These days there are lines out the door at weight watchers, gyms are jam-packed and supplement stores are making big profits, all because we probably ate a little too much over the holidays and have now vowed to lose the extra weight, and that’s a good thing. Losing weight is actually not that hard; technically all you have to do is reduce your calories each day just a bit and workout and the pounds will typically come off, unfortunately these pounds are mostly water retained from being bloated, and muscle as opposed to fat. Fat loss on the other hand is more challenging; you have to eat the right amount of calories, the right types of food and do the right types of workouts all the while getting enough rest. Today we’re going to look at how you can actually lose fat by eating certain foods and other strategies that you can adopt to get even better results.
The first item on our list is grapefruit. Grapefruit has the ability to reduce insulin levels and it contains a chemical called naringin which prevents fat from being stored in the body. Now don’t go crazy and start a grapefruit only diet; ½ of a grapefruit with your breakfast is reasonable or eat 1 whole grapefruit as part of your pre-workout meal as I do in the morning. Next up ginger, a powerhouse food that can reduce inflammation, boost blood flow to muscles which in turn aids in muscle recovery and increases calorie burn. Ginger has a very strong flavor though, so a little bit each day goes a long way. Another great food is avocado, even with its high fat content it delivers tons of nutritional benefits. Avocado contains monounsaturated fat which can be readily burned as fuel during exercise which encourages the body to burn fat. It also contains a carbohydrate called mannoheptulose which is a sugar that blocks insulin resistance and enhances calcium absorption, which also leads to fat burning. Other fats that lead to fat loss include olive oil, flaxseeds, and walnuts. With olive oil the monounsaturated fats help to lower levels of the “bad” cholesterol while improving cardiovascular health and it’s also more likely to be burned as fuel than stored in the body. Flaxseeds and walnuts contain the oomega-3 fatty acid alpha linolenic acid, which actually turns on the genes that stimulate fat burning and turn off the genes that increase fat storage. The key with flaxseeds is that they need to be ground up in order for the body to digest and absorb its nutrients, and they must be stored in a cold space otherwise they turn rancid very fast. Next on our list is a particularly wonderful grain that many already include in their daily diet, I’m talking about oatmeal. This very slow digesting complex carb keeps blood sugar and insulin levels low allowing for fat burning to stay high; this is a staple in my diet as it’s inexpensive, versatile and easy to prepare. There are so many great and simple recipes out there for oatmeal; sweet, savory, as breakfast, in baking or even as a side dish at lunch. Finally there’s chili pepper flakes which contain capsaicin, a chemical that can enhance calories burned at rest, reduce hunger and food intake (this typically works best when paired with caffeine). So go ahead and spice up your meals with this great ingredient; again there are plenty of recipes that use this spice whether for local or international cuisine.
Now that we’ve covered foods, let’s look at beverages starting with coffee. Regular black coffee has no calories, but provides some great health benefits when taken in moderation. Caffeine not only perks you up, it also boosts muscle strength, intensity and fat loss during workouts. This works best when approximately 200mg of caffeine (the equivalent of 1 strong cup of coffee) is consumed at least 25 minutes prior to starting workout, just be sure to never have more than 400 mg of caffeine each day as this can impact your quality of sleep. I usually take a caffeine supplement in the morning before I workout and it really helps; I find that I can push harder during a tough workout without feeling like I’m about to keel over. Another caffeinated beverage is green tea, which has gained quite a bit of popularity in recent years and for good reason. Green tea contains polyphenols including flavonoids and catechins (both powerful antioxidants) which can reduce free radical formation in the body, which ultimately leads to a better protected body from all kinds of illness and toxins. Another strong antioxidant found in green tea is Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG) which studies have shown can be used to treat many diseases. Along with its medicinal properties, studies show that green tea increases fat oxidation by 17%, turning your body into a fat burning furnace. As I mentioned though green tea does contain caffeine so limit your intake to no more that 2 cups per day. The last beverage we’re going to look at is good old fashion reliable water. This is a no brainer, water keeps you hydrated, jack’s up your metabolism, increases blood flow to the muscles, removes toxins from the body and aids in digestion. So do yourself a favor and drink up! For more information and tips, see my previous post “H2O: Are you getting enough?”
Now that we’ve covered nutrition, let’s look at fitness and rest. Fitness-wise the best option for fat loss is cardio, namely High Intensity Interval Training (think spin class), where you do short bursts of intense all out exercise followed by a period of less intense exercise. Just be sure to mix up your workouts each day by adding in weight and strength training on alternating days, and never do HIIT on consecutive days. It’s so important to let your body rest, which leads me to my next point which is this: don’t overwork yourself. Always keep one day each week for rest where you do not exercise and make sure to get a full night of restful sleep each night (see my previous post “Sleep: Are you getting enough? For more info). If you are not letting your body recover all of your hard work will backfire and you could end up getting sick, compromising your health and injuring yourself while working out.
There are many fat burning supplements available that contain the ingredients and extracts from the foods and beverages listed above, so if you’d rather take one of those instead go for it. Just be sure to consult your healthcare provider to confirm that it’s safe for you. I personally prefer to get it straight from the source, plus I find it’s way cheaper to buy grapefruit and green tea than pills, but go with whatever you’re comfortable with. If your goal is fat loss keep in mind that it will not happen just like that, I’ve said this before, it takes time to see and feel changes in your body so don’t give up. Make this part of your lifestyle and you’ll finally drop the extra fat and keep it off for good!
Start It, Finish It