No one could ever have described Stella Koutsikou as a couch potato. The 34-year-old researcher at Bristol University had been running regularly at half-marathon and marathon distances, was also doing a variety of other exercises four or five times a week. She was also very careful about what she ate, and made sure not to over-eat. But despite all that, she was suffering from a problem that many people who eat more and do far less exercise often experience. She was carrying more weight than she wanted to around her stomach, and nothing she did would shift it. Her waist remained at 35.5 inches (90 cm). “I found it impossible to lose weight and body fat, and to decrease the size of my waist,” she recalls. So why is her waist now ten inches smaller, at 25.5 inches (70 cm)? The answer has been a new exercise regime and a new diet that meant she had to eat more often! Stella, a scientist, changed her way of eating on the advice of personal trainer Tom Lakos, who got her to take a metabolic rate test. “We discovered that at high intensity and during endurance training my body was only burning carbohydrates for energy and not fat,” she says
Tom, who runs Bristol-based Pro-Tom fitness, explains: “It was a puzzle to me why she had not been losing body fat, especially from around her waist, and I knew that it would not be easy to change without a very specific training plan. “I carried out the metabolic testing, which showed that she was not refuelling as much as her body needed to, so fat was stored around her waist as a reserve. Even when she started refuelling properly, using a sport specific eating plan, the outcome was not what we hoped for. “So, I asked her what was more important at that time in her life: to improve performance for duathlons, or to lose body fat? “She said she wanted to lose body fat so we did more weight training and progressed to body-building, which worked extremely well and we have achieved fantastic results.” Stella started training with Tom in March 2008 with the aim of improving her running and cycling. She has improved her times for both, and she had also reduced her body fat from 27 per cent to 19.5 per cent. She has also lost about 10 kilos in weight.
Stella’s weight loss
A key factor in Stella’s weight loss has been the fact that Tom did not simply put her on a diet, but worked out a balanced nutritional programme that was individually tailored for her. Stella recalls: “In the first week, I incorporated more water by substituting it for other drinks such as fruit juices in the morning, even if they claimed to be natural. “I started looking more closely at the labels of foods in an attempt to eliminate ‘bad’ fat – but I incorporated more ‘good’ fats like avocados, extra virgin olive oil and oily fish. I also eliminated refined sugars. “The general rule of thumb was that I’d only buy foods with a very short list of ingredients – a maximum of four or five. For example, a packet of cereal with a very long list of about 15 ingredients and five different types of sugar is not good for you. “In the next four weeks, I made sure that I got into the habit of having smaller and more frequent meals – five or six meals a day that always consisted of lean protein such as chicken, salmon, or Quorn; low-medium glycemic starchy carbohydrates such as brown rice and sweet potato; and fibrous carbs like broccoli, peppers, green beans. By doing this my metabolic rate increased, which meant I burnt more calories even in a sedentary state – and by consuming food every three hours I taught my body that it will never starve and so there is no need for it to store fat for future use. “In addition, those more frequent feedings have helped me maintain a more stable blood sugar pattern, which in turn has resulted in more stable energy, no lethargy (especially after a meal) and the elimination of sweet food cravings throughout the day.” After the fifth week, and to the present day, Tom changed Stella’s weight-training program to achieve more body tone and at the same time she embarked upon a clinical approach towards consuming carbohydrates.
Stella explains: “I’ll have a low carbohydrate day, followed by a medium, followed by a high carbohydrate day and then I will start all over again. “We did this in order to convince my body to use more fat for energy by depriving it temporarily of carbohydrates. “Despite popular belief, going into a diet of zero carbohydrates all the time will not be beneficial, because it can lower the basic metabolic rate and prevent further fat burn.”
Balancing your exercise and diet
ProTom Personal Training is based at the heart of Bristol City centre and Clifton. Going on a crash diet to get yourself into a bikini might seem like a good idea if your summer holiday is just a few weeks away. However, depriving your body of food to lose weight quickly can contribute to long-term weight problems. In his book Dieting Makes You Fat, author Geoffrey Cannon explains that He says: “Dieting, supposed to be the solution to overweight and obesity, is in fact part of the problem. “If you want to get rid of body fat, get in good shape and improve your health for ever, about the worst thing you can do is restrict energy from food and drink.” He goes on to explain that in evolutionary terns the human body is unable to distinguish between diet and famine. As a result, the more someone’s body endures cycles of dieting, the more it becomes trained to store food. But that shouldn’t be an excuse to spend your days chomping on bars of chocolate and packets of crisps. Eating the right sort of food is, of course, very important in maintaining a slim, healthy body. For further information on how to lose weight in a healthy way – and keep it off – turn to pages 10-11, where Charlotte Turner (who is completing a degree in dietetics) gives some advice.
(Original article has been removed.)