BY AMY BENN
If you think that weight loss is all about calories in and calories out, you may be in for a surprise when I tell you that your muscle mass, metabolism, and overall health have about three times more impact on your ability to burn fat than what you eat. Sleep, rest, and stress reduction are also paramount.
And two more things: short bursts of high-intensity body weight exercise is the most effective cardio, and eating whole foods regularly will speed up not only fat loss, but also muscle growth.
Fire up your metabolism
Here are five things you need to do to fire up your metabolism and burn fat the healthy way.
- Increase your muscle mass: By weight training. This takes time under the bar, and it is best if you follow a structured program and focus on quality rather than quantity or volume.
- Eat whole foods: Think lean proteins, good fats, plants, and grains. The chewing will give you great satisfaction from your meal; your body will have to work harder to extract the nutrients from your food and, as a result, you’ll burn more energy — just by eating right. The increased fibre in whole foods helps to promote good bacteria growth in your gut and also keeps you regular and satisfied. The vitamins and minerals in whole foods are easier to extract in their whole form, and usually contain the other nutrients needed for absorption. For example, the vitamin C in your greens will assist in the absorption of iron from your lean steak.
- Eat fats: They are needed to burn fat! Fats are also required for the many vital functions in your body, including hormone production. If you want to use fat as an energy source, you need to have it readily available in your bloodstream by consuming small amounts of fats with every meal (just a few nuts, avocado, coconut, flax seed, or unprocessed oils).
- Eat regularly: This maintains energy levels, beats sugar cravings, and keeps you functioning at your peak. My biggest tip is to make your meals smaller and have them instead of snacks.
- Sleep! Not only do you need deep sleep to grow muscles and burn fat, it actually reduces inflammation and repairs the damage we do in our day-to-day lives. This is where the magic happens and your results come.
By my second season of competing, I had worked hard in my career and eliminated the shiftwork. The fat came off much more evenly, and I was able to stay much leaner in my off-season. Not only that, I was so much nicer to be around! I had a tonne of energy, I was lifting heavier in the gym, and getting more important things done.
Other things to watch out for
I was still working on my habit of ‘overworking’.
- Rest is essential too: If you have ever experienced a decline in your mental function or memory, it may be that you are overworking, pushing too much into your day. If you’re overwhelmed, try meditation or a mindfulness practice. Stimulating your parasympathetic nervous system (the rest and digest mode) and bringing your awareness back to the present moment can really help you see that stress a lot of the time is only perceived stress — meaning you really are safe and not running from a lion!
- Prepare your food yourself: Don’t let other people sabotage your success by adding things to your food that you wouldn’t. Preparing everything also teaches you portion control, you feel organised and prepared for the week ahead, and you can also make tweaks as necessary.
- Avoid additives: Even if the packed says ‘no calories’, if you cannot pronounce the name, it is better to avoid it. Please realise that all additives, artificial sweeteners, and emulsifiers must still be digested and eliminated by your gastrointestinal tract and liver. These also take priority in the breakdown of nutrients, as they are ‘foreign’, which then places a strain on breaking down the ‘real’ whole foods and can slow your metabolism.
- Avoid too many stimulants or caffeine: Because sleep is precious and you need enough and of good quality. It is best to rely on the amazing glands and hormones within your body. They can do the job just fine if you allow the right environment for them to thrive.
- Fire up your netabolism my lifting weights and eating meals regularly
- Whole foods satisfy you — and your body
- Avoid ingredients you can’t pronounce
- Sleep and rest