A lot of us know from experience that the classic weight-loss formula of eat less, exercise more, works in the short term, but the fat usually comes back, and you often end up bigger than when you started.
Human metabolism has unfortunately evolved to keep our weight stable in times of both abundance and famine. Compared to starving children in Ethiopia and hunter gatherers living through an ice age, you and I are both living in a time of abundance.
It’s hard enough trying to reduce our intake when we are surrounded by delicious ready-made food, but things get near impossible when our bodies also fight against us by trying to resist change.
For many, the problem is a condition called metabolic inflexibility. When we use the right approach to REVERSE metabolic inflexibility, it paves the way to us becoming lean and staying lean.
But before we dive into the details of what to do, let’s take a quick detour and look at the reasons why man boobs and excess body fat are so prevalent in society today. Once we know why it happened, we can finally get to the important part: how you can take charge of your metabolic flexibility and burn chest fat at will.
Why We Get Fat
Believe it or not, when you overeat, your body does everything in its power to STOP you from getting fat:
- Your stomach expands, stimulating chemical and stretch receptors that signal your brain to stop eating.
- Your metabolism goes up a gear as your body works hard at digesting your food, burning off some 10% of the calories you just ate.
- Over the following days, your body carefully monitors the amount of energy you take in vs the amount of energy you burn. Eat more than you need and your body compensates by speeding up your metabolism, increasing your desire for physical activity, and by releasing appetite suppressing hormones like leptin.
Unfortunately, these mechanisms also work in reverse, so if you eat less than you need to maintain your current weight, your metabolism slows down to preserve energy and your body releases hunger hormones like ghrelin to increase your appetite.
What your body aims to do is to keep things in balance, in what biologists call a state of “homeostasis”, making it difficult for you to either gain or lose weight. Only powerful stimuli can override this system of homeostasis, to force it into submission so your body can’t behave the way it should.
Before the 1980’s it was very rare for people to get fat, even when there was a surplus of food. The biggest change that makes things different today, is the modern food industry.
When Lay’s potato chips introduced the famous slogan “Bet you can’t just eat one” in the early 1960s, they knew what they were talking about. Their food scientists had found a way to disrupt our body’s natural reflex of saying no to excess food. They found ways to combine sugar, salt and fat that bypasses your body’s homeostatic systems. The more we eat, the more we want.
“Food stimulates many parts of the brain, including regions associated with reward,” according to Dr Stephan Guyenet, a research fellow at the University of Washington. “By stimulating those reward pathways directly, you can have a profound impact on food preference and body fat. Manufacturers are trying to maximize the reward… We’re awash in food that’s easily available, energy dense, highly palatable and highly rewarding. Commercial food overstimulates those connections in the brain.”
Is Your Fat Burner Stuck On Low?
Your body is designed to run on a variety of fuels, using a lot of fat at rest or during low-intensity exercise. As your activity becomes more intense, you use more and more carbohydrates for fuel.
If you are metabolically flexible, you can easily shift from one fuel source to the other, easily tapping into those fat stores, while saving those limited carbs for when they’re really needed.
Unfortunately, most of us victims of the modern food industry are walking around with chronically raised insulin levels. Since insulin’s main role is to promote fat storage and inhibit fat breakdown, your body is never going to tap into those excess fat stores for energy.
Why Most Men Can’t Jog Their Way To Skinny
When our carbohydrate supplies run low, we get hungry. This is an important survival mechanism, because our brains run on glucose. We can make glucose from fat, but this isn’t the easiest place to get it, especially when insulin levels are high and fat breakdown is being inhibited.
So we get ravenously hungry when our glucose stores are used up. The problem with being metabolically inflexible, is that your glucose stores are always running low (since your body can’t use fat for fuel), and your body is always looking for that next carb fix.
A steady state cardio workout like jogging, can make things worse by draining your body of its carb stores. Because of high insulin levels, you’ll just be burning through your body’s carbohydrate stores and breaking down muscle protein to fuel your workout.
Most experts will tell you that jogging works because you are exercising in the “fat-burning zone”. However, for the metabolically inflexible man, your body is more likely to dig into your carbohydrate and muscle protein reserves than it is to burn fat.
“You can’t burn excess fat without mobilizing it from a fat cell,” says Dr Mike Ormsbee, a professor of exercise physiology and sports nutrition at Florida Sate University. “You have to move it from the fat cells to the blood, so you can eventually use it for energy elsewhere.”
So What Is The Solution?
One of the best ways to combat metabolic inflexibility through exercise, is by doing resistance training. “Brief, intense activity seems to dump a lot of fat into the bloodstream,” says Dr Christopher Scott, a leading contributor to the field of exercise physiology at the University of Southern Maine. “I think it’s to fuel recovery.”
When you do a traditional cardio workout, you are maintaining one moderately low level of intensity for a long time. There is only one recovery period at the end, so if you are metabolically inflexible, you are not burning much fat during or after the workout.
A set of squats or deadlifts on the other hand, is far more intense. Not only will your body be dumping a whole load of fat into your blood during each recovery period, but you’ll also have multiple recovery periods during each workout. “If you do 12 sets, that’s 12 recovery periods” says Dr Scott. Due to the brief bouts of much higher intensity, there’s also a much longer post-workout recovery period. This way your body is spending a lot of extra time burning fat.
During a 60-minute cardio session, you’ll burn a little fat during the workout, and you’ll burn a little more after the workout to fuel recovery. But compare that with a strength training workout with 12 sets – you’ll be burning a whole load of fat during each recovery period, and be burning fat for several hours after the workout to help with recovery.
See, high intensity training causes more microtrauma to your muscles, your bones, ligaments, tendons, and to your body in general. The body then mobilizes and burns fat to provide energy for recovery, repair, and enhancement – your bones and joints get stronger, and your muscles get bigger.
Another argument for strength training, or any type of stop-start high intensity training, is that you train your body to shift back and forth between fuel sources, making your metabolism more flexible.
The best training regimen for curing metabolic inflexibility, is one that maximizes your body’s use of its recovery mechanisms. If you want to look good, topless on the beach in the summer, that’s the kind of exercise you need to be doing. This is exactly the kind of exercise I help my clients get their results with in the Chest Sculpting Blueprint: