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Last Updated on November 27, 2020

What to Eat to Speed Up Metabolism and Burn Fat

What to Eat to Speed Up Metabolism and Burn Fat

The internet is rife with advice about how you can speed up metabolism. As you get older, though, it’s quite natural for various body systems to begin slowing down, including your metabolism. Unfortunately, this can result in weight gain and excess fat, which none of us want!

There are also thousands of weight-loss supplements and formulas that claim to get your body burning fat faster. The truth is, there is no “magic pill” that can change your body’s ability to burn fat. Much of it comes down to your own efforts in terms of diet, exercise, and self-care.

What Is Metabolism?

Your metabolism is simply the process by which your body converts food into energy. This is a complex biochemical process in which the calories in food and beverages combine with oxygen to release the energy that you need to carry out various activities.

Your body requires energy all the time, even when you’re resting. Dozens of different functions are going on within you that you don’t even think about, such as breathing, circulating blood, modulating hormones, restoring, and repairing cells.

Similarly, your body requires a certain number of calories to carry out these basic functions. This is known as your basal metabolic rate or metabolism.

Several factors determine the speed of your metabolic rate, including:

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  • Your body size and composition – People with more muscle burn more calories, even at rest.
  • Your gender – Men generally have less body fat and more muscles than women, so they burn more calories.
  • Your age – As you get older, your body’s muscle content tends to decrease and fat begins to increase, which can slow down your metabolism.

Can you change your metabolic speed? Well, your metabolism is generally fairly stable, but there are ways to ramp it up a little. Read more about it here: 4 Ways to Boost Your Metabolism

What Happens If You Speed Up Metabolism?

When your metabolism is functioning at its best, you’ll experience lots of health benefits. It’s important to remember that many factors are involved in your metabolic rate, and weight is only one of them!

Having a fast metabolism will mean that your energy levels are much more stable, and you hardly feel tired. This is because your body will be efficiently converting the food you eat into fuel, providing you with a steady source of energy.

People with great metabolisms can also stay mentally focused. You are less likely to gain weight and can shed pounds quickly when you need to.

6 Foods That Can Speed Up Metabolism

It might seem counter-intuitive to think that certain foods could speed up metabolism, but it’s true. Your body needs some nutrients to kick-start your fat-burning processes; that’s why skipping meals may not actually help you lose weight in the long run.

The following foods have been shown to help boost your metabolism and get your weight-loss journey on track:

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1. Lean Meats

It takes a lot more work to digest protein than it does to digest carbohydrates or fat. Because of that, experts recommend eating fresh, lean meats such as poultry and fish.[1] The digestion process requires a lot of energy, so you’re burning calories in order to break them down. Studies have shown that protein can increase your post-meal calorie burn by as much as 35%.[2]

What’s more, protein is required for building muscle mass. The more muscle you have, the faster your metabolism. Hence, aim to include some protein in every meal and snack throughout the day.

2. Legumes

Beans and pulses are an excellent source of plant-based protein. They’re also rich in fiber, both soluble and insoluble. Your body uses up a lot of energy when it breaks down the fiber and protein, and that keeps your metabolism in good working order.

The high fiber content of beans also helps to keep your blood sugar levels steady and prevent those mid-afternoon sugar cravings.[3]

Furthermore, legumes provide iron, zinc, and selenium. These are minerals that your thyroid needs to produce sufficient amounts of hormones. Without them, your metabolism can slow down or become impaired.

3. Nuts

Nuts are another great source of protein and fiber. Research has shown that people who eat nuts regularly tend to have a lower risk of insulin resistance and smaller waist sizes than those who don’t eat them.[4] When you have lower insulin resistance, your body is less likely to store fat or develop type 2 diabetes. Again, nuts take longer to break down, which makes them more satisfying and better for your metabolism.

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Most importantly, research has even found that nuts can ramp up your metabolism. Several trials have noted that nuts provide increased energy expenditure that may help you burn an extra 10% of your overall energy yield.[5]

4. Whole Grains

Whole grains are a complex carbohydrate that consists of a longer series of sugars. It entails that your body takes longer to break them down, so your metabolism is burning steadily for a longer period. Researchers have found that consuming whole grains increases your post-meal energy expenditure by up to 50% more than eating processed foods.[6]

Foods with complex carbohydrates typically have more nutrients, particularly B vitamins. They play a major part in converting the food you eat into energy, which is the essence of your metabolic function. Specifically, vitamin B12 is often associated with weight loss because it boosts metabolism and provides long-lasting energy.

Be sure to choose whole grains over processed grains. Look for whole-wheat flour, quinoa, brown rice, barley, corn, and oats.

5. Probiotic Foods

Fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut help to increase the number of good bacteria in your gut. These bacteria are largely responsible for digesting food in your intestines and facilitating the uptake of nutrients.[7]

A 2012 study published in the Journal of Functional Foods reported that when adults ate about 1/2 cup of probiotic yogurt at dinner every night for six weeks, they lost 3-4% body fat. This compared with adults who ate plain yogurt and only lost 1% body fat.[8]

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It’s been suggested that probiotics change the way the body metabolizes bile acids. These acids are made by the liver and their primary function is to break down fats in the upper gut. If probiotics can influence how bile acids are metabolized, they may change how much fat your body can absorb from food.

6. Caffeine

Caffeine is a powerful stimulant known for helping you to “wake up” and boosting your metabolism. It works by blocking a neurotransmitter called adenosine, which causes other neurotransmitters to release more dopamine and norepinephrine.

This helps you feel more alert and energized, which in turn can allow you to exercise longer. Remember, however, that drinking too much caffeine can also trigger a chronic stress response and leave you feeling burnt out, so you should take it in small doses.[9]

Studies have shown that caffeine can increase your resting metabolic rate by around 3–11%, depending on the size of your dose.[10] It’s also shown that this can help burn fat faster. One study even showed that people who took caffeine-based supplements experienced increased fat burning by as much as 29%. Thus, it has led researchers to suggest that caffeine can significantly influence energy balance and speed up metabolism.

Bottom Line

Remember, whilte this article focuses on what to eat, to really speed up your metabolism and burn fat, you need to make efforts in terms of exercise and self-care too. Start eating healthy with the above foods that I suggested, and exercise regularly to keep yourself moving.

More On Metabolism

Featured photo credit: Jo. via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Lisa Richards

Nutritionist, Creator of The Candida Diet, Owner of TheCandidaDiet.com

6 Health Benefits Of Probiotics (Backed By Science) How to Stop Overeating the Healthy Way (Step-by-Step Guide) 8 Best Natural Energy Drinks For An Instant Energy Boost 6 Health Benefits of Turmeric (And How to Take It for Good) 7 Homemade Diet Foods That Are Good For Your Health

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss for Beginners (A How-to Guide)

Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss for Beginners (A How-to Guide)

Intermittent fasting weight loss is a type of diet that’s rapidly growing in popularity and becoming the way to lose weight. Scientists and nutrition experts like it, too. New books and articles on the topic are being published daily. Intermittent fasting is also popular with followers of the Paleo diet since our ancestors appear to have eaten this way for thousands of years.

I’ve been following this type of diet myself for 2 years. Doing so helped me lose and keep off 70 pounds without ever having to count calories, limit carbohydrates, or eat 6 to 7 meals a day.

This article teaches you all about intermittent fasting weight loss and details why it is one of the best weight loss diet hacks around. Once you finish, you will be able to implement it into your diet and experience the benefits it offers almost immediately.

What Is Intermittent Fasting?

As you may have figured from its name, intermittent fasting weight loss is a diet plan where you set fasting periods during the day. This is usually between 16-20 consecutive hours, but it can be as little as 12 hours or as much as 24 hours (or even 36 hours).

While fasting you can eat and drink low calorie or calorie-free foods. Think coffee, tea, water, and vegetables.

The more time you spend fasting every day, the better your results. You can do these fasts as often as you like. Again, the more often you do so, the better[1].

Getting Started With Intermittent Fasting

Following this diet plan is super simple. All you have to do is choose a period of time during the day that you will fast. This should be between 16-20 hours.

The longer you fast each day, the better. Don’t worry about calorie restriction or measuring carbohydrates. Just focus on going about your day until it’s time to eat.

It’s best to choose a set period of time to conduct your fast. I like to fast from 8 PM to 4 PM the following afternoon. I’ll then have my first meal of the day and a snack or two a few hours later. Once 8 o’clock rolls around, it’s back to fasting.

My experience with intermittent fasting is that it’s best to start with a 16 hour fast (i.e. 8 PM one evening to 12 PM the next day) for the first 1-2 weeks. Once you are comfortable with this schedule, you can increase the amount of time you spend fasting. Do this by adding 30 minutes to each fast until you get to where you are fasting for 20 hours at a time.

You don’t have to fast every day in the beginning either. You may be more comfortable breaking in slowly with 2 or 3 days per week, or trying alternate day fasting. Add additional days of intermittent fasting as you become more comfortable with this style of eating.

Intermittent Fasting Schedules

There are several different fasting schedules you can choose from when you start an intermittent fasting diet. Here are some of the most popular.

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The 16/8 Method

This method of fasting involves fasting every day for 14-16 hours and eating during an 8-10 hour window. Many people who are getting started with intermittent fasting will find this the easiest schedule to keep. You can eat your last meal around 8 PM and not eat again until noon the next day, for example. This sounds simple, as you’re really only skipping breakfast, but you’re actually fasting for 16 hours in this case![2]

16/8 Method of Intermittent Fasting

    The 5:2 Method

    This fasting method involves eating normally five days each week and restricting calorie intake to 500-600 calories for two (non-consecutive) days. On fasting days, women should eat around 500 calories, and men should eat around 600 calories.

    5:2 Diet for Intermittent Fasting

      Alternate-Day Fasting

      As its name suggests, this type of intermittent fasting involves fasting every other day. As with the 5:2 method, some people find it easier to eat 500-600 calories instead of going on a full fast each fasting day.

      Alternate Day Fasting
        The Warrior Diet

        This type of fasting is considered by many to be the most difficult and follows a 20/4 eating schedule. For most of the day, you limit your food intake to small amounts of fruits and vegetables (low-calorie foods). For four hours each day, you eat large-portioned meals to get in your day’s calories.

        Because of the intense nature of this method, it’s only recommended for those who have been on an intermittent fasting diet for a while and feel comfortable with it.

        The Warrior Diet

          Tips to Make Intermittent Fasting Easier

          1. Drink Plenty of Water

          Squeeze a little lemon or lime juice into your water to help get rid of any cravings you experience. You can also drink coffee, tea, or other calorie-free beverages. After a few weeks, you will find that intermittent fasting keeps you from craving sugar entirely.

          2. Take in Caffeine in the Morning and Early Afternoon

          The caffeine in coffee and tea may actually make intermittent fasting weight loss a little easier since it’s good for curbing your appetite. Be careful not to overindulge, as this may lead to you feeling a little too wired. I also recommend these natural energy boosting tips to keep you going during the day.

          3. Avoid Artificially Flavored Drinks

          One type of calorie-free drink that should be avoided are diet sodas and other beverages that use artificial sweeteners like Splenda and Sweet & Low. Studies show that the can actually stimulate your appetite[3] like a drink that contains sugar and causes you to overeat.

          4. Don’t Gorge at Your First Meal

          The first meal after your fast should be the amount of food you typically eat. Binging will only make you feel awful and diminish the benefits you get from the fast.

          To avoid this, try creating meal plans, at least for the first few weeks. This will help you get into the rhythm of eating regularly portioned meals during your eating window.

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          5. Minimize Processed Carbohydrates and Sugars

          While intermittent fasting does make it possible to eat a little looser than normal, you should still eat as little bread, pasta, rice, etc. as possible.

          Focus instead on eating protein from beef, fish, or pork, carbohydrates from vegetables, fruit, and sweet potatoes, and healthy fats from foods like almonds, avocados, fish, and olive oil.

          You can find some carb sources that will aid your weight loss journey here.

          How Intermittent Fasting Helps You Lose Weight

          Eating this way has many benefits with regard to weight loss. The first is that when you’re fasting, your body will be forced to use its stored body fat for energy. After several hours of not eating, your body will use up its sugar stores, which will cause it to start burning fat for energy, a process known as metabolic switching. 

          Mark Mattson, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins explains this effect in simple terms:

          “Intermittent fasting contrasts with the normal eating pattern for most Americans, who eat throughout their waking hours…If someone is eating three meals a day, plus snacks, and they’re not exercising, then every time they eat, they’re running on those calories and not burning their fat stores.”[4]

          Burning calories this way, instead of from the food you’re eating throughout the day, will help you experience significant weight loss, but specifically lose weight from any excess body fat you’re carrying.

          This means that you won’t just be thinner, but you will also look better and be much healthier than if you lose weight the old-fashioned way[5].

          Intermittent fasting can help optimize the release of the key fat-burning hormones in your body. This is especially true for the two most important hormones: human growth hormone (HGH) and insulin.

          Human growth hormone plays a key role in turning on your body’s fat-burning furnace so that it gets the calories you need to work and play from stored body fat. Studies show that fasting can significantly increase the production of HGH[6].

          The influence intermittent fasting has on insulin is just as impressive and possibly more important. Keeping your insulin levels low and steady is key to losing excess fat and keeping it off.

          Diets that are rich in processed carbohydrates (bread, pasta, rice) and simple sugars (candy, cookies, and soda) have the opposite effect. They cause your insulin levels to rapidly spike and then crash every time you eat one of these foods. The net result of this phenomenon is that your body will store more of what you eat as excess body fat instead of burning it off as energy.

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          Chronically elevating your insulin levels like this can also lead to the development of type 2 diabetes, obesity, and other chronic health problems. Intermittent fasting easily solves this problem.

          One study found that men who participated in intermittent fasting had “dramatically lower insulin levels and significantly improved insulin sensitivity”[7].

          This happens because you’re not giving your body food, so it will not produce insulin, allowing insulin levels to balance out until you eat again. This helps your body stay in a calorie and fat-burning state. You’ll also find that it gives you more energy throughout the day.

          Another great weight loss benefit of intermittent fasting is that hunger pangs and cravings that may normally plague you throughout the day will be reduced, if not altogether eliminated. This is probably due to its ability to balance your insulin and blood sugar levels and, in turn, help correct other hormonal imbalances.

          Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss FAQs

          Now that you know what intermittent fasting is and how to get started, it’s time to answer your other questions.

          Below are answers to the questions frequently asked about intermittent fasting. These answers should help you and make getting started a lot easier.

          How Much Weight Will I Lose?

          The amount of weight you lose with fasting is determined by how often and long your fasts are, what you eat afterward, and other factors.

          One study published by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that average weight loss on an intermittent fasting diet was around 9lbs after 12 months, and weight loss was most successful in those who strictly adhered to their chosen diet[8].

          Can I Work out While Fasting?

          Yes, you can. In fact, doing the right type of workout while fasting will help you lose weight faster and even build muscle.

          If you are a hardcore athlete who often exercises for an hour or more each day, intermittent fasting may not be the best choice for you as this amount of exercise requires fuel to keep you moving and build muscle. However, light to moderate intensity workouts 2 to 4 times a week should work with intermittent fasting.

          The best workouts to do while fasting for weight loss are strength training workouts. This means anything from standard strength training to kettlebell or body weight workouts. Combine these with lighter forms of exercise like walking, jogging, or yoga.

          You could also try this 30-Day Resistance Band Workout Challenge alongside your intermittent fasting diet. It will help you get into an exercise routine while easing into your new eating routine.

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          Focus on doing 3-4 total body exercises per workout with as little rest as possible between sets. Doing this will help you burn more calories during and after your workout. You’ll also build muscle, which will help you look and feel better as the weight comes off.

          Remember, exercising can increase hunger, so try working out in the hour or two right before you are scheduled to break your fast[9]. Your body will be primed for a meal, and your hunger won’t get the best of you.

          Won’t I Lose Muscle When I Fast?

          First of all, you aren’t fasting long enough for your body to start breaking down muscle for energy. You have, perhaps, hundreds of thousands of calories from your stored body fat to use before that will begin to happen.

          If you’re trying to build muscle while fasting, you’ll need to ensure you’re getting enough calories, especially through protein, at each meal between fasts.

          Is Fasting Safe?

          As long as you are healthy, not pregnant, and aren’t taking medications, fasting is safe. Like all diets, you should discuss it with your doctor before beginning an intermittent fasting diet.

          I also feel that it may not be smart to follow this type of diet when you’re especially stressed. Since this diet can be a little stress-inducing at first, doing so when you aren’t able to be relatively stress-free and rested probably isn’t a good idea.

          Are There Any Supplements I Can Take to Make Fasting Easier?

          As with any other weight loss plan, it’s a good idea to take a few nutritional supplements to make sure your daily requirements are met. This includes a once or twice daily multi-vitamin, fish oil, and vitamin D.I’ve also found taking 10 grams of branched-chain amino acids before and after my workouts really helps, too. They’re great for giving you more energy during your workout and decreasing post-workout muscle soreness.

          For supplements to specifically help with digestion, check out this article.

          The Bottom Line

          Now you know what intermittent fasting is and how it can help you lose weight quickly and safely. If you want to give it a try, find a fasting schedule that fits with your lifestyle, and give it a go.

          More About Intermittent Fasting

          Featured photo credit: Toa Heftiba via unsplash.com

          Reference

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