Why “Diets” Fail: Part IV

The Science Corner

Part 4 – Calorie Deficit Doesn’t Mean Fat Loss

So far we have explored all of the factors that go in to the way your body changes and adapts to different relative energy intakes.

We found that – in an attempt to lose weight – it isn’t a simple matter of just dropping your calories and enjoying easy long term fat loss, as Adaptive Thermogenesis will always work to adjust your metabolism to meet your new intake. Dropping your calories by too much and / or for too long can cause these changes to work against you.

But, let’s just say you’ve done all the right things now, you are creating a sustainable calorie deficit and are working to offset the negative aspects of Adaptive Thermogenesis. This still doesn’t answer the last – and perhaps most critical question…Will you actually lose fat?


And here we come to the whole bitter irony. After navigating your way through ALLLL of the previous articles and finally finding yourself in a state where you have created a successful and sustainable negative energy balance, this doesn’t completely solve the last and most important part of the riddle.

Are you going to lose fat? Or are you going to lose muscle?

Just because you finally created a deficit, it doesn’t tell your body what to actually do with it.

  • Being in an energy deficit doesn’t automatically mean you will lose fat.
  • Being in an energy surplus doesn’t automatically mean you will gain fat.

Welcome to the world of Energy Partitioning

Creating an energy deficit is only part of the equation. You still have to give your body a reason to tap in to your fat stores.

All you’ve actually done is create an energy imbalance, a debt that needs to be repaid. It doesn’t actually tell your body WHERE you need to make up that deficit from.

(I have written an article previously in a bit more detail regarding energy partitioning here if you want to check it out later) Why “Energy In Energy Out” Doesn’t Tell You If You Will Get Fat

So…even though body fat might be YOUR first obvious choice, there are also other options your body can look at, one of which being your hard earned lean muscle tissue. And if your best interests are in maintaining your metabolism and your shape – or “tone” as often people refer to it – you definitely don’t want this to happen.

Losing weight and losing fat are two very different things. I don’t care how much weight you lose, but I do care what the composition of that loss is.

Has your PT ever told you to not focus on the scale weight, but rather the composition of your weight?

  • If you lose 1kg on the scales and it’s mostly body fat, you are winning.
  • If you lose 1kg and it’s 50:50 fat and muscle, hmmm we need to change something here, it’s not great.
  • If you lose 1kg of muscle and little to no fat, we are definitely doing something drastically wrong and need to change it.

As mentioned, as far as your body is concerned, it’s just an energy deficit, it will make up for this deficit the best way it sees fit. And, given the right (or wrong) circumstances this can work for you or against you.

As mentioned, as far as your body is concerned, it’s just an energy deficit, it will make up for this deficit the best way it sees fit. And, given the right (or wrong) circumstances this can work for you or against you.

To guarantee you are optimising the environment to strip body fat and maximise lean mass, you have to take a number of factors into consideration with regards to the type of exercise program you are on and how you construct your diet in the calorie deficit. Unfortunately both of these areas are too large to go in to detail in here, but if you want to read more about the different factors that go in to how your body controls energy partitioning, check out my fat loss series

But for now, let’s focus on a couple of the biggest key factors…

KEY IMPORTANT SCIENCY THING NUMBER 2 – Macro’s Matter More Than Calories

“Macronutrient composition may add to metabolic changes in response to overfeeding. While there were no differences in increases in EE after either carbohydrate or fat overfeeding [19], a high protein intake may have a greater effect. Hypercaloric protein-rich diets (with a protein content at 25 % of energy intake) increased FFM, TEE and REE [20•]. However, AT was not different between diets differing in protein content.” (Muller, et al, 2016)

Let’s say it one more time with feeling

There are no differences in Energy Expenditure with carbohydrate and fat overfeeding, a high protein diet may have a greater effect.

Hypercaloric protein rich diets increased fat free mass, and also increased energy expenditure.

What have I been saying repeatedly for over 15-20 years now? Not all calories are created equal. The way your body processes protein is not the same as carbohydrate which is not the same as fat.

First step when you are in an energy deficit or surplus though is…Get your protein intake right!

I won’t go in to the details of the different roles of your proteins, carbs and fats, I have covered these in detail in the past. All you need to remember, when it comes to constructing your diet, these levels are set for a reason!!

It’s not good enough for you to just count your calories each day, that tells you NOTHING!

Take home message: Count your macro’s not your calories.


“Weight loss results from a negative energy balance and changes in body composition; it is not continuous but curve-linear ending when a new steady state and, thus, a new equilibrium between energy intake and energy expenditure are reached” (Muller, et al, 2016)

We have obviously already talked about this in the previous articles, but let’s also look at it from a slightly different angle.

No diet works forever. It doesn’t matter what calorie intake you choose, your body will lose weight ONLY until a new steady state is reached. If you went too hard too quickly, inevitably your results will stall. If you’re already eating next to nothing, then there is nothing more left to lose.

Your diet needs to be a shifting, changing and fluid process that is based on how your body is changing and adapting. Again, this is the reason why consistent assessment is key as it tells you what is going on and how your body is adapting.

Refeeds and Diet Breaks

“When recovering from starvation, people spontaneously overeat; body weight and fat mass increase. Weight regain may be forced by persistence of the starvation-induced suppression of thermogenesis. However, during a controlled caloric restriction-refeeding cycle in healthy lean men, mass-independent decreases in REE reversed within 2 weeks of refeeding” (Muller et al, 2016)

Yes, I’ve said this about 7 times in previous articles already, but it again highlights why these factors are so important.

The reason your diet fails is because you are focusing on the wrong things

You cut back on calories as the only means to try and lose weight

You essentially starve yourself for a period doing something that isn’t sustainable and when you come off it, you WILL spontaneously overeat to compensate for it.

This can be offset if you did it correctly from the beginning with a controlled restriction – refeeding cycle, reversing these even within just 2 weeks!

Want again to know why we run repeated 6 week challenges throughout the year with timed planned breaks in between them? To offset any negative effects from AT to ensure your success is sustainable and long term.


For years I have told my clients it’s easy to lose weight. All you have to do is create an energy deficit. It’s not so easy to just lose body fat.

And it’s not so easy to KEEP just losing the body fat over the long term.

As you can see, you have numerous hurdles to overcome. You have to create an energy deficit, but, due to AT you can see this isn’t as simple as just eating less.

Not only that, you have to create an environment that is conducive for this to come from fat loss.

Creating the optimal fat loss environment in a deficit is more about manipulating your hormonal environment which is completed through careful planning of both your exercise routine and your macronutrient intake.

  • Diet isn’t just about creating an energy deficit. Even though you still have to create some sort of negative energy balance, you must do this while also creating a state that is conducive for this to come from fat loss.
  • It requires carefully calculated ways to reaching this energy deficit. But also the right blend and balance of your Protein, Carbs and Fats to optimise the fat loss environment and encourage lean mass accretion.
  • It requires you to create this negative energy deficit in the right balance where it is enough for your body to care, but not too much that your body overcompensates with a suboptimal Adaptative Thermogenesis response.
  • It also requires planned refeeds and diet breaks to offset the long term effects of dropping calories and ensure long term success

Sad to say, again, after all of that, it really does just come back to Diet and Exercise. It’s as simple as that and yet so much more complicated than that.


Müller MJ, Enderle J, Bosy-Westphal A. Changes in Energy Expenditure with Weight Gain and Weight Loss in Humans. Curr Obes Rep. 2016;5(4):413-423. doi:10.1007/s13679-016-0237-4

Why “Diets” Fail: Part III

The Science Corner

Part 3: Low Metabolism vs High Metabolism, How to Cheat The System

The last couple of instalments have focused on the outcome of Adaptive Thermogenesis. The end result of what happens when you eat too little vs what happens when you overconsume.

We have looked at the different parts that make up our “energy out” side of the equation and we have also looked at how Adaptive Thermogenesis can influence different aspects of these separately.

Each instalment we have been peeling off the layers gradually, slowly uncovering the details that make up your metabolism. This next part will dig even deeper still. Deep inside your body to understand exactly what is happening to cause this change.

Once you have an understanding of the different factors inside your body that influence this Adaptive Thermogenesis, you can then use them to help “cheat” the system. You too can also learn to maximise the good and offset the bad.

In other words, you can learn to get lean, stay lean, and eat big doing it.

In this instalment:

  • You will learn exactly what it means when someone says they have a high metabolism.
  • You will understand that people who seemingly eat the house down and stay lean don’t defy the laws of thermodynamics.
  • And you will understand why what’s happening inside your body when you somehow lick a cookie and get fat while your PT eats a stack of pancakes and still retains a six pack.

Most importantly, you will learn the details on how you can start training your metabolism to do the same.

KEY IMPORTANT SCIENCY THING NUMBER 1: Adaptive Thermogenesis is Fluid And Shifting

The good news (and bad), is that adaptive thermogenesis is always changing. It’s ALWAYS searching, trying to reach a new “balance point”.

Even though your metabolism is governed partly by your genetics, you are not a slave to it. There is a large component of it that you CAN influence. For better or worse. Most people do it for worse…

It might take some people a bit longer to recover from a “poor metabolism”, but EVERYONE can change it for the better.

What is also means is this…

Your so-called “ageing metabolism”, has in fact got nothing to do with age, but the many years you’ve spent with bad eating and exercise habits.

So, what determines this metabolic balance point? And what exactly is your body adapting or responding to?

What Happens When You Lose Weight?

“Adaptive Thermogenesis relates to two different set points with a settling between them.

  1. During early weight loss, the first set is related to depleted glycogen stores associated with the fall in insulin secretion where AT adds to meet brain’s energy needs.
  2. During maintenance of reduced weight, the second set is related to low leptin levels keeping energy expenditure low to prevent triglyceride stores getting too low which is a risk for some basic biological functions (e.g., reproduction).” (Muller, et al, 2016)

In the early days of losing weight, the adaptive thermogenesis response is all to do with blood glucose levels, the glucose levels stored inside your muscles and insulin levels. It’s all about preserving energy for the brain. If the brains needs are met, metabolism is sweet. If these start getting a bit low, your body will start making some changes.

We discuss controlling the outcome of the first “set” i.e. response to glucose and insulin a section a bit further below.

Later on though, it’s all about trying to preserve some fat stores.

As time goes on and you lose some body fat, your body starts pushing back against you. As far as your body is concerned, it doesn’t know you are trying to get a sick striated ab line for the beach this summer, it just thinks you are slowly starving yourself to death. So, in response to this, it slows your metabolism down to conserve energy.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is thinking you can have a 6 pack all year round!!

Everyone thinks that bodybuilders and fitness models are in competition shape all year round, and this simply isn’t the case!! In fact, your fitspo’s feed is taken up of 1000 pics they took 2 weeks out from their comp, they’ve just been milking the same photo shoot for the past 10 months!!


This is why people who have competed in bodybuilding wreck themselves metabolically during the process. Guys end up with the testosterone levels of a nat. And women tend to disrupt their cycles and rebound with their weight…hard. This brought about the buzz term “metabolic damage” that was all the rage in the industry a few years back.

Everybody blamed their prep coach, when really it was just a consequence of competing in a sport demands super low levels of body fat.

But, through all of that? ALL of them can make a recovery.

Same goes the other way when you carry a bit too much body fat for too long. The body’s response and response time is a bit off, and it might take some finessing to get there. But it DOES get there.

Easy come easy go. Don’t diet too hard. Don’t diet too long. Any extreme one way or the other is bad.

You can push it too far sometimes and it might seem a bit broken. But it ALWAYS CAN RECOVER.

Take home message:

  1. Your goal shouldn’t be to get too lean and stay there.
  2. Be patient at the start if you have been overweight for a period

It is always a shifting and changing process and your metabolism will always adapt. You are never a slave to it. Use that to your advantage.

What Happens When You Have a High Metabolism?

What’s the deal with your PT or insta hero that can seemingly eat pancakes and burgers every week and NOT GET FAT?

We all knew that one person growing up that seemingly ate their household out of food and gained ZERO weight. What is really going on with someone who has a “high metabolism” where they create this metabolic trickery where the laws of energy in energy out don’t seem to apply.

“Metabolically, AT has been explained by the ratio of glycolytic to oxidative enzymes together with an altered efficiency of free fatty acid oxidation in skeletal muscle, “futile” cycles consuming ATP without a net change in products (e.g. hydrolysis of triglycerides and subsequent re-esterification in adipocytes), changes in the ATP-costs per muscle contraction, mitochondrial uncoupling in brown adipose tissue, energy-consuming pathways like lipogenesis, NEAT and/or partitioning of energy to fat mass or FFM [3]. These mechanisms are considered to be under genetic and hormonal control, i.e. by insulin, leptin, thyroid hormones and sympathetic nervous system (SNS) activity.”(Muller, et al, 2016)

English Translation:

In people with a high metabolism, their bodies respond differently to an increase in calorie intake. Their body will essentially burn through energy with “futile” energy consuming reactions.

This is the metabolic version of spinning its wheels.

Or digging a hole then filling it back up again, then digging a hole then filling it back up. It wastes energy, and doesn’t change anything.

Just like the above though, don’t think for a second that those with a high metabolism get away with this forever. It does catch up with them if they do it for too long.

This is why you’ll find those that are lean and post a lot of pics about the “crap” they eat, actually eat pretty controlled the rest of the time.

It’s all about finding a sweet spot. Getting lean enough without getting too lean. Being able to plan and overconsume without “over” consuming.


Now the moment you’ve all been waiting for, what is it that regulates this mystical Adaptive Thermogenesis?

How do you turn YOUR metabolism from a Datsun 1200y (if you get that reference, you are too old, welcome to the club) in to a high performance sports car?

“Regulation of AT has been related to changes in the composition of FFM (i.e. a change in the proportion of high metabolic rate organs to muscle mass as well as tissue hydration), reduced endocrine signals from triiodothyronine (T3), insulin and SNS activity and/or a reduced feedback from adipocytes brought about by a fall in leptin secretion.”(Muller, et al, 2016)

What this again means in English…Your AT is regulated mainly by

  • Fat Free Mass – muscle and high metabolic rate organs as well as tissue hydration
  • Thyroid
  • Insulin
  • Sympathetic Nervous System (i.e. adrenalin, cortisol)
  • Fat Hormones i.e. Leptin is a fat released hormone that tells the brain if you are “full” or “hungry” and also controls metabolism

In other words, you need more muscle. AND you need optimisation of your body’s hormone system.

The most important point here:

ALL of these processes are controlled by more than just your “energy” intake. Yes, genetics has a lot to do with it, but hormones make up an intricate part of a huge overall network woven together and dependant upon one another in complex networks and feedback loops.

In other words, these hormones are governed by more than just your calories, so there’s more to the picture of your overall metabolism than just your calorie intake.

For you though. What you need to know right now:

  • You need to lift weights
  • You need to carefully construct your diet to not only create an effective negative energy balance
  • You need to do so while optimising the right hormonal balance.

On top of the relative factors we have discussed so far on energy intake, you now need to add in carefully constructing your macronutrient intake.

KEY IMPORTANT SCIENCY THING NUMBER 3: There’s More To It Than Just The Calories

“We assume that in early starvation, lower thresholds of (i) liver glycogen or (ii) negative fluid balance associated with glycogen depletion trigger AT. It is tempting to speculate that this early response is related to energy needs of the brain (i.e. brains metabolism requires 80 to 100 g glucose per day). By contrast, AT does not occur after glycogen depletion in response to an isocaloric ketogenic diet and moderate weight loss” (Muller, et al, 2016)

As hinted at previously, this is a crucial element, as it raises the point that creating this optimal environment and negative energy balance is more than just “calories”.

What this is saying is that you can actually offset some of the negative aspects of AT when you keep the calories the same on a lower carb diet

This might also contribute to partially explain why lower carb diets work better in the short term compared with higher carb diets when calories and fluid changes are equated for.

Basically, Macro’s Matter. Not just the “calories”.

In fact, when reviewing these and other aspects of true energy intake, Macro’s matter MORE than calories. Focus on hitting your macro targets as a priority and place this in the context of your overall calorie intake.

When it comes to maximising your metabolism:

  • You want a diet that maximises food intake while creating an optimal energy deficit (i.e. optimising Thermic Effect of Feeding, etc)
  • You want a diet that controls blood sugar and glycogen levels without adversely affecting Adaptive Thermogenesis
  • You want a diet that promotes lean mass and optimisation of fat loss hormones without disrupting your hormonal balance
  • You can do all of this by correctly calculating out your macronutrient values for your given calorie intake.


Adaptive Thermogenesis is not a life sentence, it’s a constant fluid and shifting progress. This is one of the reasons why no diet works forever and constantly needs to be changed depending on how your body is adapting.

It is under the influence of muscle, food intake and hormones. It’s about energy balance, but this energy balance is more than just calories, as the things that influence AT are also the composition of those calories and the effect these also have on muscle, hormones, etc.

Let’s Bring it Back Real Simple, The Take home messages so far on AT

  1. Don’t Starve Yourself to weight loss, mild calorie restrictions
  2. Planned Diet Breaks and refeeds can help to normalise your AT response and increase the energy you burn during exercise
  3. Optimise Your Hormones
  4. Your Macronutrient Amounts / Ratio’s Matter – There are more ways to create a deficit than just eating less as the “energy out” part of the equation is a lot more complex than people originally think.

You can cheat the system, or you can break the system. A broken system means you have slowed everything down or metabolically changed how your body responds to different stimulus i.e. type II diabetes or insulin resistance, you don’t get the same responses as someone with a higher tolerance to higher calorie intake and insulin sensitivity for example.


You’ve now finally created yourself a successful energy deficit!!

Only one little problem remains…


Final part of the series we discover Energy Partitioning and how you can wire your metabolism to tap in to body fat and preserve your hard earned lean mass.


Müller MJ, Enderle J, Bosy-Westphal A. Changes in Energy Expenditure with Weight Gain and Weight Loss in Humans. Curr Obes Rep. 2016;5(4):413-423. doi:10.1007/s13679-016-0237-4

Why “Diets” Fail: Part II

The Science Corner

Part II – Dieting Paradox: Eat Less Burn Less, Eat More Burn More

Last instalment we introduced you to the concept of Adaptive Thermogenesis or how your body responds to different energy intakes.

The take home messages of Adaptive Thermogenesis were:

In a Negative Energy Balance – your body will adapt to burn LESS energy

In a Positive Energy Balance – your body will adapt to burn MORE energy

This instalment we peel another layer off and see what exactly is being affected, which aspects of your energy out are getting influenced the most, and how you can use this to your advantage to EAT MORE and BURN MORE.

We’ll also learn how these adaptations can work AGAINST YOU and prevent you from achieving your fat loss goals.

So, if you’ve ever gone on a diet and been disheartened by the amount – or lack thereof – of fat loss, this is super important for you to get to know.

To understand what is happening and what is the best way to combat it, we need to expand a little bit on what we have learned so far. The reason we need to go this step further is because Adaptive Thermogenesis affects some of these in different ways.

Key Important Sciency Thing Number 1

As we learned last week, Adaptive Thermogenesis refers to changes in how much energy you burn each day, namely:

  • The Resting Component of your energy expenditure
  • The Non Resting Component of your energy expenditure

The Resting component, REE, of your energy expenditure can actually be further broken down in to two parts

  1. Resting Energy Expenditure (REE we talked about last week)
  2. Diet Induced Thermogenesis (DIT)

Again, don’t be confused by the heavy science terms and acronyms!! All this means is simply the following:

  • Your body burns energy while at rest.
  • And it burns energy when you eat.

These are the only two ways your body can burn energy when you aren’t doing activity.

You’ve probably heard me talk about diet induced thermogenesis in the past in another way, Thermic Effect of Feeding. Or, another way to say it, It Takes Energy to Make Energy. This is basically the energy cost that goes in to digesting, extracting, etc energy out of the foods you eat.

The Non Resting component, nREE, can be broken down in to:

  1. Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (EAT)
  2. Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT)

Exercise Activity Thermogenesis is pretty straight forward, it’s just the energy burned during exercise. NEAT is pretty much any and all of the rest of the activity you do each day that isn’t classified as “exercise”.

Realistically your body doesn’t distinguish between what you would call “Excercise” and any other activity. Do you really think your body is thinking that walk you took along the river is exercise, compared to you walking around the shops and saying, no, no, no that one was EAT, this one is NEAT?…No! For all intents and purposes for these definitions, think of any activity that is of a higher level of movement and intensity as Exercise and anything that is lower intensity as incidental day to day activity as NEAT. As rubbish as I think these definitions are, they’re important to the story later.

So, if it’s all starting to get a little confusing, let me bring it back to basics real quick.

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It’s actually pretty simple and straightforward. Just kind of gets made to sound complicated.

Why do you need to know this? Well, you don’t really…But, it is important to understand because how each of these respond to a negative and positive energy balance is slightly different. So it’s important to make the distinction now instead of later.

See! Now you have a full understanding of everything that makes up your “energy out’ part of the equation when you look at “energy in / energy out”

But again, if you think fat loss is simply a matter of “energy in / energy out” we still haven’t finished our discussion yet, so read on.

Now let’s look more closely at exactly how Adaptive Thermogenesis affects your weight loss efforts by affecting these factors. As you are going to find out, calculating your “calorie deficit” starts to become a little more complicated…

Key Important Sciency Thing Number 2

What Happens In Calorie Restriction

When you cut down your calories and create a Negative Energy Balance, this affects ALL of the energy out side of the equation, but mainly has an affect on your Resting Energy Expenditure.

That means your Resting Energy Expenditure (REE), your Diet Induced Thermogenesis (DIT) AND your Activity Energy Expenditure (AEE) are ALL influenced by this process.

You are essentially burning LESS energy for doing the SAME things!! And you burn less when you are doing nothing!

This has been reproduced again and again in numerous studies over the years – decades even…

“Sixty-five years ago, the Minnesota Starvation Experiment was the first quantitative description of AT in humans [5••]. Since then, AT has been reproduced in experimental and clinical studies on weight loss. AT varied between 100 and 500 kcal/day, it is observed in lean as well as overweight subjects. AT is independent of the weight loss strategy.” (Muller, et al, 2016)

100-500 calories a day!! That’s huge!! That’s how much a difference in your energy deficit this can make, even for just doing the same things! Have you ever tried cutting 500 calories from your diet before? That’s 1/3 of some peoples current calorie intake, even more for others already on a Jenny Craig 1200 calorie weight loss plan.

Also, this was independent of weight loss strategy! INDEPENDENT of weight loss strategy. Meaning you can’t escape this. It doesn’t matter what diet cult you subscribe to, if you are cutting down the overall calories, this WILL AFFECT YOU TOO.

There are some methods which circumvent this a little more than others, but we will discuss these in the future instalments.

So, pretty much it doesn’t matter who you are, if you cut your calories too much, or for too long, your body will actually slow down how much energy it burns. This could even cost you hundreds of calories worth of energy each day!!!

What Happens In Overfeeding

In the converse of this, the stupid thing is, when you overeat, your weight gain is often LESS than what is really expected from the amount of “calories” you have overconsumed.

Here’s where the effects of Adaptive Thermogenesis behave a little differently by influencing only specific factors. When you over consume your energy, this mainly affects the Non Resting Energy Expenditure.

“With continuous overfeeding, body energy stored was 60–75 % of excess energy leaving the rest for an increase in EE which was explained by obligatory costs (e.g. for gaining body protein, increased cost of walking, etc.” (Muller, et al, 2016)

Again, this is HUGE!!!! 25-40% of the excess energy consumed…pfffff…gone. NOT stored as fat. It was put as an increased cost of exercise. They burned MORE energy during activity.

If you’ve ever seen your PT or insta hero post pictures of their Nutella pancakes, and you think “how can they get away with it” it’s because their metabolism really does kick up a gear and their body will actually BURN MORE energy during their next workout to compensate for it.

I’ll say it again. Their bodies BURN MORE ENERGY than usual during their next workouts

Key part here though, there is different with a short term over feed as opposed to long term, or continuous overfeeding.

What Happens When Your Metabolism is Broken?

Why is it sometimes then some people just sniff a piece of chocolate and they gain 5kg of fat? Or why is it that people that are carrying a little more weight are dieting so hard and so strict but they don’t seem to lose any?

If you want to know how powerful Adaptive Thermogenesis can be, it can “explain about 50% of the less than expected weight loss in obese people that go on a diet” (Muller, et al, 2016).

Read that last sentence again, and then think of all the times you have tried to go on any sort of diet you thought was a failure, or didn’t get the results you were expecting.

It again, all comes back to what we are talking about above, but the body has lost it’s ability to adjust correctly to the same stimuli.

If you have overfed yourself for too long, been dieting for too long, or too hard by dropping calories too much, you will find that some of these processes have become a little…messed up…They don’t respond the way you want them too. It’s not like they’re broken beyond repair (remember it always adapts and finds a balance point) it just might take a little extra time and careful planning to get there.

What Happens When It Is Controlled?

“During controlled overfeeding, the non-resting component of EE, i.e. EAT increases at unchanged NEAT” (Muller, et al, 2016)

And this is a really important point. This means the energy you burn during exercise actually increases when you do controlled overfeeding. But the controlled overfeeding won’t change your NEAT.

You will burn MORE energy than usual when you exercise. But the energy you burn during your other normal daily activities still stays the same. So, by definition, exercise is not classified as just a regular walk. But something a bit more strenuous.

You picking up what I’m putting down here?? For the slower ones who haven’t figured it out yet…There should be periods of controlled overfeeding, AND…YOU HAVE TO FREAKING EXERCISE when you do it.

You will actually burn MORE calories if you do this. You can’t just keep trying to cut your calories more and more and more to lose weight!!!!

When you eat more, you will burn more during exercise. If you want to see this in action, give a child some lollies and see what happens…You eat more, your body will have energy to do more. And it will burn more while doing this activity. Don’t starve yourself and try to train hard. Again, think of your PT and his stupid visits to Cowch almost weekly for dessert…

All of this sounds dumb so far though right?

If you want to lose weight, you have to go in to a calorie restriction. But if you go in to a calorie restriction you won’t burn as much energy, and you want to burn MORE energy in order to create this deficit. But you burn more when you eat more, but you can’t eat more because you are trying to create this deficit…so, what the heck do you do?

This is the cycle so many people find themselves in…They want to lose weight, so they restrict calories. But then this weight loss stalls. So then they restrict calories. But the weight loss stalls. Soon they’re at the point where they’re eating next to nothing, but the scales aren’t moving and they’re still a loooong way off of their dream figure.

So What GIVES???!!!

The picture is slowly starting to form though.

  • You need periods of controlled calorie restriction (no drastic calorie drops or detox)
  • Controlled and planned segments of refeeding or “diet breaks”.
  • You need to make sure you are doing this in conjunction with a well planned exercise program.

See. Simple. Easy. But there’s a bit more to this picture still…

Next instalment you will go even deeper and understand what’s really happening inside your body to control this Adaptive Thermogenesis and how you can further manipulate it to make it work FOR you NOT AGAINST you.


The energy you burn at rest is divided up in to your resting metabolism and also the energy you burn from eating food.

The energy you burn through activity is divided up in to the energy cost of exercise and the energy from any other activity.

When you under consume your calories, your body will BURN LESS energy for doing the same things. This affects ALL of the energy out side of the equation.

When you over consume your calories, your body will BURN MORE energy when you exercise.

Controlled periods of overfeeding will actually INCREASE the amount of energy your burn during exercise and less of this excess will be stored.

But you must do this in conjunction with exercise.

Müller MJ, Enderle J, Bosy-Westphal A. Changes in Energy Expenditure with Weight Gain and Weight Loss in Humans. Curr Obes Rep. 2016;5(4):413-423. doi:10.1007/s13679-016-0237-4

Why “Diets” Fail: Part I

The Science Corner

Part 1 – “The Diet Catch 22”

Trying to lose fat? You’re most likely doing it wrong…

In this series, we are going to dive a bit deeper in to the actual science behind some of the changes that take place in your body when dieting and answer some of the most important fat loss questions.

Why calorie restriction isn’t the answer to long term fat loss

Why you are eating too little to lose fat

How you are setting yourself up to fail in the long term

If you’ve ever heard the term Yo Yo Dieting, Slowed Metabolism, Metabolic Damage, Rebound Dieting…basically these are all referring to the same thing. If you diet too hard, or for too long, you 1) either find it harder to lose fat and / or 2) you get even fatter when you go off your “diet”.

This is the main reason why health professionals don’t recommend you go on any “fad” diets. Or any sort of eating plan with only a short term dramatic outlook (*cough* detox *cough*…)

Bottom line is this, if you want long term success in fat loss. You can’t just focus on restricting calories over the long term.

You can’t restrict calories too much.

And you can’t restrict calories for too long.

Which brings us to the Catch 22…

The Catch 22 lies in the fact that – if you want to lose weight – you are going to have to create some kind of deficit. But in order to create this deficit, most people will restrict how much they are eating in an effort to “cut calories”. Which is what most people would call a diet.

But if you restrict calories, you slow your metabolism down and end up burning less energy than you were before. So, after a period of time, you’re now no longer in a deficit.

So you have to restrict calories even more now to create a new deficit. But if you do, then your metabolism slows down, so you restrict more which you can’t do now, because there’s nothing left to give…aaaaand now you’re screwed…

Not only that, if you do go back to what you were eating before, you will also end up fatter than where you started, because the baseline amount of energy you are burning now is less than before.

BUT in order to lose weight you needed to create some kind of deficit…See how it gets confusing?

So what the heck is actually going on here? How do you really go about creating an environment that helps you lose fat AND not wreck your metabolism in the process?

Don’t worry. Of course I hold the answers, and we’ll eventually get there on how you can also make this work to your advantage.

But first, the boring bits you unfortunately need to understand, otherwise everything else later on won’t make sense.


To understand how your body changes and adapts to your food intake, we need to start from the beginning.

The amount of energy your body burns through each day can be simply divided up in to 2 main categories

1) Resting Energy Expenditure (REE)
2) Non Resting Energy Expenditure (nREE)

This is the fancy way of saying that your lazy lump of a body still uses energy, even when you’re not doing anything. They just decided to call it REE. The energy you burn while at rest. As you can imagine, this isn’t as much energy as when you are actually moving…which is called Non Resting Energy Expenditure or nREE. Genius right?!!

These things aren’t as basic as they appear on the surface, and I will be exploring these in more details in the future, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. This is all you need to know for now. REE and nREE. Just nerd words for simple concepts.


Your body will change the amount of energy it burns at rest and during exercise through something known as ADAPTIVE THERMOGENESIS

“Adaptive Thermogenesis limits changes in energy stores in response to varying energy intake and / or Energy Expenditure.” (Muller et al, 2016)

Which again – freaking scientists, am I right? – is an unnecessarily complicated way of saying your body will resist what you try and do to it. Your body doesn’t like change. It’s like me as I get older. It resists any change and it is always right.

So, if you diet too hard, or for too long it will try and preserve itself. I know, I know, this is nothing new. People have been saying this for years. But, you know what, no one’s listening properly and every few years some new “guru” comes out with a fancy new term that creates a revolution in the diet industry (metabolic damage I’m looking at you) and people lose their minds like they’re the new messiah. So PAY ATTENTION!!

Here’s the simple math



You take in less energy, your body will change to burn less energy

You eat too much, your body will actually burn more

Adaptive Thermogenesis does this by:

Negative Energy Balance – AT will affect mainly your Resting Energy Expenditure, your body will burn less even when you are doing less

Positive Energy Balance – AT will affect mainly your Non Resting Energy Expenditure, your body will actually burn MORE when you do exercise

Negative Energy State:

When you “diet” by restricting calories, you will mainly affect your Resting Energy Expenditure. This is what people refer to as a slowing metabolism. Basically, the worst thing you can do to try and lose weight is to just cut calories and make no changes anywhere else.

Positive Energy State:

When you overconsume calories – at least in the short term – your body will dissipate a lot of this excess energy when you are performing exercise. Simply, the energy you burn during a workout will be MORE when you over consume your calories compared to a workout when you under consume.

So, remember our Catch 22 again? You need to eat less to create an energy deficit in order to lose fat. But if you do, your body will burn less energy, which means it will be harder to lose fat. But you need to create an energy deficit, but if you do….

And it all comes down to the concept of Adaptive Thermogenesis.

Sounds like you’re wasting your time doesn’t it?? Well, if your only approach to losing fat is simply cutting calories, then yes, you are setting yourself up to fail in the long term, but potentially causing yourself some long term effects that will not only make it harder for you to lose fat in the future, but will also most likely make you fatter in the long run.

Remember, there are two sides to the energy equation. There is energy in and there is energy out. What people sometimes forget is this is an INTERDEPENDENT relationship.

Meaning, your energy out is actually dependent upon your energy in!

And most people still think of this equation in simple black and white terms “I need to burn more energy than I consume, therefore I will cut calories”. Which may get you results in the short term, don’t get me wrong. But it also comes at a cost down the road. What they’re not realising is just by cutting calories, they are affecting the “energy out” side of the equation and are actually burning less!

The other problem is, if you over eat for too long or overeat the wrong types of foods, you can also mess up some of these processes. Damaging your metabolism is when your body stops responding to these changes in energy intake in the appropriate fashion.

How someone who is overweight responds to changes in energy balance is actually different than someone who is leaner. An overweight person WON’T have the same energy dissipation response to overfeeding as a leaner individual as they have essentially broken their metabolic response system. But again, I digress…

If this has raised more questions than it has answered so far, then good!!! It should have. Because there are answers to all of these problems and more.

What is actually happening in Adaptive Thermogenesis? What does it actually mean when someone says your metabolism is slow? And more importantly, what the heck can you actually do about it so you don’t get stuck in the same cycle of “dieting” over and over again with limited success.

In the next instalment we will be exploring Adaptive Thermogenesis in more detail and look at what is really happening inside your body. We’ll further break down your REE and nREE and see how they adapt and behave to different energy intakes and explore how you can even INCREASE the amount of energy you burn when you eat more.

For now though, let’s summarise what we looked at today.


Your body burns energy each day both while resting and during activity. These are called Resting Energy Expenditure (REE) and Non Resting Energy Expenditure (nREE).

Adaptive Thermogenesis is your bodies response to energy intake to try and preserve its energy stores.

Negative Energy Balance equals less energy you will burn (mainly affecting resting metabolism or REE)

Energy Surplus equals more energy burned (usually during exercise or your nREE)


Müller MJ, Enderle J, Bosy-Westphal A. Changes in Energy Expenditure with Weight Gain and Weight Loss in Humans. Curr Obes Rep. 2016;5(4):413-423. doi:10.1007/s13679-016-0237-4

10 Science Backed Ways To Boost Your Testosterone Naturally

Guys! It’s seriously time we had a talk. It is time to you gently open your man purse, carefully retrieve your testicles, and reattach them where they belong!

There is an epidemic sweeping men and it is increasing at an alarming rate.

And no. It’s got nothing to do with Clementine Ford or Gillette.

This is serious.

I’m talking about your Testosterone levels. 

And it is a hormone that is decreasing to levels that is literally destroying your health and wellbeing.

Chronically low testosterone levels are becoming an epidemic of sweeping proportions and it has serious health consequences.

This coming week during The Silver Fox Project is Testosterone week, and we are going to look at what testosterone does, the downside of having too little, and the scientifically proven ways you can increase yours NATURALLY.

Why Is Testosterone So Important For Your Health?

Testosterone is one of – if not THE MOST – important hormones for men.

Despite the public fascination with it, and even the negative connotations that come up these days with “too much” testosterone or “testosterone fuelled behaviour” (I’m looking at you toxic masculinity), it seriously is one of the most important hormones for health and function in men.

Honestly, so much good stuff happens with optimum levels of testosterone.

  • Increased Strength and Muscle Mass
  • Increased Bone Health
  • Decreased Body Fat
  • Better Heart Health and Decreased Risk Type II Diabetes
  • Increased Sex Drive
  • Improved Mood

“Testosterone regulates sex drive (libido), bone mass, fat distribution, muscle mass and strength, and the production of red blood cells and sperm.” (Wein)

“Testosterone has a critical role in the modulation of adult male reproductive health, sexual function, bone health, fat metabolism, and muscle mass and strength” (McBride, 2016)

I know. That all sounds absolutely amazing. But, there is one BIGGGG problem…

Your Testosterone Levels Are Dropping…Fast.

Some of it is due to ageing…

In fact, as men age, Testosterone levels naturally drop about 1% to 2% each year 

“Testosterone levels also decrease with age as rapidly as 0.4–2% annually after age 30 years” (Harman et al. 2001; Kaufman and Vermeulen, 2005; Wu et al. 2008)

But. Test levels are declining even more rapidly than this. Men just aren’t the men they used to be.

“Even up to 13% of older age men are meeting diagnostic levels for hypogonadism (small testicles)” (McBride, 2016)

It’s a freaking epidemic affecting SO MANY areas of our health and, quite frankly, not enough people are talking about.

You may think “so, what’s the big deal?” Well it IS a big deal. Low Testosterone levels are like Kryptonite for guys.

“The majority of clinical symptoms associated with hypogonadism in ageing men can be categorised as sexual or nonsexual:

Sexual symptoms include:

  • Low Sex Drive
  • Low Sperm Count and Infertility
  • Decreased Frequency of Sexual Thoughts
  • Decreased Frequency or Rigidity of Nocturnal Erections
  • Erectile Dysfunction  [Morelli et al. 2007; Corona et al. 2014].

Nonsexual symptoms include

  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Decreased Energy
  • Poor Concentration
  • Decreased Sense of Well-Being
  • Depressed Mood, Decreased Vitality [Bhasin et al. 2010; Buvat et al. 2010]. 

Additional signs often associated with symptomatic hypogonadism include:

  • Increased Risk of Heart Disease and Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Decreased Muscle Mass and Strength
  • Increased Breast Size
  • Decreased Bone-Mineral Density (BMD)
  • Osteoporosis
  • Hot Flashes, and Mild Anemia [Dohle et al. 2012].

Sounds terrible right?

Yeah…It Is…

Here are some more fun facts

Central obesity, hypertriglyceridemia, low high-density lipid cholesterol, hypertension, or insulin resistance, has been highly associated with TD and low SHBG levels (Cunningham, 2015), in up to 50–70% of patients” (Vermeulen et al. 1993; Wu et al. 2010; McBride, 2016)

No wonder Testosterone Replacement Therapy has grown exponentially and turned to a billion dollar industry over the last few years.

So what are the things destroying your testosterone?

Well, like most things these days, it’s actually your lifestyle that is damaging you in so many more ways than your natural ageing is.

Here are some of the common culprits. Let me know if you tick any one or more of the following boxes…

  • Lack of Exercise
  • Carrying Too Much Body Fat
  • Too Much Alcohol
  • Not Enough Sleep
  • Stress
  • Restricting Calories Too Much
  • Not Enough Vitamin D and Zinc
  • Restricting Fat Intake Too Much
  • Overtraining

What Can You Do About It?

Sounds like it’s all bad news right? Well, it is. But here’s the good news. It doesn’t have to be that way.

As mentioned above, natural age related changes do occur, BUT!!! When you look at all of the other factors, you can see these are Lifestyle Related!

Meaning YOU HAVE CONTROL over them. Pretty simple. All the things you are doing that is killing your Test levels, do the opposite…

I know right. Mind Blowing.

So, without further ado, here are 10 Science Backed Approaches to Boosting Your Testosterone Levels, NATURALLY!

1) Exercise!!!

Probably the most obvious on the list, but also one of the most important. Strength exercise and Endurance exercises both boost testosterone levels, albeit briefly. Research has shown increases up to 20%. For guys, Higher Intensity (i.e. weights and HIIT) work better. (Jewell, 2019)

2) Don’t Get Too Fat

I have written about this in previous articles, but your fat cells are not just a storage dump for excess calories. Your fat cells are in fact an endocrine organ. Meaning they respond to, and also release hormones. Estrogen is one such hormone that gets released from your fat cells. Being too fat inhibits Testosterone and increases Estrogen levels. Obese individuals have been found to have as much as 30-50% decrease in testosterone. Man Boobs anyone?? (Arnarson, 2017, Barham, 2018)

3) Don’t Restrict Calories Too Much Or For Too Long

Proper nutrition and also the nutrition around your workout can all influence your testosterone levels. (Kraemer, 1998, Barhum, 2018) That is why on The Silver Fox Project we consistently have scheduled diet breaks so we don’t stay in any sort of calorie deficit for too long.

4) Don’t Eliminate Fat Completely From Your Diet

And don’t eliminate saturated fat from your diet. Overall try not to get below about 20% of total calories from fat. (Fantus, et al, 2020)

5) Get Enough Sleep

Getting less than 7 hours sleep each night results in you having the testosterone levels of someone 10 years older . Your test levels can drop by as much as 15-20% if you are chronically sleep deprived. (Walker, 2018) This drop happens FAST too, another study round “after only 1 week of restricted sleep, daytime testosterone levels dropped by up to 15 percent.” (Barhum, 2018)

6) Avoid Excessive Alcohol

Do I really need to elaborate?

7) Manage Stress

Cortisol is your “chronic stress” hormone and elevated levels can destroy your Testosterone levels. These two are so tightly linked, scientists will often refer to something called your Testosterone – Cortisol ratio. Simple equation, Increased Cortisol = Lower Test Levels. Finding a way to manage your stress is ESSENTIAL.

8) Don’t Overtrain

To be honest, not a problem I usually encounter with the general population. But also still important for those who always think that “more is better” is the way to go.

9) Get Some Sun

Vitamin D levels can affect your testosterone levels. Aim for approx 10-30min of outdoors per day. (Raman, 2018)

10) Take Supplements. Well, Not Really, But Maybe… 

As much as some people increase their levels in a less than legal way (cough steroids, cough), it is human nature to want to find an easier way, or some magic pill they can take to increase their levels. Unfortunately, when it comes to supplementation there is limited research showing supplementation works. Actual Testosterone Replacement Therapy can definitely be indicated if you are clinically diagnosed with hypogonadism and medically tested situations. Encouragingly, there still are a few supplements that have at least some research to show they can help improve test levels. Keep in mind, there is often conflicting evidence and the amount these can work varies. But here are some that have shown more positive research than some others.

The Supplement Quick List:

  • Zinc
  • Magnesium
  • Creatine
  • Vitamin D
  • Melatonin

(Chase 2020)

Tribulus is popular testosterone boosting supplement, but there has been no real proven benefit in the literature.

“The results of a few studies have showed that the combination of TT with other pharmacological components increases testosterone levels, but it was not discovered which components of the mixture contributed to that effect…So far, the published data concerning TT do not provide strong evidence for either usefulness or safe usage in sport.” (Pokrywka, 2014)


If you’ve been keeping up to date with ANYTHING I have been writing over the last 15 years or so you’ll see a trend. There is a LOT of overlap on the RIGHT THINGS YOU SHOULD BE DOING when it comes to fat loss, increasing muscle, improving health, function and decreasing risk of injury. The things you you should be doing to feel younger, to look better and to move better.

It always comes back to some basic, core fundamental principles. It’s no secret that ALL of these core principles are the foundation and primary focus in The Silver Fox Project.

I’ve worked hard over the years developing these concepts in to the right balance that is easily accessible for everybody, especially as we age and “life” gets in the way. And, ironically, is when we need it more than ever.

If you are interested in learning more, or wanting to know how to optimally implement these strategies in to your own lifestyle, click on here for more information about The Silver Fox Project

The Silver Fox Information Pack


Testosterone Deficiency in the Ageing Male, J. Abram McBride, Culley C. Carson, III, and Robert M. Coward Ther Adv Urol. 2016 Feb; 8(1): 47–60.

How do you boost testosterone naturally? July 18, 2018  — Written by Lana Barhum

‘Testosterone Boosting’ Supplements Composition and Claims Are not Supported by the Academic Literature Chase G. Clemesha,1 Hatim Thaker,2 and Mary K. Samplaski2 World J Mens Health. 2020 Jan; 38(1): 115–122.

Insights into Supplements with Tribulus Terrestris used by Athletes 2014 Andrzej Pokrywka,1 Zbigniew Obmiński,2 Jadwiga Malczewska-Lenczowska,3 Zbigniew Fijałek,4 Ewa Turek-Lepa,1 and Ryszard Grucza5

Increased Risk of Hypogonadal Symptoms in Shift Workers with Shift Work Sleep Disorder.Balasubramanian A1, Kohn TP2, Santiago JE3, Sigalos JT4, Kirby EW5, Hockenberry MS5, Pickett SM6, Pastuszak AW7, Lipshultz LI8.Urology. 2020 Jan 6. 

Hormonal Responses to consecutive days of heavy resistance exercise with or without nutritional supplementation. Kraemer, WJ, Volek JS, Bush JA, Putukian M, Sebastian W J App Physiol 1998

The Association Between Popular Diets and Serum Testosterone Among Men In The United States. Fantus RJ, Halpern JA, Chang C, Keeter MK, Bennett NE, Halfand B, Brannigan RE J Urol 2020

Effects of Vitamin D3 Supplementation for 12 weeks on serum levels of anabolic hormones, anaerobic power, and aerobic performance in active male subjects: A rondomised, double blind, placebo controlled trial. Ramezani AA, Mohammadshahi M, Alizadeh A, Ahmadi AK, Jahanshahi A Eur J Sport Sci 2020




Why We Sleep 2018 Matthew Walker


3 Things You Absolutely Must Do If You Want To Strip Fat After 40

Yep. Getting older sucks. Gone are the days when all you needed to see some abs was to lay off the junk for a few days. It’s harder to lose that belly fat for sure.

Harder…But not impossible. Here are the 3 most important things you need to do to strip fat after 40. 

1. Boost Your Ageing Metabolism

It’s no secret your metabolism slows as you get older. Everyone talks about it. But no one really knows what to do about it. 

Your metabolism is tied closely to a few things. Age, Sex, Energy Intake, Muscle Mass, Body Fat, Stress Levels, Lack of sleep, Hormonal Profile…no wonder why it’s so confusing!

Unfortunately, there’s a little bit more to fat loss than just dropping a few calories. This becomes even more apparent as you get older.

One of the biggest mistakes people make in their fat loss efforts as they age is they drop their food too much. You might not actually be eating enough food as it is – or not enough of the right food anyway – and that might be precisely part of the problem!

Truth is there are specific strategies available to maximise your food intake, boost your metabolism AND decrease body fat all at the same time. Specific nutrition principles that work to help you eat more food and consume less while doing it. In fact, one of the biggest problems most people have at the beginning of the The Silver Fox program is they can’t fit all the food in! If you want your metabolism firing on all cylinders, you need to learn how to eat more. Not less. 

The other major component you can influence here is obviously the type of exercise you do. You want to focus on exercise that will work to boost lean mass and strip body fat. Exercise strategies that work to not only maximise energy burned during the workout. But for hours after as well. Up to 4-7% increase over a 24 hour period in some instances. These are the kinds or workouts you want to focus on and these are types of workouts we also focus on during the program. 

Boosting your metabolism is therefore critical. And you CAN influence it in a large number of different ways. Nutrition and Exercise are just two of these. There are also ties to the following factors. 

2. Boost Your Failing Hormones

Two problems here. Getting older sucks. And the lifestyle that comes with being and adult sucks. And – once again – these are all working against you.

Unfortunately, the hormones that stimulate Fat Loss, Boost Metabolism and Increase Lean Muscle Mass DECREASE.

While hormones that promote Fat Gain, Decrease Metabolism, and Decrease Muscle Mass INCREASE. 

Hormones – such as testosterone – that are critical for muscle mass and body fat loss, naturally decline with ageing. To compound the problem, modern lifestyle, lack of activity, lack of sleep and stress all work to further promote the decline and make the situation worse. 

At the other end of the spectrum, fat storage hormones such as esteogen, cortisol and insulin are usually pumping through your system and make fat loss even harder. They all work to increase fat, decrease muscle mass and decrease your metabolism.

Your literally accelerating the decline of the good and accelerating the increase of the bad. Talk about your proverbial pushing $hit up hill. 

Now, don’t get me wrong. Your overall energy intake is obviously important. BUT it is only important when looked at in conjunction with all of these other factors as well. 

It’s quite often said, it’s not just about calorie intake, but calories PLUS hormone optimisation that’s critical. 

And this is getting worse as you get older!

Fortunately it’s not all bad news. And the “lifestyle” part of that whole equation has a much greater effect than the natural age related changes do. So, it’s all in your power!

Unfortunately most people only focus on one or two of the critical aspects affecting your metabolism and hormonal environment. Not the whole picture. 

The Silver Fox Program ensures all your bases are covered and maximises the strategies to optimise nutrition and training to boost metabolism AND optimise your hormonal environment. By implementing these strategies you can literally turn back your body clock and have it functioning as it was years younger. 

As we’ve mentioned a couple of times already. The final missing piece of the puzzle is 

3. Manage your Stress and Sleep

I’ve written extensively about the effects chronic stress hormones like cortisol can have on your metabolism and body fat in the past. 

I’ve also written recently about the effect that chronically under sleeping can have on your metabolism, fat loss, testosterone levels, etc. 

And let’s be honest. These two are BIG lifestyle factors that you definitely can do more about. 

Now, don’t get me wrong. I get it. Life is hard. You have work, family, finances, kids, they’re all not going away soon. And we can’t do too much about those external stressors a lot of the time. But we CAN influence our response to these. And control what we have control over. 

Again, we look to adopt specific strategies that improve your stress and sleep to offset any of the negative effects these can bring. 

Overall. There are many age related changes that are compounded by modern lifestyle. The most important and most powerful of these ARE actually more within your control than you think. 

Even though changes take place as you age, you can influence these more than you think. You’re not a slave to your years and you would be surprised at how much you can change in such a short amount of time if you focus your efforts in the right areas. 

As mentioned previously. Most programs focus on only one or two of these areas. Don’t underestimate the compounding and interdependent effect these can have on each other to magnify your results.

Nutriton + Exercise = great results

But Proper Nutrition + Correct Exercise + Stress Management + Sleep Optimisation = even greater.

It’s like 1+1+1+1=5. 

The Silver Fox Project was developed specifically to combat all of these areas simultaneously. It has all of the nutrition, exercise and lifestyle management strategies to take care of your sluggish metabolism, faltering hormonal system and your stressful and sleepless lifestyle. 

Yep. Getting older sucks.

Or, if you’ve seen the latest Jumanji movie “Getting old is a gift..”

Truth is, are you doing enough to take advantage of that gift?

It’s not too late to join the project. Click here to register.

When Should You Do Your Cardio To Get The Most Fat Loss?

For those that know me, you know all too well how I feel about cardio as a form of training for fat loss.

In fact, I’ve had many people that have prepped for competitions (myself included) that have done zero cardio during the entire prep process. Let’s face it, you don’t have all the time in the day to dedicate to training, so the precious time you do have should be allocated to the most productive means necessary.

When it comes to body composition changes, cardio should be looked at as the icing on the cake, not the cake in itself. Layne Norton has summed up this approach probably the best with the following

“If you’re a bodybuilder and you’re spending more time doing cardio than you do lifting weights, something is wrong”

You don’t have to be a bodybuilder in the competition sense for this to apply to. If your goal is to increase some lean mass and drop body fat, then the same rules apply to you.

With that said, cardio can definitely add extra fire to your fat burning goals if you want to add it in there. But I still see people who miss out on some basic application of cardio principles.

So, if you absolutely must add cardio in to your training mix, one of the most common questions usually comes around to When Is the Best Time To Do My Cardio For Fat Loss?

“Should I do my cardio on an empty stomach first thing in the morning?”

“Should I do my cardio before training?” “After training?”

Here are some simple cardio truths for you:

  1. There is NO EVIDENCE that doing cardio BEFORE weight training causes more fat loss. In fact there is evidence that “performing cardio before weight training actually inhibits resistance training adaptations” (Norton, 2018) This one has been around forever, and makes perfect logical sense when you think about it. Exercises that demand higher skill and higher strength output should ALWAYS be prioritised at the beginning of your session. Exercises and activities that require more endurance and are less demanding skill wise – i.e. repetitive cyclical movements like running, other cardio – should be put at the end of the workout. This ensures the more demanding exercises receive the full attention before your body gets fatigued.
  2. Ideally, you want to do your cardio on separate days to your weight training. If that is not possible, then try and schedule as much time between your cardio sessions than your weight sessions
  3. If all that fails – for reasons stated above – do your cardio AFTER your weights session. It won’t necessarily be better for your fat loss quest, but it won’t interfere with your weight training session as much.

Currently there’s no good evidence suggesting that fasted cardio in the morning is better for fat loss. The only rule you need to remember about cardio is this:

Just as long as you get it done the results are all comparable.

Don’t overthink when you should do it. Just do it.

The only thing you really need to worry about with regards to timing is making sure you do it at a time that will have the least impact on your resistance sessions.

Why “Energy In Energy Out” Doesn’t Tell You If You Will Get Fat

The laws that govern whether or not you lose or gain fat is more than just an energy equation.

When it comes to storing and losing fat: It’s not just about a calorie surplus. It’s not just about calorie deficit.

Still, to this day, even so many so called experts can’t seem to get their head around this concept.

And still. Still, so many seemingly educated people will try and have you believe the only way you can lose fat is with a calorie deficit and the only way you can gain fat is with a calorie surplus.

Even though I’ve tried to explain this concept in detail over the years, it seems like people still don’t seem to “get it”. They think that as soon as you mention this, you somehow don’t believe in the laws of thermodynamics and conservation of energy. Or they think you peddle pseudo science like “you can eat as much fat as you like as long as you get rid of sugar”. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Hopefully, this chart can simplify the whole picture (yeah right) and break it down to be less confusing.

I’ve always been a visual learner. The whole process is obviously extremely complex. But I always find it easier to break things down into its simplest principle. This flow chart breaks everything down and summarises the whole process as simply as possible. It’s not comprehensive, but it will hopefully give you the overall picture. Sometimes it’s good to adopt a top down approach so you don’t miss the “forest for the trees”.


There are 3 Possible Pathways for the energy you ingest:

It’s an inescapable law of physics, the law of thermodynamics, you can’t create or destroy energy, it can only be converted in to one form or another. The energy of the system, therefore, has to ALWAYS be conserved.
When it comes to the human body, there are 3 possible pathways this “energy” can go down.

The food you eat can be converted to one of the 3 following energy forms:

  1. Kinetic
  2. Thermogenic
  3. Potential

Kinetic energy means it gets used to cause movement

Thermogenic means some of it gets lost as heat during normal cellular processes, maintaining body temperature and also during exercise.

Potential means some of it can get stored, either as structural material or for later use i.e. stored glycogen, stored fat.

Now. Look at these pathways closely again. And look at the “stored fat” pathway. The most important thing to wrap your head around is that the pathway that any “calorie” can go down is not fixed. It is a constantly fluid and shifting process that is influenced by a number of factors. NOT just whether or not there is an excess of energy in the system.

The main factors that influence which pathway any food can flow down is:

  • The type of macronutrient – not all macronutrients are capable of going down all of the pathways i.e. Carbohydrates do not serve any structural role. Protein has the highest Thermic Effect of Feeding.
  • The amount you eat influences the pathway – the amount of food definitely does matter, but it is not the only influence on which pathway a macronutrient will ultimately travel down
  • The hormonal environment influences the pathway – I have written about this extensively before in my Science of Fat Loss series, so I won’t go over it again here. Needless to say, the hormonal environment will influence which pathway the macronutrient is most likely to go down.
  • The hormonal environment is influenced by a number of factors including exercise, macro type and amount, recovery and wellness state (illness) of the organism. The whole system works off a feedback system and a complex interaction between all of these factors. Nothing happens in isolation!
  • Off the back of that, your “energy in” influences your “energy out”. People talk about metabolism all the time with little to no understanding what it actually means. People seem to accept that you can increase your metabolism by eating more food, but don’t understand how it works. This chart hopefully helps.
  • Just because you have an energy surplus DOESN’T automatically mean it will get stored as fat. Just because you have a deficit does not mean it will automatically get pulled from your fat stores. – don’t you think it’s possible that maybe, just maybe you can influence the system to put those extra calories to good use? Or pull that energy deficit from the right places and not muscle? Isn’t that also what calorie counters do anyway? Yes it is. And the very fact they do it also means it’s not just about how many calories they had that day.


What the calorie theory gets right:

The laws of thermodynamics, also known as conservation of energy, is an unbreakable law of our physical universe. You can’t create or destroy energy. It can only be transformed in to one form or another. What they don’t get is, you can have conservation of energy of the system. That’s not what we’re actually talking about.

What we’re really talking about is your fat cells specifically. What makes them bigger, what makes them smaller. As you can see by the chart below, for any “energy” to be stored as fat it has to go down a specific pathway. Whether or not a macronutrient goes down this pathway is determined by a number of factors, not just whether or not there is an “energy surplus”.

Problems with the calories theory:

All calories are definitely not created equally. Proteins are processed differently than carbs, which are processed differently than fats. They have different metabolic and hormonal effects and also different thermogenic effects. So, a calorie from carbs is never the same as a calorie from protein.

What the subject should be about is what are the circumstances that cause fat cells to get bigger, what causes them to get smaller. Energy in is NOT the sole determinant for this process to occur

Your Fat Is Not Just A Storage Dump For Excess Calories!

The main concept need to get out of your head is that fat is just a storage dump for extra calories or energy. Your fat cells are in fact an endocrine organ. Which means they release hormones. These influence metabolism and hunger amongst other things. Your fat cells also react to hormones.

Fat cells are under regulatory control. This control is actually exerted by hormones. Not calories. And while it’s true the energy you ingest influences your fat cells. They are not solely governed by it.

But, doesn’t this chart just proves it’s all about energy in energy out?

It’s easy after the event to look back and say “see, when we account for TEF, TEE, NEAT, change in potential energy, etc, we can show what happened” so it must be calories.

The very fact the calorie theory has had to change and adapt over the years every time it has been proven wrong shows it’s actually NOT just about the calories. Concepts such as NEAT (Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) have had to enter in to account for areas that didn’t add up. Not to mention that NEAT is influenced itself by the “calories in”.

It’s very easy to look at the system AFTER the fact and say “well see, we used this much for activity, their metabolism increased because of this, their spontaneous activity went up, they stored this much as muscle tissue and this much as muscular glycogen. So, subtract the remainder and…see!!! It’s still just about energy in energy out”.

But that’s like reading stock charts. Everything makes sense AFTER the event. (for anyone who doesn’t get predicting stocks on charts, it’s the finance world version of fortune telling) It does nothing to tell you about the fundamentals of the company. I just realised people would probably get a finance analogy less than a nutrition one, soooooo….

It does NOTHING to influence which pathway these “calories” can go down on the way in. And, again, it shows that just by having a surplus DOESN’T mean it will get stored as fat. Yeah, you can calculate it AFTER the event show where it went. Doesn’t mean you had complete control over it just by counting it on the way in. Which is EXACTLY what the calorie theory is based on.

You can still have conservation of energy. You can still abide by the laws of physics. They’re not the questions we should be asking. What you want to know is what influences your fat levels. And what you can see is that storing body fat is only a small fraction of an overall massive puzzle.

The main thing we are concerned with is dropping stored fat. Take a good look at the diagram closely and see what a tiny fraction of that whole equation it is.

Same when it comes to storing fat. Look at all the possible pathways and also look at all of the regulatory hormones that influence that pathway beyond just a simple “calorie” excess.

Don’t you think maybe. Just maybe the laws of thermodynamics can be adhered to and you can influence body fat levels on not just an energy in / energy out basis?

Having said that, what the hell should you be counting then? Well, only worry about the things you have control over.

Get your macros right. The amount and the quality. Measure them. Count them.

Then measure and assess the results. Adjustments should be made based on the results not just for the sake of having to drop calories.

Whenever you read anything or listen to anything from now on, keep this chart in mind. If they try and make you believe you can somehow circumvent any of these pathways or talk to you in absolutes, you can kindly now scientifically understand how they are simply full of crap.


Calories Don't CountBen Minos has Bachelor degrees in both Physiotherapy and Exercise Science (Human Movements). He has worked as a Personal Trainer for 20 years and a Physiotherapist for close to 15. Ben has authored a book on nutrition titled Calories Don’t Count, available through iBooksAmazon and most online retailers. He has also authored many articles for Ironman Bodybuilding Magazine and also co authored Australia’s first Kettlebell instructor certification course. He has competed in Natural Bodybuilding over a number of years, as well as prepared numerous clients for the stage.

TCC The Science of Fat Loss Series Part 9 – Can You Spot Reduce Fat?

Is Spot Reduction Real??


People who do 1000 crunches a day in the quest for a glimpse of a line on the stomach may tell you otherwise, but most should know by now that spot reduction of body fat is one of the great urban myths of our time.

Or is it?

1000’s of fitness girls doing leg kick backs on the stepping machine can’t be wrong surely!?!

It also doesn’t stop some “internet gurus” from espousing absolute crap online either

http://www.davidwolfe.com/5-yoga-poses-reduce-belly-fat/ (Click on it later, if you feel the need to lose 5 minutes of your life that you’ll never get back. Well, 10, if you include reading this article)

With so many people acknowledging that spot reduction doesn’t work – and yet so many people doing everything like it actually exists – the real question then becomes

Is there any science to back it up?

Is spot reduction actually possible?

Well. I’m here to tell you spot reduction is real!! Just not in the way you think.

Doing endless crunches is definitely not going to strip fat off your stomach. But there are other ways you can influence this.

In covering this, I’ll probably answer another even bigger question for some of you who have had some success in getting reasonably lean,

How do you get rid of that last little bit of stubborn body fat?

Do you just “cut more calories bro” or is there something more to it than that?

So, how is spot reduction actually possible? Because your body “spot stores” fat. If it stores fat in a regional bias, theoretically, you can spot reduce.

Remember how enzyme activation sparks the fat loss or fat storing process? And hormones in turn control the enzymes. And also remember, it’s not just a question of how much hormone is present in your blood. It’s also a question of how receptive you are to it.

I’ve already talked a little about this in the context of insulin sensitivity. Making your body more receptive to a hormone can change the effect of it at a low concentration. If you’re more receptive to insulin, you need less of it to get the desired effect. In the role of fat loss, this is a good thing.

Your sensitivity to the other hormones besides insulin can also influence how fat gets stored and lost. And it turns out, there are regions of the body that are more receptive to certain hormones than others.

Your thighs and butt, for example, have a higher affinity for the hormone estrogen. Your triceps and chest as well. This is one of the main reasons why females tend to carry more body fat around these areas, as they generally have a higher level of estrogen than males.

This is what scientists call the “topographical distribution of body fat”. And if your body stores fat in a topographical region influenced way. It makes sense if you influence these hormones, you can also affect the loss of fat in that region.

In each of these sections, I will present some of the science, then I’ll summarise what it means in plain English.


If you can recall, Insulin has more than one little hidden easter egg in it’s fat storage arsenal, it:

1) Stimulates glucose transport and fatty acid synthesis

2) Promotes fat storage through stimulation of LPL

3) Inhibits fat breakdown in mature fat cells

The unfortunate thing is, it takes a larger concentration of insulin to promote glucose uptake in to the fat cell. Whereas, the inhibition of fat breakdown happens at a lower concentration.

If you are insulin resistant, it will take a greater amount of insulin to stimulate glucose uptake, BUT the inhibition of fat loss is NOT affected. This makes it harder to lose fat when you are insulin resistant.

Insulin also acts directly on the fat cell and has a favouring role on cortisol induced LPL activity.

What’s this got to do with region specific fat burning? Abdominal fat shows a higher glucocorticoid receptor density (more cortisol receptors).

What all that means in English:

•Insulin only needs to be present in small amounts to have a large effect on stopping fat burning, especially if you are insulin resistant.

•If you are insulin resistant, it is harder for you to lose fat. Chin up if you are on the plump side with some insulin resistance. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen. You just have to spend some extra time reversing the metabolic processes.

•”Wonder twin powers activate!” If you got that reference, you and I are way too old. It basically means Insulin and Cortisol are bad on their own, but when they team up…whoooo. Therefore, increased insulin and cortisol results in a greater amount of increased body fat around the stomach. In Aussie English: Too much stress and crap make your guts fat.

•Insulin is the main regulator of your fat cells ANYWHERE in the body. So this is always the main focus point on influencing fat cell levels. Whether you cut calories, blah, blah, or whatever, this is the physiological process you are influencing and should always be the MAIN focus.

Catecholamines (Adrenalin and Nor Adrenalin):

As for some of the other hormones, your fat cells have different receptors for these. And these receptors are in different concentrations in different areas of the body.

The catecholamines – Adrenalin and Nor Adrenalin – may specifically activate four of these receptors called B1, B2, B3 and A2. You don’t have to remember any of these, just get the gist of what’s going down.

A2 is an inhibitory receptor and may regulate fat loss during the resting phase. B receptors regulate fat loss during exercise. B1 is sensitive at low concentrations and more acute effects. B3 needs higher levels.

Females have more A2 receptors from gluteal fat cells (butt and thighs) than males.

Males have a higher visceral fat cell volume, which seems to be associated with a decrease in A2 receptors and an increase in B3 receptor function.

There is a different regional sensitivity to both Adrenalin and Insulin action.

In both males and females, subcutaneous abdominal fat cells have a higher B1 and B2 density and sensitivity and a reduced A2 receptor affinity and number than the femoral and gluteal fat cells. Therefore, femoral and gluteal depots show a lower fat burning response to adrenalin than subcutaneous fat cells.

Fat around your organs is equally sensitive to adrenalin and nor adrenalin induced fat loss and inhibition of fat loss. But they don’t get affected as much by the inhibition of fat loss effect of insulin when compared to subcutaneous abdominal or femoral fat cells.

What all that means in English:

•Females have more fat around the butt and thighs

•Males have larger visceral fat cell volume (fat around the internal organs) aka beer gut.

•Adrenalin and Nor Adrenalin affect more abdominal subcutaneous fat cells (the fat just under your skin). This means you will lose more fat off your stomach than off your butt when it comes to doing high intensity exercise and controlling insulin.

•High insulin levels stops fat loss on the abs and thighs more than they stop fat loss around your internal organs.

Glucocorticoids (Cortisol):

I’ve written a fair bit about cortisol, but a couple of other interesting points.

Cortisol stimulates fat loss in peripheral tissues and also protein breakdown.

It actually helps to protect glycogen stores and delays glycogen depletion.

Resistance training (especially the eccentric part of the lift i.e. lowering the weight in a bench press) for repeated bouts decreases tissue breakdown via a modification of cortisol receptor content. In English, lifting weights helps to protect your muscles from breakdown.

The cortisol effect on LPL in human fat cells is dependent on insulin. Abdominal adipose tissue shows a higher expression of cortisol induced LPL. Increased insulin and cortisol increase fat deposition, with more congregating around the abs.

What all that means in English:

•Again, higher insulin and stress makes you fatter on your stomach. This fat is also highly correlated with about a million lifestyle diseases. Heart disease, stroke, cancer, etc.

•If you have high insulin and high cortisol it will negate any fat burning effects of adrenalin and nor adrenalin. It will make exercise less effective. Yes, once you are obese and insulin resistant, you are really pushing sh#t up hill for a while. Again, stick with it, you CAN change your metabolism.


Androgens (in this case let’s talk mainly Growth Hormone and Testosterone) not only stimulate breakdown of fat tissue but also stop the uptake of Free Fatty Acids.

They mainly stop the FFA uptake in abdominal but not subcutaneous fat. i.e. inner fat around your organs, not the ones just underneath the skin. This is because the receptors are more abundant in preadipocytes from abdominal rather than subcutaneous fat deposits.

Testosterone and Growth Hormone decrease LPL activity. (they stop fat from being stored)

Growth Hormone presence largely contributes to developing the full androgen reduction in food intake and normalisation of obesity syndrome.

Dietary amount and composition of macronutrients influence resting concentrations of Testosterone, but not cortisol. A low calorie / low fat diet may exacerbate the down regulation in resting Testosterone concentrations.

What it means in English:

– Growth Hormone (get enough sleep, don’t over do carbs, high intensity exercise) helps to stop you getting fat around your stomach organs. You NEED this if you are already fat. You need this if you aren’t fat and want to get leaner, stay lean…you just need this.

– Testosterone and Growth Hormone not only stimulate fat burning but also decrease fat being stored.

– Don’t go low calorie / low fat. If you are on a lower calorie diet, make sure you get enough essential fats and overall fat content, otherwise Testosterone production will be depressed.

There are certain disease states that highlight some of these hormonal effects. Cushings disease, for example, is a problem with your adrenal glands where there is too much cortisol production. This is highlighted by an increase in abdominal body fat and a decrease in fat on your limbs.

The bottom line, if you want a leaner stomach:

– Decrease Cortisol

– Decrease Insulin

– Increase Adrenalin

– Increase Testosterone

– Increase Growth Hormone


This one is a bit of a special one. Obesity can also be considered a condition of increased estrogen production, since estrogen production rate significantly correlates with body weight and the amount of fat in the body.

Remember how your fat cells aren’t just stored energy? But also behave as an endocrine organ?

Your fat cells are responsible for some of the aromatase activity in your body that converts androgens in to oestrogen’s. As you get fatter, your body converts more testosterone in to estrogen. Ever wonder how guys get boobs as they get fatter?

The fatter you get, the more estrogen your body produces. So, you get fatter. And the fatter you get, the more estrogen you produce, so you get fatter…

If you want fat off your butt and thighs:

– Increase GH

– Decrease Estrogen

– Decrease overall Insulin response

And guys, if you want to get rid of those man boobs:

– Decrease Estrogen

– Increase Testosterone

Can supplements help?

Are there any other natural remedies that can assist in affecting these hormones? Based on the billion dollar industry that is the supplement industry, the answer is “of course!”

Truth is, jury is still out on a lot of them. There are some that have been kind of proven to show some improvement. Tribulus and ZMA have shown in some studies to boosts testosterone levels. There has been some hype over DIM and Resveratrol over their anti estrogen effects. The Growth Hormone stack of arginine, ornithine, lysine and methionine showed some promise, but unfortunately not when taken orally (only intravenously).

Unfortunately, there’s nothing that’s going to make all the difference for you in the way you are probably thinking.


It is possible to spot reduce?

In a word YES.

Just not in the sense we originally thought. How much of an effect can you do naturally?? The reality is, not that much. Unless you want to take the other non legal “supplemented” rout. Which for various reasons, I obviously don’t recommend.

When it’s all said and done, what does it comes down to again?

Eat right. Lift weights. Sleep well. Learn to de stress.

Besides that, just thank your mum and dad.

As I’ve hinted at repeatedly. It is as complex as all of that, and as simple as all that.

Out of all the complex interactions and metabolic processes I have covered throughout this whole series, these 4 things are the ONLY things that keep cropping up that you have control over.

And, as you know. You should only ever worry about the things you have control over.

And maybe, just maybe, I might be completely wrong about those yoga moves stripping belly fat after all. Isn’t yoga supposed to “de stress” you? Maybe this mad genius is on to something. Maybe he knew all along it was about cortisol management. Maybe he is the one who has been right all along!

Or maybe he’s just full of sh!t…

Calories Don't CountBen Minos has Bachelor degrees in both Physiotherapy and Exercise Science (Human Movements). He has worked as a Personal Trainer for 20 years and a Physiotherapist for close to 15. Ben has authored a book on nutrition titled Calories Don’t Count, available through iBooksAmazon and most online retailers. He has also authored many articles for Ironman Bodybuilding Magazine and also co authored Australia’s first Kettlebell instructor certification course. He has competed in Natural Bodybuilding over a number of years, as well as prepared numerous clients for the stage.

TCC The Science of Fat Loss Series Part 8 – How To Strip Fat

How do you go about creating the ultimate fat loss environment?

If you remember last week, overeating on fats and carbs (especially simple sugars that elevate insulin) as well as stressing and not sleeping, was a one way ticket to Fatsville. Think middle aged person, white collar, high pressure job with kids. They may eat out at corporate lunches a lot and also drink alcohol.

Stress. No sleep. Lots of bad food. That’s the perfect crap storm for depressing all the good hormones and peaking on all the bad ones right there! I don’t care if calories are over or under your maintenance, no one looks good on that kind of lifestyle.

So, as discussed last week, you need to limit all of the things that make you fat.

Conversely to that, what are the most effective things you can do that are going to strip fat the quickest? You know, besides avoiding the above. Or better yet, what should you be doing instead??

Remember how the “Fasting State” was kind of good for fat loss? But there was also some bad stuff too?


Fed State

Fasted State

Insulin Glucagon
Lipoprotein Lipase Hormone Sensitive Lipase
Increased Leptin Decreased Leptin
Decreased Ghrelin Increased Ghrelin
Increases Thyroid Decreases Thyroid
Decreased Growth Hormone Increased Growth Hormone
Increased Serotonin Decreased Serotonin


And when it came to stress?


Chronic Stress

Acute Stress (Exercise)

Increased Cortisol Increased Adrenalin
Increased Adrenalin (chronic)
Decreased Growth Hormone Increased Growth Hormone
Decreased Testosterone Increased Testosterone
Increased Ghrelin


What is the ideal fat loss hormone scenario? As usual, control the bad, enhance the good.

  • Control Insulin and Stimulate HSL
  • Promote Short Term Adrenalin
  • Keep Thyroid Stimulated
  • Increase Testosterone
  • Increase Growth Hormone
  • Optimise Melatonin and Serotonin
  • Increase Leptin and Decrease Grehlin
  • Control Cortisol

What are the optimal hormones to maximise fat loss? And how do you eat to create this? Not only that, what other lifestyle factors can you focus on to make sure you are stripping your fat to your bodies fullest potential?

Bear in mind, we are discussing the above factors mainly in terms of how they influence your fat cells. Not necessarily some of the other important biological functions and effects these have on your physiology.

We will touch on a few other important factors in this discussion too. Factors such as: stimulating Muscle Protein Synthesis, Thermic Effect of Feeding, micronutrient make up, etc. As I’ve tried to make clear from the start, this whole process is anything but simple. Everything is extremely complex and interactive. There are not only different macronutrients with different energy yields, hormonal, enzymatic and thermic processes. There is also an intricate interplay between the different processes that affect your results.

Have you glazed over yet? Does it sound too complicated already? Don’t be put off though. The answer is so freakishly simple.

What I do want you to do is to ALWAYS keep these things in the back of your mind during any discussion. It doesn’t matter what diet, etc, you adhere to, there are a few base universal principles that any good diet should deliver on.

What you will find in any case, the diets that deliver on all or as many of these things as possible, also happen to work well to stimulate muscle protein synthesis, which also serve to give you maximum nutrient density, which also…and so on and so on.

But first…just need to air some dirty laundry a little.

Should you go High Carb / Low Fat? Or Low Carb / High Fat?

Oh yes. That old chestnut. The diet question for the ages. And ultimately the question that pisses me off the most. When did it come to that anyway?

Do I go HCLF or LCHF? Should I go 60% carb 20% fat? Or go 10% carb 80% fat? (If you do either of these by the way, you are beyond help)

Short answer is NEITHER. Adequate carb. Adequate fat. For what you are trying to do.

It’s like arguing if Pippin or Rodman were the bigger key to the Bulls championships. Motherf#cker it was JORDAN all along!! He da real MVP. But he still couldn’t have done it without them.

Scientists and the public constantly in a pissing contest over who holds the upper hand, while protein sits there with a wry smile thinking “I’ll let these knob jockeys fight amongst themselves”

Protein is the key (Protein is Jordan, by the way. Just in case you couldn’t keep up). First rule of fat club. Make sure you are getting enough protein.

There is one thing I will say on the fat vs carb debate. When it comes to FAT LOSS. For the same calorie intake, the lower carb version works better. Even when fluid, etc is taken in to account. Scientists even gave this phenomena a name. The metabolic advantage. I’m not going to say Google it like some internet guru’s who can’t be bothered to answer legitimate questions. But the metabolic advantage of this kind of diet should already be obvious if you have been paying attention to ANYTHING I’ve been saying in the first seven parts of the series.

How Do You Optimise MPS (Muscle Protein Synthesis)

Whether you are trying to lose fat or “bulk”. Or even “lean bulk”, as the kids of today call it. Your goal should ALWAYS be to maximise as much lean mass as possible.

The only way you can do this is to

1) Get enough protein

2) Get enough of the right quality protein

Get enough protein:

I’m seriously not going to talk about something that can be found in every single fitness and bodybuilding magazine and online forum for the past 15 years.

But, your protein requirements may increase above the usual 1.8g/kg/day depending on what you are trying to do and really it depends on what you are doing with the your carbs and fats. Some people (say prepping for a contest) can sometimes go up to approx 3-4g/kg/day.

Should you do that? No. I’m just saying that it can vary, depending on circumstances and goals.

And two more words when figuring out your optimal protein intake. Dose. Response. Have your nutrition coach calculate what is best for your circumstances. If they don’t know what that means. Find a new coach.

And just in case anyone even tries to mouth the words “what about your kidneys?” Or “that’ll strip calcium straight off your bones”….Well, let’s just say, as soon as they invent a way to complete a virtual punch to the throat through a mobile screen…you better duck and weave. Thanks for bringing up something that no study on healthy individuals EVER has ever shown. On the other hand, you can stick to your higher carb and / or higher fat. Just tell me how your diabetes, heart attack, cancer, etc goes. I’m sure your kidneys love that chronically elevated blood glucose even more…

IF on the other hand you have a legitimate pre existing kidney issue, you do have to be very conscious of your protein intake. On that note, anyone who requires any medical nutritional support at all, talk about everything with your treating physician first. Then again, if you’re getting your specialised medical advice from a Facebook / blog post, you probably deserve everything you get. NEXT…

How to choose the best quality protein??

It’s not that I’m inherently lazy. It’s just that I hate repeating myself. Which I feel I’ve already done enough during this series (it’s not all about the calories… “geez, we get it, will you give it a rest already douchebag!”)

Click here later http://www.thecouragecorner.com.au/nutrition/how-to-choose-the-best-quality-protein-sources/

Can Eating Too Much Protein Make You Fat?

Well. Obviously, yes. And no. I mean. It can. But it’s kind of harder to. And it kind of depends. You don’t get the same 4 calories per gram as carbohydrates though, that’s for sure. Different amino acids have different caloric yields. Different protein sources have different amino acid profiles (ratio of amino acid contents). Some amino acids are more easily converted to glucose intermediates, some more fat intermediates. Some can even be used directly by your muscles as a source of energy (BCAA’s for example). Soooooo…it’s not really that simple.

What is simple is you have no “storage” form of amino acids. Other than, you know, yourself. So any excess above what can be used to replace your bodies cells, kind of has to be converted in to energy of some form for you to use. Usually, this accounts for about 10% of your energy intake. But, this changes depending on how much protein you are used to feeding your body.

You have what are called Glucogenic and Ketogenic amino acids. The Glucogenic ones are obviously converted more easily to glucose intermediates and can be used to make glucose, which can then theoretically be used to then make fats. But it’s a pretty long process and you have to ask yourself, what kind of nutritional environment does this happen in?
Conversely, ketogenic amino acids can be broken down to intermediates that can be converted to ketones and fatty acids.

Is there an advantage of one over the other? Not really. Just saying there are different types that go through different pathways. Not all amino’s are the same when it comes to how they are broken down for energy.

Because your body can’t store it for later, and any excess has to be dealt with as a priority. Think of it as protein having almost a carbohydrate and fat sparing effect. If you have too much protein, your body will try and convert the excess to a usable form of energy. What does it do with all those carbs and fats you just ate with it? Freaking store it obviously.

Now I’ve got that out of the way…

Meal Structure to Optimise The Fat Loss Environment:

At last. How do you put all this together in a freaking meal!?!

Despite any goal that any diet has, what is your first unbreakable law of nutrition? Say it with me. “To give your body adequate nutrients to promote health and function.” That’s right! Health, damn it. Health.

Does it fulfil all of the necessary requirements to provide enough essential amino acids, enough essential fatty acids, micronutrients such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients, fibre, etc to maintain and optimise health? If you fail this just to drop a few kgs. You just fail.

If anyone said “energy” in answer to above question. You can get your right hand. Lower it down to your mid section. And grab a big fat juicy handful of all that excess “energy” you have on your guts. Most people have enough “energy” on them to last a few months. We want to use it.

That said. In conjunction with above, what are the goals of your meals to optimise fat loss?

  • Control Insulin
  • Increase Leptin, Decrease Grehlin 
  • Maintain optimal Thyroid, Growth Hormone and Testosterone levels
  • Optimise Serotonin and Melatonin
  • Maximise TEF (see previous Courage Corner posts regarding Thermic Effect of Feeding)

How do you do all of this?

1) Again, Adequate protein: Not only does protein provide essential amino acids, promote Muscle Protein Synthesis and have the highest Thermic Effect. It also helps maintain Growth Hormone levels in the relative fasted state. There are even some amino acids have a Growth Hormone stimulatory effect (although not conclusively proven when it comes to oral doses).

In fact, you can think of everything we are doing here as creating a modified fasting state. And that’s exactly how it has been known over the years in some circles. Think of it as a variation of a “modified protein fast”. You get the same fat loss / fasting environment, but without the negatives and without the pesky muscle loss or slow down of metabolism.

2) Eat a LOT of High Volume Nutrient Dense Foods: This will optimise your Leptin and Grehlin response (your appetite and metabolism hormones). It will also stabilise your blood glucose and maintain you in the relative fasted state. You will feel fuller by eating more food while consuming less calories. So eat. A lot. Mainly highly volume, high fibre, nutrient dense foods. It will fill you up. It will send signals to the brain you are full. It will also keep your Thyroid humming along by not starving yourself. One of the biggest complaints I get initially on any of my diets is that people struggle to get in the volume of food and they feel full all the time.

3) Optimise Your Insulin Response: Mainly here we are talking about carbs here. Your goal is to maintain a stable blood sugar level. Typically, the normal levels are about 100mg/dL, with a range of about 80-120mg/dL. What the hell does that mean?? Basically, it works out to be about 5g of sugar in your blood stream at any one time. One freaking teaspoon of sugar in about 5L of blood!! You go get a 5L bucket, fill it with water, and then put a heaped teaspoon of sugar in there. That’s it. Think about that the next time you sink a can of coke.

And do you know how much glucose your brain uses per hour? About 5 measly grams. Coincidence? I think not.

Maintaining blood glucose levels for optimal brain function is, therefore, freaking easy. And nature made it even easier for you. In 100g of fibrous / plant based carbohydrates (not grain or dense root vegetables) you are going to get about 4-6 grams carbohydrates per 100g. No matter what type of plant. Whether lettuce or a tomato. Just the volume and density of the food will differ.

Remember, I’m not talking about optimising performance here. Just basic cell function and survival.

There will be a follow up post coming soon regarding Carbohydrates, but for now keep the following in mind.

– Carbs are purely an energy source, they serve NO structural purpose

– How much do you really need right now sitting there reading this?

– How much to maintain blood glucose levels for optimal brain function?

– Can you use fat for everything else?

– How much will you need for your workouts? Are you trying to refuel the liver or muscles? Or both?

– What type of carb and how much best suits this response?

– What has the optimal density of carbs and gives enough nutrient value?

Do I care if you ultimately have dextrose (glucose powder) after a workout or jelly beans instead (99% glucose)? No. What I do care about is people who argue about this kind of crap and think they’re smarter for it.

Never cut carbs altogether. Remember Serotonin? You need some.

4) Get Enough Fat: Make sure you get enough essential fatty acids to normalise cell function and to maintain adequate Testosterone levels. Testosterone is a fat based hormone (it literally uses fat to get made). Beyond that though, do you really need anything beyond structural essential fats? When it comes to energy, wouldn’t you want to use your stored fat? Why would you give it any extra? There are some fats, however, than can actually help you lose fat. Omega 3’s, for example, improve insulin sensitivity, and decrease inflammation. Be sure when you look at your fat intake, you start with the essential fats.

When you look at the above principles, the magical meal structure you should focus 80-90% of your meals around becomes….

(drum roll)

Animals and Plants

Yep. Let the disappointment sink in for a second there.

The stupidly simple 3 Step Process to the perfect fat loss meal:

  1. Choose your protein source
  2. If you chose a lean protein, add some essential fats
  3. Fill the rest of your plate with as much veggies as possible. Different families, different colours, use different herbs and spices.

There are a couple of meals in the day where this will deviate. And will depend on how much carbs you have earned. Whether you are trying to fuel activity, or to facilitate recovery.

No magic potions. No diet pills. Proteins, fats, fibre, nutrients. Energy only as needed to fuel training. Let your fat reserves do the rest.

Don’t Restrict “Calories” Too Much

Say the words “metabolic damage” one more time. Go on, say it. I dare you…

There is an element of truth to it though. Restrict calories to dangerously low levels for too long, and it will backfire on you. If you want to really mess with your metabolism, all you need to do is drastically alter your energy intake and deprive yourself of nutrients.

There have been numerous studies over the years on various starvation models. Starvation studies used to show that any severe calorie restriction (say 800cal diets for example) the metabolism would slow to such a rate, that, even after normal maintenance calories were restored, the person would ALWAYS end up heavier than before. Even if they just went back to the same calories as before! In my day we just used to call it Yo Yo dieting. Welcome to your body fighting against change. Scientists call it trying to preserve homeostasis.

Good news is, you can recover from this. Bad news is it might take time. Even months for some people.

Stress Less

Again. And again. And again. Chronic stress = bad. You can’t necessarily avoid a lot of stressors in your life. But learning to deal with and manage stress is critical.

Learn to channel your chi, align your chakras, work on your mantra, or quit your day job and go bush…

But seriously, don’t do any of those things. Or all of them. I don’t really care. As long as it works for you.

Get More Sleep. Get Better Sleep.

Fire up your pink salt lamp

Get your wifi blanket and magnet shield or whatever

At least have a decent night time routine. Limit technology and artificial light before bed. Don’t stay up til 1am watching Netflix or swiping right. Those sorts of things.

You’d think by now adults would have this sleep thing down. But we suck at it. People tell their kids to get to bed early, cos we all know what assholes they turn in to if they don’t get enough sleep. What do you think you’re like you cranky shit?

And the Obvious…Exercise. Hard.

30min 3 times per week of a lazy stroll doesn’t cut it. Although doing 16.5 every workout might be pushing it a little.

Adrenalin is a short term stress hormone. Short term stress is good. Long term stress is bad.

If you remember correctly, this “fight or flight” hormone is the main antagonist to insulin.

Weights. HIIT. Do it.


Wait. Wait. Wait….Is that it?

No sizzle? No sex?

Eat mainly protein and veggies? Exercise? Get some sleep? Manage stress?

Is that all??

Well. It’s as simple as that. And as complex as that.

What the freak did you expect?

There is nothing sexy about it. In fact. It’s completely unsexy. But unsexy doesn’t sell. You wanna know what does sell? If I take any one of these aspects. Just one. Give you a little bit of science to make it sound plausible. And exploit the living crap out of it. Give it a catchy name and brand, like macrobolic optimax 3.0. Tell you it’s the quickest, easiest way to fat loss. Have a few people on board screaming how good it is. Maybe even a celebrity endorsement. A few good before and after shots. Some recipes. And there you go.

Do they all work? Probably. Is one any better than another. Maybe. But not one of them. Not one. Can work without affecting one or more aspects we’ve discussed in this series.

The way I look at it? If exploiting one aspect. Like cutting calories. Or restricting carbs. Or limiting cortisol works. Imagine what you can achieve by doing all of these things simultaneously?!

Kind of like a “best of”. And I’m not talking a Milli Vanilli “best of”. But more like The Beatles “best of”. But with fat loss.

Coming Soon: Can You Spot Reduce??

Calories Don't CountBen Minos has Bachelor degrees in both Physiotherapy and Exercise Science (Human Movements). He has worked as a Personal Trainer for 20 years and a Physiotherapist for close to 15. Ben has authored a book on nutrition titled Calories Don’t Count, available through iBooksAmazon and most online retailers. He has also authored many articles for Ironman Bodybuilding Magazine and also co authored Australia’s first Kettlebell instructor certification course. He has competed in Natural Bodybuilding over a number of years, as well as prepared numerous clients for the stage.