A five-step program to fix metabolism, lose fat, and build muscle

If you are visting this site, you are probably looking for a solution to lose weight. Most people want an easy solution, they are not willing to invest time and effort in educating themselves or in improving their lifestyle. I never understood that. People invest enormous amount of time in learning about TV celebrities or playing video games, which has absolutely no effect on their own lives, but are not interested in learning about their health.

Before looking for a solution we need to understand the problem a little better. Obesity itself is neither the problem nor the cause of problems.

Obesity is a manifestation of a messed-up metabolism.

Messed-up, unhealthy metabolism is the cause. Improperly functioning metabolism, in turn, has its own underlying cause: unhealthy lifestyle. This whole website is about careful analysis and finding solutions to adjust lifestyle in developed countries, with U.S. being the extreme. There is a solid scientific proof to suggest four major problems with lifestyle:

  1. Too much sitting
  2. Too little exercise
  3. Too many calories in food, particularly in a form of sugar
  4. Too little or irregular sleep time

I created this website not just for analysis but also to provide a comprehensive solution.

SOLUTION: A five step program to fix metabolism, lose fat, and build muscle

I could have called my program like others do, something like “Five easy steps to lose weight”. But I will not, because it would be lies. Nothing about human body is easy. If you want an easy solution, you might want to get one of those “fat burning” pills and see how that works for you. This program is a life-long commitment to healthy lifestyle. If you are not ready to make a life long commitment to healthy lifestyle and just looking to quickly drop 10 pounds, then look elsewhere.

The program is made of five steps which all start with letter “S” to make it easy to remember. The diargam below illustrates those steps and how your body will respond:

This map is actually is an extremely simplified diagram of some of the things that we know. Behind this map, there is a whole kingdom of things hidden from us. But we will work with what we know about our body, listening to its needs, and keeping us updated with latest research.

First three out of five steps in this program are all about increasing you activity level and giving your body a level of physical challenge it direly needs. With some thought and creativity you can fill most of your day with some kind of activity – standing, walking, aerobic exercise and resistance exercise. Make physical activity a default during your wake hours: whatever you are doing, you should be standing, walking, or running, or doing some kind of exercise. Reduce your sitting time to a minimum — it hurts you most and is the major problem with lifestyle in developed countries. This will take some thought, creativity, and planning. Provide your body with protein to build its own, vitamins and minerals, and necessary amount of sleep time. Exclude carbohydrate-loaded foods that have no essential nutrients, especially sweet stuff that gets you addicted by acting on your happiness centers.

Sweat. “Sweat” is aerobic exercise; it is also called endurance exercise, or simply “cardio”. This is really the most important component of the program, and there is absolutely no substitute for it. What aerobic exercise does is improving your cardiorespiratory fitness, or CRF. CRF is the single most important parameter of your health.

So how about all those “lose-20-pounds-in-2-weeks-with-no-exercise” kind of advertisements? You see, this is not strictly about weight loss, it is really more about fitness. Certain diets will cause weight loss, but diet with no exercise will cause you to lose both fat and muscle. Losing muscle means decreasing energy-producing capacity, or metabolic rate. Why there is so much talk about all those organic foods and food supplements? Because they promise you results with absolutely no effort. A well-balanced nutrition will only prime your body to become healthier, that is to burn fat and build muscle, but you only can make your body do it through exercise. If you thought you could increase your fitness and health level with just expensive all-organic diet, while still spending most of your time in that comfortable chair, keep dreaming. The only way to improve it is by doing aerobic exercise – the kind of exercise that brings your heart rate to 70% or more above rest.

Research shows that the particular kind of aerobic exercise is not important, what is important is duration and intensity. You could be jogging, swimming, dancing, or on a treadmill; as long as it is intense and duration is at least 30 minutes. Find the kind of exercise that you enjoy and that best fits your schedule to make it a daily routine.

The bottom line: exercise is a must. People worry too much about their BMI (body mass index) and weight and are not paying attention to cardiorespiratory fitness level. Research shows that higher BMI/higher fitness is far better than lower BMI/low fitness level.

Stand. We know everyday exercise is important. How about the rest of your wake time? Does it make sense to spend most of wake time sitting, do a 30 min workout, and expect great results?

In 1953, they found that in England, bus drivers have twice the rate of cardiovascular disease than train conductors. The underlying cause? Bus drivers sit their entire work shift, whereas train conductors stand. The healthiest occupations turned out to be mail carriers who walk all day. Sedentary work is a huge occupational hazard, on par with smoking. The problem though is that we do not just sit at work. On average, Americans sit additional four hours at home in front of a TV or a computer. And for every hour per day of TV viewing all cause mortality increases by 11% , whereas mortality due to cardiovascular disease by 18%. That is for every hour of sitting per day.

The bottom line is: quit sitting. Do all your favorite activities, including internet, TV, video games, while standing. It will take some creativity and thought, but little or no money. Look here how I made my standing work area at home. Some people went as far as mounting some kind of a treadmill underneath their desk.

Fill your day with activities that engage most of your body muscles. They absolutely do not have to be physically demanding. Activities that you love and enjoy. Gardening or walking with your dog are great examples. Poker or eating out clearly not. When you go shopping, see how everybody wants to park as close as possible to the store? Do not follow the crowd — park as far as possible, so you can walk a little. Very soon, you will get into a habit, and you will actually get tired of sitting. I remember it was pretty hard to wean myself off that chair, but now I get tired of sitting for more than 10-15 minutes! Because I do not even use chairs now, I hid them all in a closet, one day they will go on a yard sale.

Strength. “Strength” is resistance exercise – the kind of workout when you are pushing targeted muscles to the limit by giving them a load that you can only repeat about 10 to 20 times. A basic resistance workout can be done at home; a pair of dumbbells or a barbell are desirable but not absolutely necessary. Push-ups are great example of a basic resistance exercise. While resistance exercise will not raise your cardiorespiratory fitness level, it has its own unique benefits: it helps maintain and increase muscle volume and strength.

By including resistance training you build up larger muscle mass, increasing your body’s energy-producing ability. An added benefit is athletic looks, which will definitely increase your self-esteem level and general satisfaction with life. Anabolic hormones, such as testosterone, growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor all spike after intense resistance training. They stimulate recycling of muscle, bone and cartilage tissue and slow down aging.

According to research, the benefits of resistance training are greatest when it is used in combination with aerobic exercise. In a way, by doing cardio+resistance program, you are doing a better cardio!

Sugarless. Healthy nutrition will provide necessary fuel and building blocks so your body can do all those wonderful things and flourish. Based on research and experience, I recommend low sugar / high protein diet. Out of three main nutrients, protein, fat, and carboydrate, only protein is an essential nutrient. This means your body needs to get protein with food in order to build its own. Everything else is disposable: your body can build all of its fat and all of its sugar (with one exception, read my article about nutrition). And it can use all three major nutrients as energy source. Build your diet around protein, using a variety of protein-rich foods, and also making sure that you get other essential nutrients: vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids. Examples of such foods are meat (both lean pork and beef), poultry, fish, eggs and reduced fat milk.

This diet is the easiest to maintain, because if you dump sugar, you will not have to worry too much about counting calories – your body will decide how much protein to use as building blocks and how much burn to obtain energy. Most protein-rich foods, such as eggs and meat, come with a decent amount of fat, and that will be your primary energy source. To mention here, there is nothing wrong with consuming fat. What makes you get fatter is not fat that you eat, it is the total amount of calories you consume in any form.

It is particularly important that you completely avoid simple sugars — glucose, HFCS (high fructose corn syrup — a major sweet sugar in US), and sucrose (hite power sugar sold in stores is sucrose; it is made of one glucose and one fructose). Anything that tastes sweet. Apart from the fact they are loaded with calories and usually contain no essential nutrients, there is something else about the sweet taste: it really has the power to make you feel happy! Did you notice that you tend to crave for that chocolate bar a lot more when you are stressed and tired? Sweet calorie-rich foods act as antidepressants and provide positive feedback to make you crave them even more. They almost make you overeat. Kind of like any smoker will tell you that you cannot limit yourself just to one cigarette per day. If you smoke, you will eventually be smoking exactly a pack per day. It has to do with appetite control, here is my full article about it.

Sleep. If you are serious about your health, get least 7 hours of sleep every day and wake up at the same time. Not having enough sleep with cause you to overeat (on average, by 500 calories), will cause imbalance of glucose, will mess up hormones that control appetite so it will negate all the benefits of exercise and healthy diet. Irregular sleep hours, a result of shift work that many people have to do, is as bad as having not enough sleep.

Our ape-like ancestors did not have no electricity, so they woke up with sunrise and went to sleep with sunset. Every day, for millions of years. No wonder that your sleep cycle is such a powerful mechanism in your body, that trying to mess with it will only cause serious problems in all your body systems. Yet these days people mess with it all the time. They watch TV till 2 am and wake up at 6 to go to work. Have late parties. Work night shifts. Actually, if you wake up to an alarm clock, you are already messing your sleep to a certain extent. The bottom line is: get enough sleep.

Biological perspective

Human body is an incredibly complex thing shaped by about 23000 genes (from each parent) and millions of years of evolution. Did you know that in the last 50000 years our genome almost did not change? That we only have 18 unique genes, the rest are just very slight tweaking of ape genes? (yes, gorillas and chimps). Forget apes though. Only 300 of our genes are not found in mice. Have you heard how scientists test all new theories and drugs in mice?

Think for a second how we lived 50000 years ago. You think we would never know an answer to this question? Actually, this one is easy, because we can just look at how native South American tribes live right now. And you would see that you would be spending most of your wake time trying to locate, catch, dig out, kill, or steal food. You would be close to starvation most of the time, and the food you could catch and find would only barely meet your calorie expenditures for that day. In fact, the food was so scarce and precious that you would also cut, cook and eat the dead people in your tribe, then you would just bury their bare bones with due respect. And the reason is because out of all scarce and hard-to-find foods, protein was especially precious. Getting a good protein-rich meal meant killing a wild animal, which is not even easy these days when people have fishing rods and rifles. Imagine having to do it with arrows and stone axes! Yet we clearly were successful at that sometimes, otherwise there would be no humans walking on this planet now.

If you think for a second how much energy it should take just to get food, you realize that being active all day walking, running, using our arms and legs should be our default, normal behavior. Instead, the default activity for many people is sitting comfortably in the char at work or at home in front of the TV. 30% of Americans live their lives just like that – with NO physical activity. (This number is actually a perfect match with the rate of obesity in US – also about 30%). And most of the rest of us are not even close to the activity level that nature has designed us for.

Why give this program a serious consideration?

With hundreds of different fitness programs, food supplements, and other products on the market, what makes this one special? A few things:

1) It is based on latest research. Being a scientist (a doctor of science), I have developed a broad perspective of a “big” picture, which includes biochemistry, neuroscience, physiology, and other disciplines, even evolution. I know that human body is an intricately complex system shaped by millions of years of survival of the fittest, and our current lifestyle is drastic departure from what mother nature designed us for. I constantly monitor literature and keep my site updated with new findings.

2) It is comprehensive: all of its components are essential and work together. There are many products on the market which focus on only one thing, and usually it is selling you a specific product, such as a magic exercise machine or a food supplement. Human body is an incredibly complex system and to make progress toward health, a lot of things need to be adjusted and tweaked. Exercise and general activity level is the most important thing; it is complemented by the diet that provides all the essential nutrients and also necessary amount of sleep that makes everything else possible.

3) I am not trying to sell you anything: I merely provide information to guide you. You read, you do your own research; you make your own choices.

4) An ultimate test: test on myself. I kind of tried separate components of this program and I was confident they work separately, but in the summer 2012 I decided to go one step further: put together a well-structured course and try it on myself as an ultimate proof. It did work great! I carefully documented my progress and the results exceeded my expectations.

5) Home-based. In my program, there is no need for gym membership, special equipment, food supplements or pills. Instead, using information from this web site, you set up an exercise plan of the exercises you love and enjoy and can do at home or in the area where you live. Access to the gym would not hurt of course, especially for bad weather days, but it is not necessary either. The only limiting thing needed on your side is your determination!

A concluding message from Dr. Boris.

The reason I even made this site in the first place is that I got sick and tired of being fed with lies and scams about health. I want facts, analysis, truth and experimentally proven strategies. And I have a passion to tell what I have learned to everybody else. So, keep educating yourself about fitness and health, do your own research, analyze, and remember: you can do it no matter what the stage of your unfitness is.

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