In our last post, we discussed the myth of eating too many carbohydrates and the discussion wouldn’t be complete without discussing how dietary fat affects body fat. If you’ve always stayed away from fatty foods, believing them to add excess pounds, you’ll be happy to know that eating fat is an important part of nutrition and dropping weight.

Myth 6 – Getting fat is a result of eating too much fat.

Dietary fat has received a bad rap even longer than carbohydrates have. Both macronutrients are an important part of maintaining a healthy hormonal profile and neither should be omitted from your diet, even if you’re trying to lose weight – because both will only help you achieve this goal.

Here’s some information about macronutrients that most people are simply unaware of.

Protein and carbohydrates are rarely ever converted to fat. It’s one of the biggest misunderstandings in the world of nutrition. Many people will call themselves “carb sensitive” believing if they eat over 100 carbs a day, they’ll gain weight. That’s simply not true. If the scale is going up, they’re overeating and either won’t admit it or simply don’t realize it.

Protein and carbohydrates are unique in that the more you eat of them, the more your body burns them. This is why that annoying body builder at the gym brags about eating 5,000 calories a day but still doesn’t appear to be putting on fat. His metabolism might be slightly higher than yours but he’s consistently eating protein like it’s the last meal of his life. As he eats more, he burns more.

body builder eating a steakProtein is almost never converted to fat. You’d have to eat an absolutely ridiculous amount on a consistent basis for this to happen. You’ll notice an increase in time spent in your throne room as you eat more protein because what your body doesn’t use will more often get passed through your stool.

Carbohydrates can be converted to fat, but the reason I say it’s rare is because your muscles contain so many glycogen stores, that the body keeps tucking carbs away for energy, rather than converting them. Glycogen is the stored form of carbohydrates in the muscles. Obviously, you can max these little storage centers out, but they hold far more than most people realize. They’re like miniature sponges that surround every muscle in your body. Most glycogen gets stored in the muscles and a small amount gets stored in the liver.

How much glycogen can your muscles store? As a general average, take your body weight in pounds x 7 and this is the how many calories it takes to fill those glycogen stores. A 200 pound man is looking to eat about 1400 calories worth of carbohydrates to reach his max.

By comparison, an entire box of Cookie Crisp cereal has 1056 carbohydrate calories. If you do put away a whole box in one sitting, you must also consider that your body is burning calories all day long and that allows the body store more. That 200 pound guy is probably burning close to 3,000 calories a day. If he’s working out every day, it’s obviously more. So long as stored glycogen exists, the body will burn it for energy instead of fat. That’s the downside but the point is that you can eat a hell of a lot of carbohydrates before any kind of fat conversion takes place.

As a Matter of Fat

I delved into the issue of carbohydrates and glycogen a little more than planned but that’s because it’s so important to understand the role of carbohydrates in relation to the dietary fat we consume.

As you eat fat, it gets stored in your fat stores – the love handles being a very popular place for guys. Unlike protein and carbs, you don’t burn more as you eat more. Fat is typically being stored and burned all day long. It’s an adding/subtracting game that never really stop. Picture an ocean tide, rolling in and leaving debris and taking it out, with each wave.

Whereas higher impact exercise tends to use more carbohydrate as fuel, your slower movements use fat as the primary fuel. Walking, brushing your hair or playing your guitar all burn fat almost exclusively. Those slower movements add up over time so keep moving! Fidgeters will usually burn several hundred calories more every week than non-fidgeters.

As you want to burn a little more fat than you store, it’s important to eat fewer calories than you burn. The amount of calories you burn on a daily basis is known as your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE), which is your Basic Metabolic Rate (BMR) + extra energy expended throughout the day.

If your glycogen stores are full from eating too many carbohydrates and you eat fewer calories than your body requires for energy, the carbs will all get used up and fat burning will then occur. If you eat a lot more fat than carbohydrates on a particular day, but still eat fewer calories than is required, you’ll simply burn through the majority of your carbs quicker and start burning fat sooner.

two bicep musclesDoing tons of cardio typically isn’t a good strategy for burning more fat as long cardio sessions increase the stress hormone, cortisol – and this is when the body will turn to burning muscle for fuel, in an attempt to stabilize blood sugar levels. If you’re on a very low calorie diet, cortisol is increased all the more. Consider the body shape that most marathon runners or triathletes have and you’ll understand that more isn’t necessarily better when it comes to exercise that increases your heart rate.

All this to say that you can’t really trick the body into burning more fat and the best way to burn fat is living a balanced lifestyle in terms of diet and exercise. Don’t eat too much and don’t get too crazy with the cardio.

Don’t stop eating fat either. Nothing has a greater impact on your hormones and as I pointed out in yesterday’s article, hormone levels are an important factor in fat loss.

Eat more protein and especially so if you make weight lifting a regular part of your exercise regimen. It helps you burn more calories and it’s just not likely to be converted to fat. It’s also great for filling you up.

Don’t be afraid of eating carbs or fat. Making both a part of your daily diet will allow you to achieve your best possible physique and burn the most body fat.