Is Your HEC In Check?
This week’s Blog was adapted from Mike Mutzel’s High Intensity Health and Jade Teta’s new book, Lose Weight Here (See References/Resources)
HEC is the acronym for Hunger, Energy/Emotions and Cravings. You can use these biofeedback signals to assess if your diet, exercise and lifestyle habits are balanced.
If your HEC is in check, it’s a good indication that you are primed for achieving your weight loss goals and optimum health.
Achieving this balance is not a “one size fits all” scenario. If it were, then the conventional approach to weight loss that looks at your body like a bank account (i.e. calories in/calories out) would be a lot more effective.
It is human nature to want “black and white” answers in simplistic terms. Eat this, exercise like that, and take these supplements. The problem is that what works for you may not work for me and vice-versa.
In addition, these biases, which we have been conditioned to accept as fact, are oversimplifications that ignore some of the fundamental physiological, biochemical and metabolic processes in our bodies.
The fact remains that more than one-third (34.9% or 78.6 million) of U.S. adults are obese and these numbers are expected to increase. If what the experts say we need to be doing worked, the numbers would be going the other way.
The road to weight loss, optimum health and optimum performance is determined by one’s metabolic individuality (your specific “signature” needs based on epigenetics).
The perfect diet, exercise plan, and lifestyle factors are the ones that work for you; these are usually created over time.
To determine your specific needs (i.e. diet, exercise, sleep, supplements, etc) you will need to perform an experiment (N=1; i.e. You). This means trial and error. Use what works and discard what doesn’t. To do this you need to start by letting go of your biases (e.g. Low carb/high fat, Paleo, low fat/high carb, Intermittent Fasting, etc) and listen to you body’s biofeedback signals.
How do you feel when you eat a certain diet or exercise in a certain way?
- Is your HEC in check?
- Is your performance optimum?
- Is your body composition where you want it to be?
- Does it improve your blood labs?
If the answers to one or more of these question is no, then you will need to adjust the macronutrient profile (carbohydrate, proteins and fats) in your diet as well as the type of exercise (resistance training, aerobic conditioning, flexibility etc) you are doing (or not doing).
The latest and greatest diet fad’s out there claiming to be the “magic bullet’ are generally written by people who found something that worked for THEM and they are excited about it so want to share it with YOU. The problem is, what works for THEM may not work for YOU.
We all have unique metabolic ways of functioning. To quote Bruce Lee, one should:
- Absorb what is useful for you
- Discard what is not useful for you
- Add what is uniquely your own
Here are some basic guidelines to start with:
- Eat lean protein, fibrous and watery foods (vegetables and low sugar fruits)
- Lift weights to build muscle and improve body composition. Muscle is an endocrine organ that releases myokines. These signaling molecules tell the body what to do, such as increase glucose uptake and improve fat breakdown. Myokines have favorable effects on metabolic disorders, such as type 2 diabetes and obesity. Numerous studies on myokines suggest that they offer a potential treatment option for preventing metabolic diseases.
- Focus cardio on HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)
- Move often throughout the day
- Incorporate restorative yoga or meditation to reduce stress hormones
Conventional “YoYo” diets that temporarily work by drastically cutting calories result in muscle loss and metabolic inefficiency/sluggishness. This is exacerbated when exercise is added into the equation in order to further go into a caloric deficit.
But don’t calories matter?
Don’t count calories, make calories count. Focus on local, organic, seasonal and sustainable whole foods. The calories these foods provide are nutrient dense rather than energy dense.
All calories are not created equal. Isocaloric* low carbohydrate diets have been shown to result in similar fat loss compared to diets low in saturated fat, but are more effective in improving triglycerides, HDL, fasting and post-prandial glucose levels, and insulin concentrations. Low carbohydrate diets can be useful in the short-term management of insulin resistance and elevated cholesterol.
*Isocaloric= Diets having similar caloric values
Targeted fat loss for stubborn fat
Men tend to carry excess fat in the shape of an apple – primarily in the abdomen
Women tend to carry excess fat in the shape of a pear – in the hips, buttock, thighs, back of the arms and abdomen
Fat cells have two types of receptors:
- Beta- “ Fat Burning”
- Alpha- “Anti-Fat Burning”
When hormones bind to receptors, they either speed up or slow down fat loss. Stubborn fat has more Alpha receptors. When one goes on an “eat less, exercise more” diet, they typically go from a bigger apple or pear shape to a smaller and more mushy version of that shape because of the concurrent muscle loss.
In order to get rid of stubborn fat:
- Stop dieting (eating less and exercising more). This suppresses thyroid function, increases cortisol and will eventually lead to metabolic resistance- sluggish metabolism and weight gain. Most dieters gain back the weight they have lost and more due to the loss of metabolically active muscle
- Stop focusing your exercise on aerobic or steady state cardio. Over time you will need to to increase your sessions in order to maintain weight loss (i.e. you become a more efficient fat burner so burn less fat over time as your body adapts. You also burn muscle, so tend to become skinny-fat)
- Find the right balance of calories, macronutrients and exercise. This may involve eating less and exercising less or eating more and exercising more.
- Alternate between eating less and exercising less or eating more and exercising more based on your HEC
- Your nervous system is reactive and adaptive so it is good to mix things up based on your body’s biofeedback
- Add in supplements like green tea, Coleus forskohlii and cocoa
There are in fact four primary metabolic toggles
- Eat more/Exercise less
- Eat less/Exercise more
- Eat more/Exercise more
- Eat less/Exercise less
The 2 primary toggles to assist with building muscle and burning fat are Eat more/Exercise more and Eat less/Exercise less. These strategies can also help reverse the metabolic damage and weight loss resistance from chronic YO-YO dieting.
Interestingly, the Eat more/Exercise more and Eat less/Exercise less strategies are commonly used as periodization strategies for fitness and bodybuilding competitors. Why?
Because they have been shown to consistently work.
Eat less/Exercise more is not a sustainable lifestyle, and causes significant metabolic stress leading to rebound weight gain. Unfortunately, this is the current recommendation for weight loss.
Bonus toggle- Optimize your gut microbiome by consuming more fiber (vegetables and low sugar fruits like berries, apples and pears), cultured foods (e.g. Sauerkraut, Kimchi, Kombucha, Kevita), lean protein, raw organic cocoa and water.
Fat and starch should be added based on your activity, lifestyle and HEC.
You’re HEC (not a fad diet) should determine whether high carb/low fat, low carb/high fat, or some place in between is best for you.
KEY TAKE HOME POINTS
- HEC is the acronym for Hunger, Energy/Emotions and Cravings. It serves as biofeedback signals to assess if your diet, exercise and lifestyle habits are balanced
- Achieving your ideal weight is not a “one size fits all” or “black and white” scenario. It is going to take some experimentation on your part to find what works best for you- AKA the Goldilocks Effect- Not too much, not too little, just right
- Conventional “YoYo” diets don’t work and will likely mess up your metabolism by affecting your thyroid and breaking down lean body tissue (muscle)
- Use metabolic toggles to assist with building muscle and burning fat, e.g. Eat more/Exercise more and Eat less/Exercise less
- Focus exercise on strength training to increase or maintain lean body mass, high intensity interval training and walking
- Periodize (periodically change) these toggles based on your HEC and lifestyle
- Eat to support a healthy gut microbiome and choose organic when possible to limit exposure to Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP’s) which are endocrine disruptors that can slow down metabolism and lead to chronic diseases
- Use supplements once you have mastered the above
- Consult with me if you need some help through this process!