Burn More Calories While Doing Nothing

This is what we all want, right?  Let’s be honest, the idea of receiving maximum benefits for minimum efforts sounds pretty sweet.  Almost too sweet.  Well, it is possible – but (ah yes, there’s always a ‘but’!), we need to kick-start the whole process first.

Our metabolism is like an engine that runs all day long, it never really stops, it constantly burns energy (calories).  When we are active, our body is expending more energy, thereby burning more calories than when we are inactive.  However, even when we’re sitting around on the couch, we’re burning calories.  This is called our Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), the energy we burn at rest.  Therefore, whether we lose weight or gain weight depends greatly on how efficiently our metabolism is functioning.  A slow running metabolism is inefficient at burning calories and can lead to weight gain, whereas, a fast running metabolism efficiently burns calories at a higher rate throughout the day, even when you are doing nothing!  The key is not only to burn enough calories during activity, but to keep the metabolism revved up during rest, that is, to increase our BMR.  This is what leads to successful long-term weight loss.

BMR Facts

BMR is based on a number of factors like our gender, age, weight, height, the amount of fat or muscle we carry around, plus a host of other genetic factors that vary from person to person.  BMR calculators can provide a general idea of your BMR.  Here are some key numbers to keep in mind:

  • Number of calories burned at rest = 12 cal per lb per day
  • Number of calories burned by muscle = 30 – 50 cal per lb per day
  • Number of calories burned by fat = 3 cal per lb per day

The numbers obviously speak for themselves.  Muscle tissue is metabolically active and burns 10-15 times more calories than fat.  This is an important fact to keep in mind when considering how to go about revving our metabolism.

Our lifestyle, our habits, our nutritional choices directly affect our metabolic rate.  There are a number of things we can do to ensure that our metabolism is functioning optimally all day long.

#1 Muscle is Metabolism

We already know that regular exercise is important for weight loss.  However, all exercises are not created equal and will not deliver the same results.  Remember, muscle burns way more calories than fat, therefore, the focus of exercise should be to build more muscle.  A regular strength and resistance training program will not only help build lean muscle but will burn more calories.  Muscle increases your BMR which means the calorie burn from weight training continues long after your workout is done.

#2 Muscle is Made in the Kitchen

What we eat, when we eat, how often we eat have a great effect on our metabolism.  In order to support the hard work we put in at the gym, we need to feed our body clean, natural foods.  Nutrition accounts for approximately 80% (if not more) of the fat loss battle.  We should try to eliminate as many refined and processed foods as we can from our regular diet.  This type of change does not have to take place overnight.  In fact, I don’t recommend that anyone make drastic changes as it would be an unrealistic approach.  Small, incremental changes made regularly are more likely to stick and become habits rather than drastic changes.  The focus of a healthy diet should be on nutrient-dense foods rather than calorie-dense foods.

How much and how often we eat is very important in keeping the metabolism stoked.  Eating less is a common misconception regarding weight loss, in fact, to lose weight we need to eat more often.  On average, we should try to eat 6 small meals throughout the day to keep our blood sugar levels stable and our metabolism humming.

#3 Chill Out

Stress plays havoc on our metabolism and our health in general.  The mind-body connection has been given much attention as of late.  For our optimal well-being it is essential for us to practice stress management on a regular basis.  Stress throws our body out of balance and in order to restore homeostasis our body responds by releasing stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine (aka adrenaline).  Both cortisol and adrenaline are released by the adrenal glands at the same time, but we feel the effects of this a few hours later.

Cortisol is a powerful appetite stimulant which researchers suggests may interfere with our brain’s normal hunger signals.  Cortisol causes us to crave foods that our body can quickly convert to energy to deal with the threatening situation – stress.  We, therefore, end up craving simple sugars and carbs in the form of refined foods and sweets.  Cortisol not only promotes weight gain, but it affects where you put on the extra pounds.  Elevated cortisol levels generally cause weight gain in the abdominal area.  Increased abdominal fat is dangerous as it increases our risk of developing  cardiovascular disease.  Managing stress is crucial to our well-being especially in our fast-paced lifestyles.  Combating the effects of cortisol is simple, and it doesn’t necessarily involve yoga or tai chi, just 30 minutes of moderate level physical activity of any kind daily can significantly reduce stress.

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Avoid Long Weekend Weight Creep

After weeks or months of marking X’s on the calendar, the long weekend is finally here. If you’ve been diligently sticking to your fitness and nutrition plan, then there is no reason why you can’t let loose a little. The key here is to let loose ‘a little’ and not go overboard. You don’t want to sabotage all the progress made so far. Spending time with family and friends almost always involves food and lots of it. It’s easy to eat mindlessly when you’re in good company and there’s a smorgasbord of goodies all laid out. The calorie count can rack up real fast! Let’s not forget all the liquid calories we consume in sugary alcoholic beverages.

Here are some tips on how you can keep the long weekend festivities from destroying your efforts in the gym:

#1   Squeeze in a quick workout to allow for the extra calories and to keep the metabolism revved.

#2   Be mindful of portion sizes

#3   Choose healthier foods rather than calorie-dense foods. It’s ok to have a cheat day but even that should be within limits.

#4   Drink responsibly and wisely. Alcohol packs a double whammy, not only is alcohol high in calories but it also impairs your body’s ability to burn fat as efficiently. So, choose low-calorie alcoholic drinks and try to avoid sugary mixers.  Cheers!

#5  Have fun!

Happy long weekend everyone!

Stay Leaner and Fitter Throughout the Years

We’re all getting older, it’s a fact of life we don’t necessarily like to think about.  But we must think about it, that is, if we want to age gracefully and healthily and maintain our ideal healthy weight.

As the years go by, our body composition continually changes.  After the age of 35 we start losing 5% of lean muscle every 10 years.  After the age of 40, we lose 1% of lean muscle every year!  As the body loses lean muscle mass, it starts to increase fat stores.  This is why people start looking flabby and soft as they get older.

To top it all off, women have hormones to deal with.  Women’s hormones are constantly changing with every stage of life starting with puberty, pregnancy, and all the way to menopause.  During the menopausal years, low levels of estrogen account for the increased weight gain around the belly.  Losing weight can be extremely challenging at this time.  In general, many women notice an increased amount of belly fat as they age, even if they aren’t gaining any weight.  The natural aging process, hormones, and of course, our genetics, all play a contributing role in this shift from lean mass to fat mass.  Although these factors are all naturally occurring and we have no control over them – there is still a way to fight back! 

Exercise is one of the greatest defenses against age.  One of the reasons the body stores more fat as it ages is because the metabolism starts to slow down.  When we are young, the body has more lean muscle, and muscle requires more energy to maintain.  Muscle is our metabolism.  The more lean muscle we have, the more efficiently our metabolism runs, simple as that.  Aging replaces muscle with fat and therefore, has a halting effect on our metabolism.  The only way to fire up the metabolism is to maintain muscle mass with regular exercise and strength training.

The American Council on Exercise has published an article called, “Is it true that metabolism decreases with age?“.  Dr. Digate Muth provides an expert explanation of the effects of our metabolism on age-related weight gain.

In the end, it all boils down to one simple fact – in order to fight the effects of aging and related weight gain, we must make regular exercise and physical activity part of our lifestyle.  This is what I consider to be the “fountain of youth” and we all have access to it.

Weekly fitTip: Eat More to Lose Weight

In order to lose weight faster and  more efficiently, you need to eat more.  That doesn’t make any sense, right?  It sounds too good to be true and it contradicts the whole concept of dieting, however, it’s a hard and proven fact.  But wait, before you start planning a binge, here’s the catch, you need to eat more of the good stuff.  Now, there’s no need to roll your eyes, it’s actually very simple!

Think about it like this, for a fire to keep burning it needs to be stoked every so often on a regular basis. much like our metabolism, which is our internal fat burning furnace.  Stoking your metabolism requires eating a small meal or snack approximately every 3 hours (like throwing a log on the fire).  Over the course of a day this will add up to 5 or 6 small meals (for example: breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch, mid-afternoon snack, dinner, evening snack).  The size of the meals will depend on your total daily calorie allowance.

A general recommendation is that snacks should be between 100 and 200 calories each.  You’re probably wondering what types of snacks could possibly be 100 to 200 calories and still be satisfying?  It certainly rules out any sort of processed or junk food options, which are loaded with empty calories and next to zero nutrition.  Processed snacks are a waste of calories since they will not satisfy you for long. They generally cause a drop in blood sugar levels causing you to feel hungry again, which can then lead to unhealthy food cravings.  The key to avoiding this viscous cycle is to find foods that are naturally low in calories and nutrient dense (high nutritional value).

Here’s a list of 10 nutrient dense snacks that will not only keep you full longer, but will also satisfy the taste buds.  A good idea is to keep these items stocked in your fridge and pantry so you have them on hand for the next snack attack.  Many of these snacks are great for on-the-go or for at your desk at work, so keep a stash handy wherever you can.  This will take the guess work out of eating healthy and keep you on the right track.

Top 10 Nutrient Rich Snacks:

  • Nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews, pine nuts)
  • Dried Fruit (raisins, dates, prunes, cranberries, cherries – unsweetened)
  • Veggies (baby carrots, celery sticks, sugar snap peas, etc)
  • String Cheese
  • Fresh fruit & Berries
  • Popcorn (air popped, unsalted, no butter or margarine)
  • Cottage cheese & fresh/frozen berries and honey
  • Whole grain cracker with Hummus, Peanut butter
  • Smoothie
  • Dark Chocolate

Portion control is very important even with healthy snacks. Measure out and pack proper portions in advance so they are ready when you need them, this requires a little planning and preparation, but is well worth the effort.  By having these healthy snacks readily on hand, you can avoid any dietary pitfalls and feel good that you are stoking your body’s fat burning potential.  Combine these healthy eating habits with a structured exercise regime and watch your body transform!