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Nutrient Partitioning: Cracking The Fat Loss Code

For years it’s been common knowledge that consuming too many calories would make you fat and cutting back on calories would make you lose weight. As you probably already know through experience it’s just not that simple.

Would you believe that no one has ever proven the calorie theory to be true? Nobody. There’s not a single research study that you’ll find that shows if you feed people the same amount of excess calories they will gain the same amount of weight or vice versa.

What you will find though are studies that demonstrate large variances in weight loss or weight gain when identical calories are given in excess or restriction. In one noteable Canadian study 12 sets of male twins were overfeed 1000 calories a day for 84 days straight.

You’d think the weight gain would be identical for each pair since they were twins.


Some men gained as little as 9 lbs while others gained as much as 29 lbs.

What gives?

The problem with the whole calorie theory is that it tries to simplify your metabolism to an equation of energy in and energy out. The reality is your metabolism is far more complicated than that. There’s no way that calorie intake alone can determine your body composition.

We all know someone who eats whatever they want, whenever they want, and they still stay lean and trim. On the flipside there’s also the person who eats very little and doesn’t seem to ever lose weight.

This simple observance alone turns the whole calorie theory upside down.

The real reason some people gain weight easier and some lose it easier has to do with a concept called “nutrient partitioning.”

The idea is that your body will process nutrients differently depending on a variety of factors.

The first factor is how much lean muscle you have. I’ve been on record countless times telling you that developing lean muscle is a cornerstone in any successful fat loss program.

It affects so many hormonal systems in your body that regulate metabolism that you simply can’t expect to lose fat and keep it off while sacrificing muscle. There’s no getting around this fact.

When you develop lean muscle you get more efficient at using energy and less likely to store calories as fat. That’s an undeniable truth.

The second factor is the quality of food you eat, not just the quantity. When you eat whole, natural, foods your body can actually use the nutrients instead of dumping everything into fat cells.

When you eat processed, refined foods your body has to deal with what’s called “negative partitioning agents.” These include artificial sweeteners, preservatives, and other chemicals that help to disrupt the normal metabolic function of your body.

When your diet is nutritionally bankrupt from not eating natural foods you condition your body to store fat instead of supporting muscle.

Imagine having these traffic cops in your body that are working to regulate the flow of nutrients. When you have a lot of  these “negative partitioning agents” in your system the traffic cops direct the nutrients to your fat cells. When you eat whole, natural foods the traffic cops start sending the nutrients to muscle cells.

It’s like a rail line switch they used in the old days that would move the train from one track to the next. Your destination for what goes into your stomach will either be the fat cell depot or the muscle cell depot. The choice is entirely yours and your body must choose one track or the other.

The third factor in determining whether you feed fat or muscle has to do with genetics. While there are the lucky few who can eat whatever they want and still stay slim and muscular, others will have to re-program their fat storing switches.

Is it fair? No, but it’s reality and that’s all that matters.

The good new is you can alter what your body does with nutrients and energy by making changes in how you eat and exercise. The prescription is simple…eat more natural foods and exercise with resistance to develop your muscles.

Another “negative partitioning agent” would be prescription drugs and medications. A good example of this would be the prescription drug “prednisone.” This drug is commonly prescribed to treat pain and inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and asthma to name a few.

Anyone who has ever taken this drug knows about its nasty side effect of causing you to get fat.

It seems no matter how little you eat while on this drug you still gain weight. The reason is prednisone is a powerful negative partitioning agent that promotes the burning of muscle for fuel which rapidly consumes lean mass. No matter what you do, if you take prednisone for too long you will become weak and get fat…no matter how little you eat.

The same thing can be said for other steroid medications and drugs that alter the hormonal balances in your body. I highly recommend you talk to your doctor and research any drugs you are taking to see if they can affect your body’s ability to burn fat.

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Remember, I’m always telling you fat loss is hormonal game. It’s not just a calorie balancing act. Yes, you need to adjust your calories to get into the “fat burning window” where your body can start lipolysis (the process of fatty acid utilization for energy in a muscle cell) but it’s also just as important to pay attention to the quality of calories you eat.

When you eat natural foods you signal your body to turn on the right switches to send nutrients to muscle cells and not fat cells. Combining that with resistance exercise (to create more energy demand from the muscles) and proper rest-recovery cycles you’ll have a winning strategy for fat loss.

In part two of this article I’ll get into some lessons from our past that further proves the nutrient partitioning theory. There’s a reason why our ancestors didn’t need vitamins and why they were resoundingly more robust, lean, and healthier then we are today. The evidence is overwhelming and I think it will all start making sense the more you make the connection.

Until next time, eat healthy, train hard, and live strong…

Shane Doll is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts Personal Training Studios. Learn more how you can receive a totally free trial of his personal training programs with no obligations.

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Category: Fat Loss.