Reducing Fat Percentage – diet v exercise

I’m slowly reading Ray Kurzweil’s live forever guide Transcend and trying to take action to address any points where I’m outside of his optimal ranges. My key ones are cholesterol and fat percentage which are no doubt related.

None of my friends would regard me as fat or even slightly overweight (they put me in the “lucky you can eat whatever you want” category) – but my body fat percentage is nearly 20%. Ray recommends 10-17% for men and 18-26% for women with the optimal figure at lower end of these ranges. I’m going to aim for middle of my range – 14% –  better to set something achievable and then improve on it rather than fail and get disheartened.

My initial thinking was to go on a lower fat diet as this should help with cholesterol levels too. If I take in less fat then my fat percentage would slowly reduce. It seemed logical. But it took me a little while to ask the basic question – if I reduce my fat percentage, what does that fat convert into? And the only real answer to that is energy – energy that needs to be burned with extra exercise.

How does the body process fat?

How Stuff Works has a nice introduction to how the body creates, stores and uses fat:
http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/cellular-microscopic/fat-cell.htm

Just having a lower fat diet isn’t going to dilute my existing fat – it has to get turned into something else and apart from bones which don’t grow very fast, or clogging up my arteries, that fat will only get used up when the body demands more energy to operate its muscles. I could just burn up the fat but as I’d prefer not to be skinny I’m going to try to maintain my current weight so need to grow those muscles too.

Having said that, it takes about 25% of the energy in glucose to convert it into fat – that’s 10x more energy than storing ingested fat so it’s definitely better to be on a lower fat diet rather than just counting calories.

How long will it take?

Given a weight of about 74 kg that means I started off carrying 14.3 kg of pure fat. To have a fat percentage of 14% that needs to go down to 10.4 kg – i.e. to lose 3.9 kg. An average male eats around 2kg of food per day but just stopping eating for 2 days won’t shift that fat 🙁

Here’s a chart showing my progress to date. I started my low fat diet just before Christmas – not great timing as can be seen in peak fat percentage in the middle of the festive holiday week.

fat percentage diet 3 months

However the good news is that using an Excel trendline I can see I’ve been making steady progress over the last 3 months – that’s on a lower fat diet and 30 minutes of walking a day when I’m not running or at the gym. At that rate I should hit my target percentage in approximately 8 months (total) – not quick but for a body & life changing effect (and only limited self control!) that sounds reasonable.

After my recent revelation that fat can’t just convert into thin air, I’m going to step up my exercise too, so will report back in a couple of months time to see if the rate of fat loss has improved at all.

3 Key Reasons for Having a Massage

Nothing like a good massage after a long week at work, right? It’s relaxing, gets the little aches and pains relieved – but massages are more than simply rubbing oil and a lot of really good hand-work. It actually has carefully studied health benefits that could help us live longer and have a better quality of life.

3 Key Reasons for Having a Massage

Here are the 3 most promising health benefits of massage based on science.

1. Stress Relief

Being a great stress reliever is one of the best things we all love about massages. We know what stress does to our body. Stress is normally fought off by the body but with today’s busy world it seems stressors are just everywhere and we end up accumulating it until it blows up and gives us all sorts of diseases, some of which are fatal. Fortunately, studies show a simple massage can actually provide a lot of relief from stress.

Source:
Cortisol decreases and serotonin and dopamine increase following massage therapy.  Oct 2005 – International Journal of Neuroscience

2. Better Sleep

There’s a joke on how we see getting a good night’s sleep as a form of reward the older we get. It’s funny but it’s actually a lot more realistic when you look at it. The CDC warns of sleep insufficiency as a public health problem and it’s more than simply nodding back and forth during classes or meetings.  People experiencing sleep insufficiency are also more likely to suffer from chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, depression, and obesity, as well as from cancer, increased mortality, and reduced quality of life and productivity.

When you look at it that way, the need for a good shuteye sinks in and when counting sheep stops working science says a good old massage is the answer.

Source:
Insufficient Sleep Is a Public Health Problem – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation (2006) – National Academies

3. Improved immunity

A strong immune system means less chances of acquiring diseases and that could potentially extend our lifespan. It sounds far-fetched but massage can actually improve our immune system. There’s a lot of studies that cover this particular health benefit of massage and most of them all agree that a good massage can make us resist diseases better. One study even says it helps with immune preservation in HIV+ children.

Sources:
A Preliminary Study of the Effects of a Single Session of Swedish Massage on Hypothalamic–Pituitary–Adrenal and Immune Function in Normal Individuals – Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (Oct 2010)
Impact of a massage therapy clinical trial on immune status in young Dominican children infected with HIV-1 – Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (Jul 2006)

 

Whether you prefer being massaged as a reward or as part of a treatment, the science behind the life-extending benefits of massages cannot be ignored. Luckily there are just about as many health benefits of massaging to the number of massage styles available which should make the experience something to look forward to.

A coffee a day keeps the grim reaper away

Coffee is one of the most widely consumed substances around the globe and over the past few years, various studies have revealed that drinking coffee in small amounts can add years to the average human lifespan. This inverse association has been observed for deaths due to heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, injuries and accidents, diabetes, and infections, but not for deaths due to cancer.

coffee a day keeps the grim reaper away

How coffee enhances longevity

Consumption of moderate amounts of caffeine on a daily basis has been shown to decrease the age-related decline in the cognitive functions, thereby preventing diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and preserving intellectual capabilities. Animal studies showed this function to be partly due to the ability of caffeine to decrease the production of beta amyloid in the brain, which is one of the principal factors that can induce cognitive deficit and AD.

Although consumption of coffee has not been linked with increase in the risk of heart diseases like arrhythmias, it has been proved that drinking approximately 4 cups of coffee every day can lower the risk of heart attack from coronary heart diseases, one of the leading causes of mortality around the world. Studies reveal that components of caffeine can reverse the endothelial dysfunction which is the primary reason of plaque formation in the vessel walls and atherosclerosis, the basic pathology underlying the coronary heart diseases.

Caffeine has been shown not to be linked with increase in blood pressure which is also a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. A prospective study also ruled out any causal relationship between caffeine intake and the risk of stroke, another major killer and suggested that caffeine can slightly lower the chances of stroke.

By protecting against different kinds of diseases associated with a high risk of mortality and declining the age-related decrease in the cognitive functions, caffeine has been shown to enhance the average lifespan in humans.

What do the guidelines say?

In the year 2015, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published a guideline “Scientific Opinion on Caffeine” on the intake of caffeine, postulating that the total intake of caffeine from all sources was safe within the limits of 400 mg per day.

Although the report said that caffeine neither has any adverse effects on human reproductive system and the pregnancy outcomes nor does it have any teratogenic effects on the fetus, it was stipulated that the consumption of caffeine should be curbed during pregnancy. The guideline recommended that the amount of caffeine intake from all sources should be reduced to 200 mg per day in pregnant or nursing women.

How much caffeine in a cup of coffee?

Here are some typical caffeine contents – for a full list see http://coffeeandhealth.org/topic-overview/sources-of-caffeine/

  • Espresso (30 ml) = 60 mg
  • Filtered coffee (125 ml) = 85 mg
  • Tea (150 ml) = 32 mg

You might want to check with your favourite coffee shop how much espresso they put in as standard – for example since 2012 Starbucks have used two shots in their lattes and cappuccinos.

References

Freedman, Neal D., et al. “Association of coffee drinking with total and cause-specific mortality.” New England Journal of Medicine 366.20 (2012): 1891-1904.
Santos C. et al. (2010) Caffeine intake and dementia: systematic review and meta-analysis. J Alzheimers Dis, 20 Suppl1: S187-204.
Arendash, G. W., et al. “Caffeine protects Alzheimer’s mice against cognitive impairment and reduces brain β-amyloid production.” Neuroscience 142.4 (2006): 941-952.
Heckman M.A. et al. (2010) Caffeine (1, 3, 7-trimethylxanthine) in foods: a comprehensive review on consumption, functionality, safety, and regulatory matters. J Food Sci, 75: R77-87
Pelchovitz D.J. et al. (2011) Caffeine and cardiac arrhythmias: a review of the evidence. Am J Med, 124(4): 284-9.
Mostofsky E. et al. (2012) Habitual coffee consumption and risk of heart failure: a dose-response meta-analysis. Circ Heart Fail, 5(4): 401-5.
Duffy, Stephen J., et al. “Short-and long-term black tea consumption reverses endothelial dysfunction in patients with coronary artery disease.” Circulation 104.2 (2001): 151-156.
Geleijnse J.M. (2008) Habitual coffee consumption and blood pressure: an epidemiological perspective. Vasc Health Risk Manag, 4(5): 963-70.
Illy A. et al. (1995) Espresso Coffee. The chemistry of quality. Academic Press, London.
Harland B.F. (2000) Caffeine and nutrition. Nutrition, 7/8: 522-526.
Lopez-Garcia, Esther, et al. “Coffee consumption and risk of stroke in women.” Circulation 119.8 (2009): 1116-1123.