The average 5 foot 5, 120 pound woman with 20% body fat carries about 36,000 calories worth of energy in storage, and bigger people carry much more.....If you’ve been eating a low-fat, high carb diet for years, by now you have down-regulated your fat-burning enzymes for so long, they may have completely shut down. Dr Cate Shanahan
Take the classic example of a runner going on a "long run." First of all, "long" is pretty relative. Just b/c it is the longest run you've ever attempted, do your cells consider it an extended period of time? But it's a great excuse to Carb Load, eh? So you eat a bunch of oatmeal and almond butter, or a bagel, with OJ etc then head out with a carby-electrolyte solution whether it is hot/humid out or not, and religiously eat gels every 45-60', finishing up with the much deserved post-training food reward.
You think, "Surely I burned half a pound or more during that run?!" Perhaps, but consider the external sugars you were pumping into your body--400-600 calories before, 100-200 calories/hour during and a minimum of 500 calories after...so on the low end you consumed 1/3 pound of calories (or likely much more). So you did burn calories but that perceived sure-thing weight loss didn't come from your body fat (aka love handles/thighs/etc)....suck! If you are lucky, you entered into fat burning periods throughout the run, but wouldn't it be great if you spent more time in fat-burn land?
Yes, you need some carbs to fuel your activity. But most people fall into one of two camps: Overestimating carb needs during a workout (see above) OR Overestimating their amount of activity. (Of course there is the third camp of people who want to do whatever they want regardless of how they look and feel but I highly doubt they are reading this.)
Camp IV Option--Be a better fat burner!! Now, this is not a mental decision--you can't simply decide to go for a run and not take your gels with you b/c you are willing your body to burn fat. You actually have to stimulate this process through consistent, long term (i.e. 4-8 weeks minimum) food habits/choices. Overeat carbs and you'll continue to turn off efficient fat metabolism.
Here are some basic tips to become better at burning fat and you can read to infinity on the subject starting with this discussion from Dr. Cate Shanahan. Your action items are in GREEN!
- Breakfast--Kick off the day with a meal containing no more than 10g of carbs. That way your body isn't already looking for more external energy to burn from the get-go. You can eat 1 cup of shredded cabbage sautéed with coconut oil and served with pastured eggs for only 4 carbs and it is very filling. How many carbs are in your current breakfast and how can you adjust that? Simply eating 10g of your current carb source, i.e 1/4 of a bagel is not the right answer, b/c you'll want more and be starving shortly after and it's not setting you up for success.
- Keep daily carb totals under 100 gm, and between 30 and 70 gm for faster results.
Start by keeping track of how many carbs you currently consume...you'll be shocked! You can eat comfortably at 100 carbs IF every single gram counts. This adds up to only 400 calories so you have to consume enough protein and fat to stay above the 1200 calorie total mark.
- Eat more fat. Fat contributes to tissue regeneration, constructing cell membranes in your skin and central nervous system, and deliver fat soluble vitamins and antioxidants. But the kind of fat you eat matters. Here is a recommended list of oils for consuming hot/cold. (Print this list to keep in your kitchen for reference.) Stick with this basic list so you are firmly in the safe zone of fat sources. You can venture out once you have become more adapted to this concept.
4. Eat more protein. Start by determining how many grams you should be eating and then divide those into 3 meals.
5. Stop Snacking. This is a hard one for most of us to wrap our brains around and will take a bit to get used to. But then again, this whole approach is different and since what you're doing isn't working the best, I challenge you to give this a fair shot. Reasons to skip snacks:
- It prevents your body from dipping into snacking on it's own fat
- It's hard enough to eat three proper meals...so it's best to avoid the risk of choosing unwisely
- Eating three times a day ensures you'll be hungry for your meal when it arrives and will help you become more in tuned with true hunger vs simply the desire to eat
- Rest your GI Tract!!
And stop making up your own rules!! Do this plan as it is written for one month and then you can assess your actual success.