Stu – Weight loss can be confusing to say the least, how to exercise and what to eat are all common questions. We think that weight loss should be tackled as a more holistic approach in order to achieve the results you want. Our guest post from Cassie Mendoza-Jones outlines the necessary steps beautifully. Over to Cassie…
Pick up any glossy magazine and there’s a new weight loss or diet regime claiming to have you losing 5kg in 5 days (or something similarly ridiculous.)
In fact, the only way to succeed in this game is with a healthy and balanced approach. My tips will have you losing weight, keeping it off, and maintaining your sanity in the process, without the rose coloured glasses, and with a dose of reality and biochemistry (just a little bit, I promise!)
Diet is (almost) everything
You’ve probably heard the saying “You can’t out-train a bad diet”, and this is so true. While exercise is a crucial part of weight loss (and weight management), it’s not everything, and if you think you can eat what you want because you went to gym this morning, don’t shoot the messenger when I tell you that you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.
A nourishing, whole food diet will not only help balance neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, the brain chemicals that help us feel full, happy, motivated and rewarded, but the right diet will reduce sugar cravings that may hamper even your best efforts, improve post-exercise muscle repair and recovery, and boost your energy.
However, exercise is also vital in any weight loss program. Apart from the many benefits exercise associated with exercise, the fitter you become, the more effectively your body mobilises stored fat cells for energy, therefore increasing fat burning. Exercise is also an amazing natural short-term appetite suppressant. The good news is that if you workout in the morning, research shows that you don’t actually become hungrier and over-eat later in the day to compensate for the energy spent exercising, which means any post exercise over-indulgence is more likely a mental thing, and not physiologically induced!
If you can’t keep track of what and how much you’re eating, keep a diet diary. Research shows that people who fill out a diet diary lose weight without even being told to change their diet. Increasing awareness around food intake is sometimes enough to decrease portion sizes.
The post-exercise eating window
One of the most crucial times to eat to help with fat loss is within the hour after you train. Doing a hard session and then skipping your post-workout snack or meal may be the worst mistake you can make when trying to lose weight. Extended exercise depletes muscle glycogen, or carbohydrate stores. By not replenishing depleted glycogen stores within at least 2 hours (30-45mins is the ideal though), your muscles, starving for fuel, can actually become insulin resistant for up to 16 hours post-exercise. This means that fat loss switches off, recovery stalls, hormones do not balance, and food is not used for fuel (meaning, it’s more likely to be stored as fat).
A 2004 study by Deakin University also found that depleted glycogen stores lead to muscle fatigue, insulin resistance, changes in gene transcription, as well as changes in metabolic processes such as the metabolism of protein, fats and carbohydrates, including protein degradation or breakdown. Kind of sounds like everything we don’t want to happen, right?
Carbs can (and should) be included in a healthy and effective weight loss plan. The key is eating the right carbs, at the right time, in the right amounts, and finding the carbs that work for you. This means you might choose some fruit, vegetables, starchy vegetables or even (gasp!) grains, if you can tolerate them and if you’re training hard enough. Examples include fruit and nuts, a protein shake with some oats or banana, some chicken and sweet potato, salmon and quinoa or eggs and sourdough toast.
Research actually shows that high GI carbs are a better option than low GI carbs for the post-exercise meal (as they’re absorbed faster), plus no more than 20g of protein. Refueling your body this way will help to repair damaged tissues, support your immune function and move the body from a catabolic (break-down) state, to an anabolic (growth and maintenance) state.
The fat burning zone
There’s an ongoing debate about whether the best exercise for fat loss is long sessions of low intensity aerobic work, such as long walks, or short bursts of high intensity exercise, such as interval training.
The truth is, to lose body fat you need to do a combination of both low intensity and high intensity exercise. This is because in essence, at low intensity exercise, the body chooses fat as the main substrate (fuel) to burn, even though it takes a while to get into that fat-burning zone (40mins+), while high intensity burns through more calories and stored carbohydrate in a shorter time-frame (usually within 20-30mins).
Another tip is to exercise in a fasted state, if suits your body, and you’re not exercising for more than 60-90mins (in which case carb loading is recommended). By exercising on an empty stomach, your body adapts and starts to burn fat more efficiently. Appropriate post-exercise refueling (remember, this means carbs and protein), will help to increase insulin sensitivity and activate muscle-growth pathways in the body. If exercising on an empty stomach makes you feel weak and nauseas have a little carbohydrate like a half a banana or a date before training. Basically, just make sure you’re exercising! If you’re not sure how to get started, find a trainer you trust, and get them to create an exercise program for you.
Re-train your brain
So often we become addicted to negative thoughts that we feel are our reality. So what if you tried to lose a few kilos once upon a time and couldn’t get down to your goal weight? Big deal. There’s no such thing as perfection, only excellence, and you need to believe in yourself that you are capable of change. Remember, failure isn’t finite, motivation isn’t forever, and consistency is key.
Don’t rely on motivation to get you to the gym, or to help you swap bread for broccoli. Motivation is an emotion just like happiness, sadness or excitement. We don’t feel the same emotion all day everyday. Humans just aren’t built like that. We can, however, be consistent in our exercise and meal planning, whether or not we feel motivated. This is what gets you up for training, this is what helps you make healthy meals, and this is what gets results. Try it; it works.
Support your thyroid
Your thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland that sits low on the front of your neck. The main function of the thyroid is to produce hormones that regulate metabolism, energy, cell growth and body temperature. For varying reasons, sometimes the thyroid becomes underactive (hypothyroidism) and may slow down the metabolism and make weight loss difficult. Fatigue, weight gain, cold extremities and depression are another sign of an underactive thyroid.
The first step is to make an appointment with your doc or a naturopath for a blood test to check what’s going on, but often this is an overlooked cause of otherwise unexplained weight gain or a real difficulty losing weight. Depending on the health of this crucial gland, there are beautiful herbs and nutrients to help support your thyroid and boost your metabolism such as zinc, selenium, vitamin D, iodine,
Withania and Rhodiola. A balanced diet is also crucial in order to support healthy thyroid function. For example, the thyroid hormone T4 needs selenium (found in nuts, seafood and eggs) to convert to the more active hormone T3, and zinc (found in nuts, seeds, seafood and meat) is needed for the cells to actually take up the hormone for use.
While diet and exercise are the most important weight loss aids in your tool kit, there are numerous natural supportive agents to help your journey. Gymnema is an Ayurvedic herb, which reduces sugar cravings, and almost tricks the body into thinking it’s had enough sugar, so your cravings reduce or may completely disappear. Fenugreek and Globe artichoke assist in fat metabolism, bitter melon boosts the metabolism and reduces insulin resistance, as does Goat’s rue (from which the diabetic medication Metformin is derived). Vitamin C will also boost the metabolism, and chromium and alpha-lipoic acid are two other nutrients which help to reduce sugar cravings and improve metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance states.
About the author
Cassie Mendoza-Jones is a naturopath, nutritionist and herbalist who believes in the healing power of nature. Cassie founded Elevate Vitality, a boutique naturopathic clinic in the heart of Bondi Beach, to help people find their healthiest self, and is the author of Cleansed, a simple program for a life of health, ease and abundance. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram , as well as writing articles and recipes for her blog.
Cassie is qualified in Naturopathy, Nutritional Medicine, Western Herbal Medicine and Touch For Health Kinesiology. She is currently furthering her studies in Kinesiology, as well as a Master of Human Nutrition at Deakin University.
Did you enjoy this post? What have been your weight loss experiences? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below… Stu