It is safe to say that millions of people want to lose weight. Many are looking for the perfect diet, the best exercise program, the easiest way to peel off the pounds. Some of us have given up. Some have become fanatic over one method or another. Others hope that there is a perfect pill for weight loss and are even willing to suffer painful, dangerous surgery. In truth, the only way of finding the real answers is through a basic understanding the way our body works on a cellular level. At this level, the real answer to gain a sustainable healthy body has very little to do with losing weight and more to do with the truly weighty matters: Nutrition, Hydration, Exercise and Sleep.
Fat cells are as important as any other types of cells in your body. Their job is to store the energy that your body needs. Fat is concentrated energy, more than 80% of the energy that our cells use daily comes from fat. Every 10 pounds of fat stores as much energy as 60 pounds of sugar. Just 7 pounds of fat can supply the body with enough energy to run 10 marathons end to end without stopping (compare that to how many batteries a robot would need). When we eat carbs and sugars (unless we are running a marathon) insulin is produced that causes the cells to convert the excess sugars into efficient fats and store them away in fat cells. Even thinking of eating sweets can trigger insulin to stimulate fat storage. Even worse, fat cells “eat” insulin and other hormones that are necessary to maintain healthy hormone levels, too much fat causes hormonal imbalance; eating carbs and sugars provides only a temporary emotional lift, but ultimately only adds to the problem as sugars are readily converted to more fat. This cycle is a recipe for eternal misery.
By looking closer at how fat cells work, we find the real answer about how to reduce excess fat. Better yet, we find the real answer to generating a healthy body. Most fat cells live on or near muscle cells. When muscle cells need energy, they are programmed to extract and burn the stored fat from the nearby fat cells and use it for energy. The more muscle we have, the faster fat is burned. The only way to naturally burn large amounts of fat is to build more muscle. Building muscle might not necessarily result in weight loss, because muscle weighs more than fat, but it certainly will help us burn the excess fat. Again, the answers on how to build muscle can be found by understanding how muscle cells work. When a muscle cell is challenged to the point of near exhaustion, it begins to ask for more muscle cells to be made and it creates redox signaling molecules that aid the muscle cells in repairing damage and regenerating stronger muscle tissue. This will only happen when the muscle cells are challenged to near exhaustion. Muscle cells also need water, proteins and the nutrients necessary to repair themselves and build the new cells.
Did you know that you do not have to exercise heavily to get muscle growth? To bring a muscle to near exhaustion only requires that you lift a weight or have resistance just big enough to challenge the muscle over 7 to 15 repetitions. Lifting weights while moving the muscles slowly, 3 seconds up, 3 seconds down, avoiding jerking, also drastically reduces the amount of soreness and tearing of the muscle. Lifting a weight slowly that is about as heavy as you can comfortably lift 7 to 15 times in a row will bring a muscle to near exhaustion (and feels satisfying), in contrast lifting an easy light weight 50 times has much less of an effect because the muscle is not challenged (and it is boring). You know you have done it right when you feel a “burn” and slight shaking when exercising the muscle, but little or no soreness afterwards. Using exercises like this that challenge and build one individual muscle at a time and alternating the muscle groups (especially muscles that are near the fat you wish to burn) are most effective. After doing a regular exercise routine like this for several days in a row, you will find that you need to increase the weights or resistance to get the same effect. An easy example of exercising your abdominal muscles, can be done lying flat on the floor or in bed: fold your arms, slowly lift your shoulders and feet at the same time off the floor, crunching the abs, hold a second and slowly relax, repeating 15 times.
You will also need to change your diet to feed the muscle cell growth. Cut down to near zero all sugars and carbs that are not needed (breads, processed cereals, sugary drinks, sweet berries, and so on) and then eat tons of green salads with tuna, eggs or chicken breast that are needed to build muscle until you are satisfied. You can actually come up with some very creative and delicious ways to do this with little effort (fried salmon with red onion over a crisp spinach and cilantro basket is my favorite). Good natural absorbable supplements can also be helpful. You will only need to keep this up for a few weeks before starting to feel a real difference. This also has the advantage of switching your body’s metabolism over from burning sugars and storing fat to a metabolism of constantly burning fat all day long. You will feel so good that you might even lose your desire to eat lots of carbs and sugars after a while. You will find yourself “popping” out of bed in the morning without effort and feeling so much stronger and able to do things.
Clean fresh water in abundance, maybe with a little lemon slice, is always refreshing and needed for cell growth. Keep a pitcher or container handy for anytime you are a bit thirsty. It is amazing how good drinking plenty of water can make you feel. With good hydration and exercise, sleep also comes easier. Sleep is when the cells in the body switch over from regular daily activities to repairing themselves, building muscle, brain, gut, blood vessels, and so on that have been used during the day. All this repair and building work is done very efficiently by your cells while your body rests, making you ready and stronger for the following day. You can imagine that mental attitude and awareness also is heightened.
The lessons we learn from a basic understanding how our cells work seem almost natural, like we have known these things all along. We sometimes make it much more complicated than it really is. As the body becomes healthy, muscle is built, fat is burned for fuel and our health and ability to enjoy life is enhanced. It is the way it was meant to be. Let’s do it.