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DIET, METABOLISM & WEIGHT LOSS
Ah yes, diet. For most of us, our information concerning metabolism has related in one way or another to eating. Most of us have been told of metabolism-friendly foods, or metabolism unfriendly foods.
But really, while we may be basically aware that, all else being equal, a stalk of celery is better for your metabolism than fries with gravy, our understanding of diet and metabolism is pretty low.
To fix this, the following section looks at some powerful and scientific diet-related tips that will boost your metabolism. Indeed, as you’ll soon learn, it’s not merely what you eat that matters; it’s when, and how, too.
CALORIES, METABOLISM AND WEIGHT LOSS
The word calorie has a bad rap. We constantly come across calorie reduced or low calorie foods. And it’s not uncommon to overhear someone gasp about the immense calorie content of certain foods, such as a rich and creamy desert, or a giant fast food burger.
All of this anti-calorie rhetoric therefore has made a lot of us pretty calorie-phobic; as soon as we see something that has lots of them, we run away. But is this wise?
Yes and no. Yes, it’s wise in the sense that avoiding that double-layer chocolate fudge cake for desert is probably a good idea (actually, scratch that; it is a good idea). The calories that come from the cake are really going to be the so-called empty calorie kind; which means that there’s no real nutritional value that your body can squeeze out and make use of.
But in the bigger picture, it’s unwise for your metabolism to become calorie-avoidant.
Why? Because your body is a marvelous machine that tries, at all times, to do what it can to make your life easier. Indeed, while it may not always function at optimal levels (for a variety of reasons, including genetics), it still tries to do its very best. The body, for all of its limitations and so forth, is not a lazy thing!
With this in mind, the body is always trying to keep is alive and functioning in the manner that it deems to be healthiest. And that’s why if you suddenly decrease the amount of calories that you need, your body won’t try to do more with less. In other words, your body won’t respond in the way that you want it to: it won’t necessarily provoke catabolism and thus reduce weight and fat cells.
Instead, your smart and wise body will try to keep you alive by slowing down its metabolism. It will simply believe that something is wrong – maybe you’re trapped somewhere without food – and it will just begin to become very stingy with energy.
So what’s the end result? If your body needs 2000 calories a day to survive, and you suddenly give it only 1000, it won’t begin to burn off 1000 calories worth of cells that you have lying around on your love handles.
Instead, your body will slow down its metabolism. It will really try and get as much energy out of those 1000 calories, because it doesn’t want to waste anything.
Physically, you’ll naturally feel more tired because your body is being very miserly with energy, and will devote its 1000- calorie ration to essential systems, like blood and oxygen supply (and others).
Metabolically, you won’t be burning off extra calories. In fact, you can actually gain weight by dramatically reducing your calorie intake!
The flipside of this, of course, is that you should consume a daily caloric intake that is proportionate to your body size, type, and weight loss goals.
And then, once you determine the amount of calories that you need (probably with the aid of a qualified nutritionist or fitness expert); you can provide that to your body via healthy, efficient calories.
For example, if your body needs 1500 calories per day, and one slice of double-fudge chocolate cake delivers a whopping 500 of those, then you can see that eating just one of these slices will take up a full 1/3rd of your daily caloric needs; and that’s not good!
On the other hand, you can see that drinking a tasty fruit smoothy made with yogurt and nuts can deliver half as many calories, but provide you with essential nutrients, vitamins, and other elements that your body needs to healthily do its work.
EAT MORE OFTEN TO BOOST METABOLISM AND HASTEN WEIGHT LOSS
Fresh on the heels of the discussion on calories, it’s also helpful to note that eating frequently throughout the day can be very good for boosting metabolism. There are a couple of reasons for this.
The first reason is that people who tend to eat throughout the day do considerably less snacking. As a result, they tend to avoid the potato chips or candy bars that they might otherwise consume if they suddenly felt hungry.
People who eat throughout the day don’t tend to experience severe hunger pangs, because they don’t reach that stage.
The second reason, and the one that you can probably guess based on your understanding of metabolism, is that by eating throughout the day, you are constantly keeping your metabolism in motion.
It’s kind of like having a generator run all the time; it will simply use more electricity than if you powered it on 3 times a day.
Now, it goes without saying (but we should say it anyway just in case!) that just because it’s good for metabolism-boosting to eat frequently, this doesn’t mean that you can eat junk all day long!
Rather, if you choose to eat more frequently, then you’ll certainly need to be very aware of what you eat; because you can easily exceed your required amount of daily calories if you don’t keep an eye on this.
That’s why, if your plan is to follow the eat-more-to-burnmore approach, then you should keep a food journal that notes what you eat (and drink of course) throughout the day. You should not merely know the calorie levels of what you eat, but you should know the overall nutritional values, too. For example, if you’re on target to eat 50 grams of protein per day, then you want to make sure you reach this target and not exceed it (or come in below it).
In other words, merely focusing on calories is only half of the job. You will need to ensure that you’re eating enough protein, carbohydrates, fats (the good unsaturated kind!), and the other vitamins and minerals that your body needs in order to function at optimal levels.
BREAKFAST IS GREAT FOR BOOSTING METABOLISM AND LOSING WEIGHT
We’ve all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. And in terms of boosting your metabolism, this is indeed the case! There are a couple of reasons why eating a hearty and healthy breakfast can boost metabolism and lead to weight loss goals.
The first reason is that people who eat breakfast are much less inclined to snack throughout the morning. For example, if you had a good breakfast of fruit and low-sugar cereal in the morning, your chances of visiting the vending machine at work around 10:30am diminish significantly. Of course, as you recall from our previous discussion on eating more frequently, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t eat something between breakfast and lunch. It simply means that, since you won’t be extremely hungry at 10:30am (because you skipped breakfast), you’ll be less inclined to eat anything that you get your hands on; such as a nice donut that your co-worker was kind enough to offer you.
In other words, by starting your day in a nutritious way, you’ll have more control over what you eat throughout the day. The second reason is more aligned with metabolism-boosting. Studies have shown that metabolism slows during sleep, and doesn’t typically get going again until you eat. Therefore, starting the day with breakfast is like kickstarting your metabolism. You’ll actually burn more calories throughout the day, simply by eating breakfast (hey, who knew?!).
Remember: as you eat your breakfast, control both the portion and the contents. You don’t want to eat to the point of complete fullness; because, remember, you want to eat throughout the day and you won’t be able to do that if you’re stuffed.
At the same time, beware of high-fat breakfasts. Studies have shown that high-fat breakfasts, such as those that include bacon and sausage, not only deliver lots of calories (there are 9 calories for every gram of fat, as compared to 4 for every gram of carbohydrates and proteins, respectively). But they also can make you very hungry again, very soon! So in addition to having ingested a lot of fat (and hence a lot of calories), you’ll typically find yourself rather ravenous again in a few hours.
Alternatively, breakfasts that are high in fiber take longer to digest, and thus, the body won’t be hungry again for a while.
This is something to bear in mind; and it may explain why many people who eat breakfast find themselves painfully hungry by lunchtime; it’s not their “overactive metabolism” at work; it’s the high fat content, which has been swiftly digested.
PROTEIN & GOOD CARBOHYDRATES ARE GREAT FOR THE METABOLISM AND LOSING WEIGHT
There is a dizzying array of things that you can eat these days. Truly, a trip to the grocery store can be an adventure. Everywhere you turn, there’s yet another food promising you healthy this or weight loss that.
Added to this confusion is that there are some foods that are beneficial for metabolic boosting, and some that aren’t; and the differences aren’t always well-known. Fortunately, we’re going to tackle this problem right now and describe the three basic food groups/types that are indeed good for a speedy metabolism.
In terms of protein, studies have shown that having enough protein in your system can actually increase the speed of your metabolism. This is because protein is difficult to break down. Or rather, it requires more energy to break down. It’s like feeding the body a knot; it needs a bit of time to unravel it.
And, as you know, when your body spends time on something, it spends energy (calories). And so the more time it can spend breaking down protein, the more calories that it uses. Different people will require different amounts of protein on a daily basis. Those who exercise and build muscle will typically need more than the average amount, too. The USFDA Food Guide suggests around 50 grams of protein a day for a reasonably active adult.
Keep in mind (not that you don’t already have enough to remember, but…) that there are different sources of protein: some lean, and some high in fat. Fast food burgers may deliver up to 20 grams of protein (sometimes more), but they also deliver a great deal of fat; which makes them almost nutritionally worthless.
The benefits you enjoy from the protein are far outweighed by the immense fat intake; which, for some fast food burgers, can exceed 40 grams! And that’s not including the fries (we won’t even go there!).
So the thing to do is ensure that your source of protein derives from lean protein. Typically, protein from some fish and chicken is lean; though not all of it.
If you’re a vegetarian, or simply looking for non-meat lean protein alternatives, low-fat cheese, legumes (lentils), and yogurt are all good sources. Simply check the food labels to determine if the source of protein is lean (doesn’t deliver high fat content), or fatty.
In terms of carbohydrates, there probably isn’t a more battered around micronutrient than this. It’s gone from being the greatest thing in weight loss history, to one of the most reviled.
And really, it’s not the fault of the innocent carbohydrate! It’s really just a matter of information and knowledge, instead of speculation.
The thing to remember is that when carbohydrates are refined, such as white bread and potatoes, they are what the diabetic world refers to as high glycemic index (GI) foods, because they require spikes in insulin in order to be digested. As you may know, when insulin is released into the system, it promotes the storage of fat; and some experts believe that it also pushes down metabolic speed (which makes sense). Therefore, the good kinds of carbohydrate to consume are those that are high in fiber, and those from fruit and vegetable sources.
Why? Because these sources of carbohydrates don’t score high on the glycemic index. In other words, they don’t cause a spike in insulin levels, and therefore, they don’t promote fat storage.
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