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Old 08-24-2005, 12:41 PM   #1
Paul Theodorescu
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Who here agrees with the "set point" theory which basically states that the body gravitates towards a set amount of body fat?

I've seen evidence for and against but in my experience it has rung true. The one time I tried to "bulk" I got chubby and then got sick and tired of eating. When I tried calorie restriction I was ravenous all the time. Regardless of short term results I seem to gravitate back to 15% bf. Ideally, I'd love to be around 8-10% since I know my fitness would sky rocket as a result.
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Old 08-24-2005, 04:01 PM   #2
Pat Janes
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I've only got anecdotal evidence, Paul... but in my case, I'd say I agree.

I've spent most of my life in the 13-15% range and was "reasonably" fit by normal modern day standards.

I went through a "bulking" phase in which I put on some muscle mass and some fat along with it and felt like crap. I couldn't continue to eat like I had to, to maintain it; it just wasn't for me.

With the CrossFit and particularly with starting the Zone, I've dropped down to the 8-9% range and my performance and well-being skyrocketed.

I then took my BF down to about 5-6% and I started to feel like crap again. Performance dropped... strength was non-existant.

So, I'd say around 8-9% is my "sweet spot".
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Old 08-24-2005, 06:16 PM   #3
Mikael Všlitalo
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There may be general genetic tendencies that you can do nothing against but I would tend not to agree with the "set point" theory (had never heard of it before actually). Consider my case: growing up I had always been a naturally skinny, tall and lean kid... an ectomorph. I'd always be under 8%, I was several times even measured at 4% with calipers. My main problem was gaining muscle mass, even when I tried I couldn't do it.

So last summer at the ripe and mature age of 19 I made a big and wise decision "what the heck I'm tired of being skinny, let's bulk up like crazy no matter what". I did, and gained mass fast. Too fast: my bodyfat percentage shot up to around 15-20%. My face wasn't the same anymore. I was amazed at the change, I couldn't believe my old athletic friends were now taunting me for being "fat" and having a belly. I was like a different character.

Since then I've gradually lost the fat and these days I'm under 10% for sure. I'll never bulk up again like an idiot the way I did last year, but I'm glad I did it at least once because it taught me that you can change and become pretty much anything if you do what's needed. Your body will adapt and reach new comfort zones in my opinion. When I became chubby, I felt I could've stayed there had I wanted to... My stomach had adapted to eating a lot. But then I became sensible and started thinking that lean and fit was better than big and fat even if it meant being on the skinny side of the fitness spectrum.
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Old 08-30-2005, 06:09 AM   #4
Craig Van De Walker
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From what I've read and experienced over the years I believe (IMO) there is a average set point for humans. I do not believe it varies a huge amount between persons although I am sure there is some difference. Even with adequate nutrition and exercise:

--Get fat 18-22+% for men, (25-30%+ for women) feel and perform crappy (I bulked up once to 235~18% body fat got somewhat stronger but felt crappy and short of breath when active)

--stay in middle range for body fat 12-15% feel pretty good overall don't have to obsess about diet just be reasonable

--get down to 8-12% feel athletically better stronger pound for pound all things being equal but requires much more attention to diet for many. This is where I have stayed for years and feel best at this level. It took some time to get used to it but after a year this level felt comfortable. I think whenever you change something like bodyfat there is an adjustment period before your body accepts that this is normal for you and quits complaining.

--get really lean 3-6% for more than a short time and most people will deteriorate. I dieted down for bb contest and once I got to 4% bf the weight I lost after that was almost all lean. I felt OK at first but within a week felt like crap, looked good, lost strength and endurance. Thought and dreamed about food constantly. If I stayed at that level I probably would have fallen apart before too long.

The long and short is I believe that performance is more important than % body fat I will shoot for a level that makes me strongest/fittest pound for pound, that will likely be at a pretty low body fat but you will reach a point of diminishing returns at some level .
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Old 09-04-2005, 07:49 PM   #5
Bobbi Beglau Salvini
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I have read some information that would indicate that when fat cells are not full, they trigger production of a hormone that causes hunger. This may explain why a large percentage of the population can't keep weight off for more than six months. The Zone book talks about the importance of eating frequently and with fats to carburate digestion. The idea is that with a constant supply of energy metabolism will be maintained at a high level. I also find that I am no longer hungry all the time despite that I have dropped over 40 pounds. My theory is that this "famine" hormone is not produced when the body is being bathed with energy, even if the energy is coming to the body at a slow rate. Anyone else have this experience?

It would make sense that at some point the fat cells would become so empty that they will signal hormone production, even though the body is receiving energy from food.

Has anyone seen research to study if people that have fat cells removed surgically have the same weight loss failure rate as those that follow a traditional caloric reduction plan? If the above is true regarding the relationship between empty fat cells and hormones, then the cells would be removed instead of empty, and hunger would not be triggered. I think it would also be interesting to see which diets suppress this hunger hormone; I would bet the Zone with low glycemic foods would rate highly.
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Old 09-05-2005, 10:16 AM   #6
Lincoln Brigham
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Here's some food for thought in regards to the set-point theory and calorie counting. It is my contention that the set-point theory is an attempt to explain why calorie counting has such a horrible track record as a weight loss method.

Assume an average person consuming 2,000 kcals per day. That's about 750,000 kcals per year. Now, current calorie-counting theory states that fat cells grow or shrink at a rate of 3,500 calories per pound. That is to say, a calorie surplus of 3,500 calories, in excess of basic metabolic needs, will result in the growth of a pound of bodyfat. The same goes for a calorie deficit.

Are you with me? A pound of bodyfat = 3,500 calories. In theory. Our average person is consuming 750,000 calories per year.

Question: When calorie counting, how accurate would this person need to be in order to maintain their current weight? Plus or minus 5 lbs. per year?

Consider that the vast majority of people do so without even counting calories.

Answer: They would need to accurate to within 48 calories per day. That's 2% accuracy. Outside of a laboratory that, ladies and gentlemen, is impossible. Misjudge that ice cream by 1 tablespoon and change the amount of walking done by 10 minutes and already it's off by that much. If Burger Boy puts an extra half-tablespoon of mayo on the sandwich, calorie counting for the day is screwed. And what if that chicken is 6 ounces instead of 5? Oops, thats 50 calories difference.

Does anyone think that a triathlete like Eugene Allen can calculate his calories expended to within a 2% degree of accuracy? Over the course of the 3,000 or 4,000 or 5,000 calories he may burn in a day? Eugene, how much has your weight fluctuated from year-to-year?

Is there a self-regulating system within the body that - under normal circumstances - keeps bodyweight relatively stable? The math suggest there is. Again, consider the assumption that MOST people don't gain or lose weight at a high rate, usually 5 lbs. a year or so over the course of their lifetime. So, if calorie-counting is so critical to achieving ideal bodyweight, then how is it that so many people who DON'T count calories manage stay within 20-40 lbs. of their ideal weight for decades on end?

No one, maybe not even most labs, can calculate BMR and daily calorie expenditure and daily calorie intake to within a 2% accuracy. Yet that is exactly what the calorie-counting nazis like the American Council On Fitness and Nutrition are asking people to do.
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