burn more fat?
I know it sounds too good to be true, but you’re about to see the science, and I’ve got the real-world results to prove this works, so read on.
You MUST achieve a calorie deficit
To get rid of body fat, the unbreakable law of thermodynamics dictates that you have to burn more calories than you eat.
Run for cover the next time you hear, “calories don’t count” because that claim is absolutely false and any reputable exercise scientist will tell you that.
Establishing a calorie deficit is the first step you must put into practice if you want a leaner body. However, there’s a fatal flaw in most popular diet programs: the calorie deficit is too extreme.
Have you ever been told that you had to cut your calories to 1200 or 1000 a day or even less? Or did you ever just get FED UP with no results and tell yourself, “THAT’S IT! I’m hardly going to eat ANYthing,” because you were desperate to get the pounds off as fast as possible?
Here’s how that works out for most people: You lose body weight fast at first, but eventually, starvation diets make “bad stuff” happen to your body and it stops working.
When you cut your calories too far, eventually YOUR BODY ADAPTS.
In the classic sci-fi show “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” Captain Picard and his crew encounter a formidable foe called THE BORG. At first, the phaser weapons work against these alien enemies, but eventually the BORG adapts. Soon, the same phaser blast no longer has any effect.
Diets are kind of like that too, aren’t they?
You shoot a crash diet at your body and it zaps off some weight in the beginning. But then your body figures out what’s going on. Your body doesn’t care that you want to look good in a swimsuit; your body thinks you’re “under attack” so just like the BORG, it adapts!
When you do something extreme to lose weight (like hardly eating at all), you trigger a series of adaptive metabolic, hormonal, and behavioral defense mechanisms collectively known as “the starvation response.”
Here Are Some of the Consequences of Starvation Mode:
1. Your fat cells sound the alarm and release less leptin. Leptin is the “anti-starvation hormone” that tells your brain you are well fed with plenty of reserve energy. When leptin goes down, fat-burning goes down.
2. Your appetite rages out of control. Your brain flips on the appetite switch and hunger hormones increase. You become a ravenous food-seeking machine.
3. Your body releases fewer fat-releasing and fat-burning enzymes such as hormone sensitive lipase and lipoprotein lipase.
4. You lose muscle. Maintaining muscle requires energy. Extreme diets are like an “energy crisis”, so excess muscle becomes expendable and you cannibalize your own lean tissue.
5. Your metabolism ratchets down. Levels of T3, the active form of thyroid, fall, decreasing your metabolic rate.
It’s hormonally, metabolically and psychologically impossible to achieve permanent fat loss by starving yourself.
You can’t fight these biological defense mechanisms with willpower. Your body is too smart for that.
Eventually, extreme diets lead to frustration, binge eating, weight re-gain, and you end up with less muscle and a slower metabolism than when you started.
The good news is, you DON’T have to starve yourself to get a lean body. In fact, you can eat more and burn more fat – and IT’S SIMPLE!
Here are 4 easy tips that will get you started with the feed muscle, stave body fat approach to losing fat and keeping it off for good, without going hungry:
1. Avoid very low calorie diets.
Before going on any diet, look at the recommended calories first. You’ll discover that most of them require you to slash your food intake to the level of “semi-starvation.” 1200 calories or less for women and 1800 or less for men are dangerously low levels and yet this is exactly what most popular diets recommend… and why most fail.
2. Customize your calories.
You must adjust your calories according to your overall body size, amount of lean body mass, activity level, age, and gender. Effective programs always take individual body type into account before telling you how much to eat. If a diet recommends the same calories for everyone, that’s a warning sign of an ineffective generic program – stay away.
3. Decrease your calorie intake slightly.
Small calorie cuts don’t trigger the starvation response as much. Use a conservative calorie deficit – just 20% below your maintenance level at first. For example, a typical female needs about 2150 calories a day to maintain. A 20% deficit is 1720 calories per day. NOTE: if you are very overweight, your body can handle larger calorie deficits without negative side effects because you have so much reserve energy in storage.
4. Increase your calories burned.
If you only cut your food intake slightly, then how do you cut body fat without the process taking forever? Simple, you BURN MORE. Increase your deficit with fat burning workouts and an active lifestyle.
First, if you’re not doing so already, you should aim for 3-4 days per week of strength training with weights. Weight training protects you from losing muscle while you’re in a calorie deficit.
Second, do at least 3 days per week of moderate to vigorous cardio training. Push yourself at a high enough intensity to really get your heart pumping.
Third, to accelerate fat loss more, or to break a progress plateau, bump up your activity further by adding additional cardio sessions or increasing the intensity or duration of your current workouts.
Fourth, keep your lifestyle active, and participate in physical hobbies, housework, walking, sports or recreational activities that you enjoy. This is known as Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis or N.E.A.T. Every calorie you burn adds up.
The fat loss truth is: starvation diets can actually make you fatter, so always remember this fat loss golden rule:
DON’T STARVE THE FAT… BURN THE FAT!