Explaining the Case Studies

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Ok, you must be pretty confused now. What's going on? How can we bump up energy intake (calories) and still see large drops in body fat and, in two of the case studies, body weight? Since everything you've ever been taught flies in the face of these studies, let me do some explaining as there are several things at work here.

  1. For starters, all three athletes, despite being overfat, were actually underfed and undernourished. Yes, it's possible to be fat and underfed; in fact, much of North America experiences this phenomenon. In the case of these athletes, they were taking in too few calories (and too few micronutrients). Since energy expenditure (metabolism) "chases" food intake (see below for a complete description of this), the athletes had depressed metabolic rates. By feeding them more, their total expenditure (total metabolism) increased and led to body composition changes.
  2. Muscle is calorie-costly; therefore when decreasing calorie intake, the body will dump some of that energy-hungry muscle in an order to stay alive. After all, the body thinks it has to adjust to this low calorie environment to survive; it doesn't know you'll eventually come off your diet. Since calorie restriction (dieting) is likely to decrease muscle mass, in addition to the depressed metabolic rate that comes as a result of eating too little energy, there is a secondary decrease in metabolism due to the loss of muscle mass. In 2 of the 3 case studies above, it's likely that as we increased calorie intake, the subjects saw metabolic increases due to the higher energy intake as well as the increase in muscle mass.
  3. In addition to getting the amount of food intake all wrong, these athletes were getting the types of food all wrong. This also required a change; and the dietary shifts we made with them included: a) a reduction in sugar intake and a replacement of this sugar with low glycemic, micronutrient, and fiber rich carbohydrates, b) adding more protein to the diet, and c) balancing out their saturated fats with monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. These changes likely improved something called nutrient partitioning. By eating the right foods, the energy (calories) you take in are more likely to go toward building muscle vs. building fat. In other words, the nutrients are partitioned toward muscle cells, leaving the fat cells alone.
  4. By increasing their protein intake, these athletes likely got extra boosts in metabolic rate and nutrient partitioning. As you'll read about below, protein is the most metabolically costly of the nutrients and offers significant metabolic benefits to athletes, like grapplers, who need a high muscle to fat ratio.
  5. Finally, in addition to changing food amounts and types, we also changed food timing. During certain times of the day the body handles nutrients in different ways. For example, during and after exercise, carbohydrate tolerance is high and, therefore, carbohydrate intake is best received. For the rest of the day, however, when carbohydrate tolerance is diminished, it's better to eat fewer of them. In the athletes discussed above, using the concept of nutrient timing (discussed in the next chapter), contributed to their success.

So, as you can see, the common belief that eating less leads to weight loss and eating more leads to weight gain isn't always accurate, especially in athletes. Therefore, when trying to manipulate body composition, it's important to understand there's more to the eating equation than food amount. Food type and food timing are also very important. But even when dealing with food amount, it's important to understand that energy intake and expenditure are related. As a result, conventional, oversimplified ideas about food amount have to be revamped.

As mentioned above, energy expenditure chases food intake. If that concept eluded you earlier, here's a picture of how that works.

4. If energy is low - hunger and

metabolic efficiency increases

1. F.nerov romps in.

while metabolism decreases.

If energy is high - hunger and

metabolic efficiency decreases


while^metabolism increases.

According to this picture above, when you eat less and the body senses this decrease in intake, the metabolism is adjusted downward. Energy efficiency also increases. And while we usually think of efficiency as a good thing, when it comes to weight loss, we want to be inefficient. We want to waste calories, thus burn fat! As a result of this increase in energy efficiency and metabolic slow down, one of two things can happen. Either your fat loss stops altogether or your fat loss is accompanied by muscle and strength loss.

Since eating less means depriving your body of performance-boosting energy (calories) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), we hope it's now clear that low calorie diets are NOT the answer for body composition change - in any athlete. This, of course, is an important message for grapplers to understand, especially considering the fact that many grapplers attempt foolishly to starve themselves into lower weight classes.

Now, we separate grapplers into two groups. The first group consists of already lean grapplers trying to make a weight class lower. If you're one of those individuals who are already lean, starving yourself means massive losses in muscle mass and strength. Instead of starving yourself to make a lower weight class, focusing on eating for strength and size as well as improving wrestling technique can ensure that you're successful at your more natural competitive weight. Of course, this doesn't mean that you'll be naturally fatter. Eat the way this book outlines (and train hard) and you'll slip comfortably into your natural weight class while still being less than 10% body fat. When up against weak, dehydrated athletes who've starved to get down into your natural weight class, you'll blow them away.

The second group consists of those grapplers who are overfat and need to lose primarily fat. If you're one of those individuals who is already overfat, starving yourself to promote fat loss is not only dangerous, it doesn't work. As you lose fat, you'll lose muscle, ensuring that your body fat percentage will stay relatively high. Further, eventually, your metabolism will slow down to the point that further fat loss is difficult. By using the off-season to follow the lessons taught in the 10 Habits above, you'll be able to lower body fat quickly and safely, bringing you into your season lean, muscular, and strong.

Ok, now that calories have been discussed, let's talk about the micronutrients: proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.

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