Someone asked me today about how I got so lean. The short answer was, it was pretty damn difficult. In all seriousness though, it prompted me to actually chronicle my journey from healthy weight but not lean to where I am now.
Picture 1 (left) is before I ever started overfeeding. I had been fasting, doing lazy keto and just generally not tracking. I had looked this way for about 10 years. My weight was always between 210 and 215lbs. I had been doing crossfit at this point for about 8 years as well as running various races from 5k to half marathons. Picture 2 (right) is after a year of over feeding cycles and never skipping a single meal. The weight was a hard fought 201lbs. You can see I was lean. 6 pack and visible striations in muscles. I still had a flap of skin around my waist. After 10 years of having these love handles and skin I decided to get them removed.
You can see the before and after in the next series of pics. It was a long recovery and I lost some muscle mass after the surgery as I couldn’t train for about 4 months.
The next series of photos is 4 months post surgery. I had lost some lean mass and was sitting between 187lbs and 195lbs. I then started eating like a bodybuilder. 5-6 meals a day with 25g of protein each meal and also adding carbs before and after training. I gained weight but didn’t gain much if any fat. I got to 212lbs then reduced carbs and started to drop weight. I kept pre workout carbs but lost all other carbs. Maintained 5 meals a day. Dropped to 205lbs.
The final picture is after 2 months of only pre workout carbs (100g) and still doing 4 meals a day of 25g of protein each meal. I have been able to drop out of ketosis before the workout and be back in 2 hours post and remain there for the rest of the day. This has allowed me to maintain all lean mass despite the level of intensity I train with. 2 hours a day and 7 days a week with a mix of cardio, high rep lifting and very heavy olympic lifting. The current weight is 200lbs and it seems to stick there.
So you can see that it was not a simple journey. I didn’t simply eat to satiety or when hungry. I didn’t just eat one set of macros and presto. There was a lot of adjustment and trial and error to get things dialed in and there was a bunch of surgery to get rid of the loose skin. I was lean before the surgery. I didn’t get the surgery to become lean. I did that through diet manipulation. The surgery was just to remove the damaged and stretched out skin I had left from my weight gain and loss.
The skin that was removed was 38 inches long and 8 inches wide and only weighed just over 2lbs. There was little to no fat removed. Just skin.
This is why I get so riled up sometimes when people say things like “I have been at this for 8 weeks and I am not seeing the results” or “Fasting eats up your loose skin.” None of this is true or even logical. I fasted for a year and made no progress in weight or skin removal. I did lose weight fasting but over the course of a year it all came back. Every time I would fast I would lose and then when I would eat I would just gain it back. Just like any other calorie restricted diet.
I hope this gives some insight into what it takes to get very lean. If you want help to achieve this, minus the surgery of course, then you can use the link below to sign up for coaching or you can ask any question you like using the contact form.
First let me start by saying Fung is a Kidney Doctor. Not a weight loss doctor. He developed all of his ideas like everyone else on the internet. By Googling.
Of course you can starve some weight off people. Of course if you don’t eat your insulin levels will drop and you won’t need to take exogenous insulin if you are diabetic. This is all common sense to the nth degree.
What is well known is that as you do any calorie restricted diet you lose less and less weight each week until you stall. Why? This is simple human physiology. Your metabolism slows to become more efficient with the energy you give it. This is to keep you alive as long as possible with less food than you should have. Not eating (fasting) is the most extreme form of caloric restriction. There is nothing less than zero calories. To think that for some reason that when you eat nothing your metabolism doesn’t slow down or that it actually speeds up is just pure idiocracy. If your metabolism didn’t slow with zero caloric intake you would rapidly burn through your body stores and start utilizing your organs for fuel. This is completely counter to anything that even remotely resembles common sense and the fact that anyone thinks this nonsense could be true simply boggles my mind.
Now on to the article:
He hits the nail on the head with the MCT and coconut oil as added fat and how this can cause people to stall or not lose. These are oils that do not contribute to mitochondrial biogenesis (creation of more mitochondria) and we know that mitochondria are the energy factories of the body. The more we have the more energy we make from the food we take in. This means a faster metabolism. If you are consuming large quantities of these oils of course you won’t speed up metabolism and may stall or gain. Don’t use these fats if you want to lose weight. That is why I wrote this article.
Leptin – His ideas about leptin are madness. He says if you eat fructose you will overstimulate leptin and get leptin resistance and leptin resistance causes us to get fat. Sure. Fruit is full of fructose. Find me a fat fruitarian. They are pretty damn rare. I eat a metric ton of fat and my leptin levels are almost non existent every time I get tested.
Fat absorption. He kind of knows a bit about this but he is very basic in his explanation or understanding. One of the two. Fat does not get absorbed in the intestine as chylomicrons. Some fats, like MCT and a large portion of coconut oil, get directly absorbed into the intestinal wall and go right to the liver where they must be used for energy directly or converted to ketones. This is because they are short chain fatty acids and can bypass the normal absorption. This is an issue for weight loss as it represents an excess energy crisis. Longer chain fatty acids, like the majority of other fats, get packaged into chylomicrons which are a form of LDL or lipoprotein carrier that takes them into the lymphatic system and then to fat cells. None of this is really all that relevant anyway except the differentiation of the absorption directly by MCT/short chain fatty acids.
Leptin resistance causing fat not to get burned or not increasing metabolism. Nonsense. Leptin resistance is just a theory. There is no conclusive evidence that it exists at all. If it did, then theoretically, it would act like insulin resistance. Lets look at insulin resistance and how it works.
Cells do not respond to the normal amount because they are “resistant” so the pancreas makes more and more to try ad clear the blood glucose. Eventually the signal is strong enough and the blood cleared but because there was so much insulin, the insulin resistant person sees a massive drop and they go hypoglycaemic.
If it was true that leptin resistance is causing metabolism not to rise then the same would happen right? Leptin would build up and build up until the cells finally do respond and you would have a huge jump in metabolism just as in the case of insulin resistance causing hypoglycaemia. Completely asinine to think this is the case.
If you eat the proper fats then metabolism will increase through the mechanisms of mitochondrial biogenesis which I have detailed in the link above. Hormones explain part of the issue but they are not the only art of the equation.
Treat Obesity, not nutrient deficiency. This statement alone should be enough to make anyone run for the hills. If you are obese don’t worry about nutrient deficiency? What the actual fuck did I just read? Often obese people are the most in danger of nutrient deficiency. This should be the one statement alone that makes anyone run for their lives away from anything Fung has to say.
Jason Fung constantly says he has nothing to gain from fasting yet he makes a living by selling fasting. Clinics that focus on fasting. Online coaching for fasting. Books on fasting. I recently saw him endorsing a “fasting tea”. How is this not making anything from fasting? Of course he is trying to sell you something and frankly it is false bill of goods. The fact that he says don’t worry about nutrients makes me furious. Great, you’ve treated obesity but now you have severe malnourishment. Great.
You don’t have to starve yourself to treat obesity. This was known in 1953. Alfred Pennington was far ahead of his time and saw first hand that caloric restriction didn’t work because of the fact that it lowered metabolic rate. He saw that you could keep people eating very high calorie as long as you restricted carbs but kept fat high and that this would allow for much easier weight loss without a reduction of metabolic rate.
Fasting will eventually die off. People will see how damaging it is to the metabolism and how, like every other calorie restricted diet, any loss of weight during a fast will quickly return when you eat again. Like calorie restriction the only way to keep weight off or moving in the right direction is by constantly upping the ante and fasting longer and longer. Eventually this becomes a losing battle as you have to eat sometime.
I just hope we figure it out sooner than later before we make the current problem with people not able to lose weight even worse.
If you want to get your Ketogenic Diet back to a place of Common Sense and learn how to heal your metabolism you can get personalized coaching from Coach Jack.
Some say that it doesn’t matter what diet you follow so long as you are in a caloric deficit. Is that true and what does that mean?
So being in a caloric deficit means that you are taking in less calories than you expend. So how much energy do you expend? How do you know and what determines that?
What do I think about all this????
I agree. For the most part. You do lose weight in a caloric deficit and when I work with clients I put them in a caloric deficit. The difference is that I determine what it means to be in a deficit and I never keep calories low for a long time.
The problem with just putting people in a chronic deficit is that the body adapts to caloric intake. If you cut calories from 2500 to 2000 the body will initially take 500 calories from body fat per day and you will lose roughly 1lb a week. This might continue for 5 weeks or maybe only 2 weeks and weight loss slows or stops. This happens because the body slows metabolism in order to keep you from losing weight. If it continued to use the same amount of energy than those that are lean would quickly waste away and die. Today we don’t really have any danger of this but for most of our evolution we were lean and this was a real danger. Our body still works that way. So you can cut calories and lose weight for awhile but that slows and stops. Everyone that has every done a diet knows this.
So you keep cutting and cutting until you are down to 1000 calories. Great but what happens when you stall here? Well hopefully you have reached your goal. If not then you are in trouble aren’t you? You can’t really cut more than this can you? What if you have met your goal? What do you do now? Do you keep eating 1000 calories a day for the rest of your life? How sustainable is that going to be? Most likely you won’t. You will either quit tracking all together or even worse go off the diet. So what happens if you do either one?
In all likelihood, you will eat more if you aren’t tracking. What if you eat 1500 calories? Same thing that happened when you cut 500 calories. Your body is adapted now to eating 1000 calories and burning 1000 calories. If you eat 1500 that is 500 more than your body is used to eating. You will gain roughly 1 pound a week for a bit of time. As it slowed when you were losing it will also slow down when you are gaining. First week you might gain 1 pound while the next week it might be 3/4 of a pound and so on until you adapt to the new caloric level. This is how the body works. It adapts.
So what does all this have to do with my view on caloric deficits?
Well like I said earlier, I determine what that deficit is. How do I do that? I use the body’s ability to adapt its metabolic rate to match the amount of calories coming in and the ability of keto/high fat to limit weight gain. I increase calories very high which in turn makes the metabolism faster. Once I get metabolism high enough I then can create a new deficit that is still adequate yet not low enough to really cause issues with health.
So do you need to be in a deficit to lose weight? Yes, but you get to decide what that means. 🙂
If you need help getting past a stall, getting your hair to stop falling out or on the other end of the spectrum you need help increasing exercise performance and body composition I have strategies for all of the above.
Most people think that the body deals with energy from foods in a specific order.
The common analogy is that carbs are fast burning twigs or paper, protein is a log and fat is long burning coal and that you have to burn through them in order. They seem to suggest that you only get to fat burning when you first burn through carbs and protein. This is fundamentally and actually comically wrong.
Take this video from my least favorite company. The MLM (pyramid scheme) company Pruvit. They sell those useless ketone supplements that they claim will have you burning fat just from drinking ketones. Just in case you want to ask, they don’t help you do anything other than have ketones in your blood. Waste of money.
This is how it actually works. I will try to get as detailed as I can without being too detailed and I will mostly focus on how it works in a person who is metabolically healthy and eats mostly a ketogenic diet as this creates the most healthy metabolic fueling system.
When we eat a mixed meal of carbs/protein/fat all food gets broken down into smaller parts in the stomach. It then moves to the small intestine where it gets further broken down into its base components.
Protein gets broken down into amino acids.
Fats get broken down into fatty acids
carbohydrates get broken down into simple sugars
According to the rocket surgeons above, you would have to burn up all the carbs and protein and all the fat would be stored. In a very basic sense, yeah that is sort of what happens in the short term but that is so basic that it doesn’t look past the surface at all. It is like looking at the earth from space and saying “Oh it’s just a ball.” There is so much more to it than that and there is so much more to energy partitioning in the body.
This is what actually happens. Again, this is in the context of a mostly ketogenic dieter.
The carbs initially spike insulin
This shuts down the use of fat and puts the body into storage mode. At this time it is true that the body will use only carbohydrate for fuel or at least more so. It really depends on the inulinagenic load of the meal. Lets assume it was very high. For right now, as insulin is high, carbs are the majority fuel source. At the same time as insulin is shoving fats into fat cells it is also shoving glucose into muscles (reserved for high intensity exercise) and liver (reserved for blood glucose management). We have storage in these locations for carbohydrate just as we have fat cells for storage of fatty acids. The form changes which actually locks the fuel away in these locations. The form is glycogen and the fuel needs to be converted back from that form in order to be used for fuel again. This is why we don’t use all the glucose first. More on that later. The difference is that these stores are limited where fat cells are nearly unlimited. Once all glucose is put away into this storage, insulin levels return to normal and we start using fat again. Regardless if we have used up all the carbs or not. This will happen faster the more insulin sensitive a person is.
Since insulin is high, fat cells are not releasing any fats. They can only store.
All fat in the meal will go to storage so the body must use glucose as fuel until insulin levels drop. Again, the more insulin sensitive you are the faster insulin will drop and the faster you can use fat again. As they drop there will be an incremental increase in the amount of fat being used. Already we can see that the above video is factually incorrect. We rarely ever use only one fuel source. We are usually using a different precent of fats vs glucose depending on insulin levels. More insulin means less fat and more glucose and less insulin means more fat and less glucose.
Protein has been broken down into amino acids. The building blocks of the body.
Unlike the uneducated scam artists at pruvit, protein is not a fuel. It can be used as a fuel but only in emergency situations. The only time it will be used for fuel is in the rare instance where insulin is high but glucose levels are low. This is a rare occurrence. The only time this could ever really happen is in someone with severe insulin resistance. Insulin levels could be very high for prolonged periods of time which could potentially cause exhaustion of glycogen stores. Once the glycogen is all used, if insulin is still high, the body will turn to protein because the insulin is holding fat hostage. Other than this instance, protein is never used as a fuel source. It is either used to rebuild tissue, used to create enzymes for other bodily processes or if eaten in excess of body needs, will be converted to glucose in which case it could be used as fuel.
Now that we have that broken down properly lets look closer at what happens as we go on about our day after the meal.
If we are just sitting around doing nothing or just working at a desk, the body does not require any fast acting fuel for this. It is most content to run on fat and it will do so primarily. Now what about those stores of glucose? The glucose that was stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen has a specific use. Since glucose is a fairly valuable commodity and is in limited reserve, it is locked up pretty well. It needs a chemical change to make it available as glucose again. Until it is changed it is locked up and will not leave the glycogen storage.
The liver is a fairly good about letting go of glycogen. The primary job of the liver glycogen is to maintain blood glucose levels. Thinking in context of a ketogenic dieter, we don’t need much glucose. The brain will use some blood glucose while the liver is full of glycogen and the brain pulling glucose from the blood will cause a low blood glucose state. This low glucose state will spike glucagon a bit but only slightly. That is all that is needed to release glycogen from the liver. This will keep the blood levels at a safe range. We are still using fat at this time as insulin is not raised above baseline. This use by the brain will deplete the liver pretty quickly. There is only about 100g of glycogen in the liver. The brain can and will use about 130g in a day and there are other things that require glucose lke red blood cells. This 100g will not last long. Once the liver is depleted, the body will return to making ketones from fat regardless of muscle glycogen levels. The brain will start using ketones and the need for glucose is now dramatically diminished.
There is a large process that has to happen for muscle glycogen to get released to the blood so this doesn’t happen unless it is critically needed as in the insulin resistant scenerio. It stays locked up there simply due to the complexity of the process. Once liver is depleted you can still have as much as 400g of glycogen in muscles but it will not be released to general circulation and will not be used unless there is a large energy demand that requires glucose. Like if a bear is chasing you. Only then will that glycogen get used. If there is no bear chasing you, you absolutely won’t be using this source of glucose. Light exercise will use some of this but will still use more fat than glycogen. The percentage of fat vs glycogen will shift with intensity of exercise. Yet again we see how the majority of the fitness and diet world are dead wrong. We don’t have to burn up all our carbs to use fat. We can have 400g of carbs sitting in our muscles and it will happily sit there until it is needed for escaping a bear. Or just high intensity exercise. I like the bear analogy better. 🙂
So no, we don’t have 3 sources of fuel in our body. We have 2 sources of fuel and one building block that can be used for fuel in an emergency. This is a huge reason why so many are confused. There is far too much misinformation out there coming from people who have little to no actual understanding of how the body actually partitions fuel.
I hope this sheds a little more light onto how we actually use fuel in the body. Below you will find some resources if you want to learn more about glycogen metabolism as well as the bodies different energy systems.