How to Turn Your Body into a Fat Burning Machine
When women gain weight, their first instinct is to cut calories - often dramatically! This approach can quickly backfire resulting in, at best, no weight loss and, at worst, weight gain. When you combine calorie restriction with intense exercise, the potential for this unwanted result is even higher.
A significant calorie deficit will result in weight loss, but often it’s at the expense of your muscle mass and metabolism. If you skimp on protein, you lose muscle mass. If you skimp on good carbs, you can lose both body fat and muscle. If you skimp on calories overall, cortisol levels rise and this encourages your body to hang on to all the calories it can get.
What you lose depends on a few factors:
- How active you are (cardio burns muscle mass if overdone)
- How you space out your meals (going many hours without eating promotes muscle loss)
- How much you strength train (it’s key while losing weight to keep the muscle on your body and promote fat loss)
- Your existing muscle mass and your metabolism (the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn, the faster you lose fat)
While no one approach works for everyone, here are a few tips to help you maintain muscle and keep your metabolic furnace burning:
- Make fat your friend. Fat's gotten a bad rap over the years, but the tide is starting to turn. Healthy fats help keep you feeling full longer and are good for you. Avocados, nuts, and olive oil are all sources of healthy fat. Personally, when I ramped up my fat intake my joint pain went away completely!
- No breakfast skipping! Eat within 30 minutes of getting up. You don’t necessarily need a big meal, but start your day with some protein. A smoothie or shake with protein works great if you can’t handle more food first thing in the morning or are crunched for time.
- Aim for at least 20 gm of protein and 30 grams of good carbs per meal.
- Eat more frequent meals. I recommend that my clients eat at least two snacks daily with 15 gm of protein and a healthy amount of fiber, in addition to their regular meals. High protein snack ideas include: Greek yogurt, almonds, smoked salmon, apples with almond butter, and raw veggies with hummus. Protein bars can be a good solution for on-the-go eating; however some are loaded with added sugar. Look for brands that have less than 5 gm of sugar. Note: This approach may not be the best approach for people with elevated insulin levels.
- Balance your carbs. Super-low carb diets are effective for weight loss in the short term, but are hard to sustain in the long run. Carbs are important for energy and keeping them balanced means you’re less likely to binge on the next sweet treat that comes your way.
Some studies also suggest that low carb diets (<20% of calories from carbs) may lower T3 levels (the active form of thyroid hormone) or decrease the conversion of T4 to T3, resulting in symptoms of hypothyroidism.
I recommend getting carbs from low glycemic index, unprocessed sources like root vegetables, sweet potatoes, steel-cut oatmeal, quinoa, black beans, and other complex sources.
- Know your basal metabolic rate (the number of calories you need to live) and make sure you eat at least that amount on a daily basis. If you are active, you need more than this. Dropping your intake below your BMR can decrease your metabolism, increase cortisol levels and cause your body to burn muscle as a fuel source. You can calculate your basal metabolic rate at this link here.
- Add weight training into your exercise routine. Muscle burns more calories and this also helps maintain bone health. Two days a week is all you need to see the benefits.
No access to a gym? There are plenty of exercises you can do using your body weight. Go here to find a list of 50.
Want to know more about how to lose weight without wrecking your metabolism? Let’s talk! I offer a complimentary 30-minute call to explore options for working together. Access my call schedule here.