The majority of us would like to be a little slimmer, and many of us need to lose excess body fat to prevent associated health complications. As you know, losing weight can be frustrating and seem outright impossible. Many give up and accept defeat, declaring “there must be something wrong with my metabolism!”
You are likely right!
But, how to boost your metabolism?
Losing weight is not as simple as reducing calories or increasing activity.
Current research suggests that the “calorie in – calorie out” approach does not work for long-term weight loss. This is because there are many other factors that affect our metabolism including sleep, stress, toxins in our environment, synthetic food substances, food intolerance’s, and imbalances in the bacteria in our digestive tract. In addition, the timing, macro nutrient composition (protein/carbs/fat), and quality of your foods also influence your metabolic rate.
I’ll share 4 tips that will get you in top shape for summer and boost your metabolism!
Boost your Metabolism #1 – Start the Day with Protein
Eating protein early in the day seems to affect gastrointestinal hormones, which signal the brain to adjust appetite and satiety. It makes you feel more full than an equivalent amount of calories from carbohydrates and it boost your metabolism and builds muscle so you burn more calories all day long and even while you sleep.
How can you bump up the protein in your morning meal?
Instead of bacon and sausage, choose whole food protein sources such as eggs, dairy (esp. Greek yogurt and cottage cheese), legumes (beans and soy), nuts, nut butters, seeds, and even chicken or fish.
How much should you eat?
Protein requirements depend on your weight and activity level. At a minimum, aim for 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (weight in pounds divided by 2.2) each day. Plan to include at least 25-30% of this total for breakfast.
For example, a 150-pound person would aim for 15 grams of protein for breakfast:
- 150 pounds divided by 2.2 = 68 kilograms
- 68 kilograms X 0.8 grams/kilogram = 54 grams of protein per day
- Breakfast: 54 grams X 25-30% = 14-16 grams
Foods that provide approximately this much protein include 2 eggs, one container of Greek Yogurt, 2 ounces of chicken, 1 cup of beans, or ½ cup of cottage cheese.
If you are not currently eating breakfast or if you are a die-hard cereal eater, try this strategy for one week and notice if it makes a difference for you.
Boost your Metabolism #2 – Phase Out Frankenfoods
In the Boost your Metabolism #1, I listed the many factors that can sabotage your metabolism: sleep, stress, toxins in our environment, synthetic food substances, food intolerance’s, and imbalances in the bacteria in our digestive tract, as well as the timing, macro nutrient composition (protein/carbs/fat), and quality of your foods.
Now I want to focus on two of these factors that go hand-in-hand, synthetic food substances (which make what I call “frankenfoods”) and quality of your foods. My opinion is that foods that are processed to the point that they can no longer be recognized as foods that are grown or raised are very low on the food quality scale.
In addition, they typically contain additives and preservatives created in a lab to improve the taste, mouth feel, and shelf life. Picture a Twinkie and you know what I’m talking about.
Most of us grew up eating these foods and readily accept them in our food culture. We know that they are not the healthiest choice, but they are highly marketed and everyone eats them, right?
Foods me and my siblings ate regularly included Doritos, Cheese Its, Pringles, Cheetos, Hostess Snacks, Pepperidge Farm cookies (only at Grandma’s house), Chips AHoy and Oreo cookies, Rice-A-Roni, Spaghetti-O’s, Hamburger Helper, and even Spam.
My mom was an excellent cook, and most of the time we ate balanced meals as a family at the dinner table. But these other foods found their way into our diets just like they do in many of yours. They’re convenient, manufactured to taste wonderful, and will last in the cupboard for weeks.
The issue with these foods is that they contain non-nutrients that can sabotage your metabolism. Artificial colors and preservatives are typically made from products we would never ingest naturally, and may be carcinogenic at low levels. They also disrupt our endocrine system.
Trans fat increases inflammation and can cause the liver to stop responding to growth hormone. Artificial sweeteners may cause an increase in carbohydrate cravings and consumption of more calories throughout the day. Refined grains (white flour) are stripped of bran and germ, causing them to digest quickly spiking blood sugar and insulin levels.
High-fructose corn syrup causes the hunger hormone ‘ghrelin’ to remain high, so your appetite doesn’t get suppressed. The BPA in most canned foods mimics estrogen and may increase the risk of breast cancer, infertility, PCOS, insulin resistance, and diabetes. Even low doses of BPA have been shown to create new fat cells and increase their size.
Still not convinced?
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has created an excellent resource called Chemical Cuisine where food additives are described and classified as Safe, Caution/Reduce, or Avoid. Be brave and take your favorite snack out of the cupboard and determine how many non-food ingredients are listed on the label.
If you eliminate all of these processed foods, what’s left?
You will light your metabolism on fire by making the following foods the core of your healthy diet:
- Vegetables – fresh or frozen
- Fruits – fresh, frozen or dried (sulfite-free)
- Lean protein – poultry, fish, grass-fed beef, beans
- Whole grains – rice, quinoa, buckwheat, millet
- Healthy fats – nuts, seeds, olive oil, avocado, fatty fish
- Herbs and spices
- Filtered water
If you currently include many processed foods in your diet, pick one or two items to replace with a healthier option this week. “Trade up” where needed to boost your health and your metabolism.
Boost your Metabolism #3 – The Power of Sleep
In Boost your Metabolism #2, I listed the many factors that can sabotage your metabolism: sleep, stress, toxins in our environment, synthetic food substances, food intolerance, and imbalances in the bacteria in our digestive tract, as well as the timing, macro-nutrient composition (protein/carbs/fat), and quality of your foods.
In this part of post, I am giving you permission to get 8 hours of sleep every night. Somehow in our culture it has become a badge of honor to boast about how much we can do every day with little sleep. With the commitments of work, family, community, friends, and children’s activities, it is easy to skimp on sleep when something has to give.
If you are trying to lose weight, it is essential that you get adequate rest every day. For most, this means at least 7-8 guilt-free hours of beauty sleep. Lack of sleep contributes can sabotage weight loss efforts in several ways.
First, lack of sleep results in a lower energy level throughout the day. When energy is low, cravings for quick-energy foods (sugar!) increase. This makes is much more difficult to make healthy food choices.
Second, lack of sleep has been show in studies to significantly change hormone levels that drive hunger and satiety. One study subjected volunteers to conditions where they were allowed only five hours of sleep compared to a normal eight hours.
When volunteers slept only five hours, they had a 3.6% increase in body mass, a 15.5% decrease in leptin (the hormone that signals that the body is full) and a 14.9% increase in ghrelin (the hormone that triggers appetite.)
So, lack of sleep not only increases food cravings, it increases appetite and requires you to eat more food before your brain recognizes that you are full.
Third, some researchers believe that stage 4 sleep that we experience 3-4 times each night may boost your metabolism. It is in this stage of sleep when the most growth hormone is released, the hormone that prompts the body to burn stored fat.
If you cut your sleep short, you may be also shorting your body of growth hormone and the opportunity to burn fat while you sleep. One small study showed that insufficient sleep increases the risk for insulin resistance, type-2 diabetes, and obesity.
If you want to boost your metabolism, begin adjusting your lifestyle to allow for at least 7 hours of sleep each night.
Not sure where to start?
See the National Sleep Foundation for tips to help you improve your sleep quality and quantity. Sweet dreams!
Boost your Metabolism #4 – Optimize Your Gut Health
In previous parts, I listed factors that can sabotage your metabolism: sleep, stress, toxins in our environment, synthetic food substances, food intolerance, and imbalances in the bacteria in our digestive tract, as well as the timing, macro nutrient composition (protein/carbs/fat), and quality of your foods.
At the end I’ll share why the diversity of the bacteria in your intestinal tract is important for weight loss. The body contains approximately 100 trillion bacteria in total, and these bacteria have been associated with the development and function of immunity, how well our food is digested, and more recently weight management.
In recent years, several studies have found that obese people have a different mix of intestinal bacteria than normal weight people. In September 2013 a study published in Science showed that intestinal bacteria from lean people transplanted into mice prevented them from becoming obese. Importantly, a healthy diet must be part of the equation to encourage the bacteria associated with leanness to become incorporated into the gut.
The type and number of bacteria in your intestinal tract can be disrupted by antibiotics, chlorinated water, agricultural chemicals, and by your food choices. Foods high in fat and/or sugar, the type of carbohydrates (simple vs. complex), the type of dietary fats (saturated vs. unsaturated), and restricting calories all may alter the type and number of your intestinal bacteria.
With so many health benefits associated with the healthy gut bacteria, many people are adding foods rich in probiotics to their diets. Probiotics are microorganisms, mainly bacteria, that keep disease-causing microbes in check, play a role in immunity, and even synthesize specific nutrients important for health.
Probiotic-rich foods to include in your diet include yogurt, kefir, naturally fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and fermented soybean products such as tempeh, miso, and natto. Probiotics may also be taken in supplement form and are often prescribed by healthcare practitioners after a round of antibiotics.
While probiotic supplements are widely available over the counter, it is important to seek advice from a healthcare practitioner who is familiar with different probiotic strains to ensure that you select the right one for your health condition and goals.
To improve the health of your digestive tract, here are 4 tips to boost your metabolism:
- Reduce/eliminate refined sugar and flour products.
- Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables daily.
- Choose at least one probiotic-rich food daily (such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempheh, miso, or natto).
- If you’ve recently taken an antibiotic, seek advice from your healthcare practitioner about taking a probiotic supplement to replenish the healthy bacteria.
Metabolism is complicated and weight management is about so much more than measuring calories in vs. calories burned. Incorporate one or more metabolism boosters to make your weight management journey successful in 2018.