Does Christmas Really Make you Fat?

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Do we gain kilos of fat after two day binges over the holiday period?

The answer is probably not! You’re likely to have an effect on your stomach microbiota, but not on fat stores.

How is this possible? Let me explain…

Studies have shown that over the holiday period the average weight gain is only 500 grams. Not a lot of weight, but it could be a problem if you continued to eat in the same way all year round.

Having said that, a small amount of binging over the Christmas period my only result in a small weight gain if your binges are only on a couple of days a few days apart. Continued over eating results in weight gain.

There are a limited amount of stored calories our bodies can handle. If we consume more than we can handle, some will be burned off as heat through thermogenesis and some will end up in the toilet.

And then there’s water. Blood volume, and total body water in general, can vary quite a bit with exercise, medications, salt intake, and carb intake. I have talked about the Carb Cycle in not one but two previous blog posts but to recap… ingesting any carbs forces the body to use some for immediate energy and the rest is sent to storage. To store the carbs you ingest in your liver or muscles (an adult weighting 70 kg can store around 100 g of glycogen in the liver and 400 g in the muscles), your body must transform them into glycogen, then attach the glycogen molecules to water molecules: 3–4 grams of water per gram of glycogen. So if you eat enough carbs to top out your glycogen stores, you’ll be carrying an extra 1.5–2 kilograms in water weight. “Incidentally, that’s why “detox diets” appear to be so effective: they make you lose a lot of (water) weight in a short amount of time. So this could also account for small amounts of weight gain, water molecules attaching to the glycogen molecule after a meal high in carbohydrates.”

According to examine.com…

 The holiday period “means eating a lot … and gaining a lot of weight; but little of that weight is fat. Most of it is water and soon-to-be-poop. Overeating for a day, even by one or two thousand extra calories, won’t cause much fat gain. (Not to mention that many overeaters won’t eat as much as usual the next day.)”

Obviously what you eat matters, but the biggest contributor to weight gain over the holiday period is alcohol consumption. When we consume alcohol the body identifies this as a toxin and acts to convert it to energy to help remove the toxin from the body. What this also does is it give preferential treatment to the alcohol as the energy source as it needs to get it out of the body as soon as possible. This preferential treatment puts the burning of fat, protein and carbohydrates as the fuel source on the back burner (so to speak) and aims to get rid of the toxic alcohol. Protein can support fat loss, notably by suppressing appetite and boosting thermogenesis. As for fat, it doesn’t have any benefits with regard to fat storage, but it still beats alcohol with regard to fat gain, not because your body will store alcohol as fat, but because your body readily burns alcohol for energy (to avoid toxicity), thus dampening the oxidation of fat and other fuel sources. Not only that, but alcohol can increase your appetite in the short term.

Examine.com again…

“Overfeeding on protein (e.g., turkey) will cause less fat storage than overfeeding on alcohol (e.g., wine) or fat (as is plentiful in delicious pumpkin pies, not in the low-fat abominations). If you’re prone to overeating on Thanksgiving, it may be wise to load up on a bunch of turkey first, to help with appetite suppression.”

In Summary…

Significant body fat is gained in weeks or months, not in hours or even in days. On the other hand, water weight can vary rapidly with salt and carbohydrate intake, exercise, and other factors. Eating a typical Christmas meal can easily increase your body fluids, tricking you into thinking you’ve gained lots of fat. Even over the holiday season, however, not everyone gains fat, and feeling like you’ve gained weight doesn’t always mean you have.

 

Why Grains Are Bad

Grains

There several reasons grains are bad…

Reason 1: It perpetuates a reliance on Carbohydrate for Energy.

 All forms of ingested carbohydrates convert to glucose and spike insulin production.

 Insulin is a mater hormone and released from the pancreas. It facilitates metabolic and hormone functions by transporting nutrients through the blood to cells and organs.

 Grains are a cheap, quick and easy source of glucose but the constant consumption of grains and carbohydrates cause what I like to call a “carb cycle”. Grains, once ingested are quickly converted to glucose. Those carbs not used for immediate energy are stored in the liver or the muscles as glycogen. Once glucose stores in the liver and muscles are full the excess is sent to fat storage. This, in turn increase cortisol (the hormone responsible for the fight or flight response), which taxes the adrenal and immune systems, pancreas and promotes systemic inflammation.

 In a short space of time, the body has ingested energy in the form of carbohydrates, used what it needed for immediate energy, stored the excess in the liver, muscles and fat and now believes it has no energy again. This sends a signal to the brain via a hormone called ghrelin to say we are hungry again. So we eat more carbs and the cycle continues every few hours.

 The human body has used fat as its primary source of energy for thousands, maybe millions of years of evolution. If we can train our body to rely on fat as a fuel source again, we will never be hungry, due to the millions of calories of energy stored in fat on our body. If we can eliminate grains as a source of immediate energy and shift our body to prefer fat as our energy source, we will have less inflammation, better immune function and less gastrointestinal issues.

The amount of insulin you produce influences if you store or burn fat, if we can reduce the spike of insulin, we can control our hunger and fat storage.

An increase in insulin results in accelerated cell division, which is said to increase ageing and the deregulation of healthy cell division, which is linked to an increase in cancer risk and perpetuates the “carb cycle”.

Reason 2: Anti-Nutrients!

 Anti-nutrients are agents present in grains that compromise health.

Lectins: are a natural phytochemical toxin that plants manufacture to defend against UV radiation, predators and microorganisms and are found in higher concentrations in the seeds of plants.

They have a toxic effect when ingested, decrease immune function and gut barriers (causing leaky gut syndrome) and increase inflammation.

They also bind with insulin receptors and deregulate both fat storage and appetite meaning they spike insulin and increase fat storage.

Lectins contain prolamin and agglutinins, which clump red blood cells together. This damages the microvilli or the brush borders of your small intestine, causing undigested particles of food (effectively poop) to leak through the lining of the SI out into your body causing irritability and inflammation.

 

Gluten: is a prolamin form of lectin. It triggers a mild to severe inflammation in the body. It compromises digestion and immune function.

Oats, (avenin) Rice (orzenin) and corn (zein), all contain lectins that contribute to leaky gut.

 

Phytates: are undigestable compounds found in whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes. They bind to important minerals and make it difficult for those minerals to be absorbed. They do contain some anti oxidants and can be helpful in small amounts.

Saponins: are anti nutrients found in legumes. They are a chemical defense for plants. They permeate the gut cell membrane, causing leaky gut. Soy is especially high in these type of lectins which also contain phyto estrogens which disrupt sex hormones in males and females.

Overall, there is no real reason for us to consume grains. They contribute to elevated levels of insulin and blood glucose, two factors which have been heavily linked to issues with our immune system, metabolic syndromes such as diabetes, inflammation, ageing and increased free radicals. They also contain anti nutrients and plant phytochemicals which are responsible for damaging the tight junctions in our stomach and small intestine lining.

Going Primal

Running on trail

So you’re thinking about going primal.

Here is a brief summary of how I can coach you to completely change your life for the better…

The answer to optimal health and gene expression can be found in evolution. Going Primal looks way back into our past to determine how millions of years of selection pressure and environment created the perfect recipe for human health, lifestyle and longevity. Our genes expect us to be fit, lean and healthy, because if you weren’t back in the day you would’ve been eaten by a sabre tooth tiger! We can do this by following the diet and lifestyle of our hunter gather ancestors. You can reprogram your genes to respond to the signals they are given based on what you eat, what activity you do or don’t do, your lifestyle and sleeping habits and sun exposure.

Using our knowledge of human evolution we know that body prefers burning fat over carbohydrates. The standard diet or conventional wisdom tells us that grain based, low fat diet created by processed, sugary carbohydrate is the best. This is completely false. Going Primal shifts you from your carb cycle, sugar dependant way of eating into a fat based, all day energy metabolism that has supported human survival for millions of years. Humans have use fat as our primary source of energy for years. By eating more healthy fats (saturated fats are not our enemy) we can program our genes to prefer using fat for energy, rather than carbohydrates and glucose. Current conventional wisdom suggests saturated fats and cholesterol are bad and are linked to heart disease. This statement is only true when linked to high amounts of processed carbs and sugars. A high fat, low carb diet has been proven to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress which in turn reduces heart disease and cancer risk.

Exercise is ineffective for weight management and 80% of our body composition success is determined by how you eat. By ditching grains, sugars and man made, poly unsaturated vegetable oils and fats will promote efficient reduction in excess body fat, increased energy levels, decreased levels of inflammation in the body and optimal function.

Maximal fitness can be achieved with a minimal time with high intensity workouts. Just like our hunter gather predecessors who would sprint to catch a meal or run from a predator, we can use shout bouts of high intensity sprint or cardio to reach maximal fitness gains. Enjoy more benefits in a fraction of the time with high intensity and less of the cardio preached by conventional sports wisdom.

So going primal entails eating plants and animals and avoiding sugars, grains and vegetable oils. It involves moving more frequently, rather than being sedentary, stuck at our desk being Primal means getting up moving around, taking the little opportunities throughout the day to move more. Our hunter gather ancestors showed us the way with regard eating as well as exercise. They performed short bouts of all out efforts to catch dinner or to run from a predator.  They covered large distances over an extended part of the day to hunt prey or to move camps. They also had to lift heavy things, to make shelter and to carry large wildebeest back to camp to cook and eat. This shows our genes and predisposed to sprint occasionally, lift heavy things and perform long slow endurance cardio as our preferred methods of exercise.