With so much conflicting advice in magazines and blogs, making the right calorie choices can feel like gazing into a crystal ball. If you’re one of the 30 percent of Americans who resolve to lose weight every year, start by separating fortune-telling from facts.
To burn more calories, build more muscle.
Verdict: Good advice!
One pound of muscle can burn three times as many calories at rest as a pound of fat, according to the American Council on Exercise. That’s why men — who tend to have less body fat and more muscle mass than women — are more efficient calorie-burners. It seems unfair, but there’s a silver lining. People who carry excess weight burn more calories during exercise than fit people do. If you’re overweight and just starting to exercise, a little bit will go a long way. Once your initial weight loss slows down, start incorporating more muscle-building exercises such as weight lifting and ab crunches into your routine.
Boost your metabolism by changing when you eat.
Verdict: Try at your own risk.
You may have heard of diets based on the idea that if you constantly shift when and how many calories you consume, your metabolism learns to be more efficient. Similar diets opt for five or six micro-meals instead of the traditional three square meals a day. Unfortunately, science doesn’t back up these diet trends. A small-scale study published in 2014 in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine showed minor advantages of calorie shifting over simple calorie restriction, but it did not improve participants’ resting metabolic rate.
A Better Idea:
Listen to your body. Don’t wait to eat until you’re starving, which can lead to poor nutritional choices. Don’t eat out of boredom, either. When snacking, choose filling foods, such as whole-grain crackers, green vegetables and other foods rich in complex carbs, which have appetite-curbing effects for as long as 24 hours.
To lose bad fat, eat good fat.
Verdict: Two thumbs up!
Eating a well-balanced diet is a better weight-loss strategy than restricting or eliminating certain food groups. Unsaturated fats found in eggs, vegetable oils, nuts, seeds and avocados are considered good fats because they decrease harmful LDL cholesterol and provide important nutrients such as fatty acids. A 2007 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that consuming fatty acids actually reduces body fat and improves metabolic health.
Zero-calorie means zero weight gain.
Verdict: Keep wishing.
Several studies suggest zero-calorie beverages could actually contribute to weight gain. One preliminary study published in the journal NeuroImage in 2008 found that the brain can tell the difference between caloric and noncaloric sweeteners, which could trigger the body to crave the calories it was expecting to get — and lead to overeating. A 2015 study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that older adults who drank diet soda every day for almost a decade experienced an increase in waistline size three times that of those who never drank it.
A Better Idea:
To satisfy your sweet tooth, stick with natural sources of sugar, such as whole fruit or a teaspoon of honey. Pair your sweet with a protein or complex carb to avoid a blood-sugar crash.
The Myth of the Aging Metabolism
You’ve heard the excuse before — “When I was young, I could eat whatever I wanted. Then I turned 40, and my metabolism slowed to a halt.” The truth is, your metabolic rate doesn’t slow down because you age, but rather because you lose muscle mass as you age. According to the National Institutes of Health, sedentary adults lose about 8 percent or more of their muscle mass every decade after age 40. You can’t stop aging, but you can prevent muscle loss through regular physical activity. Try these tools to preserve your muscle mass and keep your metabolism going strong.
Exercise Band — These giant rubber bands provide resistance to stretch and tone your muscles without harmful impact on your bones.
Kettlebell — Increasingly popular among fitness buffs, kettlebells enable ballistic exercise, a unique combination of aerobic, strength and flexibility training.
Medicine ball — Medicine balls filled with water can offer a harder challenge. As the water sloshes around inside, it requires more muscle engagement to control the ball.
Consult your primary care provider before starting a new exercise regimen.
Maintaining a healthy weight is important for your health. In addition to lowering the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and high blood pressure, it can also lower the risk of many different cancers. Talk to your doctor to determine a healthy weight for you and the best ways to incorporate a healthy diet and exercise habits. Need a doctor? Call (844) PPG-DOCS (774-3627) or visit PorterPhysicianGroup.com.