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SMART: We often talk about elements of the Pearson & Shaw fat-loss program, but we rarely put them all together. What are the key points of your program, beginning with turning up the burn on body fat.

DURK: You don't want to have a whole lot of fat in your diet, because you may tend to burn the fat that's coming in, but you're not going to get rid of much of the fat that's already in your body unless you can force your body to mobilize some fat and that's not going to happen on a high-fat diet.

SANDY: The fat calories in your diet are much more readily converted to stored body fat than calories from either carbohydrates or protein.

DURK: In fact, protein is the most difficult one to convert into stored body fat and, also, studies show that protein tends to fill a person up so they eat fewer calories in subsequent meals, reducing overall calories eaten if they eat a snack that's high in protein.

SANDY: So what we recommend is that people replace the fat calories in their diet with calories from carbohydrates or protein.

SMART: You've focused on some of the difficulties people have on calorie-restriction diets and the difficulty of using ephedra herb tea under those circumstances.

SANDY: You know, one thing to keep in mind is that on any kind of thermogenic regimen, a person isn't going to continue losing weight indefinitely. The thermogenic agent is going to cause a reset in the set point. This is the level of body fat where your body will defend its body weight. You reach a new equilibrium with body fat. Some people will be a lot thinner than others.

A good example of this is nicotine. Nicotine is a thermogenic agent that people get when they smoke tobacco. (Of course, we do not recommend that people smoke tobacco; quite the contrary, we highly recommend against it.) But as an example, nicotine is a thermogenic agent, and, in fact, most people who smoke cigarettes are lower in weight than they would be otherwise. Nicotine reduces the set point so people weigh less than they would otherwise. They actually have less body fat. They don't keep losing body fat forever, however. They reach a certain point which becomes the new set point. And when they stop smoking their body weight goes up to the set point it would have had otherwise. It's the same thing with the effect of ephedra. It will help drive down the point at which the body defends its weight and people will reach a certain new set point.

SMART: Could you get below that set point?

DURK: Well sure, but you need to add other techniques to it. For example, one thing is to get thermogenesis going with exercise. If you're in good physical condition, in the sense of not having a cardiovascular condition, and you run for 30 seconds as hard as you can on a level surface, you'll end up increasing the amount of noradrenaline in your blood-stream about six times. This will activate brown fat thermogenesis and also tend to kill your appetite. Before each meal, or if you have the urge to snack, if you run for 30 seconds as hard as you can, I guarantee you'll be burning off a lot a fat and getting a lot less fat put back on. We're talking about only 2 minutes of running a day total!

SMART: Do you think the ideal amount of fat is somewhere between 25-30% of total calories?

DURK: Yes, I think that's a pretty reasonable amount. You know, some people who can get along with well below that, but if you drop far below that, you should monitor your HDL to make sure it is not going down too much. The other thing is, just take a look at the sort of side dishes you have. You can get meats that are only 5% fat, but if you eat a lot of corn with it, remember that corn is used to fatten up cattle. It has a high glycemic index; it raises the blood sugar a lot, and it releases a lot of insulin so the blood sugar turns into stored fat.

On the other hand, you could have some nice baked beans. Baked beans have a lot of fiber and protein and the carbohydrate is low and so's the fat. So for an equal number of calories in the corn and baked beans, I think you'll put a hell of a lot less weight on with the baked beans than the corn if you're trying to fight body fat.

SANDY: It may seem like a lot of trouble picking and choosing this way, but a lot of people using ephedra herb tea will be able to lose a few pounds of body fat, and that may be all they need or want to lose. They won't have to engage in additional procedures. But if you want to lose more and you're not being successful in losing what you want just on a ephedra herb tea, then you may have to do more.

DURK: If you exercise, make sure you don't allow your body temperature to rise. That depresses thermogenesis. If you're working out on an exercise machine, let a fan blow on you while you're exercising. For one thing, if you can evaporate sweat when it's still on the surface of your body, it carries away an awful lot of calories.

SANDY: We have often mentioned that if you reduce the amount of clothing you wear or expose yourself to cooler temperatures, you should never allow yourself to become cold enough to shiver, because when you shiver your muscles burn off a lot of blood sugar, glucose. This makes you hungry to replace that blood sugar, so it's going to make you want to eat. But if you just allow yourself to become cool enough to turn off the thermogenic mechanisms, but not so much that you start to shiver, then your body just burns off fat, not blood sugar.

SMART: We've encountered three general categories of people who use ephedra herb tea to lose fat. First, there are people who are obese, greatly overweight. They tend to have a lot of complications, but some people are successful. Then there are those who have some extra fat on them but are still in the normal range; they generally seem to have the best success rate-they come down pretty fast. And then there are athletes who are basically looking to get rid of those final few pounds of fat from around some difficult areas of their bodies. Does each group have different needs?

SANDY: The problem is that we all have built-in mechanisms for storing a certain amount of body fat; it's a protective mechanism designed to take care of you when there's a famine or when it's very cold.

DURK: If you're an athlete playing a contact sport, you don't want to get rid of too much of the fat; it cushions your internal organs; a serious athlete could end up with a ruptured kidney or spleen if they don't have enough fat in their abdominal cavity.

SANDY: If you look at football players, the tackles are always real big. It's not just muscle, but a lot of fat as well.

DURK: Notice that it falls below the rib cage and around the belly where you don't have ribs to protect your internal organs. You end up with a fat pad there. That isn't merely for storing energy in case you get cold and need to light up the fires and heat yourself, it's also for protecting your viscera from getting bashed.

SANDY: In the case of women, body fat is stored for the purpose of facilitating reproduction, and women of reproductive age store body fat in places like the hips, thighs, and buttocks to provide energy for when they're having a baby. Women whose body fat falls below about 17% often have a problem in that they stop menstruating and can't become pregnant; estrogen levels decline, and then they can develop osteoporosis. That's why women athletes are warned about losing too much fat.

SMART: Are you familiar with the use of drugs called beta-3-adrenergic agonists in inducing thermogenesis?

DURK: We've been following that for some years. They can certainly crank up thermogenesis, which causes a dramatic reduction in body fat, but they also have some pretty potent cardiovascular effects. In Britain, some test subjects ended up with blood pressure problems because they ate some meat that was contaminated with clembuterol, one of the prototype beta 3-agonists. Remember that beta-3-agonists make the heart more sensitive to arrhythmias. What they're trying to do is get drugs that are highly selective for just fat, and that may eventually be possible. But none of the presently available ones measures up to ma huang, which has been used for a very long time and has a pretty big margin for safety for most people. (Be sure to read the label.)

SMART: Do you recommend using phenylalanine as an appetite satisfier?

DURK: That's a very good approach. The brain "looks at" phenylalanine in the fluids in your brain to tell the type of food that you've been eating. Experiments have shown that phenylalanine can help satisfy appetites far beyond the number of calories that you'd have to consume to take in that phenylalanine.

SMART: Would you take phenylalanine an hour before meals, or something like that?

DURK: Yes, some if it would be converted into noradrenaline, which is also an appetite suppressant. Since phenylalanine is an amino acid contained in many proteins, I could see how the main effect is probably just the ancient part of the brain saying, "Well, I just ate 2 pounds of mammoth meat, I don't think I'm hungry any more." Phenylalanine is not thermogenic in itself, but it gets converted into noradrenaline, which is a signal to turn on the brown-fat thermogenesis. So it's a precursor to a thermogenic agent. In any case, it's clear it does help suppress appetite if taken before meals.

SMART: What about using arginine as a part of a fat-loss program?

DURK: Well, arginine supplements can be used, especially in conjunction with small amounts of peak-output exercise, to really shift your body fat: lean body mass ratio. This is something that we've seen work for a lot of people, particularly athletes, but even if you don't want to work out more than a couple of minutes a day, if it's a peak-output type workout and you take an arginine-choline-vitamin B-5 supplement before the work-out, I think you're going to be quite amazed at how rapidly the lean body mass goes up. Incidentally, the best way for your body to reduce the amount of fat is to maintain a constant body weight while increasing your lean body mass through exercising and thermogenic techniques.

SMART: So, you lose fat by actually increasing the calories that you eat?

DURK: You may very well increase the amount of calories you eat, because lean body mass has a much higher metabolic rate than body fat. A kilogram of muscle burns a lot more calories than a kilogram of stored body fat. Fat's just sitting there sort of "idling" and not doing much of anything, whereas muscles are continuously metabolically active, even if you are just sitting there.

SANDY: Exercise didn't turn out to prevent loss of lean body mass as people had hoped it would. This was shown in a recent study where people were placed on a specified diet and kept on it for a long time. So their weight stabilized. They were then put on an exercise regimen while keeping their food intake the same. So what happened? The people who were overweight to start with lost weight, but about one-quarter of that weight was lean body mass. So, if you let your body weight drop while you're exercising you're bound to lose a considerable amount of lean body mass.

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