Fat and muscle are entirely different animals and should be handled as such. Fat is a sedentary creature hanging around doing nothing except taking up space. In fact, pound for pound, fat takes up more space than muscle. How much? Well, the jury is still out. Some claim 66%, while a more conservative number lands it at 20%. But what’s deceiving is the scale because muscle weighs more than fat. But since muscle is more active, even at rest, it’s more efficient at burning calories than fat—anywhere from 30-50 a day. All this may sound like a numbers game, but what most people obsess over is the number in that little window on the scale.
When I returned from my travels abroad, I weighed myself and about fell off the scale, gasping! Completely in denial, I thought I was seeing things. “This can’t be right. The scale must be broken.” What really floored me was body fat. The tape measure doesn’t lie. There was no denying it. I had accumulated almost 100% over my original fat percentage of 17-20%. Now I was 30%. That meant I was carrying around 30 pounds of pure unadulterated fat!
So how do we control the beast?
Starve the fat, feed the muscle. But here’s the rub. The body, albeit an amazing piece of machinery, has a commander in chief, the brain. It not only regulates our bodies, but it dictates. The primordial center of the brain has been gathering information for hundreds, even thousands of millenniums. It wasn’t born yesterday. It remembers when we were mere hunter-gathers, and, as a result, is conditioned to warehouse fat as fuel to get us through those famines and harsh winters. Except, today, we aren’t living in caves as hunter-gatherers, being chased by a T-rex. The problem is our reptilian brain doesn’t know that, and it isn’t giving up the fat buffers without a fight. The minute it senses starvation mode, it aligns out of self-preservation. It usually takes 3-5 days for it to make a risk assessment. It’s intake vs. expenditure.
Everything, including our bodies, work off a budget. If your bank account is dwindling and the only thing coming in is bills, you make a risk assessment. What bills can you afford to pay, and which services do you cancel? You have to pay rent/mortgage and utilities. So maybe you give up cable and internet. The brain makes the same assessment. Glucose is the body’s primary fuel source. And, like money, if a limited amount is coming in, the brain has to budget accordingly. But the body doesn’t store glucose long term. It does, however, store glycogen in the muscles that it reconverts to glucose in a pinch. Before the body opens the fat closet, it starts breaking down muscle mass to burn as fuel. The brain considers muscle expendable and sacrifices it under collateral damage. If you were snowed in without fuel to heat your house, how many days would it take before you started breaking up the furniture to burn as fuel?
Don’t sacrifice muscle at the expense of weight loss; it’s too valuable. Instead, use it as a fat burner.
Competition body builders cycle their complex carbs. Two-three days on no carb puts them at the brink of ketosis right before the brain signals “starvation mode” and prevents the body from shedding fat, and begins cannibalizing muscle. The next day, they do a carbo load to trick the brain, then they resume two days with low carbs and a carbo-load the next, and so forth.