WORD: KRIS ABBEY
There is quite a bit of debate (for lack of a better word) around calorie-restricted or very low calorie diets (VLCD). Sure, restricting your calories will help you loose weight, but really cutting back on calories (below 1200 per day) is not the answer… especially for long-term results!
When it comes to losing weight, the general rule of thumb is to expend more energy than you consume. Although this works for most of us, others fail to shift that fat even when they follow the strictest diet. The reason is simple. You cannot outsmart your body! As soon as you restrict your calorie intake, your body is awake to this and begins to ‘economise’ its energy expenditure. It effectively goes into Starvation Mode and tends to spare the fat stores, rather than use them up – the opposite of what you want!
When you finally can’t beat your body’s cry for food (particularly of the fast, energy-providing kind), off you go on a feeding frenzy, and binge until your heart’s content. Unfortunately, your body protects against another starvation and, rather than converting this food to glycogen and storing it in your muscles for immediate use, it thinks ahead and stores it as fat… a bit like a camel storing fat in its hump for a trek across the desert. Low calorie diets tend to encourage this kind of yoyo dieting, resulting in bigger humps than when you started!
What is Metabolism?
Your metabolism is a complex and finely tuned process. Every day, scientists learn more about how your metabolism operates and how different foods can affect it. The simplistic explanation for how your body metabolises fat is this: Your body’s first source of energy is from the blood glucose circulating in your blood, followed by the glycogen stores in your muscles. Once these have been depleted, your body looks to fat to supply its energy.
Some foods can actually increase your metabolism, getting to your fat stores quicker, and these are the foods you want to eat on a regular basis!
What is Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)?
You need a minimum amount of energy to maintain function of your vital organs, such as your heart, lungs, brain and nervous system, liver and kidneys, whether you are awake or asleep. This energy requirement is called your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). This is the amount of energy you burn without moving or eating. It should not be confused with your BMI (Body Mass Index), which is a calculation to determine your ideal body weight for your height.
If you are interested in knowing your BMR, it can be calculated after fasting for 12 hours (to avoid increases in metabolism due to digestion of food). The best time to do the test is first thing in the morning after having naturally fasted during your sleep. Knowing your BMR allows you to establish a baseline, which is useful if you’re trying to lose weight or increase your metabolism through good nutrition and regular exercise.
What Can Cause My Metabolism to Slow Down?
- Ageing. As you age, your metabolism naturally slows. However, more research is showing that this decline has less to do with the ageing process and more to do with the fact that we become less active as we age. Reduced physical activity equals reduced lean muscle. Lean muscle is the furnace your body recruits to burn calories and maintain a quality of life that is both energetic and healthful.
- Thyroid Function. Certain thyroid imbalances can impact your metabolism. However, you would be surprised by how many people visit the doctor claiming thyroid-related weight issues, only to find their thyroid is perfectly normal. The culprit tends to be overeating, one of the main causes of metabolic slow-down.
- Dieting. We’ve already covered, but without making to fine a point of this, please eat sensibly and nutritiously – starving yourself is stupid!
What Can I Do to Increase My Metabolism and Burn More Calories?
Here are two ways you can supercharge your metabolism:
1. Regular Exercise
No surprises here! Physical activity has a profound effect on your energy expenditure. The great news is that you can increase your metabolic rate by 10 times during continuous ‘big muscle’ activity, such as resistance training, cycling, running, fast walking, tennis, swimming. Under normal circumstances, physical activity accounts for 15% to 30% of your total daily energy expenditure.
2. Eating Particular Foods
Eating food increases energy metabolism in two ways. The first results from the energy needed to digest the nutrients and fibre in your food. The second relates to the activation of your nervous system to stimulate your metabolic rate. The effect of just eating can add to energy use by 10% and reaches its maximum effectiveness within one hour after eating.
And believe it or not, there are foods that speed up your metabolism and take short cuts to your fat stores, helping you lose weight.
Read: Fat Burning Foods!