Follow up to the Lean or Light debate.
I thought it might be useful to explain in a little more detail about what happens when we deprive our bodies of calories. Most people who look even superficially at the whole problem of weight loss/getting lean will have hear of the term ‘starvation mode’ and will have some idea of it’s effects. However starvation mode is really only a prolonged catabolic state. Catabolism as the article below explains is happening all the time, as is anabolism, it is really all about which gets the upper hand.
First some science. The following is reproduced from newsletter by Analytical Research Labs of Phoenix Arizona. I am not saying their information is any more or less accurate than others but the basic thrust of what is reproduced below is in agreement with much of the other research information available on the web, and as far as I can tell it not in dispute among the scientific community:
Article extracts start:
Anabolism And Catabolism
Metabolism, the sum of the chemical processes of the body, may be divided into two phases. Anabolism refers to chemical processes which are constructive, or synthesizing of body tissues, enzymes and other body components. Catabolism generally refers to those processes in which body tissues and components are breaking down into simpler metabolic constituents. These two processes always coexist, although one may dominate at times over the other. For example, at night during sleep, anabolic processes tend to dominate, while catabolism tends to dominate during the day. Childhood is a more anabolic time of life, while old age in general more catabolic.
Causes Of Catabolism
Anabolism and catabolism can become quite involved. Dr. Emanuel Revici based an entire metabolic typing system on these two aspects of metabolism. His system is somewhat similar, but not the same as Dr. Paul Eck's distinction of fast and slow oxidizers. When we refer to a catabolic state we are referring to a specific condition in which catabolic processes are dominant. The main cause of this is a prolonged stress response. In response to stress, the body secretes epinephrine, norepinephrine, cortisol and other hormones. The glucocorticoids (such as cortisol) have a catabolic action. That is, they suppress the synthesis of protein, glycogen and triglycerides. Instead, these are broken down into fatty acids, glucose and amino acids and mobilized from storage. This process is necessary to counteract a stress. However, if the process is prolonged, the resulting catabolism is very damaging to the body and causes excessive tissue breakdown. Also, a prolonged stress response suppresses the immune system, the digestive organs, growth hormones and other important body systems. There are numerous causes for a prolonged stress response. They include attitudes of fear, guilt, worry, resentment, frustration and hostility. Another cause is nutritional deficiencies. These can lower one's stress threshold and impair the production of cellular energy within the cells. When a body is not able to properly metabolize sugars, starches and fats for fuel in the glycolysis and Krebs energy cycles, it will digest its own tissue proteins in order to produce energy. Also, fatigue and other health conditions may cause a catabolic state.
Catabolism And Health
A catabolic or tissue breakdown state can affect any organ or body system, depending on one's particular weaknesses. For example, if excessive tissue breakdown occurs in the joints, the result may be painful joints or arthritis. If excessive tissue breakdown occurs in the stomach, the result may be an ulcer. If it is in the heart muscle, cardiomyopathy can result. Similarly, tissue breakdown can affect any organ or system. Correction has less to do with the particular affected organ and more to do with reducing stress and improving cellular energy production so that the tendency for catabolism or cannibalizing tissue can be reversed. This involves dietary and lifestyle changes and the use of nutritional supplements to help restore energy production.
Correcting A Catabolic State
Correction includes getting plenty of rest and sleep, learning to accept and trust what life brings and letting go of fears, guilt, worries and resentments. Diet can play an important role. Many people, for example, place great stress on the body by eating excessive carbohydrates and not enough protein. Natural therapies may also be very beneficial. Specific supplements are often critical to raise the threshold for stress and help improve cellular energy production. Often Limcomin will be recommended for a catabolic state. It contains zinc, an important nutrient for protein synthesis and manganese, important for cellular energy production. In addition it contains vitamins A and C, magnesium and vitamin B6. These are very important for energy production as well. Finally, it contains lymph, thymus and spleen glandular substance to support the immune system. Immune system dysfunction is common in the catabolic state. Copper and iron may also be added to the program, as these are important for the electron transport system, where most energy is produced. In addition, digestive enzymes are recommended to facilitate digestion and the absorption of nutrients.
End of extract.
What is clear that catabolism does not only occur when we go into ‘starvation mode’ . The body will become catabolic if any of us goes too long without food. Which is why missing out meals may be superficially attractive (as it saves calories) but will mean that catabolism has the upper hand for a while. This is particularly true of breakfast. As the article states sleep tends to be an anabolic time, which id why any athlete or body builder knows it is vital to get rest and sleep to let the body do it’s ‘repair’ work. Once we wake up and start moving around this stops and if there are no available calories around the body will go catabolic and start hunting for them from bone organ and lean muscle!
What is also interesting is that mental stress promotes catabolism therefore those that stress about weight loss are likely to become catabolic easier than those that do not.
I would also like to put right a misconception; it is almost impossible to build muscle while in a calorie deficit (before anyone argues, it IS possible but it is really not easy and you would have to work very hard at it with carb cycling).
So the aim is to be as anabolic as much of the time as possible and as catabolic as little of the time as possible.
What promotes anabolism? Clearly sufficient sleep, as little stress as possible and proper nutrition with sufficient macro nutrients required for anabolism. If you are promoting anabolism through weight training this will mean having sufficient protein available to your muscles while re-building is taking place.
Regular eating seems to restrict catabolism, as your body is in effect 'kept busy' with digesting food every three hours. All the evidence I have seen is that people have more success in losing body fat byeating between 5 and 6 smaller meals a day.
Such a method of eating also has the beneficial effect of meaning that you are never hungry. If you are trying to lose body fat hunger is to be avoided. the desire to eat (anything!!!) can more easily override the more sensible 'conscious' choices that we 'should' make.
Though I have not seen any specific research I would not be at all surprised if water comes into this. A body that is de-hydrated is stressed and more inclined towards catabolism. Proper hydration removes that stress.
Weight training is by it’s very nature catabolic as it stresses the muscle, however properly approached and with good nutrition the resulting anabolism will replace that lost muscle. If I can maintain my lean mass while losing fat I will be one happy bunny.
From a weight loss/leanness perspective what is important is that lean mass burns around 8 times more calories than fat!
From my point of view I have no doubt, I want my metabolic rate to be as high as possible because I am really not into being hungry! The higher my metabolic rate the more of the things I love to eat are available to me while maintaining a healthy body composition.
As that nice little meerkat in the advert says ‘simples!’
New Year post by friend & colleage Maggie Ayre
6 years ago