Stubborn Fat

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Stubborn Fat

Our hormones are extremely powerful.

They control, well, everything. Your body fat, hunger, muscle, energy, libido, sleep, ambition… Every-damn-thing is controlled largely by hormones.

The best part? You have a huge amount of control over them every single day.

By controlling your hormones you can feel like a superhero, workout like an animal, and feel like a total bawss.

By manipulating a few key hormones – growth hormone and IGF-1 specifically – you’re able fast track your path to hotness. Especially the last 5 kg’s (or 10 pounds, for my imperial-preferential pals.)

Those last 5 kg’s are stubborn as a mule, and much harder than the initial 5 kg’s on your fat loss journey.

You see, it’s fairly simple to get lean. By following some basic food guidelines – reduce carbs except for post workout, reduce sugar, drink more water – and combining it with regular exercise, you can get lean and drop a shit tonne of body fat.

Most clients I’ve worked with can get between 12-18% body fat by following similar principles.

However when it comes to the last few kilos – the ones that tend to hang around your stomach and love handles – it’s much more difficult.

To lose these last few morsels of body fat, it is about training smart as much as it is about training hard. This is where hormones play a large role, and without addressing each one individually, it’s impossible to lose the jelly belly.

Let’s get to the two main hormones that are largely responsible for holding on to the last few kilo’s:

Cortisol & Insulin

Cortisol Management

Here’s the thing with cortisol – you could be eating perfect food at every meal, adhering to your diet like a nun, and following your workouts to the tee.

It doesn’t matter.

If you have high cortisol, nothing will happen.

Your weight stays the same. Your body fat percentage won’t budge. And you’ll still feel and look no better than your 75-year old neighbor who hasn’t exercised since the last member of the royal family was born.

 

What is it? 

If you’ve got more flab than ab on your stomach, cortisol is probably the main culprit. Cortisol is a hormone released from the adrenal glands. They are the ones responsible for the flight or fight response, known as the stress hormone.

It plays a pretty big role. Some of the roles include:

–       Metabolizes protein, fat and carbs

–       Controls glucose metabolism

–       Helps to regulate inflammatory responses in the body

–       Regulates blood pressure and cardiovascular function

Cortisol is something that we do need. It’s naturally high in the morning upon waking, and gradually declines as the day wears on. That is the norm, and what your body is designed to experience each day.

We’re designed to deal with short-term stress. From the days of T-Rex walking into our village, we can deal with relatively short, once-off stressors.

The problem arises when it’s constant. Todays lifestyle – although absent of any invading T-Rex – has more ongoing stress. When that daily stress builds up, it becomes chronic.

Long work hours, demanding family schedules, strained relationships and financial worries are today’s norm. Then when you add in a potent cocktail of sleep deprivation, alcohol, caffeine addiction, alarm clocks, and exercise, is it any wonder you struggle with chronically high cortisol?

Hell. No.

It’s easy to realize just how common it is to have chronically elevated cortisol levels.

For me personally, I know the lower abs are the first place fat goes on for me, and the last place it comes off. It’s all about cortisol management to burn it off.

Not only does high cortisol effect your (and my!) fat loss, it also…

–       Contributes to low energy. If you’re both wired and fatigued at the same time, the Big-C is probably to blame

–       Makes it difficult to fall asleep

–       Makes it difficult to sleep for long periods uninterrupted

–       Wakes you up to pee during the night

–       Suppresses your testosterone levels (which effects fat storage location, your ambition, muscle growth, libido)

–       Makes it hard to build or maintain muscle mass

–       Gives you black circles under your eyes

–       Leaves you feeling flat, weak, not bouncing with energy

–       Gives you the feeling that you need to rely on coffee (This = Me)

–       Leaves you feeling sluggish all day

The last 5kg of fat now become more of a hormone management issue than a straight weight loss issue. However high cortisol is the result of certain factors in your life. It is a symptom, and to address it, we need to start fighting hormones with hormones.

How Do We Fix It?

Training

Our ultimate weapon against the cortisol is Growth Hormone (GH).

GH does what the name suggest – helps your body grow. (Ladies – please bear with me. It will not turn you into a hairy, bulky she-male.)

There’s plenty of people right now forking over thousands of dollars each month for higher levels of GH, some still in their twenties or thirties.

In short, GH is badasss. It has been shown to:

  • Increase protein synthesis
  • Increases calcium retention (that means bigger, stronger bones)
  • Promote fat burning, so you get leaner
  • Play hyoooge role in your immune system

It will not:

  • Make your chin larger
  • Your jaw more defined
  • Your chest more hairy

So we need to battle the evil warlord cortisol with the white knight, growth hormone.

The first step in this epic battle is sleep. In a moment I’m going to share with you how to create deeper and more quality sleep. But first lets address the why.

More sleep = more GH.

More GH = higher chance of defeating cortisol.

Therefore, more sleep = less cortisol.

Kapiche?

Of course you can’t exactly sleep your way to a 6-pack. Trust me – I tried it. Fat loss doesn’t quite work like that. But it’s a good start, and I will address more strategies soon.

Here’s how we’re going to boost your GH production:

Step 1) Lift Heavy Things

What we need are compound exercises. Deadlifts, squats, pull-ups/pull-downs, pressing. You know, the ones that allow you to lift heavy shit.

None of this nansy pansy bicep curl stuff. We want heavy things. We want grunt. We want sweat.

I could list 50 studies on this. But you don’t want to read those. Just remember – big lifts = GH.

When we also combine this with short rest periods, you’ve created the perfect fat burning, muscle building, GH-secreting sweaty mess of a workout.

You see all workouts will produce some form of GH and cortisol. It’s just that some workouts are better than others. Cortisol is produced heavily in long duration cardio. So skip the runs, walks, Zumba’s, and anything “cardio-y” for this phase of your training.

Instead, you are going to focus on a specific style of training that produces the most amount of GH – lactic acid training.

In order to produce more GH, you first need lactic acid. LA is the nasty painful reaction that occurs during training like the circuit I posted above.

It is very irritating to your body (read: painful), and your body responds.

So we need to structure your workouts to produce maximum lactic acid every session. How do we do this?

Strength Training

Especially longer sets, heavy weights, and sets that place the muscle under increased tension.

This in turn will skyrocket GH levels, and decrease cortisol. Here’s an example:

A1 – Deadlift, 6-8 reps. Rest 20 seconds, then

A2 – Dumbbell push press, 8-10 reps. Rest 20 seconds, then

A3 – Barbell alternate reverse lunge, 8-10 reps per side. Rest 20 seconds, then

A4 – Pull-ups (assisted if needed), 6-8 reps. Rest 90 seconds. Repeat 3-4 times.

Look simple? Sure, the first round is. But if you’re lifting weights that are challenging you within those rep ranges, you’ll know about.

Ohhhh you’ll know about it.

That’s the first step. Now, let’s look at step #2…

Step 2) Hack Your Diet

Diet is the next big contributor to the cortisol vs growth hormone battle.

Here’s what you need to do:

–       For 14 days, restrict caffeinated drinks to 1 daily. If you’re a coffee or tea addict and you’re currently having 2-10 per day, bring down by 50% for the first 7 days, then down to <1 for the following 14 days.

–       Take omega-3 fish oil. Fish oil (omega-3 fatty acid) is an essential supplement not just for fat loss, but also for overall health. To name just a few of the fat burning and health benefits
these “wonder” fats possess, omega-3 fatty acids have
been shown to decrease the risk for developing heart
disease and cancer, decrease blood pressure, improve liver and kidney function, reduce joint pain, improve vision, improve diabetic conditions, decrease occurrences and intensities of migraine headaches, increase circulating levels of leptin, reduce stress, and increase metabolic rate. Fish oil is one of the most legit supplements around and it does pretty much everything.

–       How to use: Really, this needs to be a daily supplement, taken evenly throughout the morning, afternoon and evening. Take 2 capsules per meal on training days, and 4 capsules per meal on non-training days.

–       Vitamin D, now more than ever, is being touted as one of the most important vitamins for hormone production. People are deficient – even living here in Australia.

–       How to Use: 5,000 to 15,000 IU per day (1-3 tiny pills), every day, depending on your general level of sun exposure. These should be taken with a
fat-rich meal like coconut oil, olive oil, or fatty meats for optimal absorption.

–       Keep inflammatory foods out – soy, sugar, wheat, alcohol especially

–       Stay 10-20% under maintenance calories

Step 3) Sleep Better

The lifestyle component for cortisol management really comes down to two things: to stress and sleep.

Let’s start with sleep.

Sleep is where the majority of your GH secretion occurs, especially from 12-4am each night. It’s vital for energy production, hormone replacement, and food metabolisation.

I’m as guilty as the rest of them for not getting enough sleep… I used to think sleep was for the weak.

In my early 20′s, I was the hardest working guy I knew. Working 80, 90, 100+ hour weeks all revolved around my ability to function on as little as 3 hours sleep per night.

Eventually it caught up with me. I got fatter, lost all short-term memory, lost energy and had the strength and energy of a 90-year old hobbit.

(That’s not a lot, in case you were wondering)

These days I’m a little better, averaging around 6 hours most night. I can function much better that when I was getting 3, although I know I should be aiming for 7-8 hours on average.

Sleep Management

Here are my top sleep tips for you

1. Turn off the TV and computer 2 hours before bed The lights from both of these addictions activate a specific part of your brain which responds to light. It will keep your brain active, even if you’re eyes are heavy.

2. Find a routine. For me, it’s bed by 10pm and up at 4am. Even when I don’t have to get up, I personally find it better to stick to this routine.

Our bodies function best with circadian – i.e. our circadian rhythm, which operates over a 24-hour cycle. Sleeping at set times helps to synchronize our bodily functions. Even on weekends, try to maintain your sleep routine.

3. Eat carbs with dinner Yes, you read that correctly. Last night I consumed probably my body weight in white rice.

Carbs at nighttime will NOT cause fat gain, and will not upset your digestive system.

The old wives tale of, “don’t eat carbs after 6pm” has no research or proof, and in fact it will do nothing but make it harder for you to sleep. Carbs can help your body switch off, and are also highly anabolic. I have my deepest sleep when I include 60-150g of carbohydrate with dinner. By carbs I’m referring to gluten free, natural sources. My preferred carbs sources: Rice, Sweet potato, Baked white potato, Pumpkin, Rice thins / rice cakes

4. Chill out. Literally.

Take a cold shower, or even an ice bath. Tim Ferriss has started a trend with the ice bath advice he put into The Four Hour Body.  According to the Stanford professors, cold is the most effective signaler for sleep onset, and in Ferriss’ own words, “will knock you out like an elephant tranquillizer.”

Simply use 1-2 bags of ice in a bath, first 5-10 minutes with only your lower half in, and the next 5-10 minutes with your full body in. Expect a lot of discomfort and the shakes, but it works.

5. Perform a brain dump. A brain dump is simple – get out a pen and paper, and write down every “to do” and thought you have in your head.

This completely removes the overwhelmed feeling when you finally try and catch some zzz’s. If you’re like me, your brain is always ticking, so try this one out. Either when you finish work for the day, or two hours before bed, get out your pen and paper and dump every thought down onto the page.

I also recommend writing your “to do” list for the following day, every night. Doing this means as soon as your day starts the following day, you can hit the ground running and will not need to plan the day out, wasting valuable time. Watch your productivity soar. These two tasks go hand in hand.

6. Read. However make sure it’s not non-fiction, as it will encourage you to start thinking about future events and possible excite your nervous system even more.

Try an autobiography or any fiction books. I’m currently reading Esquire’s “The Eighty Greatest Stories of All Time” and it’s easy to sleep compared to my normal business books.

7. No caffeine after lunch. I’m a coffee geek, and could easily throw back dozens of espressos throughout the day. However since I stopped all caffeine after 1pm, I sleep much better.

I’m not a fan of pre-workout supps, but if you have to rely on caffeine for a good workout and you’re working out late, have 5-10g vitamin-C post workout to help the body rid the caffeine before sleep. (Hint: fix your cortisol issues and you won’t need to rely on caffeine.

8. Have more sex. Try having sex 1-2 hours before bed. Tell your partner it’s for your sleep, and Pete told you to do it. (You’re welcome.)

9. Eat quality food. Inflammatory foods can cause restlessness at night. Cut out and eliminate sugar, wheat, grains, soy, diet soda and alcohol.

Step 4) Manage Stress

The last piece of the cortisol battle is controlling stress. Any stress on the body at all will elevate cortisol. This is really a personal thing. It comes down to two options – remove the stress, or change how you deal with it.

Option 2 is the easier way for most people. Try meditation, counselling, mini-vacations or whatever it takes to decrease stress in your life.

Often it is not the stressor, but rather our reaction to it, that can elevate cortisol.

In Part II… I’m going to share with you how to lose the love handles by increasing insulin sensitivity… 

If you liked this article, please share / like / comment down below! Cheers, Pete