(This is part 1 of our series on “Hijacking the Body”. Don’t worry–It’s not as scary as it sounds!)
An empty stomach is a scary nuisance. Crankiness, distraction, discomfort, wooziness–All things we try to avoid on a daily basis, simply with food. And when it comes to working out, probably the worst fear of an empty stomach comes to life: Where’s my energy going to come from?? Anecdotal evidence is hard to break, as the stories have been told for decades that you must have something in your stomach if you want to workout successfully. That you cannot run 5 miles or 10 miles; that you cannot do HIIT; that you cannot bend over and deadlift 300lbs; that you cannot even do light yoga, without food in your stomach for fear that you’ll pass out. Anecdotal stories have nothing on hijacking the body to break through weight-loss plateaus, though.
Anecdotal stories are affirming. They give us assurances that we’re following “time-tested” advice, and so the results of our endeavors would most likely follow from such “time-tested” advice. But like any self-help book that claims it can make you a millionaire, anecdotal evidence preys on our impulsive side which drives us to get what we want as quickly as possible. No matter the costs of diminishing returns: Too much short-term effort becomes impossible to sustain since the shortcuts aren’t “learned” well enough for habit to set in.
Over at Minitab.com–a data analysis company with over four decades of experience–they wrote a straight-forward investigation into the differences between anecdotal evidence and statistical evidence. As they write,
Anecdotal evidence is essentially a story told by individuals. It often comes in the form of “I know a person who . . .,” but it can take many guises. In advertising, it’s often called a product testimonial. For example, someone takes a dietary supplement and claims to have lost a lot of weight. Or anecdotal evidence can be more personal, such as this classic example: someone doubts smoking is hazardous because they have a relative who smoked for decades and lived to a ripe old age.
Advertising, of course, is notoriously anecdotal, mainly because it short-cuts for the consumer the questions he or she may have about a product. “Oh, so-and-so–who I don’t even know–said PRODUCT X gave them confidence to quit their job and start a business. I gotta try that!” We’re all susceptible. We’re all suffocated by ads daily, so it’s hard to fight back when we’re already exhausted in body and mind.
But here’s what’s important in acknowledging the differences between anecdotal and statistical evidence:
Hijacking the Body to Break through Weight-loss Plateaus
So HOW do we break from the anecdotal evidence that tells us we must eat before a workout, that we cannot workout on an empty stomach? With science, of course.
Anecdotal evidence has long stated that the body loves using carbohydrates as fuel. The body stores carbs (or, glucose) to a certain degree, tapping its reserves–or what’s in your stomach–for shorter energy-duration needs. However, the body has a nearly unlimited source of fat to tap as fuel. In fact, if you only used your body fat as fuel rather than glucose, you could last much longer than if fueling/re-fueling with carbs. (Though this is HIGHLY unadvisable, so please don’t do it!)
The biggest issue with using glucose for fuel is simply the biggest issue underlying the obesity epidemic in America and the Western hemisphere: Too much glucose (too many carbs) leads to insulin and leptin resistance (aka, weight-gain, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc etc.). Any runner who is trying to shed the last 10lbs knows the impossibility of shedding those pounds by following a high-carb-refueling diet: Those lbs won’t go anywhere, and weight gain is a real possibility, even if you’re running 50 miles a week. (This was my biggest problem when training for and running ultramarathons.)
FAT is an ugly word. That’s the anecdotal evidence driving that feeling. So nowadays, “healthy fats” is a prevalent term, which has some justification (in comparison to “unhealthy fats”) but isn’t helping the “image” of fat, in general.
But if we put together the above points, then we come to the conclusion that
hijacking the body to tap fat rather than glucose would not only give us a huge fuel source but would also force the body to consume excess fat rather than being “distracted” into consuming stored carbs.
You don’t lose weight by burning off carbs but by melting away excess fat. And the best way to do that is to direct your body’s energy consumption with a few simple changes to your daily regime, workout or otherwise.
(Tomorrow, you’ll find out how…)