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When you have a lot of weight to lose, and specifically a lot of fat to lose, there are some things you should keep in mind. I wanted to quickly go over these things with people and maybe give a heads up on what to expect as you drop weight and return to better health.
First thing to remember, if you have a good deal of fat to lose (fifty pounds or more as a range), it’s all about the diet. Yes, I’m a personal trainer, and yes, I always encourage everyone to exercise as much as possible, but I’m not a dummy, I know what it takes to lose weight, hey, I lost close to 60 pounds myself, so I know where you’re coming from. It’s often stated that losing fat is 80% diet and 20% exercise. Losing the fat means cracking down on the nutrition; this is especially true at the beginning. I’ve seen many folks who lost upwards of half the fat just by learning how to eat healthier. You don’t have to be a clean eating superstar to become healthy, you can be reasonable about your eating habits and still be in very good shape. But it does mean cutting out most of the saturated fats, hydrogenated fats, simple and processed carb treats, and making most of your meat choices as lean as possible. It’s the little things you need to do to become healthy, order that fish baked instead of fried, choose mixed veggies instead of the French fries, eat more vegetables at every meal, ask for dressings on the side, avoid the fat and sodium laden glazes, and watch your condiments. You do all these things and you’re well on your way.
The second thing to remember is that as the weight comes off, you need to adjust what your calorie deficit is. If you’re obese, then you can probably afford a 2 to 3 pound per week deficit. That’s plenty for anyone IMHO, but you may notice yourself losing weight faster than that at the beginning, that’s ok, but recognize that as you lose the fat, your weight loss will slow down. This is expected and natural, don’t worry about it, and just keep going.
Third thing to remember is that plateaus happen. Your body isn’t mechanical, it won’t follow your well laid plan exactly all the time. Sometimes your body will stop and adjust, this can take a few weeks, even up to a few months in extreme cases, don’t let that stop you, just take it as part of the plan. Don’t even worry about this until you’re up over a month, and at that point, if you’re still not losing, examine what you’re doing and decide whether you’re making the right choices.
Lastly, exercise may not be the main ingredient in losing weight at the beginning, but it’s what will help you stay healthy at the end. Exercise is vital to staying healthy. Exercise promotes muscle strength, bone health, immune system function, cardiovascular health, correct sleep patterns, and removal of excess fat. Exercise is a great stress reliever and releases endorphins in the body making you feel better the rest of the day. Exercise shapes your body, making you look better and have higher self-esteem, which can manifest itself in many aspects of life including relationships, work, social gatherings, public speaking … etc. For all these reasons, it’s vital that you include exercise in your journey. And I don’t just mean walking or using the elliptical. Don’t get me wrong, cardio is fine, but it’s only part of the process, exercise should include resistance, stretching, AND cardiovascular activity. Include at least one day of each every week, with multiple days of at least one for at least 30 minutes and at least a moderate level of activity for optimal health, more if you can fit it in.
Nutrient supplements come in many different forms. For the purposes of this blog, I’ll only be speaking on vitamin and mineral supplements. Muscle strength based “stacks” as they are commonly referred to are a different topic, and one I am not as well versed on and I won’t try to sway you one way or another on that particular subject.
When discussing vitamin and mineral supplements (hereafter referred to as VMS), there are a multitude of factors to keep in mind. Firstly we must understand how these VMS are manufactured and the form in which they are presented. Next we must understand how VMS are broken down in the body and are dissolved; and finally we must understand how the delivery forms interact with our bodies and what happens when we deliver massive doses of VMS to the body in a relatively short period.
In the USA, there is no formal FDA requirement for VMS other than truth in labeling. Even in labeling, there are certain “fudge factors” that the government allows for manufacturing variances and shelf life degradation. Many VMS are manufactured using processes and techniques that can leave the vitamins and minerals unable to be used by the body, or a portion thereof. Generally, the cheaper the VMS, the lower the quality control of the manufacturing process. This does not take into effect the inert substances used to bind the VMS particulates together and the various substances used to help the products with delivery into the system, namely things like bile salts and/or amino acids that can help deliver vitamins and minerals to their proper places in the body. Lastly it should be noted that better quality products also often rely on a “coating” to keep them from dissolving in the stomach acid before they can reach the small intestine where they are designed to be absorbed.
VMS that are taken orally in pill form are designed to pass through the stomach and be dissolved in the intestines. Many multivitamin and multimineral supplements have components that are susceptible to the acids in the stomach. Without some kind of coating, much of the desired effect of this type of VMS will be blunted or completely destroyed before being of any benefit to the person taking them. Many of the more expensive and better MVS offer a coating that will protect the pill from stomach acids, and are stripped of when they enter the duodenum, allowing the nutrients to be absorbed as they enter the small intestine. Another concept to understand is that vitamins and minerals can talk multiple molecular forms, some of which are less bioavailable or completely unavailable to the human body. So while the label may say 100% of a specific vitamin, the usable amount may be far less.
Lastly we must remember that the body has evolved to digest and break down foods over relatively long periods of times (hours generally), which means that the vitamins and minerals in food are released gradually to the body, allowing the body to use these in a more controlled manner. For many vitamins and minerals, there is either no storage mechanism in the body, or the process to store the supplement is slow to account for the gradual uptake. When we deliver massive volumes of a micro-nutrient to the body, we risk toxification in the body which in very high doses can have negative effects, or elimination which means that much of the nutrient can be neither used nor stored, and is thus eliminated as a waste product.
In conclusion, my main point is to use caution when supplementing your nutritional intake. As a general rule (one I myself follow) I usually say, supplement as little as possible, and through the best, most credible providers you can afford. Remember that there’s really very little regulation in the supplement industry, and manufacturers can make some pretty outrageous claims with little or no backlash.