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Saturday
Jan182014

Facilitating Fat Loss: Tips to Optimize Metabolism 

“How do I make my metabolism faster?” For all the times it’s been asked, pondered or Googled, you could say it’s the million dollar question. I hear it from my clients all the time. The fact is, everyone wants to believe that they can speed up the fat loss process. Who doesn’t want to lose weight faster and get to the goal sooner? Yet, the idea that personal metabolism is “fast” or “slow” stems from an out-of-date notion in weight loss circles. That said, metabolism does impact the weight management picture. I tell my clients to think about their metabolism more as functional versus dysfunctional (with obvious gradations on that spectrum). The more optimally functional your metabolism is, the more efficiently it will work for you – and your weight loss. What we eat and how we move are certainly cornerstones of healthy living, but the metabolic picture is more nuanced. Optimizing metabolism involves understanding all of the lifestyle and medical factors that increase or decrease our bodies’ ability to either burn or store fat. Check out these suggestions for boosting your metabolic health and successfully facilitating fat loss!

Get enough sleep.

Sleep regimen is probably the most common thing I work on with clients. When you don’t get enough sleep, it sends all the wrong signals to your metabolism. Your body perceives inadequate sleep as a physiological stressor, which spurs a cascade of hormonal and metabolic messages that prompt your body to store fat more efficiently (not what any of us are looking for), but it can also lead to elevated fasting blood sugars, fatigue, and low energy. Aim to get 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night by setting a bed time, creating an optimal sleep environment and sticking to your plan. Your body will not only function at its best when well-rested, but you’ll have more stable energy each day and be more likely to stick to other behavior changes related to your weight loss goal.

Learn to manage your stress.

High levels of stress hormone (cortisol) in your body literally halt fat burning and can lead to fat storage, most often in the abdomen area. A little stress here and there is normal, but when your body is under constant stress because of your lifestyle, it can be a major obstacle to weight loss. Although you might not be able to “delete” certain sources of stress (e.g. your job, your commute, parenting demands, etc.), it’s important to know how much of an impact stress is having on your health and body composition and to have a plan for how to manage it. If my clients are symptomatic of imbalanced stress hormones e.g. (poor sleep, irregular energy, sugar cravings, irritable mood, etc.), I first have them check their hormones to know what we are up against. Then we create and develop a stress management plan.

Know your blood.

“When I was in my twenties and thirties, I had no problem managing my weight” is a common refrain I hear from clients. It’s the notion that as we age, our metabolism slows down, which suggests that even if we eat the same and move the same as we did back then, we will gain weight simply because we’ve gotten older. In general, it’s not your age that causes weight gain but more likely some other hormonal imbalance that may be hampering your metabolic function. Although high stress hormone and lack of sleep are the most common culprits, other factors such as sex hormone imbalances, inefficient detoxification, or thyroid dysfunction could be holding up your progress even if you’re doing everything else right to manage your weight. I recommend each of my clients get a full blood screen if possible, at the beginning of their program, given blood measures are really our best view into metabolic functioning. The more I can understand my client’s metabolic health right from the start, the more effective and efficient plan we can create for his/her weight loss journey.

Manage your blood sugar.

As a nation, we eat too many starchy and high-sugar foods in our diet. In keeping with this pattern, it’s been suggested that one-third of our population actually has poor blood sugar control. Eating a diet too high in carbohydrates and/or sugar physically stresses your body and prompts unhealthy (and unwanted) shifts in your functioning. Excess carbohydrates/sugars, for example, shut down fat burning because your body has to overuse insulin (a fat storing hormone) to continuously process and store the sugar hanging out in your bloodstream. To help understand this, I have my clients (whether they have blood sugar issues or not) test their blood sugars before and after a meal to visually comprehend the impact different foods have on their blood sugar. Your body uses either glucose/sugar or fat as fuel. The best way to teach your body to use fat is to limit the amount of available glucose/sugar in your body. When working on nutrition with my clients, the goal is to get as many starchy and sugary foods out of their diet and to substitute them with high-fat foods that will help maintain their energy and satiety, as well as encourage their body to use fat as its preferred fuel tank.

Use fat as fuel while exercising.

As the saying goes, “don’t work out harder, work out smarter.” People make this mistake every day at the gym by working out at too high of an intensity for optimal fat burning. Working out can provide a plethora of benefits, including stress management, detoxification (from sweating), and an increase in feel-good hormones. If your goal is weight loss, however, your workout regimen should mostly consist of activity that encourages your body to use fat as fuel, versus its other fuel tank, glucose or sugar. Everyone’s bodies burns fat differently when it comes to exercise. The best way to measure this and understand the intensities/heart rates at which you optimally burn fat is to take an active metabolic assessment. I also encourage my clients to have plenty of rest and recovery in between structured workouts and to maintain a variety of exercises throughout the week that include stretching, mobility, cardio and strength training. 

Thanks for reading, everyone. What have you learned about your metabolism during your weight loss journey, and what changes produced more efficient fat loss? Share your stories and feedback!

Written by Anika Christ, Senior Program Manager of Life Time Weight Loss

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.

 

 

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