Fat Gets a Bad Name

Our Society Despises Fat

(the tissue) but I have a healthy respect for it.  It hasn’t always been this way, but as I’ve learned more about the body, I’m impressed with fat equally as much as I am with muscle.

Without fatty tissue, we likely wouldn’t have survived as long as we have.  1 pound of fat contains 3,500 calories, and because fat is dormant tissue there is almost no metabolic cost to keeping it around (unlike muscle tissue which is metabolically expensive).  Some argue, and I tend to agree, that we owe our existence to fat.  It got us through times when food wasn’t readily available.

Today, it isn’t hard to poke around the internet and find all sorts of headlines and click bait about body fat, how to lose it, or what it is.  Fat gets a bad name, but hopefully I can effectively make the argument that we should all appreciate this highly specialized tissue.

Claim: Fat is Unhealthy

As a general statement, this is misleading.  If we are here because of fat, is it unhealthy?  For much of human history readily available sources of calories were hard to come by.  We ate when food was available,  not when we felt like eating.  Above all else, our bodies systems are interested in keeping us alive.  Therefore the body knows how to store excess caloric energy for future use when food wouldn’t be available.

Fat storage can be considered a sign of good health.  It tells us that metabolic resources are abundant.  What is unhealthy is an extreme overabundance of bodyfat.  It places stress on the body and can lead to health problems.  Conversely, an extreme swing in the other direction (lack of bodyfat) is just as unhealthy.

We’ve all seen the headlines that suggest unhealthful levels of bodyfat are on the rise.  So it seems that this adaptation which has kept us alive in the past is now becoming something that works against us.  Why is this?

A Sedentary Lifestyle

The rising obesity of recent history is often blamed on technology.  Our big brains have invented ways to make our lives easier and more efficient, so we are less physically active than our ancestors.  Since physical activity burns calories, and we are less active, we end up storing more calories.  This is logical, but lets look at another perhaps more logical reason.

Our ancestors probably weren’t as physically active as we might think.  Actually, observations of aboriginal tribes in Australia find that these people are less physically active than those in major cities.  So, increased activity isn’t a complete solution to the obesity problem.

Think of your life in seconds.  Now separate all the seconds you’ve been alive from the last 60 seconds.  Those last 60 seconds represent the period of human history where starvation in an industrialized civilization is no longer a major problem.  All of the preceding seconds represent the period of human history where starvation was a threat.  For the last 3 to 4 generations, calorie abundance has been the norm.  It is this availability of calories that is driving our storage of unhealthy levels of bodyfat.

Lets say I go out to eat and I consume roughly 4,000 calories (which I can do and have done before).  I feel a little guilty the next day about being so gluttonous, so I decide to run some calories off.  To run off 4,000 calories I’d need to run for about 5 hours at a 10 minute mile pace to do so.  That’s about 30 miles.  Clear my schedule :)

This Logic is Flawed

The efficient (and effective) way to balance our storage of bodyfat is not to try and exercise off what we eat.  Exercise plays an important role (which I’ll discuss next week), and I’m not suggesting that it isn’t necessary.  Consuming only what we really need and use is much more efficient.

The trick is to be mindful of what we eat.  If I consume many more calories than I burn off, my body is going to do what it knows to do and store those extra calories for a time when there aren’t any.  The problem is, today that time is never.  There are always calories.  This is the first piece in the bodyfat puzzle.  We’ll dig into some other pieces next week.

Stet’s Workout Strategy

Someone made a suggestion during our quarterly review that I found interesting.  They suggested we provide a little workout strategy in the blog post to help those reading prepare for what is to come.  I’m giving it a try:

Part 1 – The Push Press
I love push press.  Mainly because it is an area where I am weak.  This first part looks relatively simple, but it’s going to be 32 total PP and not a lot of rest time.  Considering that, I would select a weight where I can do all 4, and definitely not so heavy that I start to arch my back.  I’m thinking about 115 pounds would do.  That is a error on the light side, but there’s no point to doing more weight if my supporting core muscles won’t keep my spine set.  My focus is on pushing my knees outward in the dip, and having lightning fast hip extension out of the bottom.  I’ll also make a mental note to squeeze my glutes at the top of every rep.

Part 2 – The EMOTM
Again, it looks simple and is by design.  The movements aren’t hard, it’s the demand of the clock.  KB swings will likely take 20 seconds, and since it’s 8 I’ll go as heavy as possible.  Box jumps will take 20-25 seconds.  This leaves me with only about 10-15 seconds to catch my breath between sets.  You don’t sacrifice much time between step ups and box jumps.  I can see myself dropping to a set or two of step ups in the middle somewhere to conserve a little energy for the push for the last few sets.

Is it helpful to see how I think about my workouts?  Any ideas for other techniques/thoughts/strategies you’d like to see me include?  Let me know what you think in the comments!

The Oboard Says…

4 Reps
Push Press
Every 1 minute for 8 minutes


EMOM x12 min
8x KB Swings
8x Box Jumps

Posted by: Stets