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Welcome to the first installment of the "Ask the Health Coach" Q&A column. Jeremy Likness is an international health coach who has helped clients in the United States, Canada, Australia, and even the United Arab Emirates lose fat and achieve a lean, healthy body.
He is a certified fitness trainer and a specialist in performance nutrition through the International Sports Sciences Association. Jeremy is also a motivational speaker, author of an internationally selling e-Book, Lose Fat, Not Faith, and presenter of the 5-CD Lose Fat, Not Faith audio program.
Bottom Of Page For More Info On Jeremy's e-Book.
You understand that a personal trainer who is not a licensed health-care professional provides this information without a health examination and without prior discussion of your health condition. In no way does this article provide medical advice.
Questions & Answers
Jeremy has taken the time answer emails and questions from his readers. In this first installment, Jeremy will address several controversial topics related to fat loss.
[ Q ] Are milk and dairy good for fat loss?
I've seen this push for the dairy industry. It is a billion dollar industry. So of course, both the industry and the government want people getting lots of dairy.
The truth is that there are studies to show that calcium balance is the same whether people get small amounts from natural sources (nuts, leafy green vegetables, etc.) or large amounts from milk. The key here is large amounts, because milk forces the body to leech calcium to restore the pH balance of the stomach, which means your requirements for calcium ironically go up when drinking this supposedly magical source of calcium. It's like filling a bucket with a hole in it, only dairy makes the hole bigger.
In fact, vegans who receive 50% of the dairy drinker's intake of calcium (so they only get 1/2 the calcium) actually have the same calcium status (available calcium in their bloodstream and body) as the milk drinkers. This is thought to be a combination of poorer calcium absorption from dairy and increased calcium demands. (Protein, as well, increases demands for calcium ... because calcium is involved in muscle contraction. Perhaps increased muscle mass demands a higher calcium intake as well, although I am not aware of this being studied).
As for milk helping with fat loss, let's look at the real statistics. Americans drink milk. A lot of it. Yet 2 out of 3 are still overweight. Now, that doesn't necessarily mean that milk is the cause but it obviously isn't working it's magic, either.
I believe there are combination of reasons for this. First, milk today is not the milk of yesterday. There are plenty of reasons for concern that pasteurization and homogenization are both detrimental to the quality of milk, and that's not even throwing bovine growth hormone into the equation - here's some good information about that: http://www.realmilk.com/
The other thing is that most people are allergic to milk. The assumption is that unless you have stomach pain or breakout in hives, you are not allergic. However, many of the doctors I've consulted with agree that allergies are a continuum - i.e. some people are more allergic than others. Allergies to lactose (milk sugar) or casein (milk protein) are very prevalent with many people assuming they are fine because the only manifestation is water retention or a puffy nose.
The following eight foods account for 90% of all food-allergic reactions.
- Tree nut (walnut, cashew, etc.)
The concern is that if you are even mildly allergic, your immune system is being continuously stressed when you continue to consume dairy products, which may create more complications later on. At the suggestion of a few medical doctors who were knowledgeable on the subject, I started recommending my clients learn their reaction to dairy simply by cutting it out completely for 4 weeks. I don't ask that they cut it out forever, simply take a test and cut it out for a month.
Here's what happens - most are so addicted that they simply don't have the willpower to do without dairy for a month, so they make up a ton of excuses to get back onto it. Out of those who actually follow through, they report that a few days into it they have symptoms similar to a sinus infection, with runny nose, scratchy throat, etc, and intense cravings for dairy - including pounding headaches that feel like they won't go away until they have it.
Then, after a few weeks, they suddenly lean out in the face (less puffy) and most drop a significant amount of weight. My wife, for example, lost 10 pounds over a month simply by cutting dairy out but not changing her caloric intake at all! Then they report more energy, improved taste, etc.
Needless to say, 9 out of 10 of my clients or friends who I've suggested try this experiment ultimately never go back to dairy. The dairy industry has effectively brainwashed most into believing a balanced diet must include dairy. Ironic, since we are the only mammal on the planet that concerns ourselves with dairy after we are weaned.
There is plenty of calcium and vitamin D in other natural sources. The propaganda about osteoporosis and weight loss is a marketing strategy at best. In my opinion, resistance training, leafy green vegetables, nuts, and spending 15 minutes in the sun will do far more for calcium and vitamin D intake than taking in dairy.
[ Q ] How do I avoid "starvation mode?"
I always love the starvation mode argument. "Don't go under 1000 calories or you'll be in starvation mode." Starvation is when you are not getting nutrients or energy - zilch, nada. It is true starvation - i.e. not eating.
No, you will not go into some special mode after 6 hours of not eating. I've fasted for days before, and contrary to the popular trend, I did not suddenly lose 15 tons of muscle mass and become a thin sluggish weakling. I fasted for spiritual reasons and when I was done, I eased back into my regular nutrition program and was fine.
Starvation mode is something that serves two purposes. In the mind of marketers, its a great scare tactic to shock people into buying supplements to make sure they have something on the road and don't go into that scary starvation mode. It is also great to market systems because Americans like to eat. So any system that says, "Lose fat by eating more" is going to sell.
The second purpose it serves is for the person on the diet. It is a great justification for never going low enough to achieve phenomenal results - after all, they may kick into starvation mode. Better to have a reason to keep calories up and blame the inability to lose that last bit of ab flab on something else.
Seriously: when you lower calories, your metabolism goes down. This isn't starvation mode, this is your metabolism slowing down. The thing is, who cares? I know the trend is to say it's better to eat more and have a burning metabolism.
Personally, I don't see how a slow metabolism is any worse than a fast one if you are eating nutrient dense. In other words, I know of a 1200 calorie diet with far more nutrients than a typical American 3000 calorie diet. If it is sustainable and enjoyable, who cares if the metabolism is a bit slower? The idea is that it is easier to lose fat, but if you reach your goal and are maintaining, theoretically you don't have to lose more fat.
[ Q ] Should I eliminate fruit when I am dropping fat?
Low calorie fruit is fine. It's ironic how many people will say fruit is bad because it has simple sugars. So what is the alternative? They suggest potatoes and brown rice.
News flash ... the reason people cling to the old-fashioned notion that all simple sugars are bad is because of the myth that all simple sugars cause a rapid rise in blood sugar. The truth is that we can now measure the impact of foods on blood sugar, and the so-called complex carbs of brown rice and baked potatoes actually cause more of a blood sugar rise than fruit!
Focus on combining protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats, and you will not have the issue of rapid blood sugar rises. Fiber and fats help slow digestion, improve absorption of nutrients, etc. And fruit is loaded with nutrients your body needs when cutting.
[ Q ] What is the best fat-burning supplement?
After coaching clients for many years now (some of them having lost well over one hundred pounds) and trying out various fat-burner supplements, I'm convinced that the "best" fat burner supplement is the fork and keeping it on the plate after you've had your portion.
Seriously, manipulating your nutrition and exercise have far more impact on your fat loss than any supplement. Even the one supplement that had plenty of science behind it - ephedra (which is now banned) - resulted in only about 1/3 pound of extra fat lost per week, and that was if everything else was "perfect."
So in other words, while exercise and nutrition can allow you to lose 2 - 3 pounds a week, you'd have to train 3 weeks just to appreciate one extra pound from a fat burner.
[ Q ] What's the best training routine for fat loss?
The routine doesn't really have much to do with fat loss at all ... you can do any style of training and lose fat, provided you burn calories. The key is proper nutrition.
What does your nutrition plan look like? You can do all of the weight training and cardio in the world, and not lose an ounce of fat if you are not eating correctly.
[ Q ] Will extra cardio contribute to fat loss?
Yes, extra cardio can contribute to fat loss. How much depends on how much you are already doing. I save extra cardio as a plateau-buster, i.e. if you are already progressing. Keep it the same - don't fix it if it isn't broken. When you hit a plateau, add the extra calories burned from cardio to kick through and get things moving again.
[ Q ] My goal is fat loss, so should I just do cardio and skip weight training?
Doing just cardio can be a recipe for disaster, simply due to the stress it places on your joints. You need muscle to support those joints, and muscle will not come unless you
strength train your legs.
9 out of 10 women are concerned about the size of their legs and feel they put on muscle too quickly, while only 1 out of 10 can actually qualify this - in other words, it is usually genetics that determines the shape/size of your muscle and the rest of the variation is fat. It is very difficult to easily put on muscle.
I would not forego leg training. If you are concerned with size or truly are the 1 out of 10 with the genetics to put on muscle that quickly, restrict your leg workout to bodyweight exercises - do free-form squats, static lunges without extra weight, work to doing them one leg at a time, etc. This will ensure you keep the muscles surrounding the joints strong and improve stability and coordination, without going to the length that would stimulate significant muscle growth - instead you'll gain more strength and coordination.
There are plenty of studies that show cardio and weight training is superior for burning fat than either one alone.
[ Q ] I can't seem to focus on exercise and nutrition at the same time - it's always one or the other. How can I get both going at the same time?
Focus on progress, not perfection. You take on one thing at a time, master it, and move on.
Perhaps your focus is temporary. You mention focusing on eating clean and exercising as being daunting. How difficult is it for you to maintain your focus on brushing your teeth everyday or taking a shower? It's probably fairly simple. As a child you may not have wanted to do those "chores" but then you mastered them as a habit, made the connection between health and hygiene, and now it comes easily.
If you are focused on your eating as a diet, then you are right - once you take your focus away, you'll fall into your old eating patterns. However, what if you decided that, like brushing your teeth or taking a shower or even breathing, healthy eating was a part of your life? And instead of worrying about taking it all on at once, you focused on transforming your eating habits so that instead of going on a diet you could be happy because "this is the new way that I eat."
It doesn't have to be chicken and broccoli ... have fun, spice it up, enjoy it because this is what you will be eating, not for several weeks until you reach some magic goal weight, but for the rest of your life because your body deserves to be healthy.
If you take that approach, then once you master healthy eating, it should be as easy as brushing your teeth or taking a shower, and then you can focus on making exercise a habit, too.
Don't fall into extremes. You want pizza? Enjoy it. Just not every day. Have it once in awhile, savor it, don't stuff yourself, and embrace healthy living.
[ Q ] How much fat can I lose in a week?
Females can lose about 0.5 - 1 percent of their body weight each week in fat, and males are more in the 1 - 2 percent range. So at 200 pounds, a woman can expect to drop 1 - 2 pounds of fat per week and a man about 2 - 4 pounds of fat per week.
There is no clinical, scientific study to support this, it is just an observation based on my years of coaching and partnering with other coaches who have been at it for decades.
[ Q ] How much muscle can I expect to lose when cutting or losing fat?
There is some confusion where people get excited and feel that lean mass is muscle. It's not true. There is fat, and then there is lean (everything but the fat).
When you are in a competition and gain five pounds of lean, of course you'll want to say "muscle" because it sounds better. Who would buy product x if it only claimed to add one pound of lean and four pounds of water weight?
The truth is that your muscles contain quite a bit of water, and things like sodium, carbohydrate, and creatine all impact the water balance in your muscle. This will register as "lean" gains and losses, but it is not muscle fiber, it is fluid.
The idea is to preserve as much mass as possible. You will more than likely lose some lean, but as long as you maintain or gain strength, there is a good chance you are not losing muscle tissue.
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