The body prioritises the breakdown of macronutrients for energy in the below order (oxidative priority is the nerd terminology). The order with which we break down nutrients for energy is INVERSE to our capacity to store these nutrients (i.e. of all the macronutrients we can store the most of fat but we metabolise fat last) (1,2).
1: Alcohol. Alcohols are the FIRST macronutrient to be metabolised for energy. Wondered why you start sweating and dancing around when drunk? That’s your body speeding up the metabolism of alcohol. At this stage, metabolism of protein, carbs or fat is not considered.
2: Amino Acids. Amino acids are the SECOND macronutrient to be metabolised. What a lot of us do not realise is we DO NOT store excess amino acids…the body has no storage compartment for such nutrients. They are either used for protein or, if in excess, are metabolised the same way fat is – primarily turned into glucose and then pyruvate and then used to create energy via the Citric Acid Cycle. The nitrogen component is excreted out of the body as urea. Excess protein shakes won’t be used fellas… they will just be turned to glucose and often cost way more and don’t come with as much fibre, minerals, vitamins, etc. as healthy carbs.
3: Carbohydrates. We store around 500g of carbohydrates (glucose) as glycogen. Once this is full, we begin to use any excess carbohydrates as energy. This is the THIRD macronutrient to be metabolised. To get to fat metabolism, the body has to move beyond carbohydrate metabolism… i.e. run out of supply.
4: Fat. Fat is the FOURTH (LAST) macronutrient to be metabolised. So if you have excess carbohydrates and amino acids in your system, then fat metabolism will not occur.
1. There’s a misconception that eating regular meals every few hours boosts your metabolism and thus leads to fat loss. This is inaccurate.
2. It’s also important to understand what happens if you have 5-10 alcoholic drinks and a big meal with carbs, protein and fat… going to take you a long time to get to point where your body will metabolise the fats you’ve eaten as first it has to work through alcohol, amino acids and carbohydrates, so it’s very likely they will be stored within the body. So when being healthy all week, consider what alcohol is doing to your fat metabolism on the weekends. You don’t have to cut alcohol, but it’s worth knowing what’s happening so you don’t blame results on your food choices when it’s heavily affected by alcohol.
3. If you are consuming meals more regularly, you are boosting metabolism but NOT necessarily of fats. This is exactly why fasting and shortening your eating window is so incredibly powerful…so you can actually move into a state of fat metabolism before you throw in more carbohydrates and protein. Does this necessarily = fat loss? No, as that will depend greatly on your total energy take over the day versus total energy expenditure. If you intake the same amount of energy as you expend, then when you are ‘burning’ fat you are merely burning the amino acids, carbs and fats that you have eaten… not stored fats. If you are in a calorie deficit you will need energy beyond what you’ve eaten and hence, start to metabolise stored fats… stored fats are the the fat cells that trap toxins (we break these down only when fasting for long enough to reach true stored fat metabolism).
….NO, it doesn’t. If someone is just pushing “fat loss fat loss fat loss” and doesn’t UNDERSTAND the long term implications of the eating protocol, they don’t truly have your best interests at heart. Want to lose weight? A balanced healthy WHOLE FOOD plant-based diet which puts you in a calorie deficit. This doesn’t mean doing ‘keto’, shoving in high amounts of fat or smashing protein at ridiculous levels that becomes toxic. High protein, low carb diets may get quick results and be good for body builders but they are not healthy long term for the majority of people. I don’t count calories, but for those that do I recommend roughly 55-60% of calories from carbs, 25% from protein and 15-20% from fats for optimal function and long term health promotion. Carbohydrates do not make you put on fat… a calorie surplus does regardless of fasting or not.
Want to fast and lose weight or have lost weight while fasting? Well, by default you may through shortening your eating window and consuming less calories, but the benefits of fasting in terms of resting your digestive system, healing and removal of toxins trapped in fat cells far outweigh the potential fat loss.
What about fasting and timing it with workouts? I would recommend you have your meal within 1-2 hours of training so work your training to a time that suits your eating window. Post training your carbohydrates will be readily stored to replenish glycogen that’s been used up during your workout. This is not a must be for most people they feel better after a meal post an intense workout.
1- Eating regular meals over the day does not boost your fat metabolism.
2- As a society, we eat too frequently. Shorten your eating window to allow healing, improve hormone regulation, potentially help stop over eating (avoid calorie surplus) and promote toxin removal.
3- Think about effect of alcohol on your fat metabolism on weekends. Potentially something that’s holding you back and wasting all your mid week hard work.
4- Carbohydrates do not = fat. They are the primary source of glucose and fuel for our body. Excess protein is now being linked to a lot of chronic illness and if you consume too much beyond what your body needs (1.2-1.5g/kg for most people who are semi active) it just means you won’t reach fat metabolism for longer.
5- Think about working to sustained fasting periods (24 hours of just water) if you want to properly mobilise stored fat. Do not binge eat afterwards or you’ll just makeup for the calorie deficit you’ve created. In addition to fat metabolism, you will, of course, get all the other fasting benefits mentioned above. Not recommended if pregnant, breastfeeding, ill or under 18.
For those wanting more information on oxidative priority, listen to this podcast with Ray Cronise and Rich Roll. The part where Ray talks about eating fats separate to meals with heavy carbohydrates and amino acids is super interesting and thought provoking- certainly something I’m going to read more about.
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