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Low Body Fat - The Tipping Point
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Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Many of us are NOT, unfortunately, in similar situations... on 07/10/2011 00:26:49 MDT Print View

To those of you who find it hard to lose weight... please remember that Chris got to where he is with a lot of exceptionally hard work, plus a lot of study of nutrition. You may find that the paleo-diet will work for you, too. It's based on a lot of research done on how our ancestors before agriculture (when we lived in our natural genetic state for our species) lived and ate. Three books that will give you a lot of insight into how it works, "The Primal Blueprint" by Mark Sisson (it totally changed my life as a diabetic, and it is more of a healthy lifestyle guide than purely book on nutrition. Does a great job in conjunction with Sisson's very active online community and blog,, "Good Calories, Bad Calories" by Gary Taubes (presents the political and scientific fiasco that hid the truth about how fat was vilified and carbohydrates championed... and goes on to argue how our bodies were never meant to eat so many carbohydrates. Extremely well-researched and argued book), and "The Paleo Diet", by Loren Cordain (researches the way our Paleolithic ancestors ate and how we can replicate it today. A little too macho for my taste with a much too simplistic understanding of how hunter gatherers must have lived day-to-day, in great part because it is so painfully obvious the the writer knows almost nothing of the complexity and richness of other cultures and how they think and live, but a good insight into the kind of food that is healthiest for us.

Going Primal, with low amounts of carbohydrates (no grains, very little sugar, small amounts of fruit), very high consumption of vegetables, quite high amounts of healthy fats (no vegetable oils or margarine), and moderate amounts of protein has made me lose weight naturally and steadily. Soon I'll be back to my college weight of 70 kg. That and steady exercise (lots of walking) with occasional bodyweight strength exercises and sprints is really working. You might as well try. If nothing else, cut back on all grains and sugar. That will do wonders.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
fat and fat! on 07/10/2011 09:19:47 MDT Print View

Show me a paleo twizzler and we'll talk.

My experience is similar to Chris' insofar as finding it really hard to stay warm when lean goes. I've never had too crazy a metabolism though, 3500 calories seems to keep me even these days (thankfully).

My wife is quite lean for woman, and that combined with her sedate metabolism makes our experiences staying warm outdoors strikingly different. Not only does she need more clothing for given temp, but doesn't create almost instant heat when working hard in that way I do. Certainly some gender/biological differences at play. Especially insofar as the latter point is concerned I wouldn't want to be in her shoes.

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
?'s on 07/10/2011 17:05:36 MDT Print View

a couple of questions if I could, what's your height? what was your fitness level when you were 175#'s?

hope you get it sorted, being cold isn't fun :(

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Re: Re: Many of us are in similar situations... on 07/10/2011 20:00:27 MDT Print View

On my long distance PCT hikes I got down to about 120lbs (I'm 5'3"), which wouldn't be considered emaciated or even thin. Then I slowly gained some of it back on the trail even though I hiked 25+ mile days. The female body, even one past its reproductive years, knows how to keep the weight on.

I do feel bad for you guys who can't keep any weight on despite eating a lot of food. Eating tons of food all the time, like I did as a long distance hiker, got really old after a while.

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: .
Re: ?'s on 07/10/2011 20:05:18 MDT Print View

I'm basically 5'8 (just a hair under). At 175ish I had already lost 45 lbs primarily through diet. I had just started to get back in to backpacking, hiking, and mountain biking around that time. Shortly after I started doing light runs and got down to around 163. Then I did P90X a couple of times along with an increase in the running and hit where I'm at now.

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
^ ?'s on 07/10/2011 20:34:44 MDT Print View

OK good, I was hoping you weren't 6' @ 138# :) Sounds like maybe somewhere between where you are now and where you were before (175) will be a little better, you should be able to maintain a good fitness level in the 150-ish range, just need to figure how to get there

I think Eugene might have been onto something w/ weight training, I'd consider starting to lowering reps, start increasing weight and up the rest periods and see if that doesn't help pack on some pounds- maybe add more speed stuff to your running and cut back a bit on the longer stuff.

btw- this is the opposite of what I'm doing now, I've gone to body weight exercises and getting a lot more aerobic work in than I have in the past- I'll be diligent to not got too far, nothing to worry about in the short term though :)

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
Low Body Fat - The Tipping Point on 07/12/2011 02:20:56 MDT Print View

Chris -

I've had a similar problem and in my case I've attributed it to having a low resting pulse. Do you have a particularly low resting pulse?

It's supposed to be a good thing that results from being fit but I think it leaves me cold at the end of the day especially when I relax at the campsite. Like you I run hot when on the move and need very little insulation to stay warm but as soon as my pulse rate drops I get really cold.

I've not found any science to back this up but I have worn my heart-rate monitor while hiking and my pulse is low when I get the chills. My resting pulse will generally drop into the 40's when I'm relaxed. Try eating/drinking something that will boost your heart-rate while resting and see if it makes any difference.

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: .
Re: Low RHR on 07/12/2011 04:24:42 MDT Print View


The last time I had it tested my RHR was 48 (I wasn't quite as fit then either), but it was only 52 when I ran much warmer. Definitely something interesting to monitor!


Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Low Body Fat - The Tipping Point on 07/12/2011 07:27:03 MDT Print View

I'm curious about how the male human body then works, if you look back on what our ancestors did while on their daily long walks. How is it that they maintained a warm body temperature and still be as fit as they were. Surely they didn't get cold the way you are now, Chris. What is it in your exercise routine or eating habits that is causing the problem? Since our ancestors didn't eat a lot of carbs, that couldn't have been what kept up their body temperature. Since they couldn't have moved about constantly all the time, how did they stay warm when resting? And since supposedly the men did more long-distance walking than the women when they went hunting, there must have been something about everyone's diet that helped them. Could it be that you're not getting enough fat? Or maybe you're moving too much? Or maybe you're not getting enough rest between workouts? I don't know. But if you weren't running cold before, but are now, surely there is something that you had before that you are missing now.

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: .
Re: Re: Low Body Fat - The Tipping Point on 07/12/2011 09:06:26 MDT Print View

I'm not so sure about the carb thing. There are at least as many studies dispelling the paleo diet as there are for it. Despite that, I rarely see a cave man depicted with a really lean stature (think very vascular and visible striations all over). Not even my Scottish and Cherokee ancestors are known for being really lean.

I think the problem really comes down to our societal beliefs. We have an obsession with looking fit. The reality is that I was probably 90-95% as fit when I had a little extra padding and no problems staying warm. I just didn't look like it and for some reason I wanted that. Now here I am. I look as fit as I truly am, but I'm not sure I'm better for it.

This is turning in to a great discussion, which is what I wanted. We need to know about both sides of the equation in relation to how it effects our hobby/sport/obsession.

Edited by simplespirit on 07/12/2011 09:23:43 MDT.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Low Body Fat - The Tipping Point on 07/12/2011 10:11:50 MDT Print View

Despite that, you rarely see a cave man depicted with a lean stature. Not even my Scottish and Cherokee ancestors are known for being lean.

Hmm, I'm not sure about that. By lean, do you mean emaciated? Or rippling muscles? Or simply, as I think it was throughout most of human history, with little extra body fat. If you look at any old photographs of Americans just 150 years ago, you will very rarely see overweight people. Most of them didn't have bodies of the kind you see in "Sparta" or aerobics competitions, but almost everyone was lean. And if you look at old photos of Native Americans (I have Gullah ancestry from South Carolina, a mix of Cree and escaped slaves who lived in isolation until fairly recently) from throughout the country, you never see any overweight people. Now I'm talking from 150 years ago and more, not more recent history, in which diets worldwide were drastically changed by the sudden explosion of industrial production. I also have Filipino ancestry and have lived in Japan for most of my life, and people in the Philippines and here are almost never overweight. Almost everyone is quite lean. I have traveled throughout the world and most people in most of the world are lean. The obesity problem in the States right now is very much an anomaly, and not the norm by any measure. And I think it very much has to do with the huge amounts of grains and sugar and sheer amount of food that people eat. Though, sadly, as processed food consumption increases in many parts of the world, obesity is beginning to spread everywhere. Nearly all of it is due to processed foods, sugar, and grains.

I also do a lot of walking in the mountains in Japan. Throughout my life (I've been here for 27 years over a span of 41 years) I have seen extremely fit and healthy Japanese who do very strenuous mountain walks without all the huge amounts of eating that people talk about so often here on BPL. I once met a 75 year old mountain woodcutter who everyday walked about 20 km in very steep, rugged terrain, plus shinnied himself several times a day during those walks up and down the trunks of cedar trees (including coming back down headfirst), and all he ate for lunch were two tangerines and a small rice ball with a pickled plum inside. That kept him going all day long. His muscles were ropey and extremely well defined and he was indefatigable. I once saw him carry a rope and wood slat pack with an enormous load of wood that I couldn't even lift. I don't know how he did it. I suspect he had never eaten much throughout his life. He would have been astonished to see the kinds of meals so many Americans eat.

As to images of cave men, I beg to differ. Most images I've seen of them are of burly, heavy browed ape-like brutes who certainly are very lean and muscular (as are wild apes. Gorillas seem to be overweight, but actually that is all the vegetable matter fermenting in their stomachs... humans can't eat a gorilla diet). I'm not talking about Homo erectus, but of Homo sapiens, our direct ancestors who are identical to us, in fact are us (recent discoveries in genetics have found that we also have neanderthal genes and characteristics among us, too). The main problem with depicting them in images is that no one with a camera or good drawing skills was around then to record them, so we simply don't know. But from all the archeological evidence, they were exceptionally fit and very lean. Very few of them had any of the modern afflictions we suffer from today, like cardiovascular diseases, tooth disease, lifestyle diseases like diabetes or obesity. They were also taller than people of the first few thousand years following the development of agriculture, and their brains were slighter bigger than our's are today. Nearly every study done of hunter-gatherers today have found them to be very fit and lean, with almost no modern diseases. Diabetes and obesity was unheard of among Native Americans until the introduction of the European diet... now it is the highest rate in the world. If you see people like the tribes in the Amazon or New Guinea who seem to be overweight, that stomach distention is very often is caused by kwashiorkor or protein deficiency, something, surprisingly, that is hard to get in rain forests.

I guess the question we all have to ask is, do we want to "look" fit or "be" fit? We really have to redefine what "fitness" means. To me, while it is nice to have rippling muscles, I'd much rather feel energetic all day, sleep well at night, eat just enough to keep my body running in top well-being, including being able to fend off infections and occasional stress well, occasionally eat something just for the pleasure of it, live a very long, fulfilling life, have healthy children, and enjoy a nice, challenging hike every now and then. To me that is health and fitness.

John Whynot

Locale: Southeast Texas
Re: Re: Low Body Fat - The Tipping Point on 07/12/2011 10:57:10 MDT Print View

@Miguel -- We really have to redefine what "fitness" means...

That was very well stated. But if as a result of being fit, I have have visble abs, I'm not complaining...

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Re: Re: Low Body Fat - The Tipping Point on 07/12/2011 11:07:49 MDT Print View

"I'm not so sure about the carb thing"

Neither am I, especially as an endurance athlete. I've read plenty on "paleo" diets (Cordain, etc.) and I know some athletes that succeed with this diet. However, I think humans have been far more diverse and adaptive in our dietary needs over the last 10-20,000 years than much of the paleo camp gives us credit for. There are obviously cultures that have adapted in different ways: lactose tolerance, etc.

I don't think it's much of a stretch to imagine that some people are more carbohydrate tolerant than others. But many paleo diets tend to rule out carbs almost entirely.

No contemporary nutritionist from any culture is going to argue that highly processed and refined carbs are good for you.

But complex, whole carbs are a much different story. If merely eating farmed carbohydrates (grains, starches, etc.) is "going against our biology", as many paleo advocates argue, explain the success of Kenyan distance runners- they're primary sources of calories are ugala (like a polenta porridge), rice, and natural sugars (fruit). According to articles I've read on their training, only about 4 small portions/week are meat.

It seems the major benefit of the paleo diet is simply getting people off of processed and packaged foods- which is typically junk carbs in our culture. But to rule out whole, natural carbs- if you can tolerate them (like brown rice or yams) seems silly.

Ultimately we should be focusing on what works for us as individuals (more power to you if the paleo diet is working for you Miguel, I'm not knocking it at all), but not painting all human nutrition with such a broasd brush- as I think many paleo diets do with sweeping claims about what have and have not "evolved" to eat.

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: .
Re: What is lean on 07/12/2011 12:03:29 MDT Print View

I apologize, Miguel, for not being more specific. Yes, a lot of our ancestors were not overweight and probably carried little "extra" fat. Where I think we, and our different cultures, vary, is what is defined as "extra". In my case, I could easily gain 20 lbs, whether it be fat or muscle, and still be considered at a healthy weight and likely even a healthy level of fat.

At least in the US, sub 20% body fat is healthy for men. At 14-18% you're considered fit. I, personally, wouldn't consider someone "lean" until they're under 12. As a society here, most would probably dictate we go even lower and say you need to be under 10, maybe even under 8. I'm sure this varies A LOT by country and culture.

Your last paragraph sums it up nicely, though. I thought I wanted to fit in to your first ideal (rippling muscles), and while I do like the way I look today, I'm gradually finding I'd rather fit your second description.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Low Body Fat - The Tipping Point on 07/12/2011 12:51:10 MDT Print View

Well, to be more accurate about my diet, I'm following the Primal Blueprint diet, which doesn't rule out carbohydrates. It just lowers the amount. I don't follow the strict paleo dictums either. I feel a lot of the conclusions of people like Cordain about paleolithic people are far too simplistic and based too much on his concept of the world as he grew up with in America. People tend to forget that paleolithic people were not simpletons or "lower on the evolutionary chain" than we are. Their lives were as complex as ours and were probably not very different in terms of how they thought and what they expected. I think it is important, when studying these people, to look at differences in all the cultures of the world today and see the complexity there in order to understand the people in the past. That goes for the way they ate, too. I suspect it was far more complex and varied than what the paleo-nutritionists claim. Even wild animals like wolves and bears are far more complex in their eating habits than that pictured of the paleo humans. The idea that something that happened 2 million years ago is less progressive evolutionary-wise is a false one. The only criteria for success in evolution is survival and flourishing. Today cockroaches are as alive and successful as ever. Evolutionary-wise for us to claim that we are more successful and more developed than they are ignores just how successful cockroaches really are.

Craig, I actually agree with you. I was a vegetarian for many years, but no matter how hard I tried after I got diabetes I could never get it under control, until I lowered my carbohydrate intake. I'm still trying to learn how to deal with high exertion requirements, like when I climb mountains.

Edited by butuki on 07/12/2011 12:56:57 MDT.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
cheezy poofs on 07/12/2011 13:08:46 MDT Print View

climb 4 times a week, dont eat too many cheezy poofs ... eat some good steak or sushi

and thats all you need to do ...

its all a matter of willpower ... how many of you are doing squats while reading this ;)

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: cheezy poofs on 07/12/2011 13:26:28 MDT Print View

I'm doing a permanent squat on the couch! Does that count?

Michael Reagan
(MichaelReagan) - F

Locale: Southern California
RE: Cheezy Poofs on 07/12/2011 14:54:17 MDT Print View

I've met a few flamboyant poofs but never any cheezy ones. Mostly they dress better than I do.


Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
Low Body Fat on 07/12/2011 15:31:34 MDT Print View

The low body fat "fitness" image is really misleading and I agree that we probably need a new definition of fitness.

Previously I suggested that a low resting pulse may contribute to your problem of feeling cold. Elaborating on this, if you gain weight your pulse will not change if you maintain the same workout intensity. It is very possible to be fat and fit if you are strictly looking at min/max heart-rate and heart-rate recovery levels after exercise (ie. how fast does your pulse rate drop after exercise or a day of hiking).

I think it's important to note that high aerobic exercise is intended to push your heart rate to a fairly high level and keep it in that zone for an extended period of time. In most cases, this results in a lower resting pulse (which may equate to a lower metabolism while resting). This is quite a different exercise model than our hunter-gatherer predessessors would experience as they may have worked hard and walked for long periods of time at a fairly low aerobic threshold.

In the past year I have dropped 25 pounds and the feeling of cold hasn't changed (I wasn't warmer when I was heavier). My fitness level has been the same over that period of time. I've not changed my workout routine... which is fairly rigourous, and I don't feel "lighter" when I'm hiking... I just look thinner.

Alice Hengst
(Moondust) - MLife

Locale: Southern Sierras
Hard to keep warm even with plenty of BF on 07/12/2011 16:07:56 MDT Print View

First of all, my name is Alice, not Chris. (Just sent a msg to support). I am female, 23-25% body fat. I generate a lot of heat when moving. If I'm not tired I can stay fairly warm when stopped, but when I am fatigued I get very cold. It's like my body says it has already burned its allotted number of calories for the day and it is not going to burn any more. When I get very tired even a down parka doesn't feel warm and I'll shiver. Maybe I'm not putting out enough heat for the parka to conserve. The only thing that helps is putting on all my clothes, climbing into a very warm sleeping system, and going to sleep. My body never hesitates to tell me what it needs, anyway.

Edited by Moondust on 07/12/2011 16:08:55 MDT.