Dieting Vs. Working on your Metabolism: Which Works Better for Weight Loss?

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When it comes to weight loss, there are generally three schools of thought. The first is extreme dieting. This involves strictly following the instructions of the latest dieting trend to make headlines. The measures are extreme, and the results are generally short lived. The second is balanced dieting – controlling your calorie intake against the amount of calories you burn during the day. Creating a calorie deficit is said to result in weight loss. The third is metabolism boosting. Your metabolism is the process by which your body turns food into energy. A slow metabolism leads to your body storing food as fat, while a fast metabolism burns through food more quickly. So which approach is best?

First up, let’s look at extreme dieting. It’s nonsense. You might see short term results, but it is generally completely unsustainable. Put it out of your mind.

That was easy! OK, so what about balanced dieting vs. working on your metabolism? This one isn’t so easy. Unfortunately, proponents of both are often quick to disparage the benefits of the other. The reality is that a balanced diet and boosting your metabolism should really go hand in hand. They are intrinsically linked, and keeping both in mind is the best way to approach weight loss.

There are many ways to boost your metabolism, but the most important is to make sure you are eating enough of the right foods. Severely reducing your calorie intake actually slows down your metabolism, making weight loss even more difficult. In order to lose weight, you need to maintain your calorie intake. This involves being aware of just how many calories you are taking it, and how you are getting them. By substituting fatty, high calorie foods for greater portions of healthy, low calorie foods, you will speed up your metabolism and lose weight more quickly.

Another closely linked aspect of dieting and metabolism is exercise. Aerobic exercise burns calories, but by increasing your heart rate you can encourage your metabolism to work faster, greatly increasing the benefits. A good way to increase your heart rate is to introduce high intensity periods to your exercise. For joggers, this could be breaking out into a sprint for 30 seconds every couple of minutes. For walkers, this could be increasing to a jog for 30 seconds every few minutes.

The truth is that there is no definitive answer to the question of dieting vs metabolism. A balanced diet (and not a severe calorie cutting diet) will naturally improve your metabolism. Similarly, foods and activities to boost your metabolism will result in a more balanced diet. The key is in understanding your body. Understand the foods it needs and what positively impacts your metabolism. Only by keeping both in mind can you see sustained, permanent weight loss.

How Strength Training Helps Raise Your Metabolism

Without exercising, it is difficult to maintain your weight, or even lose if that is your goal. You have to burn the same amount of calories consumed to maintain and burn more to lose weight. Exercising is the key to both.

But not all exercise is equal. The type of exercise you do, along with intensity and duration, makes a difference in the number of calories burned, both at the time you are exercising and well after. Other factors that affect the number of calories burned are age, gender and genetics – all of which you can’t do much about. So focus on the one thing that you can control – exercising.

Aerobic exercise, like cardio and endurance, are activities usually done at a slower pace, but over a longer period of time. These activities burn calories but usually focuses on burning stored fat. Walking, running, Zumba and Pilates are all types of training that fall into this category. These activities burn calories, but they are calories that the body doesn’t need to replace, so the rate at which your body is burning calories decreases once the aerobic activities stop.

However, when you engage in anaerobic-type activities – strength training activities done at a faster pace, but for a shorter duration – you are burning glucose, calories that reside deep within your muscles. This includes activities such as medicine ball throws, kettle bell swings, resistance training and heavy weightlifting. The beauty of strength training is you not only get a high calorie burn while exercising, but the burn continues afterward as your metabolism keeps working at a high rate until it has replaced the glucose that was depleted in your muscles.

The secondary effect of strength training increases the size of your muscles. Ladies, we are not talking about body building – just a toning, firming and slight increase in size. Many women are afraid to get into strength training because they think they will develop a lot of muscle. It just won’t happen; the hormone structure of your gender won’t allow it.

With a more defined muscle structure, your metabolism will work at a higher rate even while at rest and sleeping. More muscle means more glucose in your muscles which makes your metabolism work harder to keep up on the glucose used.

The downside of strength training is you can’t do it six days per week. Your body could never keep up. So a good compromise is to do a cardio activity four days per week and include a couple days of strength training. Just make sure you have a day or two between your two days of strength training.

For strength training, focus on one or two sets of 12 to 15 repetitions in each set of each of your major muscle groups: abs, glutes, quads and biceps.

Strength training gives you the most calorie burning increase, along with giving you a more defined look. When you look good, you feel good. And when you feel good, you exude confidence.

How Exercise Affects Your Metabolism

You metabolism is like a woodstove. When you put a log on the fire, the fire gets hotter and produces more heat. Once that log is consumed, the fire dies down to just coals until you add another log. Overall when you exercise, your metabolism works harder to provide more energy to your muscles. But the type of exercise you do makes a difference as to how hard your metabolism works.

Before we get into the specific as far as the types of exercise that makes your metabolism work the hardest, lets first talk about the three types of calorie-burning processes:

1) Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR): This is the rate your metabolism works while sitting, sleeping, standing, etc. It accounts for about 75% of the time your metabolism is working and for the most part is a fairly constant rate until you eat or exercise.

2) Thermal Effect of Food (TEF): Once you have something to eat, your metabolism kicks into TEF mode to digest and process the food just consumed. This accounts for about 10% of the time during your day. Eating six small meals per day, keeps the TEF going at a steadier rate than does three meals per day, which causes a more cyclic up-and-down rate; because you always have some food in your stomach, your metabolism stays in TEF longer.

3) Physical Activity Energy Expenditure (PAEE): Once you start exercising, you are burning more energy than with the other two methods, so your body has to work harder to keep up with the increased energy requirement. Washing dishes, walking up stairs, doing laundry, etc. all qualify as exercise, as does a workout, and thus will kick your metabolism into PAEE mode.

What Type of Exercise Will Make A Difference?

While exercising in general does affect the PAEE of your metabolism, different types of exercise affect it more than others. For instance, it is easy to accept you burn more calories running for 20 minutes than you do walking for the same amount of time. Both use the same large lower muscle groups, but at different rates.

However there is a big difference in your PAEE between cardio and strength training. There is even a difference between the types of cardio. Low intensity and endurance training focuses more on burning fat instead of glucose stored in the muscles.

But high intensity interval training (HIIT) and weight lifting, the focus is on burning glucose stored in the muscles. That glucose has to get replaced so your PAEE stays up higher and longer even after finishing your workout. And of course, the more muscle you build, the more calories you burn, even at the RMR rate.

Why Eating Too Little Can Stall Weight Loss

If you ask most people how they would recommend losing weight in the most basic form, they will usually answer “Eat less, exercise more”. Generally, they are right. The simplest way to lose weight is to create a calorie deficit: that is, burning more calories during the day than you are taking in from your food. However, contrary to what you might think, that deficit should not be too big. Rather than help you lose weight, extremely low calorie diets can often lead to weight loss slowing down.

The question is, why?

When you dramatically reduce your calorie intake, your body reacts as if it is in danger. Your metabolism, which is the process by which food is converted to energy, actually slows down. It adjusts to the expectation that it will continue to receive too few calories, and as a result, starts to store fat for future use. Conversely, those with a fast metabolism can often eat far more than others, as their body processes this food into energy at a quicker rate.

While very low calorie diets can have an instant impact on weight loss, it is not sustainable, and even if you continue with a low calorie diet, your body will have adjusted. As a result, the rate at which you lose weight can slow down, or even stop altogether. The problem here is two-fold; not only are you no longer losing weight on a low calorie diet, but the moment you increase your calorie intake your weight will increase disproportionately, as your metabolism is still operating slower than it should be.

Quite aside from not being conducive to consistent weight loss, very low calorie diets are also bad for your general health. The effects can range from feeling lethargic and dizzy to low blood pressure and heart rhythm abnormalities. Understanding calories is an important part of weight loss, but starving your body is certainly not the way to go about it.

The mantra of “eat less, exercise more” needs to be taken sensibly. It does not mean cut your calories in half and start walking ten miles every day. It means having a balanced diet with an appropriate amount of calories received from healthy foods, while exercising a reasonable amount. Those who consistently maintain a moderate calorie deficit and lose weight at a slow but steady pace are statistically proven to be far more likely to maintain their weight loss. Starving yourself might seem like a good idea, but all you are doing is harming your chance for stable weight loss.

What Are The Best Times of Day to Eat if You Want to Lose Weight?

Not only is what you eat and how much important when you are trying to lose weight, but so is when you eat. According to a recent study by Forza Supplements, 84 percent of the participants thought having defined mealtimes was important in their weight loss efforts.

Best times to eat

Based on that survey, people felt the optimal time for them to eat breakfast was 7:11am, lunch at 12:38pm and dinner at 6:14pm. Now of course you don’t have to be that precise, but 7am, 12:30pm and 6pm for breakfast, lunch and dinner respectively, would give you the best chance at losing the most weight based on eating times. Also noted by 76 percent of them, breakfast was their most important meal of the day; seventy-two percent responded that eating after 7pm was disastrous to their weight loss efforts.

What you eat

As far as losing weight, the kinds of food you eat are just as important as when you eat. If you are gorging yourself with foods high in saturated fat, salt, sugar and simple carbohydrates, then all your weight loss efforts will be in vein.

A healthy diet should consist of complex carbohydrates, healthy fats in the unsaturated family, whole grain, fresh fruits and vegetables, and lean meats. And don’t forget to add in foods containing Omega 3: salmon, halibut, mackerel and tuna. This healthy diet not only gives you the nutrition you need, but keeps the calories down also.

How much you eat

Even eating the above healthy foods, you can still eat too much, so portion control is important. But how much is a portion? It depends on the food.

For instance, think of a portion as:

A hockey puck for whole-grain pasta

Two-thirds deck of cards for skinless chicken breast or hamburger patty

Two teaspoons is about the size of a pair of dice

Four dice for a serving of cheese squares

A tennis ball for an apple or orange

A baseball for a serving of cooked vegetables

Two baseballs for a serving of fresh green leafy vegetables

It will take a while of practicing portion control using this method of association, but once you get the hang of it, it is much easier than trying to remember and judge portions in measurements such as ounces, teaspoons and cups.

Controlling calories, along with eating at prescribed times, is the key to achieving sustained weight loss. Once at goal, you can adjust your portions to stay at goal weight. However what and when you eat should remain constant. And don’t forget to keep exercising!

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