Top 5 Fat Loss Tips
Transforming your body is hard. There are so many fat loss plans out there, and they often contradict one another. I don’t pretend to have the magic pill, or the ultimate weight loss solution that will work for everyone, but here are 5 essential tips to help you on your weight loss journey.
This seems counterintuitive at first, but it really does work. Eating healthy fats throughout the day helps promote satiety, or the feeling of fullness, which helps reduce cravings for junk foods. Plus, it’s delicious. Of course, this is not a carte blanche, eat as much of all the fat that you want type recommendation, but for those who are still under the impression that eating fat is bad, eating more can be a good place to start.
The human body burns one of two things for fuel: fat and carbs. Fat is our bodies’ preferred energy source at rest and carbs provide fuel for more intense activity. In order for your body to burn fat optimally while at rest, your insulin levels have to be low. Eating carbohydrates, particularly refined carbohydrates raises your insulin levels. When you have higher insulin levels, your body is more likely to use carbohydrate for fuel, since elevated insulin is a signal (and often a result) of having carbohydrate in the body that needs to be used. If you eat refined carbohydrates throughout the day, your insulin levels remain elevated, and you burn those refined carbohydrates rather than fat. Not only does this impede weight loss efforts, it contributes to spikes and crashes in your energy levels and sugar cravings.
So what do you do? You eat fat. Because you have to eat something, and eating carbs all day inhibits your fat metabolism. Eating fat encourages your body to burn fat for fuel because it doesn’t raise your insulin levels. Protein is also important, but it’s not a fuel source the way that fat and carbs are. Rather, protein performs work in the body and makes up the structure of many tissues.
How much fat should you eat? As always, it depends. The World Health Organization recommends getting no more than 30% of your calories from fat. Those following the popular ketogenic diet get as much as 80-90% of their calories from fat. I’ve had success recommending 40-60% of calories from fat for clients looking to lose body fat.
If you have been avoiding fat because you were worried that it was bad for you, we now know that fat doesn’t cause heart disease or increase mortality risk. I don’t recommend going from fat avoidance to a high fat diet right away, but here are some tips for getting more fat into your daily routine.
- Add 1-2 tbsp of ground flax, chia, or hemp seeds to your morning smoothie
- Have 1-2 handfuls of your favorite nut (unsalted, unsweetened) as a morning or afternoon snack
- Have ¼-1/2 an avocado with your lunchtime salad
- Eat a fatty fish like salmon or trout at least twice per week.
Although exercise doesn’t burn fat, it provides a stimulus that does lead to fat burning. In the days after a strength-training session your body is in a state of recovery and the amount of fat you burn while at rest increases. As a result of needing to recover from a training session, your body increases its resting metabolic rate, or RMR. Your RMR is how much energy you would burn in a 24 hour period if you don’t move. RMR is much higher in a person who exercises regularly than in one who does not. And strength training is superior to aerobic training when it comes to raising RMR. Why? Strength training creates a lot of microtrauma (damage) to the working muscles. After a session, the body repairs these muscles and it is through this process that we gradually become stronger. The increased energy demands of recovering from a strength training session are significant. Strength training increases resting metabolism. And what does your metabolism burn when you’re at rest? Fat.
Along with opposable thumbs and the cerebral cortex, walking is what makes humans unique. We are designed to walk, a lot. Unfortunately, in modern life, most of us don’t need to walk much to survive, so many people are missing this important element of a healthy lifestyle. The benefits of walking go well beyond fat burning, it’s probably the single best thing you can do for your health. If time is a factor, go for the minimum of 30 minutes daily, accumulated in bouts of 10 minutes or more. If you have the time and like to walk, really go for it and do as much as you can. The benefits of walking are well documented, but there also seems to be an X factor that goes beyond caloric burn or anything else that’s easily quantifiable. One theory on the health benefits of walking is that it’s a return to a more natural state, and it enables our bodies to function the way they were designed.
Sleep has a specific impact on the maintenance of a healthy body weight. Most adults need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. When we are in a state of reduced sleep, we are less resilient and more vulnerable to stress. And when we experience stress, we are more likely to crave energy dense foods. That’s because for millions of years of human evolution, the sources of stress were threats to our very survival, including starvation. So stress resulted in a powerful signal to seek out food. Even though our modern conscious minds know that most of our stressors (say, a big deadline at work) won’t result in us starving to death, we haven’t outgrown this metabolic pathway and still get strong food cravings that have nothing to do with hunger. One of the best ways to manage stress is to ensure you’re getting enough sleep. This helps keep you resilient, keeps your hormones in check, and your cravings at bay.
Recent research shows that drinking plenty of water leads to weight loss by decreasing the amount a person eats and boosting fat metabolism. The opposite also appears to be true, that less hydration is correlated with increased body fat. How much water should you drink? This depends on your body weight and activity level, but a good place to start is to take your body weight in pounds, and divide that by 2, and drink that number in ounces. So a 150 lb. person would drink 75 oz. of water, or just over nine 8 oz. glasses of water daily. Yes, other beverages such as coffee or juices can provide the hydration required to sustain life, but in terms of optimal health, there’s just no substitute for clean, clear, old-fashioned H20.
If these tips read like a very general, how to stay healthy list, that’s not an accident. The very things that promote general health will help with achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight. Ask yourself, what do the lean and fit people you know do to stay that way? They probably don’t starve themselves, do cleanses, take fat burner supplements, and do 6 hours of cardio a day. They probably do eat, move, sleep, train, and stay hydrated. Those same things will probably work for you, too.