*Please note, these articles on BioSignature Modulation are maintained for historical interest and no longer reflect our current practices. We do not endorse BioSignature as a methodology.
The following is an article from my fortnightly contribution on all matters pertaining to Personal Training in the largest online men’s magazine in the world, AskMen.com. On there 5 million lucky readers get to see my words, I suspect that there are a slightly smaller number on UPFitness.co.uk. But here, you are all my special ones…
Love Handles – You ate all the pies!
In our first article discussing BioSignature Modulation we learned that much can be deduced about your health and overall hormonal profile by examining the localised fat deposits on your body. More accurately, the actual ratio of the differences in skin fold thickness of different areas of the body will enable a skilled BioSignature practitioner to make assessments of the current state of play of your hormones and prescribe you specific exercise, nutritional and supplementation protocols designed to optimize your hormones for your specific goals – whether you wish to speed up your metabolism into a fat-burning furnace or increase your testosterone profile so as to add a bit more beef to your body. This week, as the weather here in England gets marginally better and the more optimistic amongst us turn our thoughts to summer, we will focus our attention on the love handles, why you have fat there and what you can do about it.
Your hormones affect where ingested calories get sent.
I expect a typical personal training client of mine to lose at least 50% of their starting skin fold thickness in their love handle area (the supra iliac region to give it its correct title) within 6 weeks. That’s a bold claim to make to so many, but it is also a relatively straightforward one to achieve with good dietary discipline and reasonably hard work in the gym. And it all comes down to insulin management.
For some reason, the exact nature of which is still up for debate by obesity researchers (it concerns the alpha 2 and beta 2 adrenoceptors that control fat cell metabolism and lipolysis, catecholamines, and the anti-lipolytic stimuli of insulin – lost you already eh?), it seems that the excess carbohydrates we eat end up stored around the love handles. Excess stress (cortisol) will give you a fat belly, low testosterone will give you fat arms (do men have bingo wings?!), and carbohydrates (due to their powerful impact upon the hormone insulin) will give you love handles, or a “back skip” as I once heard it so delightfully put.
The role of Insulin
In the case of any fat loss programme we should regard insulin, a more powerful anabolic hormone than even testosterone, as a storage hormone. If you do things to your body to cause a rise in insulin levels then the direct consequence of that is the shuttling of glucose and amino acids into the liver, muscle tissue, and adipose tissue (namely fat!). There are occasional times when you may want to harness insulin’s power (post workout, once you have achieved a certain base level of conditioning), but if you wish to lose your love handles then it is an imperative that you minimise “storage opportunities”. This is done by keeping blood sugar levels low and stable. No wild fluctuations caused by eating the wrong things!
Unfortunately modern man with his canny ways of making money and mass production has found a way to inadvertently put all the wrong things on our food shelves. For instance, in the past all flour was coarse and unrefined and made products that digested slowly, causing a gradual release of insulin to cope with the equally gradual absorption of carbohydrates. Now we have ultra refined grains and flour so fine that it can actually float in the air!
For those of you who always seem to doubt everything that you read that falls outside of your comfort zone and demand scientific verification for every single solitary new assertion I will say just one thing – go to pubmed and look up the symptoms of adult onset Diabetes (an inability of the human body to produce insulin). Weight loss is always present. Without the presence of insulin it would appear that it is impossible to store body fat.
Insulin Resistance and Hyperinsulinemia
The body absorbs these refined carbohydrates as quickly as it would a tablespoon of sugar, which means that the body is forced to release waves of insulin to dispose of the large influx of carbohydrates. These surges of insulin, repeated over and over again, lead to a condition called insulin resistance. The cells that normally respond to insulin get desensitized. The pancreas — which produces insulin — has to “shout” louder and louder for the cells that handle insulin to “hear.” The pancreas has to produce more and more insulin to metabolize all that rapidly assimilated carbohydrate.
To make matters worse, these large surges of insulin tend to overshoot the mark, and more is released than is needed. As such, it then causes temporary low blood sugar (insulin takes sugar out of the blood and puts it in storage, remember), which sends your brain a signal that it’s time to eat again. One Mars bar is never enough is it?
If this happens to the body enough times, hyperinsulinemia can develop. In short, that means your body has higher-than-normal levels of insulin flowing through it. This condition is related to high cholesterol, fatigue, anxiety, heart disease, cirrhosis, kidney problems, depression, and immune suppression, along with increased body fat storage and reduced burning of body fat. So in addition to ruining your health, these repeated surges of insulin ruin your metabolism.
Do you ever wonder why those of you stuck in the office never had the mid-afternoon crash, or wanted to nap after a big meal, yet were never like this when you were a teenager? The young are not insulin resistant, we only become that way after years of poor nutritional choices. And the more insulin resistant you are the more likely you are to carry too much fat no matter how hard you diet and exercise
How to Eat to deal with Insulin Effectively
Until you get your body fat levels down to a relatively low level (under 10% body fat) and sensitise your body to the effects of insulin you must follow a carbohydrate restricted diet if you wish to lose your love handles as quickly as possible. Not to bore you with too much detail, but our genes have hardly changes in the 50,000 years since the Paleolithic Age. Our DNA is such that we function best on a diet rich in omega 3 fats that come from grass fed animals and oily fish, protein, green fibrous vegetables, nuts and berries.
Take this little BioSignature Modulation test for me and it will demonstrate to you whether you respond well to carbohydrates or not. For lunch today have a steak meal (only steak mind you, no potatoes, bread, rice or pasta!), and tomorrow have big a plate of pasta instead. An hour after each meal check your mental acuity – which meal/food choice makes you feel the sharpest? A minimum of 70% of you will feel better after the steak, and that will mean that you will function (and get leaner) on a lower carbohydrate diet. Your body will have shown itself to be carb intolerant / insulin resistant and therefore requires a huge dump of insulin to shift the carbs you eat from your blood into your muscle/fat cells, all of which leaves you sleepy and with low blood sugar an 30-60 minutes after eating. This glut of insulin also sends a tonne of calories right to the fat stores in your love handles – a big cosmetic negative. For those of you who feel bright and alert following the pasta, well lucky you! If you have love handles you will still respond well to lower carbs, but the only reason you have the love handles in the first place is because you eat far too many calories. Step away from the fridge now!
Interestingly enough, despite the power of the pro carbohydrate lobbies (dairy / wheat farmers, massive food manufacturers) no one has ever coined the phrase “essential carbohydrate”. If we don’t eat protein we die, and if we don’t eat the well known essential fats our hair falls out and we lose all our testosterone, yet the Inuit survived very well on meat and whale blubber for a millennia. It was only when a western diet was introduced that they started to have blood pressure and cholesterol issues. Think about this when you think you really have to have your toast in the morning.
Putting it all together
To drop your love handles as expeditiously as possible you must eat in the following way-
- Limit carbohydrate intake to green vegetables (ideally steamed or raw) and the minimal amount of carbs you get in some nuts such as cashews. Do eat greens at least 4 times a day. Men are typically atrocious at eating their greens, so don’t fall into this trap. Your body wll respond much better if you simply stay disciplined and pack a few florets of broccoli away every day.
- When dropping carbs don’t make the schoolboy error of not replacing most (not ALL, you do want a small calorie deficit) of the lost carb calories with calories from healthy proteins and fat. For those wise souls amongst you who weight train I recommend 1.5-2grams of protein per lb of lean body weight. Follow this with sensible food choices (red meat, oily fish, whole eggs, chicken etc) and the occasional (twice daily) handful of organic nuts and the fats will generally take care of themselves.
- If it’s ever walked, crawled, slithered, swam, flown or burrowed you can eat it.
- If it comes in a box you can’t eat it. Period.
- Supplement with a good quality Omega 3 fish oil. Don’t buy store bought rubbish – fish oil really is a case of getting what you pay for and we have conducted tests on a huge array of different products only to find that most cheaper brands contain alarmingly high quantities of heavy metals, most notably mercury.
- Post workout you will have to eschew your protein/carb shake in favour of a protein only drink. Until you get to 10% body fat your body just can’t deal with the carbs all that well. What does 10% body fat look like? A true six pack with the lineas alba (middle line that runs from sternum to belly button) clearly visible.
- Look to insulin sensitisers / blood sugar stabilisers such as the herbal products fenugreek and gymnema sylvestre – they can work fantastically well in leaning up a carb intolerant person.
A note on exercise – it is beyond the scope of this article to discuss a fat burning personal training exercise programme suffice to say that there are no specific exercises you can do to target the love handles. Spot reduction IS possible, but only by utilising the elegant instrument of hormonal manipulation through BioSignature Modulation, not with the blunt tool of exercise selection.