The two biggest factors preventing you from seeing your abs is uncontrolled stress, a lack of sleep, and inconsistency with nutrition. Now, before you go talking to a doctor looking for a diagnosis of adrenal fatigue, why not start at the most logical place? Try and fix your stress, sleep, and energy intake first. Let’s address those factors one by one because they are really the secret to all of this:
1. Under Eating (Specifically Carbs)
I mentioned adrenal fatigue earlier and there is no topic more controversial. A lot of people don’t think adrenal fatigue exists. The fact of the matter is that adrenal fatigue – or Addison’s Disease – is a real medical condition characterized by insufficient production of cortisol (the fight-or-flight hormone) in response to stress that requires the administration of corticosteroids like prednisone and hydrocortisone. If you have adrenal fatigue, you will know it because the lack of cortisol production will leave you feeling chronically fatigued, with low blood pressure and in many cases altered immunity and a host of associated conditions.
Most people who struggle to lose body fat do not have adrenal fatigue; they’re just really stressed out and their cortisol levels are high, not low. In times of low energy availability – when you aren’t eating enough – your body must produce more cortisol to assist in the creation of energy to maintain organ function. Muscle is metabolically costly tissue, and it’s a rich source of amino acids. To keep your brain, heart, and nervous system in shape, your body will break down skeletal muscle to supply the raw materials needed for repair.
Translation: Consistently undereating isn’t exactly a walk in the park for your body and it can burn muscle.
Luckily, all you have to do to prevent this from happening is become more consistent with your nutrition, especially protein and carbohydrate intake. Glucose is the fastest, most-easy-to-use fuel source you can put in your body. I don’t know anyone that craves Kale in the morning but it’s common to crave a donut or something similar. There is a reason for that (yes I am aware Kale is a carb but it doesn’t net out to much because of the fiber). Donuts pack a powerful little bunch as it relates to both energy and carbs, so that donut and coffee (or bagel and coffee) hits the spot. They settle things down a bit. A well fed and properly caffeinated individual probably isn’t a stressed individual. So cortisol levels go down (read stress levels go down and your adrenals aren’t being tapped).
I think one of the most hilarious things about pointing out to someone dieting that sleep might be their issue ignores the most obvious cause: dieting. It’s like hammering yourself in the toe each day with a sledgehammer and someone saying that pain in your toe is the root of the problem. If you sleep 4-5 hours a day and have for some time, why the hell wouldn’t you want to look at being more aware of whether or not you are eating too much or too little? No no, I get it, you know you have been over eating so I have a little quiz for you. How many grams of protein, fat, and carbs did you eat yesterday? If you don’t know, we may have just solved your sleep issue. One of the MOST underrated aspects of being an Eat To Perform member is that a lot of people sleep a whole lot better.
Want to know what’s stressful? Asking your under-nourished body to operate on 4 hours of sleep every night while you raise 3 kids. Working a job you might not love for 10 hours a day, 6 days a week, to provide for your family…That’s stress, but it’s the norm for a lot of folks. Just imagine how much better things might be if you were to eat enough every day and drop that late night talk show. I love Eat To Perform; it’s my calling and every day I am excited to help folks but I can tell you right now that ETP takes a back seat to my life and if your boss doesn’t understand that, it might be time that he/she does. Trust me, it will make you a more productive employee, and those 3 kids will all function a bit better moving up the ladder a notch or two.
Last, let’s talk about muscle protein turnover…and before you click off, let me just say this might be the biggest reason you haven’t seen the results you have been looking for all along.
Muscle Protein Turnover 101
In this article I explained why the real epidemic we face isn’t obesity, it’s a lack of muscle. So let’s break down the conditions of muscle protein turnover, also known (potentially) as maintaining and adding new muscle tissue.
- First you need an adequate stimulus to cause adaptation – not too little, not too much. Here is where you say “I do 50 sit-ups a day.” That’s the problem. If you didn’t have a tan and tanned for 7 days, you would get darker but after that seven day period you would have to go to greater lengths to tan further (paraphrasing Mark Rippetoe). That is how adaptation works. So rather than start at 1 sit up and go to infinity, maybe the answer is to focus on more of a whole body solution. Whatever you do your body will adapt to, it should be hard but the goal is to do the least amount of work for the greatest result and allow for adequate recovery so the next time you workout you are 100% (see food, sleep and stress sections above).
- Not only will you not build an adequate amount of muscle if you under eat, but you won’t live as long either (what a Debbie Downer I am right?). We’re not talking about bodybuilder type of muscle, we are simply talking about being able to function as a human being. So allowing your muscle to atrophy slowly over time should never be acceptable and if you have been dieting forever and religiously hitting the treadmill for the last 30 years, I have good news and bad news. The good news is I have the solution. The bad news is you have to change and change is uncomfortable for a lot of folks. Doesn’t mean you won’t run but it does mean you won’t use it to earn or subtract calories.
- So I guess you are wondering why I am talking about building muscle…after all you have a tummy issue not a muscle issue, right? It’s that thought process that got you to where you are now, so why do you think doubling down makes sense? Simply put, it’s hard to get your body to build new muscle tissue. Lucky for you it doesn’t tear down muscle easily either but a lot of folks have been testing that and gnawing away at their lean mass for too long. Even though the opposite way is harder, it’s more rewarding and you are less miserable in the process (assuming you are doing something you love).
Simply put, abs are muscles and I am not going to tell you to spot reduce because that’s a myth. When we are talking about maintaining and building new tissue you need to have a whole body approach. So the adipose tissue (aka fat tissue) on your back is AS important as the adipose tissue underneath your navel.
Conclusion: It’s Simple
“How do I start and when will I see results?” What if told you that you are asking the wrong questions? So let’s change the questions.
“What will I learn?” and “Do I have the rest of my life to achieve my goals?”
That’s how this works.
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