2

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Lost 36lbs but still flabby: can primal be catabolic?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created June 12, 2010 at 12:27 AM

OK, the obvious answer is lift some weights, so I dragged the kettlebells out from the basement and had a pretty intense session of swings and cleans and whatever that one is called where you swing the thing around your waist hand to hand til you either drop it or pass out. Yes, I am very sore, three days later, but that's what happens when you're 48. Will give it another bash on Sunday.

My question is related to food: it's about 45-45-10 fat/protein/carb, all very high quality, carbs from fruit (which I've cut out temporarily), dry wine, salad veggies. Like tonight I'm having almost a pound of wild sockeye salmon baked in (Kerrygold!) butter and lemon, a large salad of assorted greens dressed with olive oil and this awesome orange/muscat vinegar and topped with some shredded hard cheeses, and a coupla glasses of dry ros?? wine (Crios Malbec, which is about as close to a perfect ros?? I've yet found).

What I don't really understand is why eating like this had a catabolic effect (muscle-wasting, fat-sparing) on me. I hate exercising and put it off for months til this week. Even then, why would I have lost muscle mass and fat instead of just the latter?

I'm 159lbs now @ 5'7" but I still have a belly, man-boobs, and flabby upper arms and inner thighs, along with I'm sure a good dose of visceral fat. My biceps at my weightlifter peak ca. 2004 were 17" but now they are a sad puny 13". My weight seems to have stabilized this week at 159; since January it's dropped pretty steadily 1-2-3lbs a week.

Oh, and while the above example is a lot of food, I generally don't eat a hell of a lot all the time and do indulge in intermittent fasting, usually by accident because sometimes I just forget to eat; I'm rarely ever hungry anymore and pretty much only eat when my body tells me it's time.

So while I'm sure the workouts will help, is there something I should be doing food-wise? Less fat maybe? I have been eating more fish lately, less beef and pork, though that's only because I finally decided that salmon just isn't that bad and I can force it down as I generally don't care for fish.

C45d7e96acd83d3a6f58193dbc140e86

on July 16, 2012
at 03:20 PM

@Mike Jones....well said. People automatically assume paleo is low carb.

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on June 15, 2010
at 05:21 PM

It doesn't in the least, it just says that "your body will sometimes burn muscle protein preferentially for fat" and describes factors that will increase and decrease this. No mention of carbs at all. If you mean the fact that "your brain needs some small amount of glucose per day... and this it has to acquire from muscle" then this is uncontroversial. It doesn't mean that no glucose intake = progressively less muscle protein, because you can replenish muscle that is broken down (by ingesting protein).

485bcefe7f1f7a6df1a293a826bf6137

(2191)

on June 15, 2010
at 12:55 PM

Yes, David, I saw that, but I was responding to your second paragraph which seems to contradict your first paragraph.

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on June 14, 2010
at 05:07 PM

Howard I'm not sure I follow your reasoning, since I begin by saying "It's not "eating like this" that had a catabolic effect, it's the not exercising."

485bcefe7f1f7a6df1a293a826bf6137

(2191)

on June 14, 2010
at 05:00 PM

Sorry, but based on your premise, the Inuit, who injested no carbs, would be walking skeletons from muscle breakdown.

3eafb88d6a6d762fcfa8ed4eb0576260

(642)

on June 13, 2010
at 08:05 PM

Going too low in carbs is absolutely catabolic. Your body will break down protein to meet its glucose needs. IF is also catabolic for some. Paleo is one thing, but low-carb paleo is another, and does not work for everyone. You might want to check out Diana Schwarzbein's books for an antidote to the "carbs are evil" nonsense. I don't know of any traditional society that turned down whole food carbohydrate sources when they were available (even the Inuit took advantage of berries and seaweed). It's refined carbohydrates that you want to avoid, but those are a far cry from a good sweet potato.

C53665c3f012fa1ede91033b08a8a6e7

(2269)

on June 13, 2010
at 05:17 PM

Hm... I will definitely give that a try Melissa.

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11488)

on June 12, 2010
at 09:32 PM

@42, also see some excellent answers on a previous thread about "man-boobs"-- http://paleohacks.com/questions/1799/middle-aged-male-gynecomastia-aka-moobs

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11488)

on June 12, 2010
at 09:31 PM

@42, also see some excellent answers on a previous thread about "man-boobs"

C53665c3f012fa1ede91033b08a8a6e7

(2269)

on June 12, 2010
at 02:00 PM

Keeping a pretty good o-3/o-6 ratio. So, more fat, less protein, more exercise... easy enough.

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on June 12, 2010
at 01:27 PM

I'm just going by what is said here: http://www.fitnessspotlight.com/2008/09/02/part-6-what-happens-to-your-body-when-you-fast-qa/ "We see increases in three of the four hormones driving lipolysis, indicating a propensity towards fat burning. Somewhere around 12-18 hours, lipolysis becomes a major energy pathway, producing energy from body fat. /Urinary nitrogen excretion falls, indicating less catabolism of muscle proteins." Cortisol would increase both protein and fat loss, but it sounds like relative to an unfasted state you burn relatively more fat to protein than otherwise.

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22923)

on June 12, 2010
at 12:35 PM

Coupled with the uphill climb that comes with The fact that having fat pushes you towards fat. I'd work on turning up the metabolic furnace with HIIT 4x week I switched my hormones over after being flab for near a decade and ripped 105lbs off. The flab will go away you can look good naked again.

B3c62d89cd47b7d7209b6a99243d0ded

(10778)

on June 12, 2010
at 10:29 AM

This is a great and cheap way to get the right rebuilding supplies in for reconstruction. If you have trouble with the flavor, or if you want to accelerate the change, you might find that orthosilicic acid (like found in the BioSil supplement) sends a similar rebuild signal.

70d9359a2086e890a4c3bccb2ba8a8cb

(2254)

on June 12, 2010
at 10:08 AM

"intermittent fasting will help" - I've often heard this, but given what you said just before about cortisol... how do you reconcile that with the supposedly increased cortisol levels that result from the mild stress of intermittent fasting (and therefore catabolic effect)? Is the net effect of IF still muscle-sparing?

36dd8a49324c45fb49a38765000eca1e

(377)

on June 12, 2010
at 07:16 AM

+1 for Rippetoe! You can't go wrong with starting strength!

Ae011d9f1c8654ea66854ca2a977c397

(1165)

on June 12, 2010
at 02:50 AM

Look up this guy, Randy Couture. He's two years younger than you and is still a professional athlete. Yes this guy is a freak of nature but maybe he can serve as some inspiration. http://www.sherdog.com/fighter/Randy-Couture-166

C53665c3f012fa1ede91033b08a8a6e7

(2269)

on June 12, 2010
at 02:30 AM

Also: NOT HELPFUL.

C53665c3f012fa1ede91033b08a8a6e7

(2269)

on June 12, 2010
at 02:28 AM

Please read again for comprehension. I was a weightlifter for some time and stopped due to shoulder injury ca. 2005.

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12 Answers

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7
E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on June 12, 2010
at 08:10 AM

It's not "eating like this" that had a catabolic effect, it's the not exercise. As Doug McGuff astutely argues in Body By Science, it's not in our evolutionary interest to become massive at the drop of a hat. Extra muscle means needing more calories just lying around and needing to hunt more to be successful: unless those muscles are allowing you to consume more food, then ceteris paribus, they're a net loss. Thus the body evolved only to become as muscular as was required by the stresses that we were actually facing: if you only do tasks requiring X amount of muscle, your body will stay with X amount of muscle; if you perform tasks that you almost can't complete with X amount of muscle and your body gets stressed and thinks it might suffer in the future if it can't complete these tasks, then your body will grow X+1 amount of muscle.

Aside from these evolutionary factors, there are physiological reasons why your body will sometimes burn muscle protein preferentially for fat. Your brain needs some small amount of glucose per day, even if in ketosis and this it has to acquire from muscle, not from fat. I think I heard the figure that each day, if not consuming anything else, you'll need about a third of a pound of muscle; that seems rather high to me, but another source suggests that in a normal 70kg adult 280g of protein are degraded and synthesised every day. Similarly when you're stressed (cortisol) or indeed just when you wake up and your body releases cortisol, your body will release energy from your muscles to place sugar in the blood. If for any reason you're stressed (less sleep perhaps), increased catabolism naturally follows. You could also reduce this physiological 'stress' by reducing inflammation- more omega 3 and less omega 6- this post notes that chronic inflammation retards muscle gain and links it to the finding that in people not exercising (bed-rest) those eating more actually had more muscle loss than those eating less (possibly mediated by inflammation). In any case, intermittent fasting will help, because it reverses the above trends: it decreases the amount of muscle the body catabolises for energy and increases the amount of fat burning.

Also I can't help but note that you're consuming 45% of calories from protein! This might seem like a good way to reduce muscle wasting, but it could easily produce the reverse. By consuming so much protein, your body will necessarily have to be running on a largely glucose-based metabolism, since any protein you don't need to structural repair will simply be turned into glucose by the liver and pumped into the bloodstream. As noted here consuming more than 25% of calories from protein will reduce the extent to which you're burning fat. Clearly you're consuming (at least some of the time) a hypocaloric diet, since you're losing fat, but unless you're consuming only 55% of your calorie needs (and making up all the difference from body fat) then you're still getting more than 25% of calories from protein.

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on June 12, 2010
at 01:27 PM

I'm just going by what is said here: http://www.fitnessspotlight.com/2008/09/02/part-6-what-happens-to-your-body-when-you-fast-qa/ "We see increases in three of the four hormones driving lipolysis, indicating a propensity towards fat burning. Somewhere around 12-18 hours, lipolysis becomes a major energy pathway, producing energy from body fat. /Urinary nitrogen excretion falls, indicating less catabolism of muscle proteins." Cortisol would increase both protein and fat loss, but it sounds like relative to an unfasted state you burn relatively more fat to protein than otherwise.

70d9359a2086e890a4c3bccb2ba8a8cb

(2254)

on June 12, 2010
at 10:08 AM

"intermittent fasting will help" - I've often heard this, but given what you said just before about cortisol... how do you reconcile that with the supposedly increased cortisol levels that result from the mild stress of intermittent fasting (and therefore catabolic effect)? Is the net effect of IF still muscle-sparing?

485bcefe7f1f7a6df1a293a826bf6137

(2191)

on June 15, 2010
at 12:55 PM

Yes, David, I saw that, but I was responding to your second paragraph which seems to contradict your first paragraph.

485bcefe7f1f7a6df1a293a826bf6137

(2191)

on June 14, 2010
at 05:00 PM

Sorry, but based on your premise, the Inuit, who injested no carbs, would be walking skeletons from muscle breakdown.

C53665c3f012fa1ede91033b08a8a6e7

(2269)

on June 12, 2010
at 02:00 PM

Keeping a pretty good o-3/o-6 ratio. So, more fat, less protein, more exercise... easy enough.

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on June 14, 2010
at 05:07 PM

Howard I'm not sure I follow your reasoning, since I begin by saying "It's not "eating like this" that had a catabolic effect, it's the not exercising."

E35e3d76547b18096a59c90029e7e107

(15613)

on June 15, 2010
at 05:21 PM

It doesn't in the least, it just says that "your body will sometimes burn muscle protein preferentially for fat" and describes factors that will increase and decrease this. No mention of carbs at all. If you mean the fact that "your brain needs some small amount of glucose per day... and this it has to acquire from muscle" then this is uncontroversial. It doesn't mean that no glucose intake = progressively less muscle protein, because you can replenish muscle that is broken down (by ingesting protein).

5
Ae011d9f1c8654ea66854ca2a977c397

(1165)

on June 12, 2010
at 02:45 AM

Dude you haven't worked out for 6 yrs, you're guns are going to shink. Even if you never got fat and never went on a diet you'll loose your muscle if you don't use it. You lost your muscle and you gained fat. So this means that your body weight is probably more fat than it was before when you had muscle thus you had more fat on your body than you thought. I'd start doing some compound lifts with heavy weight in the 5 rep range. This will pack back on the muscle all over your body and will boost your metabolism (new muscle) to burn more fat. Check out Mark Ripptoes Starting Strength.

36dd8a49324c45fb49a38765000eca1e

(377)

on June 12, 2010
at 07:16 AM

+1 for Rippetoe! You can't go wrong with starting strength!

3
9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on June 12, 2010
at 04:31 AM

Random suggestion, but take a bunch of good bones and chicken feet and boil the heck out of that. Let it cool in the fridge- a good gel at that point means lots of gelatin and collagen. I recommend it to anyone who has problems with bones or skin. It certainly can't hurt.

I recommended it for my dad, who is also doing paleo for weight loss and had an injury. He said it helped.

I'd also recommend seasoning with kelp flakes and upping the ratio of fat to fish when eating seafood. I found that eating too much seafood let to some muscle weakness. Your diet should probably be less than 10% PUFA and PUFA does include fish.

B3c62d89cd47b7d7209b6a99243d0ded

(10778)

on June 12, 2010
at 10:29 AM

This is a great and cheap way to get the right rebuilding supplies in for reconstruction. If you have trouble with the flavor, or if you want to accelerate the change, you might find that orthosilicic acid (like found in the BioSil supplement) sends a similar rebuild signal.

C53665c3f012fa1ede91033b08a8a6e7

(2269)

on June 13, 2010
at 05:17 PM

Hm... I will definitely give that a try Melissa.

3
4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

on June 12, 2010
at 02:16 AM

Hormones take time to repair

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22923)

on June 12, 2010
at 12:35 PM

Coupled with the uphill climb that comes with The fact that having fat pushes you towards fat. I'd work on turning up the metabolic furnace with HIIT 4x week I switched my hormones over after being flab for near a decade and ripped 105lbs off. The flab will go away you can look good naked again.

2
Cfccbcf3450ac4919311ded8ef162d49

(2312)

on June 12, 2010
at 03:50 AM

  1. you're 48, you don't produce as much testosterone as when you were younger. Takes more time and effort to put the muscle back on now.

  2. how long were you overweight and inactive before you began to eat paleo and exercising? Sounds like you just recently started exercising again.

  3. the flab may just be loose skin from being overweight for a long period of time, it'll take time for that skin to tighten up again. Sometimes it never will depending on how much it was stretched and how much elasticity it has.

Work harder and give it time...

1
485bcefe7f1f7a6df1a293a826bf6137

on June 14, 2010
at 05:08 PM

No, I believe the answer is that you haven't lost enough weight. You know you've reached the correct weight when the boobs disappear. As for your chest reduction--maybe that was fat? I am 5'11" and when I lost weight in the past, even down to 170 I still had boobs. When I got down to 155 the boobs disappeared as did all the other flab.

1
6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11488)

on June 12, 2010
at 09:21 PM

@42: CORRELATION (eg., between lack of exercise and hormonal imbalances) does not imply CAUSATION.

You've gotten some great answers so far, but I would suggest that you consider an alternative explanation. Your body type changes in the past 6 years may be too extreme to be explained by lack of exercise alone. Most people keep the same body type--endomorph, mesomorph or ectomorph--or a blend of the three--throughout their lives. Sure, they may add some fat or lose some muscle over the years, but usually not drastically. You've gone from mesomorph to endomorph to ectomorph+endomorph in a mere 6 years. Possible explanations could be hypothyroidism, hypercortisolism, growth hormone deficiency or testosterone deficiency. Yes, diet and exercise may improve these hormone levels, but you may want to consider having levels checked, especially if the diet and exercise suggestions on this thread fail to work for you within a month or two.

1
D8691a1cee39ea420a36b163d4a4042b

(404)

on June 12, 2010
at 05:03 PM

I'm basically concurring with uncle Robb. Your exercise plan was to start with a ridiculously hard resistance routine, then spend three days tore up from it. Find something low key that is enjoyable, like hiking hills or hill rides, or swimming or kayaking or anything where you can go for an hour without having to force yourself. Once you have a hormonal base built up, then you can think about swinging bells.

1
B3c62d89cd47b7d7209b6a99243d0ded

on June 12, 2010
at 10:22 AM

The core of human physiology is "use it, or lose it, then eat right And rest it to recover"

Yes, here in paleo-land we spend much of our time talking about what to eat and sometimes when. However, that is only part of the deal.

Exercise is the clear signal we send to our body as to the sort of changes we need, and it does not take much.

Come to think of it, if you have been away from exercise for a while here is your chance to be your own body-whisperer... By this I mean that some small amount of exercise each day is like telling your body what you want it to be... You can do this with walking, romping, play!, and other low to medium effort. Jumping back into heavy effort exercise is like shouting at your body when you just need to tell it in a softer tone several times a week what you want it to be.

Once your body is listening to your speaking tone, and you are ready to take it, feel free to shout for greater effort from yourself. Adaptation to stimulus over time will do you well, and your chances of soreness and injury go way, way down.

1
Ed33691404d94afdc45aea0af89b7185

on June 12, 2010
at 03:06 AM

Get on a bike for a couple hours a few times a week or go for some moderate hikes as well as the strength work... Get back on that horse and you'll be happy I'm sure.

0
03b9923107e72b41864172ed953d26bd

on July 16, 2012
at 03:13 PM

Its andropause - you need to address your estrogen/testosterone ratio

You also want to take a look at DHEA & IGF

-7
08ce57b1bbb3bda8e384234389c36d94

on June 12, 2010
at 01:58 AM

A life time of avoiding physical exertion has left you with the metabolic profile of a prepubescent girl. That you consider yourself over the hill at 48 indicates a distorted self perception and low self regard. My honest advice to you is to loose that victimization mindset, man-up and break a sweat for a change. Not just occasionally but every day.

C53665c3f012fa1ede91033b08a8a6e7

(2269)

on June 12, 2010
at 02:30 AM

Also: NOT HELPFUL.

C53665c3f012fa1ede91033b08a8a6e7

(2269)

on June 12, 2010
at 02:28 AM

Please read again for comprehension. I was a weightlifter for some time and stopped due to shoulder injury ca. 2005.

Ae011d9f1c8654ea66854ca2a977c397

(1165)

on June 12, 2010
at 02:50 AM

Look up this guy, Randy Couture. He's two years younger than you and is still a professional athlete. Yes this guy is a freak of nature but maybe he can serve as some inspiration. http://www.sherdog.com/fighter/Randy-Couture-166

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