How Stress Hormones Keep You From Your Weight Loss Goals

Stress

There are many, many effects that stress hormones, mainly cortisol, have on your body, including the link that people with abdominal obesity tend to have higher cortisol levels.

In fact, there are actually many links between stress hormones and weight. These include the effect stress has on digestion and gut health, inflammation and the immune system. Stress can cause cravings, increased appetite, and “stress eating.” It can promote fat storage around the waist with its effect on insulin sensitivity. Stress can also be mood-busting and demotivating, not to mention how it worsens sleep.

Let’s dive into each one and see how stress hormones keep you from your weight loss goals

  1. Poor Digestion and Gut Health

Being in a state of stress puts digestion on the back burner. This is because your body is ready to “fight or flee,” rather than “rest and digest.”

One of the most obvious impacts stress has on digestion is “transit time.” You may notice that stress can either quickly speed up how fast your food moves through you (diarrhea). Or, it may slow it down quite a bit (constipation). Neither one of these is ideal.

So, even if you’re eating a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods, you may become nutrient deficient! And proper nutrition is needed at the best of times, let alone when you’re stressed and trying to lose weight.

New research is also showing the impact that stress has on our friendly gut microbes. We’re just beginning to understand the influence that our gut microbes have on all aspects of health, including weight loss.

Stress is also linked with tiny holes or “leaks” in your digestive tract. This means that incompletely digested food particles can get into your body through these leaks. This can cause alot of inflammation.

Which leads us to the second major way stress keeps you from your weight loss goals.

2. Inflammation and Immune System Dysregulation

Guess where over 70% of your immune system is located? Right around your digestive tract. So, you can imagine if chronic stress is messing with your digestion, it’s going to also mess with your immune system.

More and more research is suggesting that inflammation is part of many chronic diseases. When you’re chronically stressed, this affects your immune system which is supposed to control inflammation. It can make your immune system either hypervigilant, or less-responsive. And both of these can keep you from reaching your weight loss goals.

If your immune system is hypervigilant, you can develop high inflammatory levels. If your immune system is less-responsive, it can allow your body to get sick more often, and stay sick longer.

For optimal health, and the ability to lose weight, you want your immune system to work properly (not too high, nor too low).

3. Cravings, Increased Appetite, and “Stress Eating”

When you’re stressed do you reach for celery? Or do you prefer fatty or sugary snacks?

Many people tend to eat more food, particularly comfort food. Things that tend to be fatty and sugary. And there is science to back this up. Scientists are now looking at interactions between stress hormones and the “hunger” and “fullness” hormones.

I don’t even have to tell you how this is going to keep you from your weight loss goals.

4. Insulin Sensitivity

Stress also increases your blood sugar, to make sure that your muscles have the fuel (sugar) they need to “fight” or “flee.” And if your muscles are not working and using up that excess blood sugar (i.e. you’re not running for your life), your body secretes insulin to re-absorb that sugar into your cells.

This increase in both cortisol and insulin promote both insulin resistance and fat storage., especially around the mid-section.

5. Mood-busting and Demotivating

Stress can not only bring down your mood, but that can also be terribly demotivating. When you’re feeling stressed, you may start feeling moody. You may also have less motivation to do the healthy weight loss activities that you really want to do.

If you’re down in the dumps and not motivated to prepare healthy meals or snacks, or get some exercise, then you’re less likely to do those things and we all know how important they are for weight loss.

6 – Negatively Affects Sleep

Cortisol is part of your natural sleep-wake cycle. Under normal (non-stressed) conditions, cortisol levels would increase before waking, and slowly drop during the day.

And this makes sense, because we know that it helps increase mental clarity as well as blood sugar to fuel your muscles. And we need mental clarity and to move our muscles, especially when we are awake.

But we also need this effect to “wear off” by the end of the day so we can start getting tired and relaxed enough to get a good night’s sleep. In other words, in the evenings, we want to start more resting and digesting.

Getting enough sleep is probably a more common reason why people don’t reach weight loss goals than most people think. Science is showing the links between not getting enough quality sleep and obesity.

Now that we’ve gone through six major reasons how stress hormones keep you from your weight loss goals, let’s talk about what the heck you can do about it.

STRESS-REDUCING TIPS

I’d love to help you manage your stress better so that you can meet your weight loss goals. There are really two main strategies to go about reducing your stress.

First off, you can reduce the amount of stress put on you by re-balancing some demands. Try:

  • Saying “no” more;
  • Ask for help or support;
  • Delegating to someone else;
  • Re-negotiating deadlines that seem unreasonable;
  • When working, focus on just one thing at a time (don’t multi-task).

Secondly, since you can’t (and maybe don’t want to) completely remove stress from you life, you want to learn to deal with it better. You can improve your personal stress tolerance by trying to:

  • Have some fun and laugh;
  • Make time for people (and pets) you love;
  • Get more, better-quality sleep;
  • Be mindful and live more “in the moment”;
  • Have one or two cups of green tea (which has been shown to lower stress levels);
  • Do light exercise most days per week (e.g. yoga, walking swimming, or tai chi);
  • Go for a walk outside;
  • Spend more time in nature;
  • Eat a nutrient-rich diet;
  • Meditate or deep breathing;
  • Relax every evening (e.g. have a bath or read a book);
  • Listen to soothing music;
  • Do a “brain dump” every night before bed where you just make notes of things you’re keeping track of in your head so you can relax more;
  • Treat yourself to a massage, nice meal, or pedicure.

References:

Hewagalamulage SD., Lee TK., Clarke IJ. & Henry BA. Stress, cortisol, and obesity: a role for cortisol responsiveness in identifying individuals prone to obesity. Domest Anim Endocrinol. 2016;56 Suppl:S112-20. doi: 10.1016/j.domaniend.2016.03.004.  http://www.domesticanimalendo.com/article/S0739-7240(16)30034-0/abstract

Incollingo Rodriguez AC, Epel ES, White ML, Standen EC, Seckl JR & Tomiyama AJ. Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis dysregulation and cortisol activity in obesity: A systematic review. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2015 Dec;62:301-18. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2015.08.014.  http://www.psyneuen-journal.com/article/S0306-4530(15)00887-2/abstract

Kolbe, I., Dumbell, R. & Oster, H. (2015). Circadian Clocks and the Interaction between Stress Axis and Adipose Function. Int J Endocrinol. 2015:693204. doi: 10.1155/2015/693204. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4426660/

Lucassen EA, Cizza G. The Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis, Obesity, and Chronic Stress Exposure: Sleep and the HPA Axis in Obesity. Curr Obes Rep. 2012 Dec;1(4):208-215.   https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3498460/?report=reader

Michopoulos V. Stress-induced alterations in estradiol sensitivity increase risk for obesity in women. Physiol Behav. 2016;166:56-64. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2016.05.016.   https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27182047

Pasquali R, Vicennati V, Cacciari M & Pagotto U. The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activity in obesity and the metabolic syndrome. Annual NY Academic Science, 1083, 2006;111–128. doi: 10.1196/annals.1367.009 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1196/annals.1367.009/pdf

Schorr M, Lawson EA, Dichtel LE, Klibanski A, Miller KK. Cortisol Measures Across the Weight Spectrum. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2015 Sep;100(9):3313-21. doi: 10.1210/JC.2015-2078.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4570173/

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Bye Bye Sleeping Through the Night

Woman In Bed With Insomnia That Can't Sleep White Background

Have you said “bye bye” to sleeping through the night?

Are you feeling exhausted or “running on stress hormones” all day?

Do not fear, I have some great tips (and an amazing recipe) for you!

The science of sleep is fascinating, complicated and growing. Sleep is this daily thing that we all do and yet we’re just beginning to understand all of the ways it helps us and all of the factors that can affect it.

Lack of sleep affects just about everything in your body and mind.  People who get less sleep tend to be at higher risk for so many health issues like diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer; not to mention effects like slower metabolism, weight gain, hormone imbalance, and inflammation.  And don’t forget the impact lack of sleep can have on moods, memory and decision-making skills.

Do you know that lack of sleep may even negate the health benefits of your exercise program? OMG – What aspect of health does sleep not affect???

Knowing this it’s easy to see the three main purposes of sleep:

  • To restore our body and mind. Our bodies repair, grow and even “detoxify” our brains while we sleep.
  • To improve our brain’s ability to learn and remember things, technically known as “synaptic plasticity”.
  • To conserve some energy so we’re not just actively “out and about” 24-hours a day, every day.

Do you know how much sleep adults need?  It’s less than your growing kids need but you may be surprised that it’s recommended that all adults get 7 – 9 hours a night.  For real!

Don’t worry, I have you covered with a bunch of actionable tips below to help improve your sleep:

  1. The biggest tip is definitely to try to get yourself into a consistent sleep schedule. Make it a priority and you’re more likely to achieve it.  This means turning off your lights 8 hours before your alarm goes off. 7 Days. A. Week.  I know weekends can easily throw this off but by making sleep a priority for a few weeks your body and mind will adjust and thank you for it.
  2. Balance your blood sugar throughout the day. Do this by eating less refined and processed foods and more whole foods (full of blood-sugar-balancing fiber).  Choose the whole orange instead of the juice (or orange-flavoured snack).  Make sure you’re getting some protein every time you eat.
  3. During the day get some sunshine and exercise. These things tell your body it’s daytime; time for being productive, active and alert.  By doing this during the day it will help you wind down more easily in the evening.
  4. Cut off your caffeine and added sugar intake after 12pm. Whole foods like fruits and veggies are fine, it’s the “added” sugar we’re minimizing.  Yes, this includes your beloved chai latte.  Both caffeine and added sugar can keep your mind a bit more active than you want it to be come evening. (HINT: I have a great caffeine-free chai latte recipe for you below!).
  5. Have a relaxing bedtime routine that starts 1 hour before your “lights out” time (that is 8 – 10 hours before your alarm is set to go off). This would include dimming your artificial lights, nixing screen time and perhaps reading an (actual, not “e”) book or having a bath or diffusing some relaxing essential oils.

So how many of these tips can you start implementing today?

Here’s a favourite recipe of mine for that mid afternoon “coffee break.”

Recipe : Caffeine-Free Chai Latte

Serves 1-2

1 bag of rooibos chai tea (rooibos is naturally caffeine-free)

2 cups of boiling water

1 tablespoon coconut butter

1 tablespoon almond butter (creamy is preferred)

2 dates (optional)

  • Cover the teabag and dates (if using) with 2 cups of boiling water and steep for a few minutes.
  • Discard the tea bag & place tea, soaked dates, tahini & almond butter into a blender.
  • Blend until creamy.
  • Serve and Enjoy!

Tip:  You can try this with other nut or seed butters to see which flavour combination you like the best.  Cashew butter anyone?

 

References:

http://www.thepaleomom.com/gotobed/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/hacking-sleep

Why is My Metabolism Slow?

You may feel tired, cold or that you’ve gained weight.  Maybe your digestion seems a bit more “sluggish”. You may be convinced that your metabolism is slow.

Why does this happen?  Why do metabolic rates slow down?

What can slow my metabolism?

Metabolism includes all of the biochemical reactions in your body that use nutrients and oxygen to create energy.  And there are lots of factors that affect how quickly (or slowly) it works, i.e. your “metabolic rate” (which is measured in calories).

But don’t worry – we know that metabolic rate is much more complicated than the old adage “calories in calories out.” In fact it’s so complicated I’m only going to list a few of the common things that can slow it down.

Examples of common reasons why metabolic rates can slow down:

  • low thyroid hormone
  • your history of dieting
  • your size and body composition
  • your activity level
  • lack of sleep

I am going to briefly touch on each one below and I promise to give you better advice than just to “eat less and exercise more”.

Low thyroid hormones

Your thyroid is the master controller of your metabolism.  When it produces fewer hormones your metabolism slows down.  The thyroid hormones (T3 & T4) tell the cells in your body when to use more energy and become more metabolically active.   Ideally it should work to keep your metabolism just right.  But there are several things that can affect it and throw it off course.  Things like autoimmune diseases and mineral deficiencies (e.g. iodine or selenium) for example.

Tip: Talk with your doctor about having your thyroid hormones tested. Ask for a full thyroid panel that includes your Free T3, Free T4, TSH and TPO (thyroid antibodies.) If your doctor won’t carry out the full panel, go and see a Naturopath such as my awesome one –  Dr. Danielle Marchildon and she can help you. This was how I discovered I had Hashimotos (an autoimmune thyroid disease) but I will leave that story for a future post where I will share my symptoms, diagnoses and healing protocol.

Your history of dieting

When people lose weight their metabolic rate often slows down.  This is because the body senses that food may be scarce and adapts by trying to continue with all the necessary life functions and do it all with less food.

While dieting can lead to a reduction in amount of fat it unfortunately can also lead to a reduction in the amount of muscle you have and more muscle means faster resting metabolic rate.

Tip: Make sure you’re eating enough food to fuel your body without overdoing it – that’s what I focus on in my 12 week A Healthier You program as each participant receives a personalized plan showing them how much they should be eating each day Click here if you would like to set up a free call to chat more about how this can help you.

Your size and body composition

In general, larger people have faster metabolic rates.  This is because it takes more energy to fuel a larger body than a smaller one. However, you already know that gaining weight is rarely the best strategy for increasing your metabolism.

Muscles that actively move and do work need energy.  Even muscles at rest burn more calories than fat.  This means that the amount of energy your body uses depends partly on the amount of lean muscle mass you have.

Tip: Do some weight training to help increase your muscle mass. Which leads us to…

Your activity level

Aerobic exercise temporarily increases your metabolic rate.  Your muscles are burning fuel to move and do “work” and you can tell because you’re also getting hotter.

Even little things can add up.  Walking a bit farther than you usually do, using a standing desk instead of sitting all day, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator can all contribute to more activity in your day.

Tip:  Incorporate movement into your day and aim to exercise regularly.

Lack of sleep

There is plenty of research that shows the influence that sleep has on your metabolic rate.  The general consensus is to get 7-9 hours of sleep every night.

Tip: Try to create a routine that allows at least 7 hours of sleep every night.

 

Recipe (Selenium-rich): Gut Healing Green Smoothie

Serves 2

Gut Healing Green Smoothie

1 cup of Brazil nut milk* (see recipe below)

1 cup of water

2 cups Kale Leaves (or spinach if you’re just starting out with greens

1/2 Avocado (peeled and pit removed) 

Banana (frozen) 

1 Tbsp Chia Seeds

2 Tbsp Ground Flax Seed

1/4 cup Hemp Seeds

2 Tbsp Raw Honey

  • Add Brazil nut milk and other ingredients into a blender and blend for 60-90 seconds until smooth.
  • Serve & Enjoy!

*Brazil Nut Milk

½ cup Brazil nuts

2 cups water

Nut milk bag or several layers of cheesecloth (optional)

  • Blend Brazil nuts in water in a high-speed blender until you get smooth, creamy milk.  If desired, strain it with a nut bag or several layers of cheesecloth.
  • Will keep for 3-4 days in the fridge.

References:

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/metabolic-damage

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/thyroid-and-testing

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-energy-balance

https://authoritynutrition.com/6-mistakes-that-slow-metabolism/

https://authoritynutrition.com/10-ways-to-boost-metabolism/

http://summertomato.com/non-exercise-activity-thermogenesis-neat

Apple Spice Muffin & Golden Turmeric Latte

Even though here in Ontario we have been sweltering in the heat, it hasn’t kept me out of the kitchen. I have been baking up a storm and experimenting with some new hot drinks.

You may have heard the term “elixir” being thrown around lately as they are starting to gain alot of popularity in the health and wellness world. They are a highly nutritious drink that are made in a blender. The base is a warm/hot herbal tea and my favourites to use are holy basil, licorice, ginger and turmeric.

Once the tea is made, you throw this into your blender and add other goodies. I always include a fat such as coconut oil or butter and a sweetener like pure maple syrup or honey. At this point you can add in any other superfoods such as collagen or protein powder, maca or cacao etc.

Blend these amazing ingredients together and voila – you are ready!

Elixirs make for a great mid-afternoon drink or pair it with a healthy muffin for a balanced breakfast

Check out the Turmeric Ginger Latte recipe below and let me know if I have converted you yet

Turmeric Ginger Latte

Turmeric Spice Latter

2 cups ginger tea (or 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger)
1/2 cup coconut milk (cashew/almond would work well too)
1 cup Water
1 tsp Turmeric (powder)
1 tbsp Raw Honey
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp Coconut Oil (or coconut butter)

Grate the ginger then squeeze the juice out of it into a saucepan. Heat over medium-high heat for about 3 to 5 minutes.

Pour into blender and add remaining ingredients and blend.

Notes:

  • Beware the turmeric can stain the blender cup. Rinse all glasses and mugs out right after use to avoid turmeric stains. Use baking soda on turmeric stains if they do happen.
  • Skip the turmeric powder and use fresh turmeric root instead. Peel turmeric root and grate. Measure out about 1 tbsp grated turmeric root per serving.
  • On the Go – Add all ingredients except water to a mason jar. When ready to drink, just add hot water from the kettle and shake up for a warming, anti-inflammatory snack.

 

Apple Spice Muffins

Apple Spice Muffins

1 1/4 cups Almond Flour
1/4 cup Coconut Flour
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Nutmeg
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp Sea Salt
2 Apples (cored and finely diced)

4 Eggs (whisked)
1/4 cup Coconut Oil
1/4 cup Maple Syrup
1/3 cup Unsweetened Almond Milk

Preheat the oven to 350 and line a muffin tin with wrappers.

Combine the almond flour, coconut flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda and sea salt in a large mixing bowl and mix well. Add in the apples, eggs, coconut oil, maple syrup and almond milk. Stir until all ingredients are evenly distributed then divide into muffin tins. (Note: To make them fancy, dice an extra apple and sprinkle it on top of each muffin. Then sprinkle with extra cinnamon.)

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool completely and enjoy!
Notes:

  • No apples, use pears instead.
  • Store at room temperature for 3 days, or freeze up to 3 months.

Green Tea Supplements for Weight Loss

healthy green tea cup with tea leaves

Green tea extract is heavily promoted for weight loss but does it actually work?

Tea is from the plant Camellia sinensis. Green tea differs from black tea because it is not fermented before it’s dried. This is why green tea contains more antioxidants than black tea does. The type of fermentation uses enzymes that “oxidize” the antioxidants, so they’re in much smaller amounts in black tea. These antioxidants are of the “catechins” family.

Green tea also contains some caffeine and it’s the effect of both of these compounds together that are thought to help with weight loss.

GREEN TEA VS GREEN TEA EXTRACTS

The difference between drinking green tea and taking it as a supplement is that the extracts are more concentrated. For example, the highest dose of the extract that seems to be safe is 9.9 g/day, which is equivalent to 24 cups of green tea. While this dose may be “safe”, it’s likely to come alongside some side effects.

GREEN TEA EXTRACTS FOR WEIGHT LOSS

  • Green tea contains two main active ingredients, caffeine and antioxidants known as “catechins”.
  • Green tea seems to improve the fat-burning effects of exercise. It may result in the loss of a few extra pounds in people who are overweight.
  • A review of several studies calculated an average weight loss of 2.8 lbs after about 12 weeks.
  • It seems that the catechins and caffeine work together to help with weight loss so caffeine free versions don’t seem to work as well.
  • Green tea extracts seem to be more effective in people who don’t normally ingest a lot of caffeine.

 SAFETY OF GREEN TEA EXTRACTS

You’ve probably heard about the concerns with green tea supplements. There have been reports of them being linked to cases of liver failure and even death but what is the real deal on the safety of green tea supplements?

  • We still don’t really know the effects of long-term use of the extracts.
  • Clinical studies show that up to 1.6 g of green tea extract at one time are safe for most people. At higher doses, some people may experience headache, dizziness, and nausea.
  • Overall, hepatotoxicity (a.k.a. liver toxicity) from green tea extracts is rare, nonetheless, if you experience abdominal pain, dark urine or jaundice (yellowing of the skin), you should see your doctor and avoid supplements that contain green tea extracts.
  • Some factors that may make someone more susceptible to liver injury are obesity, fasting, and/or glutathionine depletion.

HOW TO TAKE GREEN TEA EXTRACTS

Green tea extracts are approved in Canada for use as a source of antioxidants. They’re also approved to help with weight management, along with reducing calories and increasing physical activity.

  • For weight management, Health Canada recommends consumption of green tea extract for a maximum of 12 weeks.
  • If you take green tea extracts, you should take them as directed on the label, including taking them with food.
  • Don’t take them if you:
    • Have liver concerns,
    • Have iron deficiency (it reduces absorption of iron),
    • Are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Discontinue if you experience any side effects.
  • Also note that they may interact with certain medications, so see your doctor or pharmacist to be sure.

My final note is for you to really think about why you are taking a supplement for weight loss. Is it for a quick fix? Do you want big results fast? If your answers are yes, then your results, if any may be short term. No supplement will ever be able to fix a poor diet or lifestyle. It takes commitment, hard work and consistency for a healthier future but believe me, it’s well worth it!

REFERENCES:

Banerjee, S. & Chatterjee, J. (2015). Efficient extraction strategies of tea (Camellia sinensis) biomolecules. J Food Sci Technol. 2015 Jun;52(6):3158-68. doi: 10.1007/s13197-014-1487-3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4444893/

Examine.com, Supplements, Green Tea Catechins. Accessed March 9, 2017. https://examine.com/supplements/green-tea-catechins/

Health Canada, Natural Health Products Ingredients Database, Green Tea Extracts. Accessed March 9, 2017. http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/atReq.do?atid=greentea_thevert&lang=eng

Hursel, R., Viechtbauer, W. & Westerterp-Plantenga, M.S. (2009). The effects of green tea on weight loss and weight maintenance: a meta-analysis. Int J Obes (Lond). 33(9):956-61. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2009.135. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0027694/

Kapoor, M.P., Sugita, M., Fukuzawa, Y. & Okubo, T. (2016). Physiological effects of epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) on energy expenditure for prospective fat oxidation in humans: A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Nutr Biochem. 43:1-10. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2016.10.013.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27883924

National Institutes of Health, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine, Green Tea. Accessed March 7, 2017.https://nccih.nih.gov/health/greentea

National Library of Medicine, LiverTox, Clinical and Research Information on Drug-Induced Liver Injury. DRUG RECORD: GREEN TEA (CAMELLIA SINESIS). Accessed March 7, 2017 https://livertox.nih.gov/GreenTea.htm

Rains, T.M., Agarwal, S. & Maki, K.C. (2011). Antiobesity effects of green tea catechins: a mechanistic review. J Nutr Biochem. 22(1):1-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2010.06.006.  http://www.jnutbio.com/article/S0955-2863(10)00160-9/fulltext

Teschke, R., Zhang, L., Melzer, L., Schulze, J. & Eickhoff, A. (2014). Green tea extract and the risk of drug-induced liver injury. Expert Opin Drug Metab Toxicol. 2014 Dec;10(12):1663-76. doi: 10.1517/17425255.2014.971011.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25316200

Türközü, D. & Tek, N.A. (2017). A minireview of effects of green tea on energy expenditure. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 57(2):254-258.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26091183

Westerterp-Plantenga, M.S., Lejeune, M.P. & Kovacs, E.M. (2005). Body weight loss and weight maintenance in relation to habitual caffeine intake and green tea supplementation. Obes Res. 2005 Jul;13(7):1195-204.  http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1038/oby.2005.142/full

Zhanga, Y., Yub, Y., Lia, X. , Megurod, S., Hayashie, S., Katashimae, M., Yasumasue, T., JWangc, J., Lia, K. (2012). Effects of catechin-enriched green tea beverage on visceral fat loss in adults with a high proportion of visceral fat: A double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial

Journal of Functional Foods. 4(1):315–322. doi:10.1016/j.jff.2011.12.010  http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1756464611001162

 

What is Metabolism?

What is

This word “metabolism” is thrown around a lot these days. You know that if yours is too slow you might gain weight.  But what exactly does this all mean?

Well technically “metabolism” is the word to describe all of the biochemical reactions in your body.  It’s how you take in nutrients and oxygen and use them to fuel everything you do.

Your body has an incredible ability to grow, heal, and generally stay alive.  And without this amazing biochemistry you would not be possible.

Metabolism includes how the cells in your body:

  • Allow activities you can control (e.g. physical activity etc.).
  • Allow activities you can’t control (e.g. heart beat, wound healing, processing of nutrients & toxins, etc.).
  • Allow storage of excess energy for later.

So when you put all of these processes together into your metabolism you can imagine that these processes can work too quickly, too slowly, or just right.

Which brings us to the “metabolic rate”.

Metabolic rate

This is how fast your metabolism works and is measured in calories (yup, those calories!). The calories you eat can go to one of three places:

  • Work (i.e. exercise and other activity).
  • Heat (i.e. from all those biochemical reactions).
  • Storage (i.e. extra leftover “unburned” calories stored as fat).

As you can imagine the more calories you burn as work or creating heat the easier it is to lose weight and keep it off because there will be fewer “leftover” calories to store for later.

There are a couple of different ways to measure metabolic rate.  One is the “resting metabolic rate” (RMR) which is how much energy your body uses when you’re not being physically active.

The other is the “total daily energy expenditure” (TDEE) which measures both the resting metabolic rate as well as the energy used for “work” (e.g. exercise) throughout a 24-hour period.

What affects your metabolic rate?

In a nutshell: a lot!

The first thing you may think of is your thyroid.  This gland at the front of your throat releases hormones to tell your body to “speed up” your metabolism.  Of course, the more thyroid hormone there is the faster things will work and the more calories you’ll burn. Getting your thyroid  (and other hormones) tested prior to any weight loss program can be very beneficial so that any underlying metabolic issues can be addressed, or losing weight may be extremely difficult.

But that’s not the only thing that affects your metabolic rate. How big you are counts too. Larger people have higher metabolic rates; but your body composition is crucial!

As you can imagine muscles that actively move and do work need more energy than fat does.  So the more lean muscle mass you have the more energy your body will burn and the higher your metabolic rate will be.  Even when you’re not working out.

This is exactly why weight training is often recommended as a part of a weight loss program.  Because you want muscles to be burning those calories for you.

The thing is, when people lose weight their metabolic rate often slows down which you don’t want to happen.  So you definitely want to offset that with more muscle mass.

Aerobic exercise also temporarily increases your metabolic rate.  Your muscles are burning fuel to move so they’re doing “work”.

The type of food you eat also affects your metabolic rate. Your body actually burns calories to absorb, digest, and metabolize your food.  This is called the “thermic effect of food” (TEF). You can use it to your advantage when you understand how your body metabolizes foods differently.

Fats, for example increase your TEF by 0-3%; carbs increase it by 5-10%, and protein increases it by 15-30%.  By trading some of your fat or carbs for lean protein you can slightly increase your metabolic rate.

Another bonus of protein is that your muscles need it to grow.  By working them out and feeding them what they need they will help you to lose weight and keep it off.

And don’t forget the mind-body connection.  There is plenty of research that shows the influence that things like stress and sleep have on the metabolic rate.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to metabolism and how so many different things can work to increase (or decrease) your metabolic rate.

Are you getting enough protein during the day? Check out my recipe below for my tasty lemon chicken which is great for lunches or dinner.

Recipe (Lean Protein): Lemon Herb Roasted Chicken Breasts

Serves 4

 

2 lemons, sliced

1 tablespoon rosemary

1 tablespoon thyme

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced or minced

4 chicken breasts (boneless, skinless)

pinch of salt & pepper

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

 

  • Preheat oven to 425F.  Layer ½ of the lemon slices on the bottom of a baking dish.  Sprinkle with ½ of the herbs and ½ of the sliced garlic.
  • Place the chicken breasts on top and sprinkle salt & pepper.  Place remaining lemon, herbs and garlic on top of the chicken.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Cover with a lid or foil.
  • Bake for 45 minutes until chicken is cooked through.  If you want the chicken to be a bit more “roasty” then remove the lid/foil and broil for another few minutes (watching carefully not to burn it).
  • Serve & enjoy!

 

References:

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-energy-balance

https://authoritynutrition.com/10-ways-to-boost-metabolism/

Everything You Think You Know About Healthy Eating is Wrong and it’s Making You Fat and Tired

Grocery Store #1

Oh my goodness – nutrition and diet info is everywhere! Even i can get overwhelmed. Each expert and association tries to lead you in their direction because they know best and their advice is going to help you.  Right?

Well, maybe…

Everyone has heard (and maybe lived through) the intense focus on how much you eat.  This has gotten way too much attention because while this does affect your weight and energy level, it’s certainly not the “holy grail” of health.

Let’s focus a bit more on the often overlooked (and proven) benefits of what you eat and drink and how you eat and drink it.

What you eat and drink

The “calories in, calories out” philosophy (i.e. how much you eat) is being drowned out with research on other factors that may be just as important.  Don’t get me wrong limiting calories, carbs or fat can certainly help you lose weight but that’s simply not the only factor for long-term weight loss and maximum energy for everyone.

When the intense focus on how much we ate didn’t work in the long-run it wasn’t really a surprise. We kinda knew that already, didn’t we?

You can certainly still continue to count your calories, carbs, and fat but don’t forget to also pay attention to what you eat.

Ideally, you need a varied diet full of minimally-processed foods (i.e. fewer “packaged” “ready-to-eat” foods and more real food).  This simple concept is paramount for weight loss, energy, and overall health and wellness.

Every day this is what you should aim for:

  • A colourful array of fruits and veggies at almost every meal and snack. You need the fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
  • Enough protein. Making sure you get all of those essential amino acids (bonus: eating protein can increase your metabolism).
  • Healthy fats and oils (never “hydrogenated” ones). There is a reason some fatty acids are called “essential” – you need them as building blocks for your hormones and brain as well as to be able to absorb essential fat-soluble vitamins from your uber-healthy salads.  Use extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil, eat your organic egg yolks, and get grass-fed meats when possible.  You don’t need to overdo it here.  Just make sure you’re getting some high-quality fats.

 

How you eat and drink

Also pay attention to how you eat and drink. Studies are definitely showing that this has more of an impact than we previously thought.

Are you rushed, not properly chewing your food, and possibly suffering from gastrointestinal issues? Do you drink your food?

When it comes to how you eat let’s first look at “mindful eating”.

Mindful eating means to take smaller bites, eat slowly, chew thoroughly, and savour every bite.  Notice and appreciate the smell, taste and texture.  Breathe.

This gives your digestive system the hint to prepare for digestion and to secrete necessary enzymes.

This can also help with weight loss because eating slower often means eating less.  Did you know that it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to know that your stomach is full? Thought so!

We also know that more thoroughly chewed food is easier to digest and it makes it easier to absorb all of those essential nutrients.

And don’t forget about drinking your food.

Yes, smoothies can be healthy and a fabulously easy and tasty way to get in some fruits and veggies (hello leafy greens!) but drinking too much food can contribute to a weight problem and feelings of sluggishness.

Don’t get me wrong a green smoothie can make an amazingly nutrient-dense meal and is way better than stopping for convenient junk food – just consider a large smoothie to be a full meal not a snack.  And don’t gulp it down too fast.

If your smoothies don’t fill you up like a full meal does try adding in a spoon of fiber like ground flax or chia seeds.

Summary:

Consider not only how much you eat but also what and how you eat it.

 

Recipe (Smoothie meal): Chocolate Cauliflower Shake

Chocolate Cauliflower Shake

Serves 2

2 cups frozen cauliflower

2 frozen bananas

2 Tbsp almond butter (or any nut/seed butter)

1/4 cup cacao powder

1/2 cup chocolate protein powder (I love the Vega Chocolate Protein & Greens)

2 cups unsweetened almond milk (or other non-dairy alternative)

1/2 Tbsp cinnamon

 

In your blender, combine all ingredients. Blend until smooth, pour into glasses and enjoy!

Optional:

  • Make it Mocha – Replace half of the almond milk with chilled coffee.
  • Likes it Sweeter – Add pitted medjool dates.

Blend, Serve and Enjoy!

Tip: Smoothies are the ultimate recipe for substitutions.  Try swapping different veggies, fruit or seeds to match your preference.

References:

http://summertomato.com/wisdom-wednesday-salad-dressing-is-your-friend

https://authoritynutrition.com/20-reasons-you-are-not-losing-weight/

http://summertomato.com/the-science-behind-mindful-eating-what-happens-to-your-body-during-a-mindful-meal

http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/nut-and-seed-products/3061/2