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November 8, 2015

Nothing Tastes As Good As Lean Feels

May the title of this article inspire many of you with weight issues to lose body fat and add more lean mass. The saying “nothing tastes as good as lean feels” comes from former Cenegenics’ colleague, Jeff Leake, MD (trained at Ohio State, too). Once you lose fat and add muscle mass you will feel remarkably better. You will look healthier, feel better about yourself, and have more energy. And, the appetite for no food will match that feeling – not to mention the feeling of accomplishment from all the discipline and effort you gave in eating better and exercising more intelligently.

Once you get to lean why would you want to go back to your old ways? Why would you want to sabotage your efforts and start eating unhealthy and becomes less active again?

It’s well-known that people who lose weight – about 90% or so – will regain that weight within two years if not sooner. I think part of the reason for that is they never lose enough fat and add enough muscle to get to the point that “nothing tastes as good as lean feels” ever applies. They don’t get to that point where they feel substantially better to feel more energetic and stronger from losing fat and adding lean muscle. They apply a short-term solution (diet) to a long-term endeavor. They never fully change their ways or habits in short. They may lose weight from those diets, but it’s not all fat and most certainly rarely do they add lean body mass which we discusse in Want to Know Why You Can’t Lose Weigth? [This May Surprise You].

Focus of Weight Loss is Misguided

Part of the reason for never reaching the magical “nothing tastes as good as lean feels” threshold is the focus of weight loss is simply losing weight. What you really want is to lose fat and add muscle. Historically, there’s little emphasis on adding lean mass and usually little focus on consuming healthy whole foods. Fad diets are not going to get you to leanness though you may lose weight in the short-term but it won’t be all fat.

Getting to “nothing tastes as good as lean feels” requires eating low glycemic foods that reduce the secretion of insulin – the fattening hormone along with exercising more intelligently to modulate your release of growth hormone and testosterone (applies to men and women). Growth hormone and testosterone play important roles in losing fat while building lean body mass.

Exercise: What’s Better for Weight Loss?More and more studies are showing the health benefits of exercising at high intensity for brief periods

In most diets or weight loss programs there is little discussion of exercise outside the typical 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. The reality is this. Very little calories are burned while exercising.

We’ve been conditioned to think aerobics is the best way to lose weight, and that includes myself. I started my career at the Cooper Aerobics Center, after all, and the importance of aerobic exercise was emphasized almost exclusively. Aerobics has tremendous cardiovascular benefits but when it comes to body composition it is falls short as there are better exercises to get to leanness.

You will burn calories with aerobic exercise but it’s not as much as you may think. For instance, a 150 pound person will burn 2,830 calories during the course of running a marathon or just 0.8 of a pound or 108 calories per mile. Generally within an hour metabolism returns to baseline after the typical 30 minutes of aerobics and after that little additional calories above baseline are burned for the remainder of the day. If you exercise long enough aerobically you will trigger release of cortisol which is catabolic meaning it breaks down muscle. That’s a problem we’ll soon get to.

With high intensity interval training (HIIT), however, it is possible to keep your metabolic rate elevated for 20 hours or more following a session of HIIT. But, there’s a hormonal boost to HIIT that you don’t get with aerobics. And, that is you will trigger growth hormone and testosterone. That combination enables you to burn more fat and build lean body mass. Muscle burns 2-3 times as many calories at rest and substantially more during exercise than fat.  In other words, the more muscle you have the easier it is to burn calories throughout the day and in the end this a greater amount than the calories simply burned during exercise.

weight trainingSo with HIIT you work on both the fat and muscle side of body composition – lose fat and gain muscle mass. With aerobics, especially if you exercise aerobically more than hour, you will break down muscle, and thus your ability to burn calories at rest goes down.

What About Strength Training?

Strength training to muscle fatigue provokes elicits similar hormonal responses as high intensity interval training. So strength training is essential if your goal is becoming more lean. See Which Workout Plan Should You Choose.

Hormonal Role in Weight Loss

There are many hormones related to body composition and eating – hormones that regulate appetite, control metabolism, and determine which energy source is used (fat stores or glucose and glycogen stores). Outside of cortisol all hormones decline with age especially sex hormones that affect fat and lean body mass.

This means our ability to stay lean becomes increasingly difficult as we age. At some point, many individuals will find that losing fat and maintaining muscle with diet and exercise alone is not enough. For these individuals hormone replacement (HRT) can be considered – for them HRT becomes necessary to reach the “nothing tastes as good as lean feels” threshold.

How Lean is Lean?

How lean should you be? In other words how much body fat should have to be considered healthy? The table below shows the recommended body fat percentages for adults broken down into three age groups. As you can see the ranges are quite large. That’s because what is healthy depends on one’s body frame and overall body somatotype. Some people have thin frames and their healthy body fat percentages will be towards the lower end of the ranges. Whereas, someone who has a bigger and more muscular frame should look towards the middle to upper end of the ranges.

Males age 18-39 Females age 18-39 Males age 40-59 Females age 40-59 Males age  60-79 Females age 60-79
8% to 19% 21% to 32% 11% to 21% 23% to 33% 13% to 24% 24% to 35%

Formula for Leanness

Admittedly, this an over simplified formula,  but here’s the cornerstone to achieve the leanness that makes you feel better than the desire for the taste for any food.

  • Low glycemic eating plan focusing on whole foods
  • Strength and high intensity interval training as the core of an exercise program
  • Maintain optimal hormone levels especially sex hormones.

No it’s up to you to go out their and do it. Live long, stay young by becoming leaner!

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Dr. Joe Jacko


Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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