Easy steps you can take
by Robyn Moreno
Everyone’s metabolism naturally slows down with age. At 40, you could be burning 100 to 300 fewer calories a day than you did at 30, says Pamela M. Peeke, M.D., author of Body for Life for Women and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland in Baltimore. That can translate into a 10-25-pound weight gain in a year. But you can counteract that slowdown and boost your body’s fat-burning capabilities by making just a few tweaks to your daily routine. The following strategies will help you bust out of a weight-loss plateau and burn even more fat.
Do five minutes of exercise each morning. We all have a metabolic thermostat, called the metastat, that can be turned up or down, and morning is the best time to activate it. Each day, your metastat is waiting for signals to rev up, so the more signals you can send it, the better. Your best bet is a light, full-body activity like walking or push-ups.
Fuel up in the morning
Numerous studies have found that regular breakfast eaters are often leaner than breakfast skippers. “Your metabolism naturally slows at night, but you can jump-start it in the morning by eating breakfast,” says Tammy Lakatos Shames, R.D., C.D.N., co-author of Fire Up Your Metabolism. And because both your activity level and metabolism decrease later in the day, it’s a good idea to make breakfast or lunch your largest meal.
Fill up on good grains
Whole grains such as brown rice, wheat germ, dark bread, whole-grain cereal, oatmeal and bran leave you feeling full because they take longer to digest than simple carbohydrates. In a study from The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School evaluated the dietary intake of more than 74,000 women for 12 years. Overall, women who regularly ate the most whole-grain foods — about 1.5 servings a day — gained less weight than women who ate the least.
Pump yourself up
Muscle burns more calories than fat does, and decreased muscle mass can be one of the main reasons metabolism slows. Disuse can cause women to drop as much as 10 pounds of muscle between the ages of 30 and 50. Losing that much muscle means you’ll burn 350 to 500 fewer calories a day. To build and maintain muscle mass, aim for two to three strength-training workouts a week. If you don’t belong to a gym, try push-ups, squats, abdominal crunches and tricep dips off a chair.
Power on with protein
Add a little high-quality, lowfat protein, such as chicken, fish and egg whites, to your meals, and you’ll help your body burn fat faster. “Because protein requires more energy to digest, it speeds up your metabolism, and protein is necessary to ensure against loss of muscle tissue,” says Michael Thurmond, author of 6 Day Body Makeover.
Get your vitamin “I”
That’s “I” for intensity. You love to walk, but if that usually means strolling along at a snail’s pace, your waistline will pay little attention. Instead, put intensity, or “vitamin I,” into your stride. Pick up your pace so you’re walking at 4 mph, or one mile per 15 minutes. Once you build up your cardiovascular fitness level, you can even alternate between walking and jogging. The key is to get your heart rate up and keep your workouts challenging.
Say yes to yogurt
In a recent study from the International Journal of Obesity, women who ate three daily servings of lowfat yogurt lost 60 percent more fat than women who didn’t. In another study, participants who ate three daily servings of dairy lost more than twice as much fat as those who ate less than that. “Calcium-rich diets reduce fat-producing enzymes and increase enzymes that break down fat,” says Michael B. Zemel, Ph.D., lead author of both studies and director of the Nutrition Institute at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Eat three servings of lowfat dairy a day, like milk, yogurt and hard cheeses (Gouda, Cheddar and Monterey Jack).
Get active after eating
Your body’s metabolic rate increases 10 percent after eating, and just a few minutes of activity could double that boost for up to three hours. Within 15 to 30 minutes of eating a snack or meal, do five or 10 minutes of light activity. Take the dog for a walk, climb stairs in your house or do some basic strength exercises.
Sip green tea
You might love your lattes, but if you switch to green tea, not only will you get a healthy dose of disease-fighting compounds, you’ll also cut body fat. In a study from The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people who drank a bottle of tea fortified with green tea extract every day for three months lost more body fat than people who drank black tea. Researchers at a health care lab in Tokyo believe disease-fighting antioxidants called catechins in green tea may help decrease body fat.
A complete workout plan should include strength training. Find out how strength training can really benefit you physically and emotionally.
Rather than choosing between counting calories and sweating it out at the gym, think of diet and exercise as a dynamic duo that will help you achieve your weight-loss goal.
While it’s possible to achieve some weight loss success by choosing to either diet or exercise, the best way to lose weight is doing a combination of both.
“To reduce body weight, a caloric deficit must be created,” says Joseph T. Ciccolo, PhD, assistant professor of community health at Brown Medical School and a research associate at The Miriam Hospital, both in Providence, R.I. In other words, to lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume. This can be accomplished by exercising more, eating less, or ideally, both.
Diet or Exercise: Why You Need to Exercise
Losing weight is more than simply cutting out calories. Without exercise to preserve and build muscle, some of the weight loss you see on the scale might be from losing muscle rather than fat. “Anyone with a focus on body weight is off the mark,” says Ciccolo. “What people should be concerned about is their body composition — the percentage of body fat.”
Weight loss from dieting alone also has a low long-term success rate. In one study, more than 90 percent of people who were obese and lost body fat through diet alone regained it within two years.
Although you have may heard that exercise increases appetite, negating the benefits of working out, this isn’t necessarily true — and shouldn’t be a reason to skip the gym. “While an energy deficit can increase appetite, these changes do not necessarily always match up with the feeling of being hungry,” says Ciccolo. If you slightly increase your caloric intake, keep in mind that when you build muscle, your body also burns a few more calories on a daily basis.
Diet or Exercise: Why You Need to Diet
Exercise alone is not the answer either. Many dieters overestimate the amount of calories burned by working out and fall into the trap of thinking that because they exercised, they can eat more. While exercise is vital for many health reasons, the net calories used are less than you might think. A 150-pound person who walks two miles in 30 minutes burns just 150 calories. As a point of comparison, an average six-inch bagel is 350 calories.
“If you exercise but eat more calories than usual, no deficit will be created and your weight will likely stay the same or even increase,” says Ciccolo.
Ultimately, it’s not diet or exercise, but diet andexercise that make the most sense when trying to lose weight. And once you’ve lost the weight, keep up your exercise efforts. “With regard to weight maintenance, the research is very clear that exercise is crucial to maintaining a healthy amount of muscle mass and a low body fat as we age,” says Ciccolo.
Also, keep your eye on new research. Previous studies have shown conflicting results about whether dieting or exercise is better for weight loss. Some recent data also suggest that men and women may respond differently to various weight-loss strategies. Future studies may offer even more insight into whether diet or exercise is better at helping people shed those extra pounds. Until then, keep exercising and counting calories.
Tracking your calories is a proven weight loss strategy, but too few Americans tally their intake – or even know how to. Here’s how to sharpen your calorie counting skills to slim down healthfully.
A scant 9 percent of Americans keep track of how many calories they eat every day, the survey found. The same percentage were able to accurately estimate how many calories they should eat each day.
With so many weight loss plans focused on certain nutrients — Load up on protein! Banish carbs! Eat “healthy” fats! — counting calories may seem downright passé. But you shouldn’t discount this powerful weight loss tool, say experts.
In fact, the “secret” to losing weight for good isn’t eliminating carbs or eating gallons of cabbage soup, according to My Calorie Counter, a new book from Everyday Health. “Sustained, healthy weight loss comes down to a pretty basic equation: fewer calories plus more exercise,” say authors Jenny Sucov and Maureen Namkoong, MS, RD. “By keeping track of how many calories you consume and burn every day, you can slim down, gain energy, and stave off a whole host of health problems.”
So why don’t more people track their calorie intake? Among the biggest roadblocks people cite, according to the survey, are the difficulty of counting calories (30 percent); having a focus on other nutrients (30 percent); thinking that calorie counting doesn’t matter (23 percent); and being too busy (22 percent).
But counting calories is easier and less time-consuming than you think. Follow these tips to get started:
- Determine How Many Calories You Should EatHow many calories you need to eat to maintain your current weight depends on factors such as your gender, age, height, weight, and activity level. Your body uses about two-thirds of the calories you consume each day just to keep its systems functioning — your heart beating, your muscles moving. The rest of your calorie intake, according to My Calorie Counter, fuels everyday activities like walking around, exercising, typing an e-mail, doing a crossword puzzle.
To find out your ideal caloric intake, start by calculating what’s known as your base metabolic rate (BMR):
- Women: Multiply your weight by 10. Men: Multiply by 11. This is your BMR.
- Now add to that 20 percent of your BMR if you have a sedentary lifestyle; 30 percent if you are somewhat active; 40 percent if you are moderately active; or 50 percent if you are very active.
- The number you get is how many calories you need to maintain your weight.
For example: If you’re a somewhat active 145-pound woman, your BMR is 1,450 calories a day, and your lifestyle quotient is 30 percent of that, or an additional 435 calories. So your daily total for maintaining your current weight is 1,885 calories. If you want to lose one pound per week, you simply need to cut or burn an extra 500 calories a day
- Count How Many Calories You Actually Eat and BurnYou can track your calories online here for free, or consult the nutritional information in our My Calorie Counter book or iPhone app when you’re on the go.Don’t forget to log your exercise too. Find out how many calories you’re burning with everyday and fitness activities using the My Calorie Counter list of calories burned during exercise, then enter the figure in your online journal.
You can easily cut 500 calories by making small diet and exercise changes throughout your day. Here’s one approach:
- Breakfast: Drink water instead of orange juice (calories saved: 117)
- Snack: Have sliced cucumber and a tablespoon of hummus instead of a bag of chips (calories saved: 119)
- Lunch: Swap out your salad’s creamy ranch dressing for fat-free Italian (calories saved: 66)
- Dessert: Eat half of a cup of strawberries instead of a half of a cup of chocolate ice cream (calories saved: 118).
- Exercise: Stroll at a moderate pace for 30 minutes (calories burned: 125 for a woman weighing 145)
Get Portion Savvy
Even if you can’t or don’t want to tally the calories you eat at every single meal or snack, adopting these little portion control tips can help you consume fewer calories without trying too hard. “In a world where supersize is the new regular, it’s easy to undercount your calories,” say Sucov and Namkoong. These tips can help you recognize what a healthy portion looks like, which can help you keep calories in check:
- Think of a tennis ball. It’s the equivalent of one cup of food, which is the recommended portion for such foods as pasta, cereal, and yogurt.
- Don’t eat straight out of the container. It’s a recipe for mindlessly overeating. Instead, measure a serving size of whatever you’re noshing on — almonds, soy chips, or other snacks — and put it on a plate or in a bowl.
- Use smaller plates. Trick your mind into thinking that you have more food by downsizing your large dinner plate for a smaller salad-sized one. A healthy portion can look teeny on a huge plate but will seem more normal when you shrink its surroundings.
- Spoil your appetite with nutritious food. Try eating celery sticks with peanut butter an hour before mealtime, My Calorie Counter recommends. You’ll eat less at the meal and feel more satisfied later.
Nutrition is essential not only for life, but for a healthy life. Learn about the connection between what you eat and how you feel.
We’ve all heard the old saying “you are what you eat.” And it’s still true. If you stick to a healthy diet full of vitamins and minerals, your body reflects it. You feel healthy, energized, and just all-around great. However, people who limit their diet to junk foods will undoubtedly suffer the consequences of not giving their bodies what they need to thrive. The result is not only fatigue and low energy, but poor health as well. Understanding this clear connection between your health and your diet may spur you to make better dietary choices.
Your Diet and Your Health: What Your Body Needs
“Food is essential. People take it for granted, but we need nutrients,” says Anne Wolf, RD, a researcher at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. Wolf cites as one example the old days when sailors crossed the ocean for months without proper nutrition. As a result, they ended up with scurvy because of a lack of vitamin C from citrus fruits. Vitamin C and other vitamins and minerals are necessary to keep all the different parts of the body healthy and functioning — otherwise, we get sick.
Every little thing that you do happens because of the nutrients that you give your body. Says Wolf, “Food gives us the fuel to think and the energy to move our muscles. The micronutrients, the vitamins, the minerals are there so that our bodies can function. You need food not just to sustain health, but to feel better.”
And the only way the body will get the many nutrients needed to stay healthy and function is by eating a wide variety of healthy foods.
Your Diet and Your Health: The Guidelines
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s food pyramid and the daily food recommendations were established after extensive research and continue to be updated as more is learned about the role of nutrition in good health. Their goal is to make sure that people understand all the different nutrients their bodies need to stay healthy.
Food went from being a necessity to simply function to being the key to enabling the body to be at its functional best, says Wolf. Research shows that the right nutrition optimizes health and that getting enough of certain vitamins and minerals can also lower disease risk.
Your Diet and Your Health: Poor Diet, Poor Health
Many foods have a huge impact on heart health. Research has long shown that fruits and vegetables and a diet rich in whole grains and low in saturated fats can help protect the body from heart disease and high blood pressure, while a diet high in saturated and trans fats without enough fruits and vegetables can actually cause those diseases.
Even small diet deficiencies can have an enormously negative impact on your health. The most common health problem due to a lack of nutrients in the United States is iron deficiency, says Wolf. Menstruating women and girls need plenty of iron in their diets to replace what they lose each month during their periods. Iron is also an essential nutrient for infants, children, and growing teens.
Another example is calcium, needed to keep bones strong and healthy, says Wolf. Without it, the body can develop osteoporosis, a health condition characterized by weak and brittle bones.
Eating a well-rounded and varied diet will go a long way toward making sure you have all the nutrients you need. Remember that our body uses everything we put into it, and what we give it determines how it’s used — for good health, or for bad.