I was at the track the other day doing my thing and I happened to see a woman who was working extremely hard to shed some excess body fat. When we met at a point on the track we engaged in a friendly discussion of the horrors of aging and the constant battle of the bulge. While we were chatting she reached into her bag and grabbed her drink, a Gatorade. I was horrified. Gatorade is a great drink and I love it, BUT …

Lets talk basic biochemistry. Regardless of your body structure or muscle to fat ratio there are some fundamental biochemical laws that cannot be changed. For the purposes of this post there will be no over the top biochemistry terms.

When you eat anything that is considered a high glycemic food (will rapidly increase blood sugar), insulin is secreted by the beta cells of the pancreas immediately to control this spike in blood sugar. If your blood sugar goes past 110 (mg/dl) your body’s release of insulin will facilitate storage of this sugar into the muscle cells and especially fat cells. The catch here is if you have significant levels of sugar in your blood, your body is geared to fat preservation, not fat burning.

For example, let’s say you just consumed a meal containing high glycemic foods. Blood sugar levels spike, insulin is released and the body starts replenishing muscle glycogen, the liver glycogen and then storage in fat cells. If you rarely work out or are already overweight, your body goes right into fat storage mode.

Assuming I am going to the track to reduce the size of my notoriously cute love handles, what happens when I walk or run. There isn’t an easy answer. Before we answer that question, let’s talk about heart rate (HR). A person’s maximum heart rate is normally determined by the formula 220 – age. So a 45-year-old would have a HR maximum of 220 – 45 = 175. If your heart rate is that high, in all likelihood you have a serious medical condition that needs to be treated yesterday or, as I was once told in the ER, this person is about to meet the man.

When working out there are specific names for certain target heart rates. A maximum training heart rate should never exceed (220 – age) x 80% or (220 – 45) x .8 = 140. When you are in this zone your body will burn everything it has in the easiest order to maintain function. First, available blood sugar, then glycogen stored in your liver, glycogen stored in muscle tissue, muscle itself and finally fat. Hmmm, well that sucks. The body is efficient since it wants to get the maximum out of the minimal biochemistry needed or effort required because the body’s function is to make sure it survives under any condition. The end result, at 80% max heart rate, you get a great cardio workout but clearly you never burn off any fat. Same scenario but your track workout is at a much less strenuous level {say a heart rate of (220 – age) x 40%}. What happens? Well, you walk the track until your blood sugar level comes down to around 110, at about 60–90 minutes of walking. Then, wiped out, you stop, never having burned a single fat cell.

If your blood sugar is low, the alpha cells of the pancreas secrete glucagon. Glucagon is a hormone formed and released in the pancreas to promote the breakdown of glycogen to glucose in the liver. As insulin increases, glucagon decreases, just the opposite when insulin is low, i.e., low blood sugar. This is the seesaw effect.

Thus, insulin and glucagon work in balance, insulin increases, glucagon decreases, and vice versa. Insulin promotes the storage of energy and manufacture of proteins while glucagon promotes the release of stored energy the form of both glucose and fatty acids.

What is the point? It’s simple. Regardless of your activity level, if you have insulin in your blood stream, you will never be able to burn fat. Drinking a Gatorade at the track before or during your routine will cause a spike in blood sugar and you won’t burn any fat. None. Zero. Zip. Nada. At best, you will have done a cardio workout if your heart rate was above (220 – age) x 60–80%. If your heart rate did not increase, the best you can hope for is a reduction in the spiked blood sugar.

So how does one lose body fat in the most expeditious manner?

1) Keep your blood sugar in a low range as often as possible. If you want to lose maximum body fat, maintain your blood sugar level between 70 mg/dl and 110 mg/dl. Do this and, all other factors being equal, you will burn more fat. Biologically, it comes down to your body’s primary ability to regulate two hormones — insulin and glucagon — relative to dietary intake. This means following a diet like that of a person who has diabetes: a diet rich in fiber (both soluble and insoluble), vegetables, fruits, proteins and unsaturated fats.

2) Stay in a fat burning zone if your sole purpose is fat loss. This would be a heart rate of (220 – age) x 50%. Without any equipment to gauge your heart rate, you are able to hold a conversation with someone you are walking with without having labored breathing.

3) Do not consume any high glycemic foods at least two hours before your workout or, even better, rarely. Keep in mind that you always are trying to maintain a blood sugar level between 70 and 110 mg/dl.

4) Fool your body. When you are doing your workout, do a burst to jack your heart rate momentarily for 30 seconds. This keeps your body guessing and ensures that higher levels of blood sugar have been lowered to the point where insulin is not available but glucagon is.

5) If possible, add a resistance training regiment in your weekly routine. The more muscle you have, the higher your basic metabolic rate is. This means your body will burn more calories at rest while maintaining your muscle. Maintaining muscle is calorically expensive to the body.

6) There are hundreds of diets and workout programs supposedly geared toward burning body fat while still claiming you can enjoy your favorite foods. You cannot trick your biochemical processes. Short of surgical intervention or a fat cell destruction technique, there are no short cuts to losing fat. Studies show that most individuals who bypass the hard work and choose surgery almost always put the weight back on after surgery. Why? Change comes from within. Your lifestyle will dictate what your body looks like. Nutrition is 80% of the battle, be it weight loss or muscle gain. It’s always been that way and will always remain that way.

You get one body, so treat it accordingly. There are no short cuts or easy paths. You can train like the “warrior elite” but, if your diet does not match your training protocol, you will fail. And if you are unsure or think you are fooling yourself, take a look in the mirror and see who is looking back.

Chromaceutical Advanced Technologies, Inc.