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May 4th, 2010

A Sports Nutritionist’s View: On Getting Lean

A large portion of the sports nutrition industry is devoted to getting rid of unwanted fat.  That extra few pounds of flab (maybe its not just a few) is a rising concern in America. The statistics need not be listed.  Rising trends in obesity are obvious from just looking around.  We could  spend  more time trying to determine why this is the case or attack the problem pound by pound and fat cell by fat cell.

Lets concentrate on the basics for successful changes in body composition.  Walk into a sports supplement store and you’ll get conflicting testimonials concerning the shelves and shelves of fat reducing products.  Why do some products work for some and not for others? The answer is simple.  The science behind manipulating your bodyfat percentage is closely linked to your genetics and your lifestyle.

Genetics

A certain percentage of the population is naturally lean.  Their bodies maintain above average fitness on processed, seemingly empty calories.  Genetic variance allows some to get away with a fast food diet.  When someone who is gifted with these genetics “cleans up” their nutrition and exercise plan, they naturally shed more bodyfat.  It doesn’t matter if they’re taking 250 mg of saw dust, their bodies magically transform.  This was very evident when one of my clients (a contract model for a major sports supplement company) prepared for photos in an ad that would show the progression of how his body changed over twelve weeks.  In order to take the starting photos he had to literally force feed himself sweets and stay away from cardio.  This guy naturally walks around with about seven percent bodyfat.  Once he stopped actively trying to get out of shape, his body rapidly recovered.  The advertisement (I’m sure you’ve seen it) was impressive and true.  The transformation did occur but, genetics were the overwhelming factor.

Lifestyle

Whether you are blessed with genetics or not, your eating habits and activity level influence your health.  In the example above a temporarily terrible lifestyle influenced body composition negatively.  He got out of shape.  But, because it happened in a relatively short amount of time, he got back into shape rather quickly.  Thus, his body moved quickly to the physiological state that it has been at for some time.  This is an important observation.

The Set Point Theory states that at conception, genetics determine what your weight and body composition is going to be as we go through life. This means that before your born, what your going to look like through your life is already determined.  So why fight it?   Although it may seem impossible, we can win over our genetic set point.  For the same reason my lean client can force himself fat, we can force ourselves lean.  The reason his body composition reverted back to lean so quickly is because he  didn’t maintain the eating habit and lack of exercise for very long.  His body naturally gravitated towards where it has been steady for the longer time.

Therefore, we can fight our body’s genetic set point by diligently changing our eating and exercise habits.   These changes must be very consistent.  They also have to be progressive.  If you don’t continually manipulate your food and your workouts, your body will not continue to change.   This is the easy part for my clients.  Everyone gets results from applying proper nutrition and exercise planning.  The hard part is maintaining a regime long enough to get to a point that is healthy and permanent.  How do we make a lower bodyfat and a leaner body permanent regardless of our genetic set point.?  We maintain it for longer than our body was at its previous condition.  This is the most challenging goal in fitness and sports nutrition.  Its also the most rewarding. Everyone has been in good shape at one time or another.  To force yourself to stay in that shape is the difficult part.  Once you plateau at a healthy, lean weight and body composition and really solidify that plateau for a long time, you can decrease your consistency and “splurge” once and a while.  The longer your body is at that percentage, the more it will act like you have a genetically lower set point.

So there is a way.  When you feel like you’ve been preparing too many meals and getting up way to early for to long to get to the gym, remember one thing.  Those who stick to it the longest have the biggest pay off.  Its not how much you can bench press or even how big your pecs are.  Its how long you’ve been properly training those pecs and how long you’ve consistently fed them well.

There is a catch, though.  You have to set very realistic goals.  Very few men can maintain a seven percent or less bodyfat all year round, for the rest of their life.  Very few women can maintain sixteen percent or less.  Usually the select few who are the exception to the rule already have a low genetic set point.  So what’s a realistic goal? A good general goal for men is around ten percent. A good goal for women is about nineteen percent.

Jeff Kotterman is the recommended Sports Nutritionist for several fitness based businesses, nationwide.  He is an experienced instructor whose research has benefited the health of thousands of clients.   If you have questions or would like a program developed specifically for you call (858) 694-0317,  or email to: jeff@TriSystem.com or at www.TriSystem.com.

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