I hear it all the time: “I try to eat right and work out regularly, but I just can‘t seem to lose all the weight I want.” For some people, it’s the last 10 pounds and for others it’s the first 10. So what’s the deal?
Well, weight loss and the breakdown of food are linked to a properly working metabolism. That is, your body’s process of converting food into fuel. Some people are naturally lean, and chances are they have a “fast metabolism.” Other people just smell French fries and seem to put on weight; and they have what is called a “slow metabolism.”
One of the secrets to weight loss and continued weight management, then, is to obtain and maintain a fast metabolism. The first step to this is identifying those things that slow down your metabolism, and these include:
- Low levels of physical activity—Healthy weight loss depends on moving the body to increase heat to burn calories and invigorate digestion to break down food.
- The gradual loss of lean muscle tissue from that lack of exercise—While muscle weighs more than fat, it is healthy and also helps burn fat! For healthy weight loss you must increase your lean muscle mass, and this can easily be done with walking and doing simple chores about the house, like vacuuming and ironing.
- Not eating regular well-balanced meals—Every time you eat your metabolism is jump-started. Food is fuel, and eating starts processes in motion in the body for breakdown, digestion and elimination. Not eating regularly sends your body into starvation mode, where it begins storing fat!
- Fasting or dieting that restricts caloric intake for extended periods—This is unhealthy as it deprives the body of the essential nutrients it needs for optimal survival. Restricting calories depletes lean muscle tissue and when the diet is over people overeat in reaction to being “starved.”
- Insufficient daily protein consumption—Whether animal or plant as its source, it is advisable to consume protein every day. It gives energy and burns slower than carbohydrates, thus extending energy and stabilizing blood sugar levels.
Balancing the above five issues will help you turn a slow metabolism into a normal metabolism. But a normal metabolism is generally not sufficient for many people’s fat-burning goals. A fast metabolism, on the other hand, will help you reach and maintain an ideal weight and ratio of fat to muscle. And the basic ways of improving metabolism include:
- Weight and strength training to increase muscle tissue. The more muscle you have the more calories you burn throughout the day.
- Regular physical activity will turn up the heat and melt the fat calories away. Regular fitness is best, but even small things like taking brisk walks, raking leaves and cleaning the house at a faster pace… can burn more calories than taking an easier route.
- Keep hormones and blood sugar levels stable by consuming whole grain and low sugar foods while watching your saturated fat intake. Supplements can also help.
- Drink plenty of water to keep the system working optimally. Water, pure and simple, can flush those toxins that make the metabolism sluggish.
- Eat more frequently, but less each time. By consuming something every three hours you will maintain a steady level of energy while also keeping your blood sugar levels from dropping out. When blood sugar drops, unhealthy food cravings emerge.
- Eat foods that stoke your metabolism!
That’s right, there are actually foods and spices that can turn up your internal temperature, improve the breakdown of food and fat, remove toxins and increase your metabolism. The list includes drinks, foods, spices and supplements.
- Drinks… German researchers have proven that drinking 17 ounces of ice water daily can raise your metabolism by as much as 30 percent. This happens because it requires about 100 calories of energy to re-heat your body once it is cooled down. Just don’t drink it with food, or the food will sit in your stomach while your body tries to re-heat itself!
On the other end is drinking hot green tea. The antioxidants in this tea will help eliminate toxins that cause metabolic sluggishness, and the drink itself has been shown in studies to also increase metabolism.
- Foods… Eating plenty of protein for energy and whole grain carbohydrates will do much to maintain energy, blood sugar levels and elimination schedules. The grains remove cholesterol from the blood and help maintain bowel function while the protein gives you sustained energy for exercise.
- Spices… Some people complain that healthy foods do not taste good. To them, I say: Spice it Up! Thermogenic spices, like the aromatics, stoke the metabolism while making plain food taste great. These pungent spices heat up your body, causing it to sweat and burn fat. So include plenty of chilies, mustard, allspice, ginger, garlic, onion, curries, turmeric, cloves, cayenne and other aromatic spices to your diet and your metabolism will speed up by around 40 percent for roughly the next two hours.
So there you have it; ways to balance and boost your metabolism for weight loss and optimal health. Avoid the pitfalls that contribute to a sluggish metabolism while at the same time doing what you can to increase metabolic functions. There’s never been a more tasty way to do it!
—Dr. Mark Wiley