So you’ve done everything right. You’ve dropped grains, industrial veggie oils and sugar, and started eating whole real foods. You’ve started lifting heavy things once in a while. You get healthy amounts of sunshine. You try to avoid stress. Everything seems to be going as planned.
But you’ve hit a stall in your fat loss goals. Your tummy just won’t budge, or you’re having trouble losing those last few pounds to really be lean and get that beach body in time for summer. How will you ever fit ito that bathing suit?
Are you actually doing everything you can? Here’s some questions to ask yourself before you throw in the towel.
Are you actually eating healthy?
You might think just sticking to the Paleo 80/20 rule is enough, but if you’ve reached a stall, it’s time to assess that other 20%. It’s possible you’re allowing a little sugar in your coffee here, and a little veggie oil there, all the while thinking that it’s “ok” because it’s within that 20%, but it really does add up, and chances are if you’re not paying attention, you could be consuming way more “crap” than you realize. Add that onto a few alcoholic drinks each weekend, and a cheat meal at a restaurant that includes grains, and we’ve slipped suddenly into 50/50 territory, or worse.
The solution is to go full 100% paleo. Don’t let that sugar into your coffee, get a bit more picky at restaurants, and keep alcohol to a minimum during the weekend. Kick that nagging sugar addiction to the curb by going cold turkey. Don’t go near any grains. Cook at home as often as possible. You’ll save money and feel better, and more often than not, start to see the fat go away. This is one of the most common problems for weight loss stalls. More often than not, once you really dial in your diet, you’ll see progress. Everything else is just (coconut oil) icing on the (gluten free) cake 😉
Are you still smoking or drinking?
It’s obvious that smoking and too much alcohol do have adverse health effects. I really shouldn’t have to go into detail here. But the bottom line is, even if diet is dialed in, drugs like these have an overwhelming effect on our ability to lose fat. Modern tobacco is coated in pesticides, for instance, which has been shown to cause chronic inflammation and insulin resistance. Not only is insulin resistance the gateway to lifelong fat-gain, it’s the gateway to diabetes.
The act of smoking also causes chronic inflammation from carcinogens. Not only is this the main determining factor in the hypothalamus’ health and ability to regulate fat mass, but chronic inflammation leads to a number of health issues in the long run, cancer being an obvious big one.
Alcohol also inhibits your body’s ability to burn fat. When alcohol is in your system, it becomes your body’s priority to metabolize the poison and get rid of it. The more you consume, the more lipolysis is inhibited. Since our goal with Paleo is to become fat-burning machines, it makes a lot of sense to keep alcohol to a minimum.
Are you eating too much?
Paleo isn’t dark magic. Your body is still able to absorb and store excess energy as fat. That’s the wonder of our hunter-gatherer genes that helped us to survive times of scarcity. We’re designed to be thrifty and store energy for emergencies. Obviously finding food nowadays isn’t an issue for most of us, actually the problem we face is too much food.
Are you consuming too many carbs? If you are mostly sedentary (chances are if you’re reading this, that’s you) your ability to handle lots of glucose diminishes. Taper your fruit and starch intake down if you are taking time off from activities. Even if you are active, the conventional wisdom for how many carbs we “need” is vastly overstated. Try to dial them down to no more than 100g per day, higher for very active people like athletes (200 plus, depends on the individual) then see how you feel. If you feel good, bring them down more. If your activity performance decreases, try going higher. Everyone is different. But if the goal is rapid fat loss, make sure you’re not polishing off an entire carton of berries every day.
Are you only eating when you are truly hungry? Like I said above, we have a problem these days of having too much food around. Everything around us is designed to override your natural satiety and pleasure signals to get you to consume more. Become conscious of this, and attune yourself to your own hunger signals. Eat only when truly hungry, and don’t let anyone tell you that you have to eat. Paleo makes this easier by removing food toxins that mess with your satiety signals, but external pressures still abound. Take note, and remember, Summer is coming! Reach that goal!
How active are you?
Most people today just are not active enough. We spend hours at our desks, then we go home and do it in front of the computer or TV. It’s a huge problem. We are designed as fat-burning animals, and our bodies need lots of low level activity like walking, hiking, or swimming. Lifting heavy things also creates more fat-burning muscle tissue, by making muscles larger and increasing the amount of fat-burning mitochondria (the powerhouses of our bodies that make ATP from fatty acids). Muscle also looks better, and makes it much easier to maintain a low body-fat percentage.
Some people are just too active. Doing too much cardio is common. When you stay above 75% of your MHR (max heart rate) for long periods of time you are burning glycogen, causing you to crave more sugar in order to replenish those stores. Clearly a problem if we’re trying to minimize excess carbs. The other issue with too much cardio is that it causes excessive release of cortisol, so over the long run you will gain weight, lose muscle, and cause chronic wear issues like joint pain. This is a common issue for other types of exercise too. Lifting weights too often will also release too much cortisol and can stall fat loss.
You have to find your happy medium, and make sure to allow proper recovery time between workouts. Muscles have to heal to grow, in order to burn more fat and create more mitochondria. I prefer to allow 5-7 days between muscle groups when I lift, and I usually lift 3 days a week, with one weekend session of interval training each week. Which leads me to the next section…
Have you tried sprinting yet?
I have a number of posts about sprinting, or High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). The benefits are numerous, and the time commitment is minimal. Basically, providing an occasional high-stressor for your body causes an array of adaptations to fat-burning and metabolism, while keeping cortisol to a minimum and allowing plenty of recovery time between sessions. It increases insulin sensitivity, causes HGH secretion, increases numbers of fat-burning mitochondria, and makes way for growth spurts in muscle that can have overarching benefits in your weight lifting. If you haven’t started doing this each week, why the hell not?!
Have you tried intermittent fasting?
I also have a few posts about this topic. IF is shown to increase longevity and a number of health markers, as well as induce autophagy, allowing your body to clean, detoxify and reboot itself. IF also allows you to eat a few large meals a day, and still provide a large window of time for your body to burn primarily fat for energy when you are not eating. Eating Paleo makes this 100 times easier, because you don’t actually get hungry during the fast. If you haven’t made this a regular part of your routine, now is the time to make it happen!
Are you managing stress properly?
Too much stress can hinder fat loss via excessive release of cortisol. It can also cause you to crave junk food, over eat, and lose muscle. The best ways to manage stress is to get outside and enjoy nature, make sure you are getting plenty of sleep, and make sure you have healthy ways to let it out. Working out, playing, laughter, being with friends. All good ways to make yourself happier and less stressed.
Have you been sick recently?
Things like antibiotics are overused by the medical establishment. Good thing Paleo makes us as healthy as possible, so that if we do get sick, we can overcome it very fast. Antibiotics are handed out for everything from a sore throat to an ear infection. They are very damaging to your gut flora, which has a large part to do with your ability to lose weight. Your gut flora determines largely how you digest foods, and having a healthy population can help keep you lean. There have been a plethora of recent studies done. For instance I recently read one where they transplanted gut bacteria from lean people to obese people, and the obese individuals all lost weight without any other intervention. This study did the same thing with mice.
Lean human guts contain more flora from the bacterial phylum of Bacteroidetes and less from the Firmicutes phylum, whereas obese human guts contain flora more heavily weighted toward Firmicutes. Furthermore, both mice and humans with “obese” gut flora (high in Firmicutes) derive more energy from food and have an increased ability to “harvest energy.”
Martin Blaser, an NYU microbiome researcher, speculates that not only does antibiotic usage permanently change our gut flora, it also promotes obesity. Blaser examined the effect of antibiotics on Helicobacter pylori, a common member of the human gut biome. While there’s evidence that H. pylori increases the risk for ulcers and gastric cancer, it’s also been living in human guts for at least 58,000 years.
Blaser used US veterans who were scheduled for upper GI endoscopies. Of the 92 vets, 38 had no H. pylori, 44 tested positive for H. pylori, and 10 were indeterminate. 23 of the H. pylori positive were given antibiotics, and all but two had total eradication of H. pylori. So, the 21 subjects who were initially replete in H. pylori but who eradicated them through antibiotics gained the most weight. Their BMIs increased by 5% + 2% (The other vets had no weight change). Leptin levels increased by 20%. Postprandial ghrelin increased sixfold. Ghrelin increases hunger, but high levels have the ability to increase abdominal fat.
So before you think you’ve done all you can, check yourself and your habits to see if you are letting a few too many things slip by. It could also be a certain food holding you back. Some people can handle dairy for instance, but some people might find it hinders their fat loss. With Summer approaching it’s time to get your rear in gear to get that beach body! Take a real good look at this list. Try to reach that 100%, or as close to it as you can. Your body will thank you!
You might also like to read:
Is high-rep weight training a waste of time?
Thoughts on High Intensity Interval Training
How bad is saturated fat and cholesterol?
Why women should deadlift
Get muscles, burn fat faster