How a Heart Monitor Helps Burn More Body Fat

By December 16, 2016 December 18th, 2016 Exercise, Fat-Burning Journal

Burning the right calories can slim you down.

We call devices that measure heart rate “heart-rate monitors,” but you could also call them “fat-burning monitors” since monitoring your pulse rate during exercise is the best way to promote fat-burning both during and after your workout.

But some people use heart-rate monitors improperly — to push themselves even harder, which can actually cause fat storage. And others are still focused on a “calories-in, calories-out” approach, which has proven ineffective as reflected in the high rates of people who are overweight, which really means they are overfat.

Our weight-conscious society has taught us to focus on the wrong problem: what the scale says. Most people really don’t want to lose weight — they want to reduce body fat because too much makes us bigger and less healthy.

There was a time you could almost tell by looking at a person’s slim appearance that they exercised regularly. That’s all changed. We are now in the midst of an overfat epidemic that used to affect only sedentary people. Now it’s hitting even those who regularly work out. The result has been increased fat in the bodies of runners, walkers, triathletes and those spending untold hours in the gym or working outdoors. The problem has become so common that some are even calling it normal. It’s not.

This story is common. Despite burning a lot of calories during a hard workout, many still can’t get rid of their excess body fat. While too much stored fat takes up more space, increasing waist and other clothing sizes, it also adds weight. In addition, increased body fat, especially around the belly, is associated with chronic inflammation. This may be an early manifestation of various diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s and heart disease, not to mention tendinitis, fasciitis, and other “itis” injuries. Burning off excess body fat goes beyond being slim — it’s a priority for optimal health and improved fitness, even helping competitive athletes get faster.

Calorie Catch

The dilemma faced by millions who burn a lot of exercise calories but still have too much body fat is simple: people are burning the wrong calories. We don’t want to just burn calories. We want to burn fat calories. This requires training the metabolism to burn more fat and less sugar all day and night.

The human body has duel fuel sources — we burn both fat and sugar (glucose) for energy. The big question is how much of each do we use? This depends on each individual’s metabolism. Some people burn high amounts of fat, rely less on sugar, and are slim. Today, more people have impaired fat-burning, resulting in lower energy and higher body fat.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that harder, high-heart-rate workouts lead to a metabolism that burns more fat calories. This approach can burn more sugar and less fat calories. Instead, you want to train your metabolism to burn more fat 24 hours a day.

Causes of Reduced Fat-Burning

Fat-burning metabolism is influenced by key lifestyle factors — exercise, food and stress.

Lower-intensity exercise can improve metabolism to burn more fat, increase energy and reduce fat storage. High-intensity exercise, however, can reduce fat-burning. A heart-rate monitor can help you find the optimal training intensity as discussed below.

Refined carbohydrates, including sugar, impair fat-burning. Healthy fats, founds in avocados, eggs, butter, coconut and olive oils, and meats, can promote fat-burning. If you really want to burn off more body fat, eliminating sugar and other refined carbohydrates and eating healthy fats is important.

Excess stress can also impair fat-burning. In addition to high-intensity training, other forms of stress, such as chemical (diet) and mental (and emotional) can reduce fat-burning too. Managing stress levels, including your exercise program, is another key to fat-burning.

Just by reducing their workout intensity and dietary stress, most people can be burning more body fat in just a few hours.

How Heart Monitors Help

A heart-rate monitor is a basic biofeedback device. With correct use, it can help regulate physical stress during workouts to maintain an intensity that encourages more fat-burning. This can improve metabolism during the workout and for the next 24 hours or more, even during sleep.

A heart monitor informs you when your workout intensity gets too high so you can slow down. You can monitor walking, running, cycling, group workouts or any exercise (except for strength training, which is usually high-intensity).

What heart rate is best for you? It varies with the individual’s level of both health and fitness. The 180-Formula can help determine your best fat-burning level. I developed this formula using scientific data to calculate the actual percentages of fat-burning during various intensity levels of exercise.

A heart monitor can also help evaluate whether you are indeed on the right track. Why wait weeks or months only to find body fat has not changed much? A simple test can tell us. As we burn more body fat, aerobic muscle function improves and you will be able to walk, run, bike or otherwise go faster at the same heart rate. This is especially important for competitive athletes. I call this developing Maximum Aerobic Function, or MAF. The MAF Test helps take the guesswork out of training.

If your body fat is too high, stop counting workout calories, slow down and burn fat, and use a heart monitor to ensure your success.


  • Katy says:

    Hi! I found this website at Christmas, and still have lots of questions. I did the 2 week test and lost a few pounds, and am now discovering that ANY sugar/refined carbs means I am putting weight right back on. (I am a 44 year old woman who used to be quite athletic, then got hit with Lyme Disease. I am working my way back into fitness.) On the exercise front, I have been working on keeping my heartrate at or below my MAF rate, which is 136. Easy enough when I am jogging on the flats, or riding my bike on relatively flat ground or my trainer, but nearly impossible elsewhere. My question is…I am training for “The Big Climb” in 2 months, climbing 69 flights of stairs as a fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Right now, to climb stairs and keep my HR below 136, I have to go ridiculously slow…should I stick with this for right now? What about when doing any weightlifting, which I would like to do in order to regain lost muscle?

  • Hi ivan, i have read phils book on endurance training and racing and follow it.i have been high fat low calorie diet since one month. I am marathon runner. I normally run two full marathons and plenty of half marathons in a year. I train with a training group for marathon running on tuesdays and thursdays. These trainings are high intensity interval trainings. After initial warm up and various short exercises like tabata, fartlek training we run at tempo , mile, pace for about 40 to 45 minutes. I take monday rest. Wednesday i run 10 km at pure MAF with chest heart rate strap. My timing for 10 km has improved from 1:27 to 1:14 hrs. But my long runs are very tiring in the second half. If i have to run 25kms 16 kms are comfortable then the HR goes very high making me more walking than runnig. So second half of running is almost walking. How do i improve? Since one week i have started weight training. My alert ness have improved tremendously and which has reflected in my work too. I strictly follow phils diet. Please advice me

  • Cavorty says:


    I’m a 59-year-old lifetime competitive runner. I’ve been using the 180 formula on the basis of 180 – 59 = 121 + 5 for long term training, so trying to keep at 126 bpm. Initially I was running at about 8:00 per mile, which I’ve gradually worked down to MAF pace being about 7:30, but seem to have plateaued, as I’ve been stuck at this pace for a while.

    It does make it difficult to get into a relaxed rhythm and enjoy a run, as I’m continually having to slow up. It also means that every run is exactly the same pace since this is easy run pace – so it doesn’t matter if I’m doing a long run, say 60-70 minutes, or a regular run of 40-50 minutes, because I’m holding back all the time, I’m just running at the one speed all time. It’s cool here at the moment, so I’m not getting “cardio-creep” and I don’t really get any fatigue with runs of these distances (I’m running at least 40 min every day). Before starting Heart Monitor training, about three months ago, I’d run a ten mile training run at 7:00 miling, so running 5-6 miles at 30 seconds per mile feels very slow. To give a bit more background, I’m more of a fast-twitch type – I wouldn’t race seriously any further than 5k, although I’d do a longer race for fun – with what was tested as a relatively big V02 max; and according to a dna test, I’m genetically inclined to adapt well to fat burning. Resting pulse is low 40s and upper limit is around 172.

    What I’d really like to know is whether there is any advice to break through the plateau? I’d like to get to the point where I could get the MAF pace down to 7:00 or a bit quicker, or at least to where I could run with a relaxed rhythm, instead of keeping having to slow down and keep shortening stride all the time.

    • Cavorty:

      Start doing some running specific plyometric training, jumping rope, and intervals to equal about 15-30% of your present training volume, training aerobically the rest. Do that for 2 weeks, and then do 2 weeks of aerobic-only training. See how that works for you. Repeat it with varying ratios of aerobic-to-anaerobic training: you might do better with more (or less) anaerobic training those 2 weeks.

  • Tina says:


    I’m conflicted in terms of rest…while doing MAF training I feel like I don’t technically exercise as it feels so easy. However since the ease factor has increased I have also increased my miles that I do each time out. So I would normally take a day off every three days to let my body rest…but I don’t feel like I need it. Since I am working aerobically should my work/rest cycle remain the same as when I was training anaerobically? I don’t feel like I need any days of rest…but I am no expert and tend to not rest even though logically I should. What are your thoughts? Should I just listen to my body? I do make sure (in terms of rest sleep wise) I get at least 7 if not 8 hours of sleep every night.

    • Tina:

      Generally speaking, when you train at or below the MAF heart rate you can increase your mileage/time, compared to when you are training anaerobically. The most important thing is that your stress levels don’t increase. For example, when I go out for 1h (+15 min w/u +15 min c/d), I come back feeling relaxed, mostly feeling that my diaphragm and ribcage muscles did most of the work. I’m relaxed, focused, and ready to keep working.

      Given that you feel your stress levels to be pretty OK, I suggest that you try training 4-5 consecutive days a week and rest 2-3 consecutive days a week: 48 consecutive days is far, far more than twice the amount of rest that 24 hours is (rest compounds with time).

      What I’d suggest more generally is to listen to your body and then err on the conservative side: train until you feel you have a good training response and then rest until you’re convinced that you’re properly rested and replenished.

      Does this make sense?

  • Eddie Urcadez says:

    Dear Dr. Maffetone,

    I have been participation in endurance mountain bike riding and racing for several years now. I race primarily 10,12 and 24 hour solo events. I’m 53 years old and have been following a keto adaptive diet for 3 years now. This diet has really changed the way I train and race. I do very little carbohydrates if any and have had very successful results. I recently stated using a heart rate monitor in an effort to follow the MAF method of training. Based on the formula my MAF HR falls in the 128 range. This range has been very difficult for me to maintain. It actually feels like a hard effort. With the many years of training and racing endurance events I believe I have a solid aerobic base and recover well during rides. I can get to my MAF HR if climbing or riding in a group, but doing it solo feels like a hard effort. I race single speed mountain bike event and obviously this makes it difficult to maintain a MAF HR during races and training for matter. I’m not looking to maximize my fat burning at this zone since I have been fat adaptive for 3 solid years now. I’m looking at this as a way of improving my performance and reducing stress on my body. I suppose if I train at this HR I will see an improvement but it really feels like a hard effort. In my preferred 24 hour events, most courses have many power climbs as well as long sustained climbs. On a SS bike the MAF HR would be impossible. I would have to walk the climbs. Do you have an insight as to why this HR feels hard and what you would recommend, in regards to HR, on these climbs while riding a SS bike? I have had good results in years past, most recently 4th place at the 24hr Solo National Championship, broke 9 hours at Leadville 100 and many 24 hour Solo podium results, all on a Single Speed mountain bike. Does SS racing exclude me from the benefits of MAF HR training? Thanks for your help. I’m looking forward to your response.


    • Eddie:

      To answer your question, MAF training and racing are two different things. In fact, the reason you want to do MAF training is to develop your body so that it becomes capable of absorbing the stresses incurred by racing (which are overwhelmingly anaerobic). There’s nothing wrong with racing SS, and while doing so does take a toll on the aerobic base, that’s what the aerobic base is for.

      The reason those climbs feel so hard on a SS bike (harder than on a normal bike) is because it only has one gear—you can’t optimize your power as well. That said, the reason a lower heart rate feels like a hard effort on the bike (but like a much lighter effort, say, running) is because you are using very few muscles biking. So those muscles can be working at a very high intensity, while the body overall isn’t working very hard.

      Think of biking as a sport where the metabolism pours itself into very few muscles, while running is a sport where the metabolism spreads itself across a lot. “Effort” or “perceived exertion” is highly correlated to how much “voltage” your brain is sending down the nerves into a muscle, relative to total muscle power. So, when your heart rate is low but your perceived effort is very high, several things are happening: (1) your metabolism is very powerful relative to the muscles you’re using, and (2) you’re using a very high proportion of the total strength for those muscles.

      A way to develop further in the endurance sports once you reach the point you’re currently in is to periodize strength and endurance development a little bit more: if you do strength training for say, 2 weeks, your muscles will become a little more powerful, relative to your metabolism. That opens up room for the (fat) metabolism to grow over the next few weeks, and catch up.

      Does this answer your question?

      • Eddie says:

        Thank you Ivan, your answers to my questions do make a lot of sense and it’s something I haven’t taken into consideration. I have been doing a lot of upper body strength training due to the fact that riding a SS bike while climbing requires a lot of upper body strength, in particular the trapezoids and tricep muscles. These muscle groups seem to be key when pulling back on the handle bars while climbing. At least that’s what it feels like. My triceps are usually the first to show signs of fatigue and cramping during long training rides and/or races with many hills. So I suspect you would recommend strength training for my legs in order to build more power and open up room for my fat metabolism to grow. I can incorporate this into my strength training now and see if I notice a difference. How would I see or feel this difference? Will my perceived efforts change? I have a 24 hour event coming up in Mid Feb. How many days of strength training would you recommend per week and how soon before the event should I stop? Thank you for your time in addressing these questions.


        • Eddie:

          As you gain muscle strength, your perceived effort at the same speed will change (by lowering) even when your heart rate stays the same. This is why very strong, muscular people get tired very quickly, even when they’re running at what they feel to be an “easy” pace: it feels “easy” to run at a high heart rate, but they can’t hold that pace for very long, because their muscles are far more powerful than their aerobic metabolism.

          It’s very hard to comment on how many days of strength you need, since I don’t know your particular situation. What I would say is that if you train 20 days every 4 weeks, put your 4 strength days into a 2-week period—in other words, a 80:20 aerobic:anaerobic ratio.

  • Carl Hutchins says:

    Can you recommend a heart rate monitor that isn’t Bluetooth linked? One that feeds to a wristband.

  • Rachel says:

    Can you advise me if the 180 formula workout will help to reduce unsightly cellulite which has progressively getting worse with age. I exercise on a regular basis and I am a runner and have recently started to run according to heart rate, currently still doing lots of power walking up hills. I am aware that cellulite is different to other forms of body fat and very difficult to get ride of even for slim people. Will I have to wear long pants all summer !!!!!

    • Rachel:

      Yes indeed, for 2 reasons: two known causes of cellulite are increased insulin and increased catecholamines (due to stress). Running at the MAF heart rate keeps stress at a manageable level. What does this mean? Well, when stress rises, so do levels of insulin. But in order to burn fats, you need another hormone, called leptin. Leptin only exists when stress levels are low, and it also suppresses the production of insulin.

      So, more fat-burning at a low level of stress eliminates two of the main drivers of cellulite. Will it clear up cellulite 100%? Hard to know. Will it help? Almost certainly.

  • Debbie says:

    Do you have advice for fitting the chest strap while wearing a sports bra? I have found it difficult to get a correct reading without compromising support.

  • dr r bland says:

    My wife who is 58 and had a rough menopause started to gain weight. Was always on slim side. She started to walk , fitness tapes and diet change but did not notice much change . she has no thyroid function and has been on meds for 20 yrs {hashimoto}. Any thoughts , she was walking at 15 minute/mile rate and fitness tape was weights and mild aerobics.

    • dr. r:

      Weight gain tends to be a consequence of medication for Hashimoto. The problem is this: during exercise, our hormones fluctuate according to the activity level, in order to produce a body constitution (fat, muscle, bone) appropriate to that exercise. The problem with thyroid medication is that hormonal levels are no longer due to the activity level, but rather to the amount of hormone found in the medication. So, to make a long story short, the hormonal steady-state resulting from the medication is creating a weight gain that isn’t really affected by changing the level of exercise.

      More exercise would change the hormonal makeup in a healthy person (and weight would drop), because the thyroid (among other glands) would respond to the change in activity, and change the output of hormones. But this change in output not only isn’t happening in your wife’s body, but can’t happen, because the hormones aren’t controlled by the thyroid at all.

      The only theoretically possible solution that I can think of would be to somehow tailor the amount of thyroid medication to exercise on a real-time basis. I’m only speaking theoretically—please don’t construe this as advice of any sort. Personally, I don’t think we have the research, technology, or expertise to accomplish this except perhaps in a very controlled laboratory situation, and even then only under constant, real-time expert supervision.

      Does this answer your question?

  • David says:

    When do you recommend incorporating high intensity workouts such as sprinting or power exercising such as rowing? I am 46 and when I use the 180 formula I can not run with out stopping based on the heart rate of 134. I run in the neighborhood so terrain has some hills, but not much, mostly flat. I would like to trail run but would have to do more walking than running at this rate. I walk briskly for the first mile to warm up. I can then run/ walk for the next 3 miles or less. I would like to be able to run the whole time even if it is slow. I have never been a distance runner. I have started to enjoy it. I used to play rugby and lift weights and kettlebells. If I run continually my HR is in the 140-150s. On the rower it can get up to 160s.

    I would like to understand more about how power and speed play into your methods. I train more for the “real” life experience than competition. What I mean by that is chasing my kids, wrestling with them, playing basketball, bike riding and such. I want to be as fit as possible, for as long as possible.


    • David:

      Generally, any good athlete needs a bit of anaerobic training. That’s why, for people who aren’t exclusively base-building, ill, injured, overtrained, or recovering from any of the 3, we suggest that 15-20% of their total athletic activity be anaerobic. I’ve written extensively on this topic in various article comment threads, particularly the primary ones (which you can find in the method section).

      • David,

        Depending on the level of a person’s aerobic system it may not take very much effort to reach the MAF heart rate in the beginning. Many athletes, even elites, will have to walk hills on regular training runs and include walking into the warmup and cooldown. With patience, this will pay dividends as the aerobic system gets developed over the following months. The training at MAF heart rate can be of any activity.

        It is best to build a solid aerobic base before initiating anaerobic training. With the MAF approach your body will tell you when it is time to change the program and add anaerobic training. If you do not have other issues (as Ivan mentioned), then your MAF speed should progress each month. Measuring this with a monthly MAF test can ensure you are progressing.

        From month to month if your running pace at MAF is progressing, you can continue to build your aerobic base and see further improvement. After some time of only base training the MAF test may not progress, or progression will slow. At this time can be wise to add anaerobic training to your regime. The MAF test is still a useful assessment tool during anaerobic training, as regression of your pace at MAF will indicate that there may be an issue. This might occur after months of anaerobic training, indicating that it would be wise to return to build a greater aerobic base.

        This completes a cycle and can be repeated as you continue to become healthier and fitter!

  • Pete says:

    Wanted your input.
    I have been doing MAF now for a little over 6 months and have been on LCHF diet for the past 2.
    My MAF test just does not appear to be improving consistently. Could previous VSD repair impact on improving MAF times? My mate is having good results, feeling frustrated.

    • Pete:

      One of the reasons people don’t improve is because their aerobic function is impaired. The most common source of aerobic impairment is stressors (too much work stress, lack of sleep, family visiting, pollution). Do an inventory of your stressors and try to remove as many as possible. One place to start taking that inventory is this article. The surveys in that article are pretty comprehensive lists of possible stressors—using them as a source for ideas is as important as using them to figure out what particular health risks you may have (which is their intended purpose).

      • James says:

        Hi Ivan
        Yeah stress has a big effect on aerobic function. Here is an example, a few weeks ago I had a busy day at work (stressful busy, not ‘productive busy’) got in and decided to drive to a trail that I like to run at, when I was almost at the trail a car cut across me and very nearly caused what would have been a nasty accident. Got out of the car and started to walk to warm up and after about five minutes didn’t feel too bad however glanced at my HRM and it was 135-140 – this would usually be 100-110 at this stage, didn’t even attempt to run, just did a 45 minute walk albeit one with a much higher HR than usual. Had a rest day the next day and the day after that was back to normal MAF level.

        • Glad to hear you made the right choice and took a rest day. Whenever I’m feeling too stressed, I take a day off. Exercising when it’s stressful doesn’t really constitute “training” since the body’s ability to recover and rebuild itself is similarly impaired.

  • Tom says:

    Great article. Which heart rate monitors would you recommend ? (And why!)

    Are the wrist monitors like the FitBits any good ?

  • jerry Gurley says:

    Just a quick thank you note and a question. I am diabetic and before finding your site really struggled controlling my diabetes. My previous a1C was 11.2. After 3 months using your advice my last a1C was 5.4. So, thank you.

    Is there a heart rate monitor you could suggest.

    • Tom and Jerry:

      An excellent heart rate monitor is the Polar H7.

      We don’t suggest wrist heart rate monitors for 2 reasons. Wrist heart rate monitors are optical, which means that they need to see the pulse in order to work well. When your muscles contract, this can obscure your pulse and give you an inaccurate reading. Furthermore, your wrist is far away from your heart, which means that there is a lot of “noise” in the signal because of how arteries and veins interact—it takes longer to reflect the increase in heart rate, and the reading isn’t as accurate. Chest straps, on the other hand, record the heart’s electrical activity. While they have to be moistened to work effectively, they can record the heart rate with far more accuracy.

    • The Intelligent Omnivore (youtube) says:


      Congratulations on the A1C improvement. Be sure to let other diabetics know they can control their sugars with diet.

  • Travis Pitt says:

    Dr. Maffetone,
    Fantastic article as always. I’m 54, fit, I have several of your books, been using your 180 Rule methodology in my training for about 1 year now, with great success. I’m cycling (indoor bike) farther, faster at the same heart rate each month. However, body fat is not budging, been stuck around 15-17% throughout that time. I try to do minimal weight training, to keep fatigue and anaerobic training to a minimum. I follow your guidelines on that as well, a few compound movements, low reps, heavy weight, long rest. Diet is reasonably “clean”, no refined sugar. I have no problem with gluten or grains. Any suggestions? Thanks!

    • Travis:

      Make an inventory of your stressors. The body responds to life and work stress in the same way that it responds to high-intensity exercise: producing cortisol, which reduces fat-burning and increases fat storage. Taking away those stressors will produce a massive difference.

    • The Intelligent Omnivore (youtube) says:


      Are you carbohydrate sensitive? Have you tried eliminating all processed carbs, breads, buns, bagels, chips, pasta?
      Skip breakfast or only eat fat and protein. Avoid carbs or is you simply “have to” eat carbs, do so only at dinner and avoid high starch carbs.

  • Joshua says:

    This is a great post, and a good reminder of the MAF principles. Loved it.
    I was hoping for an update on the MAF APP, since it appears to have been in production for a while. After reading Natural Born Heros and being introduced to Dr. Maffietone’s ideas there, I am convinced. I have been training with a HR monitor all summer and into the fall. I plan to run my first official half and full marathon in 2016. I was really hoping to have access to the APP this winter and spring for training. Any news on that front?

  • Grant says:

    Great article and great reinforcement of the principles. I have a question relating to the “calories-in, calories-out” argument. I understand a calorie is not a calorie between the different macronutrients and how our body metabolises each. However once you have moved your body to burning fat more efficiently, removed refined carbs and sugar and have dropped significant weight (most likely fat) how do you then lose weight from here? Surely “calories-in, calories-out” plays a function here. For example I would now like to remove a little more weight to become more efficient in running. Without a DEXA body scan I am unsure if I have more fat to lose or if I now require to lose some muscle. My diet now contains very little carbs (vegetables, fruits, nuts, dairy) and I am exercising 8-10 hours per week at MAF HR.

    If I have indeed lost almost all the fat I am going to lose, is my only option to lose muscle mass? And if so, won’t the only method be a “calories-in, calories-out” model. The only reason I am interested in doing this is I still feel too heavy when running and would like to experiment with a lighter frame (currently 85Kg / 191cm and wish to test 81-82Kg).

    Obviously there are healthy body fat %’s and I would prefer to keep them in a healthy range and sacrifice muscle (which I don’t feel I have a shortage of). Is this the correct approach?


    • Grant:

      Sorry, I was away for the weekend.

      My first question to you is: what makes you think you’ve lost all the weight you’re going to lose? (It’s not rhetorical, by the way).

      The reason I ask this is because the “calories in, calories out” approach just doesn’t work: it runs counter to the internal mechanisms of the body. As soon as you try to instigate a calorie deficit, the body will react violently against it (which is why all diets fail). On the other hand, if you give the body a reason to reduce fat content, it will happily do so.

      In other words, while weightloss does happen because of a calorie deficit, the only way to actually make that deficit healthy and sustainable is to give the body a reason to do it on its own.

      And the way to achieve this is simple, and based around one principle: form follows function, never the other way around. In other words, your body is exactly at the weight and composition it needs to be given its current reality. If you want your body to change composition, change its situation. One way to do this is by moving more. You should also know that the body, in order to feel secure, needs fat to be present somewhere. If it’s not present in the diet, your body will put it under your skin.

      (The converse of this is a process known as gluconeogenensis: when you remove sugars from your diet enough that your body goes into ketosis, the liver will start to produce its own sugar).

      If you get your body to move better, move more, move easier, move quicker, and you still don’t see a decrease in fat content, don’t screw around with it: there’s probably a good reason why it’s that way. And again, if you try to instigate a calorie deficit, your body will tell you in no uncertain terms whether you’re doing the right thing.

      • Grant says:

        Hi Ivan,

        Thanks for the reply, sorry I wasn’t sure if my comment got lost.

        I felt like I had lost all the weight I was going to lose as I had dropped 10kg in 6 weeks. Dropped from a 34 inch waist to a 30 inch waist and every single vein in my calves, thighs, lower abs, arms are popping everywhere (almost went and saw somebody as they really are all of a sudden super prominent – especially the ones on my legs). I have now plateaued and appear stuck on 85Kg and hence why I felt like I had lost all the weight I was going to lose.

        Little confused around the “calories in, calories out” argument and moving more. I understand your point around moving more to create a need for body composition to change but at the same time you mention that weightloss does happen due to a calorie deficit. I was of the understanding that by simply adopting a LCHF diet my calorie intake has probably largely stayed the same but my body is now able to access it’s own stored fat due to massively reduced insulin levels and the reduction in this fat storing hormone. In addition to training at a MAF HR I have been able to get my body to use both dietary fat and stored fat for energy and hence the reduction in weight.

        Do you believe the reduction in weight is due to other reasons? It would appear once a plateau has been reached in weight from a change in diet then you must now create a calorie deficit to lose more by either moving more (exercising)? Or reducing dietary calories? Which is it?

        Thanks for your thoughts.

        • Grant:

          Weightloss is always a result of a calorie deficit, whether you lose weight by adopting a LCHF diet or increasing your levels of voluntary activity—in other words, by reducing dietary calories relative to the levels of activity. But whether weightloss is sustainable or not has to do with how that calorie deficit comes about. If you instigate it (if you look to “reduce dietary calories”) you will need to become very, very sophisticated—more sophisticated, in fact, than 98% of the population (which is the usual failure rate for diets).

          A reduction in dietary calories only exists as such if it’s in relation to activity levels: if you force a calorie reduction, your body will always respond by slowing your metabolism to match that reduction in caloric intake, which means that while strictly speaking, you reduced the absolute value of your dietary calories, you didn’t reduce it in a way that will cause you to lose weight (but maintain muscle mass)—you didn’t change the ratio of calories in to calories out. And if you try to force the creation of this ratio, by “creating a calorie deficit” in the sense of “restricting calorie intake,” you’ll find that your body will unleash a series of very powerful countermeasures, honed through millions of years of evolution, which are explicitly designed to co-opt your “self-control” and make you eat.

          You won’t win against them.

          So, what adopting a LCHF diet does (by increasing fat-burning) is allow you to move more while caloric intake remains the same. To illustrate an extreme example of what I mean by weightloss always being due to a calorie deficit, the only way to go down from 450 lbs to 210 is to make the body comfortable with a calorie deficit—a partial answer to this being the adoption of a LCHF diet. In fact insulin levels do drop and leptin levels do rise, and what this does is allow the body to use its internally stored fuel. Because the body has now achieved this possibility, it is less hungry relative to its activity level (since for all intents and purposes it is well-fueled) and so either activity level goes up or appetite goes down (but usually both).

          So my answer to you is to set up a reduction in dietary caloric intake relative to activity levels by (1) increasing the power of the aerobic system (2) increasing the percentage of fats in your diet (the fuel for the aerobic system), and allow the increase in aerobic power to take you to greater levels of activity. In essence, we’re not talking about reducing dietary calories ourselves, but rather setting up a domino effect whose result is an organic change in the ratio between caloric intake and caloric output.

          I also recommend that you look at the video at the bottom of this article. It’s a great resource.

          I hope this answers your question.

          • Grant says:

            Thanks for a very articulate response. I can see how solely isolating ‘dietary calorie restriction’ can lead to issues and some of the points in the linked video highlighted this. I will take the more holistic approach to the complicated paradigm of ‘calories in – calories out’ and do as you suggest; 1) continue to improve my aerobic system 2) and allow my improved aerobic system take me to greater levels of activity.

            This sums up a lot of what I was trying to work out in my head: create “an organic change in the ratio between caloric intake and caloric output.”. Great explanation, thank you.

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