Simple Solutions to Fire Up Your Metabolism

Guest blog by  "Nutrition Twins" tm
 Lyssie Lakatos, RD, CDN, CPT and Tammy Lakatos Shames, RD, CDN, CPT
Author of Fire Up Your Metabolism: 9 Proven Principles for Burning Fat and Losing Weight Forever

Let's face it, we live in a nation where at any given time, at least 70% are trying to lose weight. Although the majority of those people have desperately tried popular diets, most have not stuck to them, as strict diets require hard work and discipline. Most people really just want a quick fix. No one wants to hear that they have to exercise and eat right to achieve their weight loss goals. 

Sadly, when it comes to weight loss, there is no magic bullet. The good news is that we are about to help you to lose body fat with the next best thing to a quick fix-firing up your metabolism! 

What exactly is metabolism you may be asking? Well, simply, it is the way your body uses calories from the foods that you eat. The calories from food that are not burned up for fuel have a dreaded fate-they end up on your stomach, hips and butt as body fat, which is what happens when you have a slow metabolism. However, when you fire up your metabolism, you help your body to burn more calories so that they are not stored as fat. Follow these simple steps in order to fire up your metabolism. 

Simple Step #1: Include an "always" carbohydrate with every meal.
Eat carbohydrates and fire up your metabolism? That's right! Certain carbohydrates are very helpful when it comes to making your metabolism speedy and helping your body to burn up calories. We call these carbohydrates, "always" carbohydrates, and they include fruits, vegetables and whole grains (like oatmeal, whole wheat breads and whole wheat tortillas, brown rice, whole grain cereals, etc.). 

"Always" carbohydrates give your body the energy to be active and to burn calories-energy for even the littlest activities-they burn calories too. (Without carbohydrates, you would feel so tired that you would try to conserve energy every chance you get-the resulting inactivity leads to weight gain.) "Always" carbohydrates contain fiber (which helps to provide an extended energy boost) and nutrients that help you to convert your food into usable energy. Therefore, be sure to include small amounts (the size of your fist or smaller) of an "always" carbohydrate with every meal. 

This shouldn't be hard-you probably already include carbohydrates in your meals. Now, make sure that you are firing up your metabolism by choosing the right ones and making sure not to overeat them. Instead of having Special K, Golden Grahams or grits for breakfast try Cheerios, Grape Nut Flakes or oatmeal. Swap the roll on your turkey sandwich for whole wheat pita bread or any other whole grain bread. And order your Chinese food with brown rice instead of white. Ditch bagels and try whole wheat waffles, English muffins, whole grain toasts or tortillas and top with fruit slices instead of jelly.  As for vegetables, the more that you eat, the better. The exceptions are peas, potatoes and corn, which should be eaten in no more than fist sized portions like other "always" carbohydrates.

Simple Step #2: Eat protein. Just be sure to combine it with an "always" carbohydrate. 
Protein is the key to a speedy metabolism because it helps you to build lean muscle, which helps burn calories quickly. The more muscle you have, the faster your metabolism. Although many people believe that eating protein gives them energy, it does NOT. However, it takes longer to digest than carbohydrates, so it slows the digestion of the "always" carbohydrates and makes the energy and the metabolic boost from the carbohydrates last longer. So, eating small amounts of protein with "always" carbohydrates prevents hunger and extends the energy boost of the carbs. 

Just remember, eating a large portion of protein at one sitting will make you feel sluggish, as blood rushes to your stomach, working to digest all that protein. Your brain and muscles are left short on blood supply and energy. (Think of how you feel after a big steak meal.) To make it easy, if you eat an "always" carbohydrate the size of your fist, also eat a protein portion that fits into the cup of your hand. 

This is easy-if you are eating Chinese food, like chicken and broccoli, you would eat a serving of brown rice no bigger than your fist, chicken that could fit into the cup of your hand, and unlimited broccoli. If you eat a plate of shrimp marinara, eat a fist sized portion of pasta (ideally whole wheat pasta) and eat enough shrimp to fill the cup of your hand. Mix steamed veggies in your marinara sauce and fill up on those. (Don't worry about feeling hungry--as you will notice in step #5, when you fire up your metabolism, you will be eating too often to be hungry).

NOTE: When it comes to protein, be sensible. Choose the best proteins to help prevent heart disease. Choose beans, skinless poultry breast, skinless fish, lean cuts of red meat like the tenderloin with all fat removed, and choose nonfat or low-fat dairy products.

Simple Step # 3: Fabulous Fats. That's right-you can choose these fats and get skinny!
You see, fat provides long-lasting energy. Although carbohydrates are the bodies preferred source of energy (especially for the brain and nerve cells) and they provide your body with the energy that is stored in the body as glycogen, the body cannot store enough glycogen to provide energy for very long. That is where fat comes in. Fat helps you to spare your glycogen (energy) by providing fuel. Remember, having energy for movement is critical, as all movement (even little ones) helps your body to burn calories. So, fat helps to speed up your metabolism by making carbohydrates available for a long period of time, providing more long-lasting energy.

Also, like protein, fat is digested more slowly than carbohydrates. So, fat helps keep you satiated so that you don't overeat. Combine a little fat (or some protein) with a carbohydrate and you will avoid eating excess food while firing up your metabolism. 

Be sure to choose "friendly" fats (also know as "unsaturated" fats) that help your metabolism without clogging your arteries. Fat "foes," (also known as saturated fats), are artery clogging fats that eventually lead to heart disease, bogging down your metabolism as they make your blood "thick and sticky." This makes all body processes, including your metabolism, less efficient. Steer clear of the fat "foes," which are animal fats like butter, sour cream, full fat dairy products, fatty meats, and hydrogenated fats like, margarine.

Don't worry-this isn't rocket science! For example, you already eat this way when you choose a peanut butter sandwich or oatmeal sprinkled with nuts. (Our book has hundreds of suggestions for you too.)

Simple Step # 4: Never skip breakfast. 
Whether you choose an English muffin and a dab of peanut butter, scrambled eggs wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla, or oatmeal with almonds sprinkled on top, eating breakfast will help you to fire up your metabolism and achieve your ultimate goal. 

Here's why: Overnight, your body starts to feel threatened because it realizes that it has not eaten for a while, and it fears it might not be fed again. Your body's metabolism slows as a protective mechanism to prevent starvation. Your metabolism remains at this depressed rate as it conserves energy (calories). It barely burns calories and fat until it is fed again and feels as though it won't starve to death . 

So, speed up your metabolism as soon as you wake up by eating something! And no excuses about not having enough time-there is always time to grab a piece of fruit on your way out the door.

There are so many good options. Be sure to make a smart choice. Here are some examples (and our book has hundreds too): 
· Sliced apple and a slice of whole wheat bread with a tablespoon of almond butter on each
· Whole-wheat waffle topped with non-fat yogurt and berries
· Whole-grain cereal, such as Raisin Bran in a small bowl with skim milk or soy milk and a hard boiled egg
· Cantaloupe and non-fat cottage cheese

Simple Step # 5: Don't wait more than 4-5 hours between meals/snacks.
Just as your body feels threatened overnight when it hasn't been fed for a while, the same thing happens when you don't provide your body with food every 4-5 hours. 

Don't be fooled, you aren't doing yourself any favors by skipping lunch in order to overindulge at dinner. If you do this, by the time you get to dinner, your body really will be conserving calories and moving in slow gear. Even if you ate a normal-sized dinner, your body would perceive it as an overwhelming amount and would end up storing calories that it should have burned off. Eat a larger than normal meal, and you'll store even more. 

Note: You shouldn't add extra meals into your day. Simply take the food that you are already eating and space it out throughout the day. For example, if you usually have a turkey sandwich, a yogurt and a piece of fruit at noon, eat 1/2 the sandwich at 11:00 am, the other half and the fruit at 1:30, and then eat the yogurt around 3:00. 

Simple Step # 6: Drink the right beverages at the right time.
Water, water, water. Every process in your body takes place in water. Water carries nutrients and oxygen throughout your body. If you are dehydrated, every process in your body will suffer including your energy level, and your metabolism. 

Want to feel full on less food? Water helps fibrous foods to expand in your stomach and make you feel full. It is a myth that you shouldn't drink water with your meals. Make sure to drink water throughout the day and aim for at least 8 cups a day.

Hate water? Try these tips to spice it up: · Add a squirt of lemon, lime or orange or · Toss in ice cubes of your favorite juice

Simple Step # 7: Don't skimp on sleep.
You are more likely to gain weight when you are sleep deprived. First, the hormone that regulates your appetite, cortisol, is affected when you are sleep deprived. This has devastating results-you feel hungry even after eating enough. Meanwhile, you burn fewer calories, as you are too tired to be as active as you would be if you were rested. Additionally, growth hormone is reduced, increasing your body proportions of fat versus muscle (the more muscle you have the more calories you burn). Also, sleep deprivation impairs your body's utilization of carbohydrates, your body's favorite source of energy. Lastly, when you are tired, you look for a quick pick-me-up, and most people usually turn to the thing that will give them energy the fastest… sugar. Sugary foods are calorie-loaded and they cause you to have a short-lived energy boost followed by an energy crash. 

So be sure to make sleep a priority and aim for a minimum of eight hours of sleep a night. Make an appointment time for bed, just as you would make a doctor's appointment. 

Simple Step # 8: Make exercise a habit.
The calorie-burning doesn't only last during the exercise, but is extended for hours afterwards. Choose your favorite exercises and aim for five sessions a week for a minimum of 30 minutes. Don't make excuses, even if it means walking 15 minutes out your front door in the morning and then walking 15 minutes back.

Simple Step # 9: Make strength training exercises part of your routine.
The more lean muscle you have, the more calories your body will burn, even while you sleep. Aim to lift weights three days a week. If you're a woman who doesn't lift weights for fear of getting bulky, fear not-you don't have enough testosterone to build bulky muscles. Instead, you will get a lean, toned, sleek body.