What is the magic secret to weight loss? Everyone is looking for their special diet, pills, or nutritional clenburexin supplements that will allow them to part with extra pounds; mass media actively advertise new “highly effective” means. However, the reality is very simple: there are several basic principles of metabolism, understanding or not understanding, which can significantly speed up or slow down the weight loss process.
In reality, weight maintenance is just a matter of energy balance.
Energy balance is achieved when the number of calories consumed equals the number of calories burned. The consumption of less (than necessary) amount of energy leads to weight loss and the consumption of more – to the set.
Three factors influence the rate of energy consumption:
The thermic effect of food is the number of calories needed to digest, transport and assimilate food;
Basal metabolic rate – the number of calories the body needs to maintain life at rest;
Physical activity – the number of calories expended in daily activity and sports.
By managing these factors, you can significantly improve your weight loss performance without putting yourself under hard limits and achieve long-term sustainable results.
1. Thermic effect of food
The thermal effect of food (TEF) is the energy needed to digest, transport and assimilate food. Different amounts of energy are spent on the assimilation of various products, in the aggregate, up to 10% of the total daily energy expenditure of the body.
- The thermal effect of fats is about 3%. From the point of view of assimilation, fats are the most accessible form of energy.
- Carbohydrates are more difficult to digest; their TEP is about 7%.
- Proteins are the most difficult to metabolize. The thermal effect of proteins is close to 30%.
- By choosing the right food and following simple rules, you can increase the energy spent on digestion. So, without changing anything in the calorie content of your diet, you will achieve significant results.
Regular food intake
It has been empirically proven that the frequency of food intake affects metabolism and, as a result, a person’s weight and other physical health indicators.
Studies have shown that irregular eating can lead to being overweight. Scientists compared the efficiency of food absorption in people with irregular meals (study participants ate from 3 to 9 times a day at different times) and with regular eating habits (5-6 meals at a stable time). The thermal effect of food, regardless of its composition, was higher in people with regular meals. This means that the body of people with regular meals spends more energy on digesting food; hence, the metabolism is accelerated.
Spicy food really “accelerates” the metabolism. Spices that increase TEP include chili pepper, horseradish, mustard, cinnamon, fennel, garlic, ginger, ginseng, guarana, and turmeric.
Hot peppers and very spicy foods can cause a 20% increase in metabolism for 30 minutes. In a 2003 study, Thai women were asked to drink sugar water after consuming 5 grams of fresh chili peppers. The release of insulin and the rate of glucose metabolism were measured. In the control measurement, women drank sugar water without first eating pepper. As a result of research, a clear relationship was found between the use of chili peppers and an increase in the level of metabolism that occurred within a few minutes after ingestion of chili peppers in the body.
Much attention has recently been paid to protein, both for its nutritional properties, high thermal effect, and ability to burn fats.
It is now a fact that the thermal effect of protein is much higher than that of fat and carbohydrates. As mentioned earlier, the thermal effect of proteins is close to 30%. This means that almost 30% of the calories consumed with protein are used by the body to process the ingested protein, and only 70% are absorbed.
Perhaps this feature is associated with the lack of special storage for protein in the body. More energy needed to metabolize protein does not affect weight in the short term, but over months or years, it becomes significant, clinically and statistically. The practice also shows that high-protein diets give a greater feeling of fullness compared to low-protein ones.
Danish scientists conducted a study that measured the daily energy expenditure (basal metabolic rate) in young, healthy, overweight men with I-II degrees of obesity while consuming pork, soy protein, and carbohydrates. The study showed that replacing 17-18% of carbohydrates with protein (animal or soy) increased daily energy expenditure by 3% and replaced soy with animal protein by another 2%.
Studies by Greek scientists have shown that a high-protein diet increases metabolic rate during the week in both thin and obese women. The same participants in the program on a diet with a normal amount of protein but high in fat showed a decrease in the metabolism level, despite the same fragmentation of nutrition and caloric content.
The thermogenic effect of water
Drink lots of water! Probably each of us has heard this many times. But only some know that there is a scientifically proven link between increased water intake and increased metabolic rate.
Studies conducted in Germany show that immediately after drinking water (500 ml), the metabolic rate increased in the study participants – healthy men and women – by almost 30% and remained so for 30-40 minutes. Based on this, the scientists suggested that consuming 1.5 liters of pure water per day allows you to burn 17,500 kcal per year, which is 2.5 kg of weight. About 40% of calorie consumption is associated with the need to heat the water you drink to body temperature; the remaining 60%, most likely, goes to restore osmotic balance: scientists noticed that when consuming salty and highly mineralized liquids, the increase in metabolic rate turned out to be significantly lower.
Green tea is a powerful metabolic booster due to its caffeine and catechin content. According to the latest data, the thermogenic effect of green tea cannot be fully explained by its caffeine, as it is higher than the effect of taking the same amount of pure caffeine.
Green tea stimulates weight loss by accelerating the breakdown of fats by the liver (thermogenic effect), suppressing lipase (an enzyme that catalyzes the absorption of fats in the digestive tract), and suppressing hunger. Recent studies have shown that green tea helps to reduce weight in overweight people by increasing the rate of metabolic processes and the rate of fat oxidation.
2. Factors affecting the level of basal metabolism
Basal metabolic rate (resting basal metabolic rate) is the minimum energy level required to maintain the body’s physiological functions at complete rest. This is the number of calories your body would burn if you slept 24 hours a day.
The basal metabolic rate comprises 65-70% of daily energy intake. However, several factors affect this ratio in different people. Therefore, the basal metabolic rate calculation by height, weight, sex, and age is always approximate and may contain significant distortions.
Body composition (muscle-to-fat ratio)
Body composition is the most important factor that determines the basal metabolic rate. Body composition explains why people of the same weight can have fundamentally different volumes and metabolisms.
Muscles burn more calories – whether in motion or at rest. Muscle tissue is about 8 times more “gluttonous” than fatty tissue. As a result, people with a higher percentage of lean mass (muscle tissue) have a higher metabolic rate than people with the same weight and height but a higher percentage of body fat. An interesting fact is that more “fat” people burn slightly fewer calories during physical activity than “skinny” (at the same weight), but “skinny” burn significantly more during rest.
Young people have a higher basal metabolic rate. With age, metabolism slows down, on average, by 2% every 10 years. After 30, there is usually a decrease in muscle mass and a gradual increase in fat, mainly under hormonal changes. A decrease in basal metabolic rate is also associated with lifestyle changes: studies show that regular exercise and a balanced diet help slow down the process of losing muscle tissue and maintaining optimal metabolism. The principle of the body is very simple: “If you don’t use it, you don’t need it.” If muscle mass is not used, the body gradually breaks up with it.
Body weight and volume
Yes, obese people have a higher basal metabolic rate! To carry extra weight, the body needs to work hard; respectively, more energy is consumed. This is one of the reasons why it is always easier for overweight people to show the first results on a diet. When overweight is large, the basal metabolic rate is usually so high that even a slight reduction in caloric intake leads to excellent results.
However, after weight loss, the basal metabolic rate decreases. Less food is needed to meet the needs of the body. Therefore, if you return to the old diet, old habits, and old portions, the weight will immediately gain back.
Diets, food restrictions, and starvation
Dieting, starvation, or malnutrition significantly reduces basal metabolic rate. When you restrict your energy intake below your basal metabolic rate, your metabolism inevitably slows down. The body goes into “fuel economy” mode, adapting to the limited energy supply.
If there is still insufficient energy for life, the body turns off or reduces functions that it considers less important in relation to others; for example, it reduces the production of hormones. In this case, the diet begins to affect not only metabolism but also health in general.
In addition, during malnutrition or starvation, the body gets rid of the most “gluttonous” tissues – muscle, further reducing the basal metabolism level and creating a bad start for the future. When a person switches to a normal energy intake regimen, an organism with a reduced metabolic rate and a low percentage of muscle tissue quickly gain weight, usually in plus to the initial parameters.
Sex, genes, and stress
Men have a higher basal metabolic rate than women. This is due to hormonal characteristics and the traditionally higher percentage of muscle mass in men than in women.
Some people have a genetically programmed higher or lower metabolic rate. However, most people (more than 95%) have a weight and body composition determined by their diet and level of physical activity.
Stress, in the short term, can be a factor causing the metabolism to speed up. Adrenaline, which is released into the blood during stress, causes an acceleration of physiological reactions and, as a result, increases energy expenditure. Prolonged stressful conditions, on the contrary, can lead to weight gain. The hormone of distress (3 stages of stress) cortisol leads to the development of obesity in the most harmful, visceral type – fat accumulates in the abdomen and neck, on internal organs, and the muscles of the arms and legs are depleted.
3. Energy expenditure during physical activity
In addition to the cost of the basic metabolism, energy expenditure consists of the expenditure on regular activities (work, household chores, travel, communication with family and friends) and the actual fitness/sports. Typically, the total energy expenditure is about 30% but can vary significantly in people with different degrees of physical activity.
Exercising, as well as being active, is a key way to boost your metabolism. Aerobic exercise burns more calories in the short term, while strength training leads to increased muscle mass and is very effective in the long term. During an intense workout, muscle tissue can burn 700 kcal per hour.
Physical activity is the only energy expenditure that you can manage in such a volume. The combination of aerobic and strength training allows you to effectively burn calories and build muscle mass. In addition, it is the healthiest and most long-term way to control body weight.
Other important things that affect the result
Eat slowly. The brain needs 10-20 minutes to receive a satiety signal. If you eat too fast, you will eat more than you need.
Foods containing fiber
Dietary fiber is a group of highly complex carbohydrates found primarily in plants. The dietary fiber’s chemical structure is designed so that it cannot be digested by humans (unlike some animals, such as cows, which have a certain bacterium in the digestive tract to digest fiber). In humans, no digestive enzymes in the intestines can break the stable bonds of polysaccharide molecules. Thus, dietary fiber cannot be converted into glucose and assimilated by humans, and therefore have no nutritional value. Most of the dietary fiber leaves the human body unchanged.
Dietary fiber (fiber) promotes a feeling of fullness without additional calories, helping to fight excess weight. Consuming enough fiber also contributes to normalizing glucose levels and – especially – blood cholesterol levels.
Foods high in dietary fiber include:
- vegetables (asparagus, broccoli, beets, carrots, cauliflower, spinach, green peas, celery);
- fruits (apples, kiwis, apricots, oranges, peaches, pears, plums, mangoes);
- legumes (beans, lentils);
- cereals (brown and brown rice, organic wheat, pearl barley, oatmeal);
- nuts and seeds (sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, pistachios)
Different foods and dishes cause different feelings of fullness. The saturation level is not always related to the actual calorie content of the product. For example, a small candy weighing 30 g can contain 200 kcal and not even dull the feeling of hunger, while oatmeal with fruit weighing 150 g can contain the same 200 kcal and saturate you for 4 hours. The same can be said about chicken breast or chips, ice cream or steak, etc.
To eat more rationally, choosing foods that cause a greater feeling of satiety is necessary. Generally, the more protein, water, and fiber a food contains, the better it satisfies hunger. So, in porridge, there is a lot of fiber and water, and protein in chicken breast and steak. On the contrary, sweets, chips, and fast food contain simple carbohydrates and fat, are quickly digested, and do not cause a long feeling of satiety.
Long-term success requires making small but beneficial dietary and lifestyle changes that will last forever. You must understand how your body works and learn to speak the same language.
If you act in rushes and do things that go against the physiological needs of the body (such as: starving, depriving the body of enough protein and fiber, creating stress with irregular and malnutrition), your path to optimal weight will be the same – reciprocating (step forward – two steps back), full of stress and unhealthy.