Below is a quote by Dr. Doug McGuff, MD, the co-author of Body By Science. It explains why so many of us who are exercising for 3-4 or more hours a week and “cutting back” our carbs but resist releasing fat.
It explains what I call Carbohydrate Metabolism Derangement which causes every morsel of food (regardless of if it’s a fat, protein or carb) we eat to be stored as fat instead of fueling strength building and fat release…
We evolved from an environment of food scarcity where carbohydrate was the least abundant macronutrient, and where high intensity exertion was required to acquire the food we needed. In our modern environment, carbohydrate is very abundant and high intensity exertion is very rare. Most of the carbohydrates consumed are refined and are quickly/easily absorbed. Our evolutionary background has produced a mechanism for signaling energy storage that is predicated on an abundance of what would be the least abundant macronutrient in our ancestral environment.
That macronutrient is carbohydrate. What happens in the metabolic syndrome is something that would have been very foreign to our ancestors. We are exposed to very high levels of carbohydrate. This is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream causing blood sugar to rise, which triggers the pancreas to release insulin so that glucose can be moved into the cells of the body.
This normalizes the blood glucose level, and stores the glucose as glycogen for future use. However, your body has limited glycogen storage capabilities. An adult male can store about 70 grams in his liver, and 220 grams in his skeletal muscle. If more glucose than this is present, insulin will then drive synthesis of triacylglycerol, which will, in turn, result in the glycogen being stored as body fat.
The average American consumes way more than 290 grams of carbohydrate in a 24-hour period, even when they are “cutting back” or “watching what they eat.” As this situation compiles on a day-by-day basis, the body adapts by decreasing insulin sensitivity on the muscle cells. This protects the metabolic machinery of the muscle from being jammed with “glycosylation products” by basically binding sugars to proteins within the cell. As a result, insulin sensitivity on the fat cells remains relatively preserved so that excess carbohydrate can be more efficiently shunted towards fat storage. At this point your body has now become a fat-producing factory. You are now in the throws of the Metabolic Syndrome. Now your fat cells are a tissue colony with a competitive advantage. Any nutrition you intake now gets shunted directly to the fat cells.
You now suffer from “internal starvation.”
You may take in 4,000 Calories per day, but none of it supplies your lean tissue. Your muscle mass, total protein and albumin all drop despite a gluttonous intake of food stimulated by your chronically elevated insulin levels. Why a gluttonous intake? Because LOW insulin levels are needed to tap energy out of fat cells, and with insulin levels being so high, immediate energy needs have to be obtained by the intake of more food (acquired by stimulating hunger)…which then gets shunted to the fat cells. AARRGGHHH!! You are now in the vicious cycle of the metabolic syndrome – but it gets worse: Many of the circulating hormones your body relies now will have glucose attached to them and your body recognizes them as foreign and begins attacking them (this is my theory) and the glands that produce them (thyroid hormone being a prime example).
The important thing to remember about the above quote is that it doesn’t distinguish the source of the carbohydrate being from fruit, vegetables or grain. This is important because when I talk to people who are having a hard time releasing fat even after “cutting out the BAD carbs” they seem to always defend the fruits and veggies with the “I need my nutrients” rebuttal.
Funny enough this is the same rebuttal used by those who still struggle with grain/bread/pasta addiction. If you struggle with releasing fat it may be because you’ve replaced one carb source with the next without reducing your total carb intake to the sufficient levels to lower insulin production and trigger fat cells releasing their energy.
We all have different thresholds for what is considered “low enough” though and this is heavily influenced by genetic factors and other hormonal imbalances. For example my husband can get away with eating at least 2x the amount of carbs I can simply because he’s male… Also I may be wired to fatten based on the fact that I come from a family that seems to easy fatten and get diabetes as young adults.
You maybe able to eat more carbs than someone else without fattening but the point is when and if you do fatten or stall in fat loss its because you over all carb intake is too high for your current level of Carbohydrate Metabolism.
My suggestion would be to continue to reduce the total number of carb grams you are eating by both the quality or the carbohydrate (swapping higher carb fruits, veggies nuts for lower ones) AND the quantity of even those you do select to eat.
Unless it’s treat day, of course :0).
Several factors influence your Carbohydrate Metabolism function. The ones you control are how you eat, exercise and sleep. We’ve gone over food a bit and now we’ll explore the role of exercise in a future article to be linked HERE.