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The secret of sustained weight loss

Published January 21. 2012 09:01AM

I don't think it was a conscious decision. It may, in fact, simply be the residue of my writing style or a result of the column's longevity.

But when you read a "Fitness Master" article, you get more than health and fitness information. You even get more than my opinions and my beliefs.

You get my philosophies.

Such as my prescription for progress. If you have a desire to get better whether during your workout or work day simply apply this formula.

Pick out patterns, make connections, adjust accordingly, and soon you'll change for the better.

How effective is this formula? By using it, I've found a way to guarantee weight loss. Keep following the way, and you'll keep the weight off.

The pattern that I picked out years ago to make this weight-loss discovery is a simple one: that a major part of bodybuilding is defeating what you might call "intentional obesity." Elite-level bodybuilders can't just eat and work out in a way that rids them of body fat.

They must also have periods of the year where they intentionally overeat and gain weight and with that weight comes some unsightly body fat! in order to add the defining feature of their sport: muscle mass.

It's ironic, but true. These guys and girls who don bikinis and flex their muscles in front of auditoriums full of people, work out for much of the year in bulky sweats to hide the fact that their six-pack abs are currently concealed by something other than layers of clothing.

Subcutaneous fat.

But in 16 weeks or so, the best go from chubby cheeks to chiseled abs with regularity and predictability. Predictability is important because the razor-sharp muscle definition that allows an elite-level bodybuilder to win a competition or grace the cover of a muscle magazine can not be sustained for more than a few days.

So how do these bodybuilders "flip the switch" and get their bodies to stop storing fat and start burning it? While increasing the length and intensity of aerobic workouts is an important start, another essential element is eating in a way that manipulates hormone secretion.

These bodybuilders reduce the amount of insulin they secrete while increasing their secretion of glucagon by simply changing the ratio of protein to carbohydrates in their diets.

In muscle-building mode where adding a few pounds of fat cannot be a concern, many bodybuilders' diets will consist of 2 to 3 grams of carbohydrates for every 1 gram of protein. In fat-stripping, pre-contest mode, most will go to a 1-to-1 ratio.

While total calories are decreased at this time also, these bodybuilders know not to starve themselves. Eating too little will certainly create weight loss, but up to half of it will be muscle mass.

But if protein levels remain high while carbs are being cut, the loss of muscle mass is minimized.

Now take a moment to remember my prescription for progress: Pick out patterns, make connections, adjust accordingly, and you'll change for the better. It almost seems too obvious a connection to mention now, but if balancing the ratio of protein to carbs in a diet reduces a bodybuilder's intentional weight gain, it has to do the same for you when your weight gain is unintentional.

So if you want to whittle away some unwanted weight, consider altering your protein-to-carb ratio along with an increase in aerobic work and a mild 250-calorie reduction. Finding your optimal ratio, however, may require a bit of experimentation and could contain some surprises.

When I first experimented more than 25 years ago, for instance, I found I functioned best and stayed lean by eating far fewer carbs than were suggested for a serious cyclist at that time. That's why I was quick to recognize some merits to the Atkins diet when it first became a craze and others in the health-and-fitness field were condemning it.

A recent study is germane. Researchers at the Genesis Prevention Center at University Hospital in South Manchester, England put subjects on a low-carb diet part-time, thereby reducing the amount of carbs ingested weekly, and found that even this created weight loss.

Subjects who followed a low-carb diet just two days a week for four months did not lose as much weight as subjects on a full-time calorie-restricted diet, but that was to be expected. What makes this study significant is that the weight loss from following a low-carb diet only two days a week was still significant slightly more than 5 pounds and it verified that carb ingestion alters insulin secretion.

In fact, the subjects following a low-carb diet two days a week reduced their insulin resistance by 14 percent.

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