Eat less + Move More = Weight Loss!
That's what we've been told for decades, right??
Except that it isn't true... as a nation, over the past 20 years we have eaten less and moved more, and obesity is still on the rise.
Our lifestyles have been fueling metabolic dysfunction and simply dieting, counting calories, and hitting the treadmill aren't cutting it anymore.
And even if dieting does work, who wants to count calories and restrict their food for the rest of their life? Especially when there are simple strategies you can follow to increase your metabolic rate, allowing you to eat more and still see that scale go down.
Which is exactly what today's episode is all about. Read on for my 10-step system to improve your metabolic health and lose weight easier.
I can't tell you how many women I've worked with who were unable to lose weight because they were eating too little.
When we aren't getting enough calories, it creates a ripple effect throughout the body that makes it incredibly difficult to lose weight.
First of all, our body's top priority will always be survival. So when we are chronically under-eating, it thinks there's a shortage of food. In response to this, your body will slow down your metabolic rate to compensate. In other words, you'll utilize fewer calories to perform the same functions.
When we under eat we also are robbing our body of the nutrients we need for cells to function properly. So you can see hormones that are essential to a healthy metabolism (like your thyroid for instance), begin to down-regulate. This can happen within 24 hours of extreme calorie restriction.
Not eating enough stresses the body out and causes dips in blood sugar, both of which lead to a rise in the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol then raises your blood sugar to try to balance out the low blood sugar, causing a spike in the fat storage hormone insulin.
Excessive calorie restriction also down regulates serotonin, the happiness hormone which helps maintain normal hunger levels. Plus when we're low on serotonin we will tend to crave refined-sugar-and-refined-carb foods to give us a mood boost. Hello emotional eating.
And when we don't eat enough, our body does everything it can to conserve energy by lowering our motivation, reducing the desire to exercise, reducing our NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis - basically the non-exercise movement we do that makes up 15-30% of our daily calorie burn), and inducing fatigue.
Side note: if you have been chronically restricting your calories or have been yo-yo dieting for years, it's going to take time, healing, and reverse dieting to get your metabolism back on track and I do not recommend trying to do this work alone. Click here to book a free consultation if that's the boat you're in and you would like some 1:1 support.
If you have any experience with the weight gain that often comes with hypothyroidism, you know the huge impact your thyroid can have on your metabolism, regardless of eating habits.
In fact, if you were to have no thyroid at all, you would experience up to a 40% drop in your basal metabolic rate (the amount of calories you burn daily just by existing, not by exercising or movement).
Or if you simply have an undiagnosed and untreated thyroid issue, you could burn over 300 calories fewer per day. That's basically the equivalent of a pound gained every week and a half.
Because you have thyroid receptors on almost every cell throughout your body, your thyroid impacts your metabolism and body composition on a number of fronts. Your thyroid...
So how do you support a healthy thyroid?
Stop going on crazy low-carb, low calorie diets (your thyroid needs carbs to function) and instead prioritize whole-food carbs from fruits, veggies, legumes, and whole grains.
Not only will all that plant fuel directly support your thyroid, it will also feed your good gut bacteria which also contribute to a well-functioning thyroid.
And particularly if you have Hashimoto's thyroiditis, you're going to want to eliminate gluten completely. Not only does it cause leaky gut which further exacerbates autoimmune conditions, gluten molecules look similar to thyroid tissue leading to an increase in thyroid antibodies.
When you eat food, your body has to expend energy to digest, absorb, and store those nutrients, thereby increasing your metabolic rate. This is called the thermic effect of food.
And when you eat protein, it increases your metabolic rate by up to 20-35% while carbs and fat only increase it by 3-10%.
Plus protein is great at managing appetite as it reduces the hunger hormone ghrelin, and increases the satiety hormone leptin.
And it helps you maintain more balanced blood sugar.
Now I know you're going to be asking: how much protein should I eat per day??
And here's where I don't want you to overthink or go overboard with your protein consumption. Too much of anything isn't good and too much protein in particular can be very hard on your kidneys.
So follow common sense guidelines: prioritize protein at every meal, a palm's worth for women, 2 palm's worth for men.
This goes back to that thermic effect of food.
Think about it this way, if a food is already processed before it even hits your lips, that's less work your body has to do to process that food.
So two people could eat the same number of calories, but if one person is eating mainly whole foods, they're going to burn more calories at rest just digesting their food than the person who eats mainly processed food.
And as far as eating organic goes, this is to avoid genetically modified organisms (GMOS), added hormones, and pesticides that are known endocrine disruptors.
Just a few episodes back we talked about how when there's too much of a toxic load on the body, we'll hold onto fat as a protective mechanism (because your body will move the toxins out of the bloodstream and store them safely in fat cells).
We already face enough toxic burden in the form of pollution, cleaning products, and beauty products, we don't need to add fuel to the fire with our food.
So of course we know exercising burns calories which is going to help with weight loss. But we aren't talking about that today, we're talking about habits that increase your metabolism, helping you burn more calories at rest.
And luckily exercise helps you do both: burn calories during the workout and increase resting metabolic rate after the workout.
The way this works is when we exercise, our body uses glucose that's been stored in our muscles for energy. The process of restoring those glucose reserves requires energy, causing you to continue burning more calories as you recover in the 24 hours after a workout.
This is why I do not recommend fasted workouts where you don't eat before exercising. Because while your body might burn more fatty acids during your workout, your body won't need to restore those glucose reserves. So while you may burn a bit more fat during the workout, overall you'll actually burn less without your post-exercise metabolic boost.
But just like protein and literally anything else, you can have too much of a good thing. So if you're exercising over an hour at a time or if you aren't giving yourself enough rest days to recover, your body will respond similarly to when you don't eat enough.
Cortisol will spike, you'll start conserving fat, and because your body is shifting into survival mode it will view fat as being more important than muscle and will start breaking muscle down for energy.
So in my mind an ideal routine would be 3 days of strength training, 1 day of steady state cardio, 1 day of HIIT (high intensity interval training), and 2 days of rest/active rest (think yoga, pilates, walking, etc).
Of course that routine may shift depending on your current fitness level, your goals, and your lifestyle. But this is a solid place to start for most.
Want more tips to increase your metabolism on the daily?
Join me back here next week for part TWO!
If you're loving these episodes, you'll love the customized advice you'll get on a free 'Kickstart Your Weight Loss' call with me! Click here to schedule yours now 😉
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