Confession of a dietitian: I was 22 years old and in the worst shape of my life. I worked out for an hour, five days/week, only kept low-calorie foods stocked in my fridge because I was constantly on a diet – and I was in school, studying to become a registered dietitian. I’d skip meals, “save” my calories, become hungry enough to eat my own leg, and go to town on literally any food that was in sight.
Well, at 31 I’m now in the best shape of my life, and I’m here to tell you – it’s not about calories, and it’s CERTAINLY not about starving yourself to lose weight or stay in shape. News flash – we weren’t born to be hungry. In fact, it’s just the opposite.
When it comes to weight loss or just feeling good in a sexy pair of jeans, the real question you have to ask yourself is: what kind of shape is my metabolism in? Because it’s your metabolism that dictates whether you are burning fat or storing fat on any given day, not the number of calories you’re eating.
When you diet, skip meals and chug diet soda to “stay full,” all you’re doing is royally screwing up what your body was actually made to do – burn fat and feel good. And while it sounds counterintuitive to what we think we know about “getting skinny,” it’s actually FEEDING your body the right foods that will help you both look and feel your best – not cutting them out.
These are my top 5 tips – tested and backed by research – to get your metabolism revved up – stat.
Balance is key
Your body decides if it’s going to store or burn fat largely based on what you’re putting into your mouth. Including protein, healthy fat and some fiber-rich carbs (think fruits and veggies over pasta or bread) is absolutely key to staying in fat-burning mode all day. So, instead of just eating a banana for breakfast, eat half, and add a hard-boiled egg and some almond butter along with it.
Focus on fat
Healthy fat supports a healthy metabolism more than any other macronutrient, but it’s always the first to go when you’re on a diet. Not only does it signal to your brain you’re satisfied after a meal, but it also acts as a blood sugar buffer so you don’t experience spikes in blood sugar after you eat. Keeping your blood sugar steady is key to staying in fat-burning mode. Keep these healthy fats on deck at all times: avocados, nuts, seeds, unrefined mayo, olives, olive/coconut/avocado oil and grass-fed butter or ghee.
You know that hangry feeling
That feeling that causes you to reach for any and all food in sight. You feel like this because your blood sugar has dropped too low, and your brain is like, “GIVE ME ALL THE CARBS” because it just wants to get your blood sugar back to normal. And when your body goes into survival mode like this, it starts to hold on to fat because it doesn’t know when it’s next meal is coming. Keep a stash of nuts, fruit and good quality protein bars in your bag or desk and have a snack every three to four hours.
Discover the power of protein
Did you know your metabolism increases every single time you eat protein? This is why protein is so important to eat consistently throughout the day. Plus, it’s the most satiating macronutrient, so it keeps you full! Choose animal proteins like eggs, fish, meat, Greek yogurt and cottage cheese, or vegetarian proteins like nuts, seeds, quinoa, lentils, beans and sprouted tofu, and include some at every meal and snack.
This is critical to a high functioning metabolism. Sleep controls the hormones that control your appetite and metabolism. When you don’t get enough sleep, you’re hunger increases and your body is less likely to burn fat efficiently during the day. Aim for seven-nine hours/night.
Eating the right kind of foods and allowing yourself to recover at night not only fuels your metabolism and keeps you in fat-burning mode, but it also keeps your energy levels high, your mind sharp and just generally makes you feel great.