Looking at our culture, it doesn’t take long to see how obsessed we are with dieting and working out. We all want to be at a healthy weight in order to look and feel our best. But most of the time, maintaining our happy/healthy weight is easier said than done. As a functional medicine practitioner, I often hear that losing weight is one of the most common health goals of my patients.
In order to lose weight, we need our metabolism to be working at top speed. It’s pretty simple, actually: When we eat food, it’s either stored in our body as fat or burned for energy, and your metabolism is the series of complex processes that turn the foods we eat into energy. Therefore, when we want to maintain or lose weight, instead of restricting calories and being tired and hungry all the time, we want to focus on how we can speed up this fat-burning process. Thankfully, there are many easy hacks you can implement in your daily life to help you burn more fat—without a crazy diet, weight loss pills, nonstop workouts, or overly restrictive eating:
1. Drink more water.
This tip makes sense when you learn that over half of your body is made up of water. You lose water through eating, sweating, and breathing, so it is absolutely necessary to be adequately hydrated. Plus, drinking at least eight cups of water a day can burn close to 20,000 extra calories a year.
2. Try intermittent fasting.
Limiting your food intake to certain periods of time can stabilize blood sugar and decrease inflammation, which both encourage fat burning. Fasting also lowers your hunger hormone ghrelin to help curb cravings for inflammatory, sugary foods.
3. Don’t fear fat.
By limiting your carbohydrate intake and upping your healthy fats, you’ll turn your body from a sugar-burner to a fat-burner. This means that you train your metabolism to move away from relying on glucose for fuel, and instead, your body will now turn to its fat stores for energy. This ends up using up more energy overall while preserving muscle at the same time. A ketogenic diet that focuses on lots of healthy fat, moderate protein, and fewer carbohydrates is a great tool to make sure you are getting in the right macronutrients for your body.
4. Drink more tea.
Thermogenesis is a bodily process that produces heat, and it can also increase the number of calories you burn. Certain compounds in foods contain naturally occurring thermogenic nutrients. Catechins in green tea can boost fat-burning between 10 and 16 percent, which is one more reason to make more matcha.
5. Eat more spicy foods.
Spicy foods such as chili peppers contain a compound known as capsaicin, which has been shown to speed up metabolism, burn fat, and reduce appetite.
6. Sweat it out.
Infrared saunas are able to penetrate your skin barrier in order to raise your core temperature directly instead of regular saunas that have to heat the air first in order for that to heat you. Research conducted by one of the leading infrared sauna companies showed that regular use over three months contributed to noticeable weight loss. Since you’ll also be sweating, which is your body’s way of releasing toxins, you’ll also be detoxing and lowering inflammation that can contribute to common health problems. So treat yourself!
7. Add in a probiotic.
Your gut controls almost every aspect of your health, including your weight. Research has linked a lower microbiome diversity to being overweight, and people who struggle with weight loss resistance are more likely to have higher amounts of the bad bacteria Actinobacteria and Firmicutes and lower amounts of the beneficial bacteria Bacteroides, Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, and Verrucomicrobia. Luckily, lots of fermented foods and a probiotic with bifidobaceria, enterococcus, and lactobacillus has been shown to positively affect the microbiome and can help re-colonize the gut with good bacteria.
8. Try strength training.
Muscle burns more energy than fat, so the more muscle you have, the more calories you’ll burn, even when you are sitting still. Strength training can also improve resting metabolic rate, which boosts metabolism.
9. Limit your alcoholic drinks.
Each time you drink alcohol, your body has to stop and take time to metabolize it by filtering it through your liver, causing your metabolism to slow down since it is taking energy away from metabolizing fats and sugars. In fact, after just one alcoholic beverage, your fat burning is decreased by 73 percent.
10. Get chilly.
There are two types of fat in your body: white fat and brown fat. White fat accumulates in response to storing extra energy, and brown fat is the type that boosts your metabolism and burns more energy. According to research, regularly exposing yourself to cold temperatures increases your brown fat percentage to help you burn more fat. Maybe winter isn’t so bad after all?
11. Run labs.
You can hack your metabolism all you want, but unless you’re addressing the underlying cause of why you’re not at your healthiest weight, it will still come back again. In functional medicine we look at the root cause of weight loss resistance, and we know that we don’t lose weight to get healthy; we get healthy to lose weight. Everything from gut dysfunctions to thyroid problems to imbalanced hormones can contribute to why you aren’t losing weight. For sustainable weight loss, running labs can provide you some much-needed insight into your health and help you and your doctor come up with an action plan to rehab your health from the inside out.