How to Get Your Body to Burn Fat: 5 Tips You Need to Know
by Dr. Nancy Rahnama
Director of Health & Nurition
Our bodies hold onto fat out of an ancient need to preserve us against famine and cold. Of course, they don’t seem to realize that we don’t need to hold onto fat for those reasons – we live in homes with central heating and likely have a convenience store within a mile or two of our front door. That makes losing weight an uphill battle. We don’t need the fat, yet our bodies are reluctant to lose it (and all too eager to put it on!). So, how do we get our bodies into fat-burning mode?
1. Defend Against Cravings
Your cravings are going to be the number one thing working against you because they’re driving you to eat carbohydrates which will continue the cycle of putting on fat. When we’ve got enough energy to function, our bodies start turning the excess into fat, so the more we can cut those cravings, the better. Here are some of the best ways you can curb your cravings:
Drink water when you’re hungry – drinking a glass of water when you’re hungry will ensure you’re not mistaking hunger for thirst and will help you eat less when it finally is time for your meal.
- Eat more protein – protein can help you feel more full for longer, and provides your body with the building blocks it needs to keep it in top condition. Studies have found that those who ate 25% of their daily calories in protein had 60% fewer cravings than the control group, including 50% less at night.
Eat bigger, balanced meals – if you find you’re getting hungry between meals, consider increasing the size of your meals and resisting the urge to snack in between. If your meals are full of protein, vegetables, and healthy carbohydrate sources, you won’t get hungry until just before your next meal.
2. Improve Insulin Function
Controlling and improving insulin function in the body is the key to weight loss. Insulin is the hormone that spurs weight gain and will keep weight on. When you improve insulin function, your body won’t have to produce as much insulin and will start to let go of stored fat and retained water, while also decreasing the drive to find more food. Some of the best ways to improve insulin function are:
Don’t eat for at least 3 hours before you go to bed, and get more sleep
Try to get daily exercise, though even just 3 sessions of 30 minutes a week can have a dramatic difference
Try to reduce stress in your life, as it can keep your blood sugar levels high as your body keeps you in (or close to) your fight-or-flight response
Eat more fiber as it helps reduce your appetite and resistance to insulin
Cut down on carbs – make sure you know how much you’re supposed to eat a day and do your best to keep your carbohydrate intake close to that number
3. Increase Your Metabolic Rate
We all remember those skinny kids at school who had metabolisms so fast they could eat anything and they’d never put on weight (maybe you were one of them!). As we age, this lightning-fast metabolism is no longer necessary, as we are done growing.
However, if we want to burn fat we need to give our bodies as many signals to increase our metabolic rate as possible, so we can naturally burn more calories at rest (called your basal metabolic rate, or BMR).
The best way to increase metabolic rate is to increase your muscle mass. You may have heard of bodybuilders and athletes who eat over 5000 calories a day, simply to maintain their muscle mass, and they can do that without packing on the pounds thanks to their elevated BMR.
The good news is, you can increase your muscle mass by weight training. Many people now lose a lot of weight this way, without ever having to get on the treadmill.
4. Ensure You Don’t Have Vitamin Deficiencies
Our bodies need a wide array of vitamins and minerals to function optimally, and when we’re deficient in one or more of those vitamins and minerals, our bodies start to cut corners to ensure the most vital processes in our bodies go smoothly. This means we may see our hair, nails, and skin get dull, we may experience minor health issues, and we’ll likely be unable to lose weight. We can always lose weight if we’re in a calorific deficit, but you’ll have far better and faster results if your body has all the essentials it needs to build a healthier you.
5. Eat A Balanced, Healthy Diet
Taking a multivitamin is a great way to ensure you are getting all the essentials you need, but don’t expect to get good results if you’re taking a supplement but not making any other changes. You should ensure you get sufficient exercise (walking does wonders!) and eating a diet rich in healthy protein and vegetables.
Foods high in fiber are particularly good, and there are even foods that can help you boost your metabolism. Some of the best foods to help give you a fat-burning edge are:
Legumes, such as lentils (high in protein), kidney/red beans, black beans
Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts
Citrus fruits, such as oranges, lemons, and limes
Spicy foods, such as chili peppers
Berries, such as strawberries and raspberries
A little caffeine (ideally from tea or black coffee)
There’s a lot of talk in the media about the Keto diet, which is just one way you can kick your body into fat-burning mode, but the ways we’ve talked about here are far healthier in the long run and will ensure you don’t become deficient in any vitamins or minerals, or struggle to stick to a limiting diet. When you stay away from sugar and stress, get enough sleep, and eat meals full of healthy fiber and nutritious protein and vegetables, you’ll soon see your body fat percentage fall.
Dr. Nancy Rahnama, MD, ABOM, ABIM, is a medical doctor board certified by both the American Board of Obesity Medicine and the American Board of Internal Medicine. Her specialty is Clinical Nutrition, that is, the use of nutrition by a medical doctor to diagnose and treat disease. Dr. Rahnama has helped thousands of people achieve their goals of weight loss, gut health, improved mood and sleep, and managing chronic disease. In addition to her private practice in Beverly Hills, she is also the co-founder and Director of Nutrition for Dr Nancy MD.
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