“Meal frequency (how many times a day you eat), protein intake in relation to carbohydrates, the time of day you exercise, the type of meal you eat before and after exercise, and supplements all influence whether you will release fat-storing or fat-burning hormones.
All these factors tend to make the calorie balance theory somewhat obsolete. At the very least, you cannot expect to follow the calorie balance theory exclusively and burn away as much fat as you want. You have to gain control of your hormones.
I’ll outline how the above factors play a role in skewing the calorie balance theory.
Carbs release insulin, which is a potent fat storing hormone. Insulin drives carbohydrates (glucose) into fat cells causing the body to accumulate body fat. Hormonally, carbs are a fat-storing food.
Protein increases thermogenesis; heat production. In short, when you eat protein, the body experiences a mild increase in body temperature. As body temperature rises even slightly, calorie burning rises. The result is that when you eat protein, your metabolism actually increases. Protein also influences thyroid levels so it can definitely be considered a “fat-burning” food.
(3) Ratio of Carbs to Protein.
If fat-burning is your goal, then no meal should contain radically more carbs then protein. Why? The carbs override the fat burning and thermogenic boost associated with protein. So, if you eat 3 cups of rice and a small chicken breast yielding 800 calories or 2 cups of rice and 2 chicken breasts also yielding 800 calories, you can expect greater fat storing effects when the meal is higher in carbs then closer to a 50-50 balance of carbs to protein.
(4) Meal Frequency
This one is huge. If you want to lose bodyfat, eat 6 times a day. First, every time you eat, you experience a small increase in metabolic rate just by virtue of a greater thermogenic effect. Second, smaller meals suppress the release of cortisol, a hormone that decreases testosterone levels. Maintaining a higher testosterone level helps support fat-burning hormones. Finally, multiple meals keeps blood sugar – the amount of digested carbohydrates floating around in the blood – stable. Stable sugar levels, in turn, tend to keep fat-storing insulin in a neutral state.
(5) Pre-Training Food
If you’re going to hit the weights, stick with low glycemic carbs– oatmeal, cream of rye cereal, yams and buckwheat noodles- in the meal prior to training. These carbs digest slower which keeps insulin levels lower. Lower insulin levels before training allow the body to tap fatty acids from body fat as a back-up fuel source to muscle glycogen.
(6) Post-Training Food
Here’s where you need to eat. You should eat a higher protein and carb intake (from mostly high glycemic carbs) post-workout because it speeds growth and recovery.
After training, you want insulin levels to rise (not explode!) because it’s at this point that the body enters a serious rebuilding mode. Insulin under normal circumstances can store body fat; however, post-workout it kick-starts the rebuilding process, exclusively.
That means no fat storage. You see, insulin is both a fat-storing hormone and muscle-potentiating hormone. Here’s the catch; higher insulin levels after training is desirable. It causes growth without stimulating fat storage.
That being said, a lot of bodybuilders eat a silly amount of carbs post-training which simply kicks up fat storage. There’s a happy medium here. You need the insulin to kick start recovery but “shoot for the clouds not the moon”.
(7) Night-time Eating
When you sleep the body releases growth hormone, which not only helps rebuild muscle but also increases fat burning. However, when you eat a lot of carbs just prior to bed, the body’s natural GH release tends to get suppressed. Stick with protein– chicken, turkey, lean beef, egg whites and fish– at night and add some low calorie vegetables to them. That will keep your carb intake under control allowing for maximal GH release to occur.
Cardio burns fat by dragging fatty acids out of fat cells and burning them within the muscles in small areas called the mitochondria. Cardio also causes changes in the body that favor fat burning; greater total calorie expenditure and an increase in fat-burning hormones.
Eating before cardio can put a damper on that hormonal shift. In other words, when you eat before cardio– especially carbs-you’ll experience a smaller increase in fat burning hormones which translates into less fat loss. That’s why you should do cardio on an empty stomach.
Or, at the very least, don’t eat any carbs. You can probably get away with a small protein snack since that won’t alter the beneficial hormonal change brought on by cardio exercise.”
– Chris Aceto
note from Scott: This is sound nutritional advice. If you are not seeing the results that you would like, give the above advice a try.
Scott York Fitness: Lago Vista and Jonestown, Texas