This weeks topic is energy balance and the issues that arise from it. In part 1 we discussed Calories In, Calories Out. Today we go hormonal.
Hormones are the body's chemical messengers and regulators, they adapt to the environment the body is in, the food we eat, what we do. The thing to remember is the body is not interested in looking great. It is not interested in success - the body's job is protect and maintain. The body's goal is comfort and survival!
Next time you think the body is designed for success ask yourself this question,
"Is it easier to go to the gym and train? Or sit at home and watch TV?"
Protect and maintain is great in certain respects. If we get too cold we shiver and become warmer. If we get too hot we sweat and cool down. But certain adaptations can hold us back if we don't understand how, when and why they function.
The first adaptation for weight loss is the thyroid. The thyroid gland releases thyroid hormone, in varying amounts and controls how much energy we turnover for fuel.
How hard our thyroid works depends on the calorie intake.
If calorie intake is high, thyroid hormone output is high and our nutrient turnover is high - the engine turns over at a high rate and burns more fuel.
And if calorie intake is too low, thyroid hormone slows and our nutrient turnover slows - and the rate at which we turnover fuel slows down and we burn less fuel.
Hopefully now we see why when go on a weight loss and then hit a brick wall, what is the most likely suspect. We all know someone who has been on a diet, made a massive improvement, and then come to a shuddering halt.
What is often the best course of action in this situation is a refeed, a day or meal where we deliberately boost calories so that thyroid hormone production goes back up; and the efficiency at which we burn turnover energy is restored. Chances are they could then resume progress. This takes careful planning and analysis though, as the thyroid is one among many factors.
In my experience the best, most basic course of action for dieting is to take a steady approach. Reduce calories slightly and increase activity slightly. This will keep thyroid hormone production ticking over. If we crash calories and ramp up output, don't be surprised if thyroid hormone crashes too.
But if we truly understand thyroid hormone, we can control it instead of letting it control us.
What this leads us to is an approach called Cyclic Dieting. This is a method of planning ahead with our eating, anticipating how energy demands will change as time on a programme progresses. We can anticipate changes in thyroid, and plan our refeeds or at least spot the signs of the thyroid slowing.
This involves the careful monitoring of our thyroid. If weight loss is moving well, the thyroid is ticking over well, if we hit a wall we check our energy balance and maybe just back off a little with our weight loss efforts, before upping the ante again.
Now we bring it back to Monday's email (calories in, calories out). If we create too big a deficit too quickly, thyroid slows and energy turnover comes to a stop.
Think about post christmas dieting, we come off a super high calorie diet (cakes, fats, alcohol) whilst doing very little - and then we hit the gym fuelled by lettuce and water. Production of thyroid hormone is going through the floor and fast. So we feel rubbish. So we stop. "It's my genes!" We cry.
It's not your genes, it's your hormones. They're thrown into a panic so they decrease thyroid and energy production (you feel tired and drained) and increase fat storage (weight goes back on). Just because you panicked the body. It didn't know you were on a diet, it thought you were starving to death.
If we were more considered with our approach we would see much better results.
If we want to be successful we need to be in for the long haul. We can lose weight at a good rate by building good habits, but quick fixes are not what we are about.
There are a couple of systems we can manipulate to maximise our control of the thyroid but this is enough to get you started and hopefully it all makes sense.
Working for weight loss or fat loss takes careful planning and the quality of the result depends on our food choices, digestion and consistency. These will be discussed further in future emails. But the Thyroid is one of the main factors in the weight loss and it is knowledge which is not common place, that's why I have addressed it so early. Please feel free to pass this email on to someone you feel it may help.
On Friday we speak about another major factor - insulin.