Saturday, 3 November 2012

So you want to lose some weight?

Perhaps the largest presentation of injury I see as an osteopath  is mechanical joint strain. The typical areas of injury are low back, knee, neck or shoulder although just about any joint in the body can get injured. Carrying a few extra pounds of body weight is a very large predisposition for mechanical joint pain among other things. Being over weight puts unnecessary extra forces through your joints when you move. All of your synovial joints (any place where you know you have a joint, you can be sure it's a synovial joint) have supporting ligaments, shock absorbing cartilage, force transmitting bones, movement making muscles and message carrying nerves. Any of these structures can become injured and once the inflammatory process starts the pain will too! 
So it's always a good idea to control your weight particularly if you are going to start running and increasing the forces going through your joints. But that's usually easier said than done. 
The first thing I would like to say to anybody trying to lose weight (be it 1 pound or 100 pounds) is that whatever you know about weight loss is probably wrong. This is a topic that gets huge amount of media coverage selling things from, diets named after beaches or a  Medical Doctors to the promise of a " New you in 60 days" with some idiot holding a newspaper or (my favourite) a way of counting calories but still eating junk (like that's gonna work). You get the picture!!!
With all the media coverage and sales pitches trying to get you hooked on the next weight loss remedy it is truly difficult to find the real facts. So here are some facts about physiology, weight loss and maintenance of a stable weight once you reached your goal.
1lb of fat (think butter) has about 3,500cals.
The average male and female expend about 2,000 to 1,800 calories respectively per day. These are rough figures but the point is to understand the process not the actual numbers. 
2 x 1,800 = 3,600 so if a female wants to lose 1lb of body fat she must not eat anything for 2days, in which time the metabolism (see previous entry) will consume a 1lb slab of body fat butter! These figures suggest that weight loss by food control alone is going to be very very difficult. 
Most of the energy we generate in our body is heat, we know from previous entries that carbs and fats are required to generate this energy. So we need to increase total energy expenditure which will require using more carbs and fats for fuel. So the question is how do we do this?
Our muscle cells are at a fixed amount, you can not generate any more muscle cells but you can increase the productivity in a muscle cell. Proteins are the building blocks of our body and we can pack more proteins (actin and myosin) into a muscle cell by stressing the muscle (doing resistance exercise). Imagine each cell being a little village, when you exercise that cell it becomes a small town and in the case of body builders they have turned their cells into big industrial cities (which is why they have so little body fat). 
By increasing over all muscle tone using resistance exercise (to increase muscle cell productivity) your metabolism will increase. Now you as an entity require more fuel to work (you've just pushed a little harder on the car accelerator). If you also control the amount of carbohydrates you eat by reducing (not quitting) unnecessary carbs like biscuits, cakes and chocolate you will have less carbs hanging around for these (small town like) muscle cells to burn and therefore fats will be used more often as energy. These two factors (control of carbs and increase in muscle tone) will allow you to lose weight at a steady rate without starving yourself AND the weight you lose will be more likely to stay off. People doing this always report having more energy, well now you know that is because the fats they are using for fuel yield more than twice the amount of energy that the carbs were giving.
Trying to eliminate carbohydrates or fats from you diet  will enable you to lose weight quite rapidly. But unless you have the will power of a Tibetan Monk the weight you lose will be back on within a month. This is because your metabolism has slowed down instead of speeding up during that process and your muscles are falling apart instead of getting stronger. I'm not suggesting that a person needs to bulk up to lose weight, I am suggesting that resistance exercise is essential. 
The 3 macro nutrients are all very important. Cutting one out is very foolish as the all have specific jobs that we need to function. Without these nutrients you will eventually fall apart.