At last! Time to start thinking about the approach of Spring, glorious Spring! This is also the time of year everyone starts to think about shedding their winter padding and fitting into those lovely (and a bit more scanty) spring clothes.
Our body’s natural inclination is to burn the carbs readily supplied through our overly abundant dietary intake, which in America, is usually rich in carbohydrates. Carbs are easier to convert to the glucose that our cells need for fuel and so is the natural source of energy.
However, fat supplies over twice as much energy as carbs and can also be a great source of cellular currency, or ATP. Additionally, once the body gets into the fat-burning mode, it will continue to burn fat for a little while. And if not given enough daily calories, the body will start to burn stored fat as a source of energy.
Here’s three ways to get your body into the fat-burning mode:
- Ketogenic Diet or Low-Carb, High-Fat Diet. When your diet is high in fat and very low in carbs, you will naturally have to burn fat for energy and your body will stay in this fat burning mode for as long as you don’t supply it with enough carbs. How to do this? Limit your carbs to 50 grams per day. For some people, the carb count needs to go down to 30 grams per day, but most will do fine on 50 grams. This is not easy to do, but the compensation is that you can increase your healthy fat intake to about 60-70% of your diet, or about 100 to 125 grams of fat per day. To give you a rough idea of what that means, there is approximately 30 grams of fat in 6 eggs, 2 whole avocados, a handful of nuts or about 3 tablespoons of nut butter, coconut oil or olive oil.
- Intermittent Fasting. When you fast, you are not supplying calories for energy, so your body goes to its reserves of fat and burns these fat reserves for energy. Intermittent fasting is the practice of going for short periods of time with no food and then eating normally for a shorter period of time. The most popular version that seems to fit most people’s lifestyle today is a 16:8 ratio of fasting to eating. This means you fast for 16 hours (from 8 pm to noon the next day, for example) then you keep your meals (2 or 3 max) within the next 8 hours (12 pm to 8 pm). The body goes into fat burning during the 16 hour fast and will stay in this fat burning mode for a period of time afterward. Practicing Intermittent Fasting has been shown to help with everything from weight loss to increasing longevity. It is recommended to eat this way 3 to 5 days per week for weight loss.
- High Intensity Interval Training. The 90-minute aerobic workout routine is a thing of the past. Recent research has indicated that short bursts of intense aerobic activity combined with a day full of movement is much more beneficial. The benefit of the High Intensity Interval type of training (HIIT) is that it stimulates growth hormone, which is what stimulates fat-burning. Some experts in the fitness world recommend only 10 minutes of this type of training per day to stimulate fat burning. The gist of the workout is to do 30 seconds to one minute of some high-intensity type of exercise (running, biking, jumping jacks, burpees, etc.) that gets you out of breath, then 1 to 2 min of lower intensity activity. You continue to alternate the two intensities for 10 minutes and … that’s it! Trust me, if you do it properly you’ll feel it! The corollary to this recommendation is that the rest of your day needs to be full of movement. No workout can make up for 8 hours of non-stop sitting!
These three recommendations are simple, but they are not easy. They require discipline and consistency to be effective. Do some research before you start and consult with a professional to make sure the changes are appropriate and safe for you. Most generally healthy people can do all of these techniques, but any one of them may be counterproductive for certain people.
Remember there are specific imbalances and lifestyle habits that can sabotage any effort. Some of these are poor sleep, hormone imbalance, thyroid problems, digestive issues and stress. Address these issues first. I am always available to fully evaluate your particular situation and help you decide on the right wellness plan for you.