Why Is It So Hard To Burn Fat?
It seems to be the ultimate question, isn’t it?
Why is it so easy to put on weight and so difficult to get rid of it? There is a lot of supplements and super foods that claim to trick our body into burning fat. Why doesn’t the body do that naturally, then? Why does it need help?
Burning fats is actually quite inefficient way of obtaining energy. Human body will always go for sugars first, as a main source of energy. The reason for this is that the stomach breaks down sugars extremely quickly, as quickly as 1h, as opposed to fats which take anything up to 8h. So it takes the body eight times longer to get the energy from fat, you can see why that is not very efficient.
Not only fat takes a lot longer to break down, it’s also not a very good fuel for an active person. We only burn fats at rest. As soon as the intensity of our movement increases, the body will immediately switch from burning fat to burning sugars because it needs the energy now, not in eight hours.
You might ask now: “Where does the body take sugars if we haven’t eaten for a while?” We have up to 2200 kcal of glycogen stored inside of our body, glycogen being a stored version of sugar. You can read more about how sugar affects our body HERE (new tab).
Let’s get back to fat, anyway. Fat is the main source of energy for when we are at rest, mainly because in order for us to burn fat, we need plenty of oxygen. Ever heard a term “Fat Oxidisation”? Just a chemical term for breakdown of a fatty molecule. So with this logic, you could say: “I’ll just sit on my bum and let the body burn the fat off.” Now, you could try 🙂 But remember that even if you sit at home all day, you still have to eat and by doing that you are giving the body even more fuel. You could decide not to eat, at which case I’ll tell you that human body can carry as much as 70 000 kcal in stored adipose tissue which means that even if we burned 3 000 kcal a day, we still would have enough to fuel us for a little over three weeks. I guess you can see the problem now 🙂
WHAT IS METABOLISM, ANYWAY?
Metabolism is a word to describe all the chemical processes going on in human body such as taking energy from food and turning it into energy we can use, breathing, cell repair and many more.
But we are interested in the energy processing.
There are many factors that play a role in the speed of your metabolism:
- Genes – there is no point of blaming genes themselves. These factors all work together not individually, however we are pre – coded to what we can achieve. Not everyone can be a bodybuilder and not everyone can be a marathon runner.
- Gender – men have more testosterone which means more muscle
- Body Composition – muscles are more active and require more energy to maintain than adipose tissue
WHY IS EVERY PERSON’S METABOLISM DIFFERENT?
As we age, unfortunately, the metabolism intensity decreases. We don’t grow anymore, our bodies don’t expect us to be active as much because we are becoming weaker, so naturally our metabolism doesn’t need to be cranked up to the max all the time. That’s why teenagers can get away with eating anything and everything without putting on weight. They are growing in every aspect:
- Their bones are growing in length and strength
- They have an incredibly increased hormonal activity to prepare the body for adult life
- Muscle mass is changing, especially in boys – testosterone kicks in to increase the muscle hypertrophy
Adult person doesn’t have to deal with any of these internal changes which are incredibly demanding energy wise. That’s why exercise is so important. The earlier we start, the better! If our body is used to being active, it will maintain the fast metabolism for longer. I am in my 30s now and my metabolism seems to be speeding up instead of slowing down. I have actually tried to put on weight after quite a fast and fairly drastic loss of nearly a stone in a few months. I did get back to normal eventually but it took a lot of effort and planning because I didn’t just want to put on weight. I wanted to look good and gain lean muscle which is a lot harder nutrition wise. And with a fast metabilism, this means a lot of eating 🙂
But because I have always been an active child, teenager and young person my metabolism was always on the high end and putting on weight actually is difficult for me now 🙂 I’m not saying I don’t have any fat and I’m shredded. Not in a long run. But you can see the muscles and my body fat never went over 20%. Even when I stop exercising when I started my first job, I still didn’t become fat. Yes I did put on weight in few years but I was nowhere near overweight, let alone obese and when I started working out again, my body remembered easily and changed shape incredibly quickly. We all have phases in our life, we don’t always look the way we want to but the most important thing is to make an effort and change our lifestyle.
Unfortunately most of us have sedentary jobs, especially now when we are either still on furlough (November 2020) or working from home. And even when we will finally go back to work, I think the way we do that, is going to change drastically. I’m guessing most people who work from home won’t go back to the office five times a week which might be good thing and a curse at the same time.
Just think about that for a second. What do you usually do on the way to work? Pick up a takeaway coffee? Grab a steak bake or a doughnut? Those habits and a lack of exercise contributes to gaining stored fat and inability to burn any off. On the other hand however, when we go to the place of work, we are forced to leave the house and perhaps walk to the train station. If we work from home more, it will become even more difficult to achieve the balance between the calories coming in and calories burned.
YOU CAN SPEED UP YOUR METABOLISM!
Not everyone has always been running around playing sports and maybe you are a little overweight and perhaps a little older so you cannot undo what has been done earlier. Don’t despair though, there is a way to get your body going and it’s never too late.
You have to be prepared to make some changes though.
You have to start moving first and tell your body: “Hi, I’m ready to be moving again, you better crank the engine up!”
Make small changes first:
- Walk – the best way to start up the body, it’s a continuous activity that doesn’t exhaust us and that we can maintain for a long period. Sunny day? Get out for a couple of hours. Discover new walking paths in your area or hit a nearby nature reserve or a forest.
- HIIT exercises – short and effective way to shock your body into working really hard. They can last as little as 20 – 30 mins. Yes, they are a little repetitive and require doing a circuit over and over quite a few times but there’re many apps, programs and YouTube channels that are for free! The biggest advantage of these is no need of any equipment, you will do good with just your body weight, living room and maybe a mat.
- Run – not the best advice for November but summer is actually not that great for running. Chilly air is a lot better and trust me, there’s nothing better to get you moving again than cold air 🙂 You don’t have to run far. Even 1k followed by a good 15 min stretching routine or a quick yoga flow is an excellent way to get the heart rate up.
All this effort will be pointless if you gorge on food high in calories. The process is simple. In order for the body to start burning stored fat, it needs to be in a calorie deficit. End of story. When we don’t have enough calories to function, the body will tap into the stored reserves. You don’t have to over complicate the nutrition however. If you are willing to start moving a little more which usually is the easier thing to do rather than fix your whole nutrition plan, you can take more time to alter your nutrition gradually.
Crash diets are not the solution, in fact, they slow your metabolism even more because it’s difficult to build any muscle on a restrictive diet, let alone following some sort of intermittent fasting plan that will just make you hungry and grumpy. I, personally, wouldn’t be able not to eat for 16h and train at the same time. I’d just want to lie on the sofa because of low energy levels.
You can find a lot of positive reviews and I’m sure you know someone who has done it or is still following this sort of plan. That’s fine, as long as it makes them happy, you can even give it a go if you want but stop as soon as it starts to make you feel miserable. This is not the point. You should find weight loss fun and challenging and you should start to have more energy instead of less.
Keep eating the foods you like but try eating less for the start. Decrease your portions and try to avoid foods that cause the most trouble and we all know what it is. Everyone has a guilty pleasure. For you it could be crisps, ice cream, beer, wine, chocolate etc. We all have something that we eat way too much of and we all know what it is 🙂 So think about it, maybe write what you eat down and have a look after a week, maybe it will bring up some issues you haven’t noticed or you can ask your family or friends and maybe do a little challenge together 🙂
Be honest though! Studies show that when people are asked to write down what they ate, they very often report a lot less.
Try to cook at home more and attempt to create a plan that you can sustainably follow long term. Changing your nutrition habits take time, you cannot just give up all the junk food overnight. It’s a process that requires effort and sacrifice but do this gradually. Make sure you have a repertoire of recipes you really like that are also nutritionally rich and lower in calories. This way you won’t be surprised and whenever you run out of ideas, you can reach for your go – to dishes.
Read the labels if you haven’t done it so far and avoid foods with red in the table such as this one:
It doesn’t require too much effort, just a quick glance when you are at the shop. Try to avoid red colour as much as possible and try to stick to yellow and ideally green which unfortunately takes some digging 🙁
You can also try to help the body kick start itself through supplements. I wouldn’t invest too much because they are not miracles and it doesn’t mean that when you take fat burners, you can get away with bad diet and no exercise!
There are, however, some that I have tried and noticed the difference. I struggled with stubborn fat around my lower belly that just wouldn’t go so I decided to try fat burners. They all have very similar ingredients such as:
- Green Tea Extract
- Green Coffee
- Cayenne or Black Pepper extract
- Bitter Orange Peel
- Guarana extract
I’d be especially careful with the Bitter Orange Peel. It’s a natural herbal supplement but that doesn’t mean it’s safe for everyone. It’s known to increase heart rate and blood pressure and it might not be suitable to consume in conjunction with caffeine or guarana extract! You should definitely speak to your doctor if you suffer from high blood pressure before taking any of these products.
I am a young female with no history of high blood pressure or heart disease so what is OK for me might not be good for you!
There is another supplement called CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid) which I covered in a post HERE (new tab). Have a read and decide whether CLA might be better for you to try. I, personally, didn’t find it very helpful and the research studies show small results at best but we are all different.
Here are some links if you want to check out the products and maybe read how to use them and what exactly is in them in more detail ( I have personally used these).
- Grenade Thermo Detonator – £22 for 100 capsules – I can personally say that this one has been an incredible supplement to have. I don’t use it anymore because I have achieved my main goal. And that’s what they are for. They are not intended to be use long term but as a little help or an occasional energy kick (and they do kick :))
- Thermopro (by The Protein Works – £9.99 for 45 capsules) – I didn’t find them as effective as Grenade but they also have smaller kick. It contains double the amount of caffeine but a lot less Bitter Orange Peel.
- The Protein Works – £8.99 for 90 capsules
Let me know hat you think in the comments, I love a discussion 🙂