TIP #1: CYCLE YOUR CARBS
Low-carbohydrate diets are effective for weight loss during the first six months of dieting, mainly because they prevent hunger more than mixed or high-carbohydrate diets. At 12 months, however, low-carbohydrate, high-carbohydrate, or mixed calorie-restricted diets result in similar weight loss. Also, low carbohydrate diets might promote heart disease because they are higher in saturated fats than the other diets.
An Australian study found no difference in weight loss between low- and high-carbohydrate, calorie-restricted diets after 12 months. The study was carefully controlled so that caloric intake was the same in both groups. The low-carbohydrate group showed larger increases in LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) but more favorable changes in triglycerides (blood fat) and HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol). We need more research to assess the long-term health effects of weight loss diets. (American Journal Clinical Nutrition, 90: 23-32, 2009)
TIP #2: GO MEDITERRANEAN
The Mediterranean diet is high in vegetables and unsaturated fatty acids. Common foods include pasta, olive oil, fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish, nuts, and wine. People living in Mediterranean countries have the lowest heart disease rates and greatest longevity in the world. Diet may play an important role in their excellent health.
A large study of nearly 500,000 men and women age 25 to 70 years living in 10 European countries found a reduced risk of abdominal obesity in people who followed the Mediterranean diet. The relationship was strongest in men from northern European countries. People living in France, Norway, and Sweden were the thinnest, while those living in Greece and Spain were the fattest. Europeans were considerably leaner than Americans. The Mediterranean diet has positive effects on metabolic health and preventing obesity. (Journal Nutrition, 139: 1-10, 2009)
TIP #3: GET NUTTY
Nuts and olive oil promote post-meal thermogenesis. Until recently, nutritionists recommended reduced fat intake to prevent weight gain, heart disease, and premature death. Not all fats are unhealthy. The Mediterranean diet is high in vegetable fats contained in foods such as nuts and olive oil and is thought to have significant health benefits and prevent obesity.
A Spanish study compared resting metabolic rate, post-meal energy expenditure, fat use, and satiety (feeling of fullness) following a meal high in monounsaturated fats (walnuts), polyunsaturated fats (olive oil), or saturated fats (fat-rich dairy foods). Meals rich in walnuts or olive oil cause greater increases in post-meal metabolism than meals rich in dairy foods (i.e., they were more thermogenic). However, the type of fat in the meal had no effect on post-meal fat use or satiety. We need more research to determine if dietary nuts and olive oil have health benefits. (Clinical Nutrition, 28: 39-45, 2009)
TIP #4: GET SOME SLEEP
The recession has led to increased stress, overwork, and reduced sleep. In addition to triggering fatigue, inadequate sleep makes it more difficult to exercise, which promotes obesity. A review of literature by Sanjay Patel from the Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio concluded that inadequate sleep promoted obesity, even in people without sleep apnea (obstructive breathing during sleep).
Sleep duration has decreased by 15 percent since the 1950s, and 16 percent of Americans get less than six hours of sleep per night. Large population studies showed a clear inverse relationship between hours of sleep and the incidence of obesity. However, in spite of the relationship, we cannot say for sure whether inadequate sleep causes obesity.
Donald Watenpaugh from the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth, Texas, said that humans evolved as athletes who sleep 8 to 9 hours per night. Interfering with sleep decreases exercise capacity and threatens metabolic health, which leads to obesity. Sleep is essential to normal energy balance and weight control. (Current Sports Medicine Reports, 8: 331-338, 2009; Obesity Reviews, 10 (supplement 2): 61-68, 2009)
TIP #5: DOUBLE UP YOUR WORKOUTS
Two-a-Day Workouts Increase Fat Use . Exercising below 65 percent of maximum effort uses mainly fat as fuel. Above this intensity, carbohydrates become increasingly important, and they’re used almost exclusively for fuel at extreme exercise intensities.
Swiss researchers found that fat use during exercise is influenced by prior physical activity. Moderately-trained subjects took two maximal treadmill tests: one to determine maximal oxygen uptake and estimate fat use and a second to determine the effects of prior exercise on fat use. During the second test, subjects exercised on a treadmill for one hour at 57 percent of maximum effort. After a short break, they took the second treadmill test to exhaustion. Fat use was higher when the subjects took the test after the initial one-hour run. Two-a-day workouts will trigger more fat-burning during the second workout. (Metabolism Clinical and Experimental, 58: 1778-1786, 2009)
TIP #6: GET IN THE ZONE
Anyone who has worked out on electronic exercise machines such as a treadmill, elliptical trainer or stationary bike is familiar with fat-burning and aerobic training zones. Typically, people choose one or the other when setting up the machine for their workout. The fat-burning zone is low- or moderate-intensity exercise, while the aerobic zone is more intense and creates large increases in heart rate and ventilation (breathing).
Daniel Carey from the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota determined the fat-burning zone by measuring gas exchange (respiratory exchange ratio— the ratio of carbon dioxide expired to oxygen consumed) during a maximal exercise test on a treadmill. He estimated that maximum fat use occurred at 54 percent of maximal oxygen consumption. He concluded that training between 60 and 80 percent of maximum heart rate was a good compromise for maximizing fat burning and building aerobic capacity. (Journal Strength Conditioning Research, 23: 2090-2095, 2009)
TIP #7: GO GREEN
Green tea is a popular weight-loss supplement that also improves blood sugar regulation, influences fat cell turnover, and promotes weight loss and weight management. Green tea contains chemicals called catechins that increase metabolic rate and decrease appetite.
Researchers from Maastricht University in Holland pooled the results of 11 studies using a statistical technique called meta-analysis, and found that catechins and green tea promoted weight loss and weight maintenance. Catechins worked best when combined with caffeine.
Other studies found that the catechins in green tea helped decrease total abdominal fat, subcutaneous abdominal fat (under the skin) and blood triglycerides (blood fats). Green tea is an effective fat fighter that complements the effects of exercise. (International Journal of Obesity, 33: 956-961, 2009)
TIP #8: GO FISH
Cod is a popular whitefish with a mild flavor that is low in fat. It is high in vitamins A, E and D, and the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. A study from the University of Iceland in Reykjavík showed that cod promoted weight loss in young, overweight men who ate it five times per week (150 grams), compared to a control group that ate no seafood, but consumed the same number of calories.
The cod group lost 11 pounds and 2 inches from their waists, while the control group lost only 3 pounds and showed no changes in waist circumference. Cod eaters also showed decreases in systolic and diastolic blood pressure, triglycerides, and insulin. Increasing consumption of cod in the diet might promote weight loss. (Nutrition, Metabolism And Cardiovascular Diseases, 19: 690-696, 2009)
TIP #9: GET ON A SCHEDULE
Exercise, cutting calories, and losing fat are difficult, so you want the most from your weight-control program. A study from the University of Munich in Germany showed that meal timing, dietary composition, and exercise influenced post-exercise fat metabolism.
George Brooks from the University of California in Berkeley showed that the body uses mainly fat as fuel at exercise intensities below 65 percent of maximum effort. Also, carbohydrate-rich meals slow fat release from fat cells and decrease subsequent fat burning.
Obese people exercised for 30 minutes at a moderate intensity and then consumed a meal rich in either proteins or carbohydrates. The high-carb meal suppressed fat release and use after exercise, while the high-protein meal increased fat burning. Consuming a carbohydrate-rich meal two hours before exercise promoted fat burning just like the post-exercise high-protein meal.
Maximize fat burning by consuming a high-protein, low-carbohydrate meal after exercise or a high-carbohydrate meal two hours before exercise. If you are not concerned about weight loss, consume high-carbohydrate meals after endurance exercise to restore muscle and liver glycogen and promote tissue repair. (Hormone and Metabolic Research, in press; published online January 21, 2010)
TIP #10: RUN FOR IT
Carbohydrate is the principle fuel for exercise above 65 percent of maximum effort. However, metabolic rate increases 12 to 25 times above rest during exercise, so fat use increases tremendously. South African scientists showed that fat use was greater during running than cycling. They measured fat use indirectly during prolonged cycling and running at 60, 65, 70, 75, and 80 percent of maximum effort. Cycling places a more concentrated load on the leg and thigh muscles, which would increase the use of carbohydrates and decrease the use of fats. (International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 20: 44-55, 2010)
TIP #11: FIND A FAT BURNER
Thermogenic supplements, such as caffeine, capsaicin, and green tea, increase metabolic rate and promote fat use. A review of literature by scientists from Maastricht University in the Netherlands concluded that these supplements increase caloric expenditure by 4 to 5 percent and fat use by 10 to 16 percent. They are not magic bullets that trigger massive weight loss, but will promote weight control over time.
The supplements work better in some people than others. They work by stimulating the sympathetic nervous system (fight-or-flight system), which helps control hunger, stimulates energy expenditure, and promotes fat breakdown. Thermogenic supplements may be a valuable tool in the fight against obesity. (International Journal of Obesity, 34: 659-669, 2010)
TIP #12: EAT PROTEIN
Weight loss is extremely difficult because reduced caloric intake increases hunger sensations and slows metabolic rate. A low-calorie, mixed diet triggers protein mobilization for fuel, which results in muscle-wasting.
A review of literature by Suzanne Devkota and Donald Layman from the University of Chicago concluded that substituting protein for fat and carbohydrate in the diet reduces insulin levels and suppresses hunger and food cravings. Protein, particularly sources high in the amino acid leucine, triggers protein synthesis and helps maintain muscle mass during periods of caloric restriction. People trying to lose weight should consume protein, particularly during breakfast and lunch. This will help curb appetite and maintain muscle mass. (Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, 13: 403-407, 2010)
So Increased protein intake helps people lose weight, but can you get too much of a good thing? The United States Department of Agriculture recommends that proteins make up 15 percent of the total calorie intake. Increasing protein intake to 40 percent of the total calories promotes weight loss. Chronically high protein intake, however, can have metabolic side effects such as elevated levels of uric acid, which increase the risk of heart disease, kidney disorders and gout. Paul Arciero and colleagues from Skidmore College in New York found that moderate protein intake (25 percent of total calories) and exercise (aerobics plus weights) had similar effects on body composition (weight, body mass index, waist circumference), metabolic health (insulin sensitivity, blood fats, leptin) and muscle growth factors (IGF-1, IGFBP-1). This study showed that moderate-protein diets plus exercise produced the same effects in obese, sedentary people as high-protein diets plus exercise. (Metabolism, 57:757-765, 2008)
TIP #13: GO LOW GLYCEMIC
Glycemic index is a measure of how fast a food increases blood sugar. High glycemic index foods include simple sugars and white bread that enter the bloodstream quickly, while low glycemic index foods include whole grains that are digested slowly and trigger more modest increases in blood sugar. One theory is that rapid increases in blood sugar trigger greater insulin release, which promotes fat storage. British researchers found that middle-aged adults lost more weight following a low glycemic diet than a high glycemic diet during a 12-week study. Both groups reduced caloric intake by 300 calories below normal. The average blood sugar levels was lower in the low glycemic index group, but there were no differences between groups in heart disease risk factors such as blood pressure, cholesterol, or waist circumference. Few studies have found that the glycemic index of the diet influences weight control or heart disease risk factors in healthy people. (European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 62: 145-149, 2008)
TIP #14: SHAKE IT UP
Drinking a whey protein shake 20 minutes before a meal will help you lose fat and preserve muscle mass. A 12-week study on weight loss from the Minnesota Applied Research Center in Minneapolis found that a pre-meal protein supplement helped decrease appetite during lunch or dinner. Consuming a whey protein beverage (Prolibra) 20 minutes before breakfast and dinner caused greater fat loss than a placebo (fake Prolibra; 8 pounds versus 3.5 pounds) and helped maintain muscle mass. Substituting proteins for carbohydrates is a good strategy for weight loss. The amino acids from whey protein circulate in the blood, and the liver converts them to blood sugar. They work like tiny blood sugar timed-release capsules to maintain blood sugar levels, which decrease appetite. Health experts are scrambling to find techniques to help people eat less and lose weight. Drinking a whey protein shake before meals might help. (Nutrition & Metabolism, published online March 27, 2008)
TIP #15: GO GREEN AGAIN
Green tea can also improve blood sugar regulation and influence fat-cell turnover. While it is not a magic bullet that instantly improves metabolic health, it helps. Kevin Maki from the Provident Clinical Research, in Bloomington, Indiana showed decreases in total abdominal fat, subcutaneous abdominal fat (under the skin), and blood triglycerides (blood fats) in people consuming a green tea beverage containing 625 mg of catechins and 39 mg of caffeine for 12 weeks, compared to a placebo (green tea without catechins or caffeine). The people also did 180 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise.
Caffeine and catechins— particularly epigallocatechin-3-gallate— speed metabolism and fight fat. Other studies found that green tea extract increased the conversion of testosterone to estrogen in fat cells, which might have negative effects in guys who are trying to get huge and ultra-ripped. Green tea is an effective fat fighter that complements the effects of exercise. However, some people should use it with caution. (Journal of Nutrition, 139: 264-270, 2009; Journal of Nutrition, 138: 2156-2163, 2008)
TIP #16 STAY HEALTHY
Can a virus make you fat? The genetics revolution promises to reveal the answer to medical questions that have baffled humans for centuries. Genes act as controllers for all cell functions, such as storing and using energy, repairing damage, and making new proteins. Interfering with them disturbs basic body processes such as metabolism and immunity. Genes fight off challenges every day from such diverse sources as ultraviolet light from the sun, free radicals produced normally during metabolism, and environmental pollutants. Add viruses to that list. Several studies have linked viral infections to coronary artery disease. Now, scientists have found that viral infections may be linked to obesity. Animals infected with the adenovirus-36, which comes from the same family of viruses that cause colds, diarrhea and pinkeye, had more body fat than animals not infected. In humans, about 20-30 percent of obese people are infected with the virus, compared to only 5 percent of lean people. If viruses really contribute to obesity, scientists may be able to make a vaccine to combat them. (BBC News, January 26, 2009)
TIP #17: DRINK WATER
Recent nutritional guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture advise people to drink water when they are thirsty. Research does not support previous recommendations that people should drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day. French researchers speculated that increasing cell water levels promotes fat loss. Increased water intake inhibits angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE), which helps control blood pressure and thirst. In animal studies, inhibiting ACE led to increased water intake and fat loss. Drugs called ACE-inhibitors combined with increased fluid intake might contribute to weight loss. (International Journal of Obesity, 33: 385, 2009)
TIP #18: BE CONSISTENT!
We saved the best for last, right? By now, we’re sure you don’t need a study to tell you why consistency in all areas – training, nutrition, cardio and sleep – is important. Yes, it takes time to develop a consistent routine. But once you do, it will become habit. And that’s when you will truly start seeing the results you want.