Body weight is not under our control as much as weâ€™d like to believe, but is a tightly regulated process that involves a variety hormones with some of the major ones beingÂ leptinÂ (a hormone that regulates fat stores byÂ inhibiting hunger),Â ghrelinÂ (a hormone thatÂ increase hungerÂ when your stomach is empty) andÂ insulin, which plays aÂ very significant role in hunger, eating behavior and fat management.Â InsulinÂ is one of the major controllers of the body’s “set point”.
What is “set point”?
Think ofÂ set pointÂ like theÂ thermostatÂ in your house; when the air gets too cold, the thermostat is engaged, and the furnace comes on and when the air gets a little too hot, the thermostat shuts the furnace off. Your body’sÂ set pointÂ is maintained by a complex set of hormonal mechanisms that works toÂ maintain your body at its current weight.Â If you eat a lot more one day because it’s a special occasion, the next day you won’t feel as hungry as usual, and will eat less.Â When someone who normally eats a carbohydrate-based dietÂ restricts calories, their bodyÂ slows its metabolismÂ andÂ lowers the amount of energyÂ (calories)Â it usesÂ for vital bodily functions in order to ‘save’ the limited calories for use byÂ their brain. In fact, the amount of energy used by your body at rest (calledÂ Basal Energy Expenditure) can decrease by as much asÂ 30-50%Â in order to save those calories!
ThisÂ saving of caloriesÂ for essential functions is why when people who are used to eating carbs ‘fast’ orÂ limit the number of calories they eat, they feelÂ cold, tiredÂ andÂ find it hard to focus.Â This is the body ‘saving’ the few calories for essential body functions, such as for their brain and organs. This doesn’t happen to someone who isÂ fat-adapted, becauseÂ they use their own fat stores to maintain blood and brain glucose, and for other energy needs.
Equally part of maintaining the body’s set point, when an overweight person takes in too many calories, their body will try to get rid of them by increasing its Basal Energy Expenditure and speeding up breathing rate (respiration), increasing heart rate and generating more body heat.
So, whether we areÂ overweightÂ orÂ underweight, the body will adjust its processes to maintain its â€˜set pointâ€™.
This is why the so-calledÂ calorie in, calorie out model, doesn’t work – because it is not simply a matter of “eating less andÂ moving more“. When people who areÂ carb-dependentÂ restrict their calories, theirÂ metabolism slowsÂ and so theyÂ burn way less calories!
Calories inÂ andÂ calories outÂ areÂ notÂ independentÂ of each other butÂ inter-dependentÂ on each other; when one is lowered (calories in), soÂ is the other (calories out, metabolism).Â Â When one is increased (calories in), so is the otherÂ (calories out, respiration, heat generation).
It’s really not as simple asÂ “eating less andÂ moving more” to lose weight, because when we bothÂ restrict caloriesÂ andÂ increase our exercise,Â our body responds byÂ increasing hunger,Â increasing cravingÂ (especially for foods such as simple carbs that can be broken down quickly for glucose for your blood) and byÂ decreasing the amount of energy it uses. Using the thermostat analogy, our body turns the thermostat down.
Wouldn’t you think that if it were really as simple asÂ “eating less and moving more” that more people would be slim!
Restricting calories doesnâ€™t work for long term weight loss because the body compensates by lowering its energy expenditure. Itâ€™s not about how many calories we take in, but about what changes â€˜set pointâ€™.
It’s mainly about insulin. We have toÂ reduce insulin.
Low-carbohydrate dietsÂ andÂ increasing the amount of time between mealsÂ (called “intermittent fasting”) are two ways toÂ lower insulin.
Lowering insulin, will in turn will lower blood sugar and when this lifestyle is maintained, over time, it has even shown by researchers to be able to reverse the symptoms of Diabetes. That doesn’t mean people aren’t Diabetic anymore – they are but the symptoms of Diabetes, namely highÂ blood sugarÂ (reflected in high fasting blood glucose and HbA1C) are inÂ remission. Other added benefits include a lowering ofÂ blood pressureÂ (which is closely tied to insulin), gradual, sustainableÂ weight lossÂ and a normalizing ofÂ triglyceridesÂ as well as someÂ cholesterolÂ markers.
When people are ‘fat-adapted’, they have aÂ ready supply of fuelÂ for their bodies (their own fat stores!), andÂ so their metabolism doesn’t slow downÂ when they eat this way.Â Their bodies continue to burn calories at the usual rate!
Furthermore, they aren’tÂ cold, tiredÂ andÂ hungryÂ because they haveÂ excess fat storesÂ to serve as aÂ constant supply of fuel for their brain, blood and muscles. Fat is broken down forÂ ketone bodiesÂ which can be used for most body processes, and theÂ essential glucoseÂ needed by our blood and brain is easily synthesized by theÂ breaking down of fats.Â
Thinking about adopting a low-carb or lower-carb lifestyle, but want to read more about it first? Low carb / ketogenic specific articles are located here.
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