Why Can't I Lose Fat?

Here’s a common scenario.  You’ve been eating healthy foods (mostly) and exercising regularly (most of the time), and while you feel better and are getting stronger, your body stubbornly refuses to let go of it’s fat!  Sound familiar?

One easy fix is to make sure you’re measuring consistently.  You are measuring, right?  To our own eyes, the body changes so slowly that it’s often impossible to see changes day-to-day.  We need to have some form of objective measure in order to see the progress.  Weight, body fat %, waist/hip measurements, and old photos are all pretty good ways to see how your body is changing outside of the lens of our daily lives.

Ok, so now you’ve been measuring.  But that stubborn body fat still won’t go away!  Let’s get into the meat (or fat!) of the problem. Hormones.  Yes, those pesky things that complicated your teenage years are still floating around in your body causing havoc.  A couple big ones that you need to be aware of are insulin and hormone-sensitive lipase (HSL).  Basically, insulin tells your body to store energy (as fat and other things), and HSL tells your body to burn energy.  These two things work opposite to each other, so the more insulin you have floating around, the less HSL, and vice versa.  Insulin is released as a result of carbohydrate ingestion.  So, the more carbs you eat, the more often you eat them, and the higher the amount of insulin that’s released (the result of more processed carbs and added sugar), the harder it is for HSL to work.  

If fat loss is your main goal, then lowering carbs is going to be more effective for your goals.  

This, however, is in opposition to performance or muscle gain goals.    High-intensity exercise, like we do in CrossFit, is run mainly on carbohydrates for fuel.  We are able to perform at a much higher level with carbohydrates in our diet, not only as fuel, but because of the hormone response.  As I mentioned before, insulin is the storage hormone.  Beyond telling the body to store carbohydrates and fat for energy, it also helps our body to build muscle.  Muscle, obviously, is essential not only to our long-term health and fitness but also to keeping our metabolism running high as we lose weight. If you were to only lose weight without working to keep your muscle, then the amount of calories your body burns on a daily basis just to keep running (your basal metabolic rate or BMR) will drop drastically.  This is why so many people who lose a lot of weight due to calorie restriction and light cardio tend to gain that weight back.  They start eating normally again, but because that’s so many more calories than their bodies are burning, they start to gain weight again.

The best way to eat according to Greg Glassman, the founder of CrossFit, is, "Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat." That last part is easier said than done, but shows how simple good nutrition for a healthy weight actually is.  Understanding leads to better food decisions. Hopefully, this helps to kickstart your fat loss goals!

For a more in-depth look, I found a great video that does a nice job explaining it further: https://youtu.be/zcMBm-UVdII