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Smart Basics IntelliScope


By Lane Lenard, Phd.

It's the middle of winter. Snow covers the ground. It's quiet; the only thing moving is the icy wind, and it's very cold. Most of the time the temperature languishes below freezing. If you're a squirrel or a woodchuck or a bear, you've been preparing for this day since last spring, layering on body fat, and perhaps storing some food in a nearby cache for a midwinter snack. These animals spend the winter in a state of hibernation or near-hibernation. Their metabolic rate, heart rate, and breathing are all turned down to minimum levels, so there's little or no need for food or water.

The fat stored in the animal's body during the warm months provides all the fuel it needs to keep the metabolic fires on "simmer" until the temperatures rise again in the spring. Humans don't hibernate, of course. We've got to make it through the winter with our wit, whether that means wearing bearskin coats, cutting firewood, or flying to the Virgin Islands. One thing we do without even thinking is to store fat for the winter-not for hibernation, but as a genetic relic of our Ice Age ancestors' cave days when winter meant scarce food or even famine.


Fortunately for us, we don't need to worry about a scarcity of food in winter anymore. Unfortunately for us, our genes haven't figured that out yet. Our body still turns unneeded calories into stored fat instead of simply burning them off by turning up its thermogenic/metabolic fires. Thus, we get fat waiting for a long, cold, food-less winter that may not come until the next Ice Age, if it comes at all. Now, having all that extra fat around especially if you don't I need it can actually decrease the number of winters you survive.

Excess body fat is a component of our leading killer diseases, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, heart disease, and cancer. Thermogenesis is an idea being fueled by scientific evidence demonstrating not only the futility of caloric restriction, but also its dangers. Knowing the dangers of excess body fat and getting rid of it are two different issues, however. Most of us have tried to eliminate body fat at one time or other, but most us have also failed in those attempts, probably because we tried to limit the amount of fuel coming in-by restricting calories-rather than by merely burning off the excess fuel already in fat storage by the natural process known as thermogenesis.


Thermogenesis is an idea whose time has finally arrived. It is being fueled by a flow of scientific evidence clearly demonstrating not only the futility of caloric restriction, but also its dangers. The most recent studies show, for example, that 95% of the weight lost from caloric restriction is regained, largely as fat, and in some people, as much as half of every pound lost is lean muscle or bone tissue, not fat.

The alternative is to increase the burning rate of fat already stored. You can do this by taking long, cool, full-immersion baths or by wearing fewer layers of light-weight clothes, both of which force the body to burn more fuel to stay warm. You can exercise more, but be careful to minimize sweating and to keep your caloric intake up, or you may lose healthy muscle and bone in addition to fat, and increase your appetite.

Probably the easiest and most reliable fat burning method is to consume special foods, nutrients, or other substances that have the effect of throwing more "fat" on the thermogenic fires. One such substance is nicotine, which is why people often gain weight when they quit smoking.

A much safer, and even more effective, thermogenic alternative is the natural herb ma huang, or ephedra, which has been in use in China for more than 5,000 years. When consumed as a tea or other drink, ma huang mimics the natural thermogenic action of the neurotransmitter noradrenaline. Research suggests that it's important not to reduce your caloric intake while turning up your thermogenic fires.

This may seem a little strange at first. "You mean I'm going to lose weight while eating the same amount?" Strange, but true. At the same time, remember that thermogenesis works best at reducing fat stores when it doesn't have to burn newly stored fat first. Given a choice between storing excess calories coming from fat, carbohydrates, or proteins for fat storage, the body prefers to store fat. So Durk & Sandy's fat-loss program works best when you get most of your calories from proteins and carbohydrates and limit fat intake to about 30% of calories.

If you're having problems limiting your appetite, the answer may also lie in your noradrenaline system. Noradrenaline, in addition to being a natural thermogenic agent, is manufactured from the amino acid phenylalanine, which is found in protein-containing foods such as meat. When consumed as a tea or other drink, ma huang mimics the natural thermogenic action of noradrenaline. Noradrenaline also sends a satiation signal to the brain, indicating that you've had enough to eat. As a result, you feel "full," and you stop eating. You can fool your brain into thinking you've eaten a lot by consuming phenylalanine-rich foods or supplements an hour or so before a meal. They'll help you feel fuller faster.

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