Sunday, October 3, 2010

Negative partitioning and fat Loss: part 1

“Changing the macronutrient composition of an individual’s diet can result in weight loss despite the ingestion of the same amount of energy”
Lambert CP, Frank LL, Evans WJ. Sports Med. 2004; 34(5):317-27.

One of my most valuable lessons came about 20 years ago when I had a conversation on nutrition with a very successful bodybuilding coach. He taught me about nutrient partitioning, what your body does with the food you consume. Your body will either send nutrients to muscle cells or to fat cells and certain compounds, hormones, cytokines, lifestyle choices, exercise and the macronutrient distribution of the diet can have a pronounced effect on nutrient partitioning. Since that conversation, the majority of my study time has been devoted to understanding how to best manipulate the body’s biochemistry to enable my clients to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time. Without understanding nutrient partitioning, your fat loss efforts may not be so rewarding, resulting in failure to achieve your body composition goals. Once you understand what causes negative (gaining fat) or positive partitioning (losing fat and gaining muscle), you will realize how easy it can be to lose fat and gain muscle simultaneously. You will also realize how the common recommendation of reducing caloric intake (negative energy balance) and increasing energy expenditure (exercise) is so wrong, and leads to a high failure rate. Let me give you a quick example; your overweight, you have low testosterone, low thyroid, a slow resting metabolic rate, leptin resistant, feel tired to exercise frequently and intensely and following a typical high carbohydrate, low protein, low fat diet.. What strategy would you use to lose fat? Most dietitians, doctors, and coaches would have you lower your calories (creating a negative energy balance, the difference between how many calories you eat and how many your body expends) and exercising more. Will this work? Rarely! The failure rate on such a program is huge. Even if you did lose considerable weight on such a program, 25 to 50% of that weight would be muscle tissue, now leaving you looking skinny fat, and in a worse metabolic condition that will further shift your body into a negative (losing fat and muscle) over a positive (losing fat and building muscle) state. Reducing calories doesn’t tell me which calories you’re reducing. Was it the carbohydrates, fat, or protein? Does it matter? Is a calorie a calorie like most scientist tell us? Yes it matters if you want to create a metabolic advantage (positive nutrient partitioning). No, a calorie is not a calorie. Different types of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins will have different effects in the body (positive or negative partitioning). Different macronutrient ratios will also affect partitioning. Proteins and fats are essential nutrients, carbohydrates are not. Protein is more thermogenic than carbohydrates, and carbohydrates are more thermogenic than fats. In an insulin resistant state, carbohydrates lose there thermogenic power, resulting in a lower thermic effect of food. In my above example, simply increasing the total calories and calories from protein and fat while reducing your carbohydrates intake would have resulted in a metabolic advantage that would have allowed you to lose fat, build muscle, increase your testosterone, increase thyroid, elevate your metabolic rate, increase your insulin sensitivity, increase your leptin sensitivity, increased your energy levels that will allow you to perform better, more productive workouts without feeling tired and hungry all day. Low calorie diets don’t work and increase negative partitioning of calories through various mechanisms. With the low success rate of low calorie diets (regardless of macronutrient ratios) your setting yourself up for repeated diet / fat loss cycles (think yo-yo dieting) and that can be extremely damaging to your overall health. This review isn’t even scratching the surface on what we know on nutrient partitioning, but remember, fat accrual is a disorder of nutrient partitioning. To find out more about positive and negative partitioning, and other fat loss tips and tricks be sure to come back to this page frequently.