How to Burn Fat More Efficiently

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We’ve learned that fat burning is a system we’ve developed to allow us to use energy over long distances. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors, whose genes we share almost unchanged, would roam their environments on the hunt for food for hours or even days on end. We would not be around today if they cold only hunt successfully if they could refuel on bags of potato chips or cans of coke every few hours. They would genuinely be running on empty, using fuel that they had previously stored. Someone who gets lost in the desert and is unable to hunt successfully will die, usually after a few days without food and water. But it’s not the lack of food that causes death, it’s the lack of water. Most of us can function, given water, for well over two weeks without food. That’s because we burn first of all our fat reserves, and then we that runs out, we start burning protein as muscle tissue. What’s ingenious about it is that we also generate another fuel when we burn fat called ketone bodies. These ketone bodies – or ketones for short – are actually are brain’s favourite fuels. If you keep burning fat, and continue to not eat over many days, the levels of ketones in your system can get so high they kill you. That’s why for many years ketones were thought of as bad compounds because they were known to occur at very high levels in people who were starving to death. To keep ketones as low as possible, you need to shut down your fat burning system. The best way to do that is by taking in lots of carbs.

Now, think about all those overweight people in the gym who you’ve seen working out on treadmills and cycling machines who never seem to lose weight. Chances are they’re working out for under an hour at a time and they’re also downing glucose- or sugar-laden energy drinks or energy gels to keep them going. Their diets might also be low fat and high in refined and processed carbs like white bread, pasta, pizzas and white rice.

What we now know is that we need to back off eating carbs to encourage our bodies to burn fats. This is one reason that there’s been so much interest in law carb diets, as well as ones that increase the amount of healthy fats. These kinds of diets are often referred to as Low Carb High Fat or LCHF diets. But it’s not just a question of what you’re eating, it’s also about how much and when you’re eating.

When we start exercising aerobically our bodies normally rely on the most readily accessible fuel. It’s actually not fats, carbs or protein. It’s a compound called glycogen that’s stored in our liver and muscles. If we’re replenished with glycogen from a good meal with plenty of complex carbs from vegetables, starches or grains the night before, most of us will have a reserve of some 500 – 800g of glycogen. This will be sufficient to act as our main fuel for around 60 to 90 minutes of moderate intensity exercise. So if you’re going to do some aerobic work in the gym and stop after just 30 minutes, you will have barely started to burn your fat reserves, irrespective of whether the machine in the gym tells you you’ve been in your fat burning zone for that half hour. You’ve burned part of your glycogen reserve that will be replete if you down an energy drink or another carb source after your workout.

What the fat burning zone inscribed on your treadmill, stepper, rower or gym bike is telling is however is right if you’re prepared to stay in this low to moderate heart rate zone for some time. This fat burning zone is approximately 60-70% of your maximum heart rate, which is roughly 220 minus your age, although it can be considerably higher than this if you’re very fit. But how many people can manage over an hour of aerobic work in the gym. Three or four times a week. Not many as it happens.

That’s one reason why, when it comes to burning fat, getting outdoors and doing a long walk or cycle ride makes a lot more sense for many people. But it requires time – something not many of us have in abundance. But perhaps you can manage this once or twice a week if you really try, ideally not on consecutive days.

Such is the flexibility of our bodies’ systems that there are also other ways of burning fat. Intermittent fasting is one of the best ways of getting there. It’s a somewhat fancy term referring to a pattern of eating that involves eating both less as well as less often than a normal Western person might typically eat. There’s actually nothing odd about this way of eating – our ancestors almost certainly ate this way. They certainly didn’t eat three meals a day with snacks in between. They would go through cycles of feast and famine – and it’s important to realise we are supremely well-adapted to famine because if we weren’t, we’d not be here today. And bizarrely, it’s now the excessive feasting that’s much more likely to kill us than the famine…

One of the most useful rules with intermittent fasting is to try to cut down on your meal frequency by avoiding eating within five hours of your last meal. Another point involves cutting out snacks between meals, as well as all refined and processed carbohydrates like white bread, white pasta and white rice. Doing a couple of training or exercise sessions on a completely empty stomach (other than water) will also help you shift towards being a better fat burner. As will engaging in very short bursts of high intensity exercise, with rests of the same or double the duration in between. This is called High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT and you’ll find plenty of information about it on the internet, such is its popularity given its proven role in triggering mitochondrial function and fat burning. Depending on what your fitness goal is, you can adjust the pattern of your HIIT sessions to deliver different results.

With a personal trainer with extensive experience in HIIT, there are even HIIT regimes suitable for people with serious diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity. It may seem a bit tough, but think of it as short and sharp, with good rewards. Get it right and your metabolism will become super flexible, using whatever fuels are most efficient. You’ll generate ketones at low levels (nutritional ketosis) to keep your brain super sharp and you’ll even burn fat while you sleep!

When you’ve finished a bout of training over 20 or 30 minutes, make sure you consume around 20 grams of good quality protein to help your body recover and your muscles to grow stronger following the exercise trigger you’ve delivered to them. It’s a good idea to get this protein in within a 30-minute window of completing your activity. If the activity has involved long periods of endurance, you might also want to add some complex carbs and branched chain amino acids to the mix, as well as a good quality multi-nutrient product with plenty of good quality vitamins and minerals, botanicals, probiotics and other micronutrients that help support your multiple body systems.

Are you tired all the time?

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If you are, you’re not alone. Far from it, in fact. It’s one of the common most reasons people go and see their doctor. The trouble is, most doctors can’t do much to help. That’s hardly surprising given they don’t learn much about non-specific conditions like fatigue during their medical training.

When someone suffers from persistent fatigue, many aspects of their life suffer. The quality of their work, the nature of their relationships or family life, their ability to go out, have fun, holiday, exercise – or even party – are often affected dramatically. Depression and anxiety may be triggers for fatigue, or they may be causes. The bottom line is that all kinds of events in life – ones that any healthy person would find manageable or even enjoyable – become a matter of trepidation. A doctor confronted with someone who exhibits symptoms of depression or anxiety often prescribes SSRI drugs (antidepressants). In the US, up to 10% of the population is taking an antidepressant at any one time. Things aren’t much different in most other industrialised countries.

You may also experience fatigue at certain times, and not others. OK, if you haven’t managed to get enough sleep, you’ve got good reason. But if you’re sleeping, or trying to sleep, and you just can’t seem to recover and feel energised, or you lose all your energy at particular times of day, such as after you’ve eaten, or when you’ve taken a limited amount of exercise, you’re starting to feel your fatigue and malaise a real problem.

There are always underlying reasons for fatigue-related conditions, but these can’t always be identified. In some cases, fatigue can be related to serious underlying diseases, which yet have been diagnosed, such as heart disease, thyroid diseases, type 2 diabetes, kidney or liver disease, or various infectious diseases, such as upper respiratory tract infections, gastric or duodenal ulcers, Lyme disease, pneumonia or periodontal disease. That’s why it’s always important to see a doctor or other qualified or experienced health professional to check for any possible, serious underlying causes.

While any of these conditions may be a cause of the fatigue, they may not be the sole cause and they may not have been the trigger that led to the disease in the first place. It may also be that the body struggles to resume normal, healthy function because of on-going mediators or perpetuators such as stressful life events (e.g. relationship or work-related challenges, financial difficulties, loss of a loved one), a poor diet or a particular nutrient deficiency, insufficient physical activity or relaxation, poor sleep quality, smoking, too much drink or other unhealthy habits.

Oftentimes however, the reasons for someone’s fatigue are complex, unclear and non-specific. Doctors and health professionals increasingly refer to this as ‘tired all the time’ syndrome, or TATT. Not for a lack of trying, the fatigue simply can’t be traced to a particular underlying disease. This is the case for over half the people who present to their doctors with fatigue — and the millions who don’t. Knowing there are some key things we can all do to help our bodies can be a lifesaver. We’ll give you more detail in upcoming blogs, but three key processes stand out as among the most important.

The first involves supporting the energy-producing ‘factories’ in our cells, the mitochondria. The second is about managing the amount of oxidative stress within the body. Both of these are strongly dependent on eating pattern and the quality of the nutrients you eat and absorb. It’s also about how you move, rest and sleep. The third key process is about providing the best possible environment for your body, one that nurtures it and allows it to function optimally. This means learning to be good to yourself, including eating as well as you can, taking particular supplementary nutrients, resting right and sleeping well, through to finding appropriate ways of being physically active and finding the best ways of transforming stress.

Find out more in our forthcoming blogs…

Lifting the Lid on Protein Myths

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Myth #1: Eating too much protein is bad for you

In reality it’s extremely difficult for a healthy person to eat too much protein!  Protein is important because it contains amino acids − the building blocks for all cells and tissue.  Nine of these are called ‘essential amino acids’ because they are compounds that our bodies can’t create.

The average person needs as little as 0.8g of protein per kg of bodyweight per day.  However, this is not enough if we’re active.  People who exercise regularly should up their protein intake to around 1.4-2 grams per kilogram of body weight per day.  This quantity of protein should also be consumed on a daily basis as we age to help maintain muscle tone.

Myth #2: Vegetable proteins are incomplete

The definition of a complete protein is one which supplies all the essential amino acids.  While it’s true that most vegetable protein supplements on the market aren’t complete proteins, Clean Lean Protein is different.  Made from golden pea isolate, Clean Lean Protein has the highest protein content of any supplement on the market (up to 90%).  The protein is extracted at low temperatures under water through a natural enzyme process to preserve the protein integrity and quality.

A single serve of Clean Lean Protein supplies you with between 45% and 120% of the daily requirement for all nine essential amino acids.

Myth #3: Soy is the best vegetable protein

As far as your body is concerned, all proteins are created equal.  The thing that makes a protein source better or worse for you is the other stuff that comes along for the ride.  Soy protein contains allergens and anti-nutrients like phytic acid which binds to minerals and prevents their absorption.

Clean Lean Protein is low allergen, perfectly alkaline, low in fat, sugars and carbs and contains no preservatives, artificial colours or flavours.

Myth #4: Our bodies need every essential amino acid at every meal

Vegetarians and vegans used to spend a great deal of time and effort balancing the recommended ratios of amino acids in every meal – but Mother Nature is one step ahead of us.  As long as we’re supplying our bodies with all of the essential amino acids over the course of a day, we don’t have to go to these lengths to be healthy.

80/20 Nutrition

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The American diet consists of 62% processed foods, 27% animal products, and 5% french fries and ketchup. That’s 94% of our diet, right there, leaving only 6% for fruits, vegetables and nuts.

When I first read this I’m sad to say I wasn’t so much shocked as dismayed. Having been a nutritionist for over 13 years I have been privy to not just the statistics showing our obesity epidemic, but to real life exposure with many of my clients. This quote demonstrates just how far we have removed ourselves from the style of diet we should be eating.

And the reality is that we need not be perfect.

In fact ‘perfect’ is the opposite of progress for the simple reason that it can’t be achieved and it therefore drives dissatisfaction because if our sense of fulfilment is predicated in achieving ‘perfection’ (an impossible goal) we will never in fact be satisfied. However by simply doing ‘most things right, most of the time’ we can achieve extraordinary health results.

The age old 80-20 rule could well provide at least some basis for good eating, just as it is so valuable for other things in life… and it would certainly make a vast improvement over the figures above if we were to eat well 80% of the time…

So my challenge to you:
For the next week – on any given day – make at least 80% of what you eat natural, whole and unprocessed food. This could be vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, berries, eggs, fish and meats. Don’t be concerned at this stage with quantities, simply stick to natural, whole and unprocessed food (preferably organic) 80% of the time… It’s that simple…

Notice the change in how you feel… and how you look!
80% isn’t so hard after all…

Are You Starving On A Full Stomach

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You might be surprised to hear that many of us are starving. Not from a lack of calories but from a diet low in essential vitamins and minerals. Increased stress, a lack of variety in our diet, nutrient-depleted soil and a longer food chain all have a part to play.

In the modern world we are constantly surrounded by stress and, unlike our ancestors roaming the savannah thousands of years ago, we are not always able to simply respond and then relax.   Living in a constant state of ‘fight or flight’ creates high levels of residual stress. To counterbalance this we need a diet rich in B vitamins, magnesium and zinc.

The way that our food is grown and distributed doesn’t help.  Intensive farming practices have depleted the micronutrients in soil which used to be passed along the food chain.  Rather than eating locally-grown produce, we now source food from a global market.  Many vitamins and minerals begin to break down when exposed to heat, light and air – this effect increases the further food travels.  By the time food gets on to our plate, it has a much lower nutrient content compared with food several decades ago.

Many of us don’t have a very varied diet – especially vegetables, herbs and berries. Often we eat only three or four types of vegetables on a regular basis, many of which have very similar nutrient profiles. Decades ago, through choice and necessity, people ate a greater variety of seasonal foods.

Luckily there are several ways that we reclaim these lost nutrients.

  1. Six serves of vegetables per day – remember to increase the range of vegetables you eat as well as the quantity.
  2. Two to three serves of berries per day – berries are nature’s multi-vitamin.  They are packed with the highly antioxidant compounds that help to reduce visible signs of aging and the effects of inflammation associated with cancer and heart disease.
  3. Use Good Green Stuff – regular use of a high quality greens product is a great way to pack more nutrients in. NuZest’s Good Green Stuff contains over 70 whole food-based ingredients to help provide both nutrient density and variety.
  4. Eat organic – organic foods provide higher levels of secondary antioxidant nutrients.
  5. Make super-smoothies – smoothies are a great way to boost the nutrients in our diet.  Start with a high quality protein like Clean Lean Protein and add berries, vegetables, Good Green Stuff along with healthy fats like macadamia oil or coconut cream for improved brain health and energy.