Welcome back to our little look on metabolism, energy and how to look and feel better with just a few simple lifestyle changes. Let’s get stuck right in:
1) Work with your own unique metabolism
The next time you’re hungry, stop when you feel satisfied – not stuffed! This can make a dramatic difference to the efficiency at which you digest food, produce energy from your food, and in turn burn excess fat weight! You may find you're a 3 meals-a-day person or conversely, 5 small meals may be better suited for your individual needs. Meal timings (and amounts) depend heavily on your lifestyle and exercise level, so find what suits you best and listen to your gut!
2) Focus on protein-rich meals and snacks
Ditch the sugary or refined carbs! Protein fires up the metabolism more than any other macronutrient. As passionate plant-based eaters, we know that protein doesn't have to come from meat or fish. Any plant-based food that has a good and varied concentration of amino acids is perfect - think nuts, beans, pulses, seeds, and lots of lovely leafy greens and organic vegetables.
Mineral-rich seeds such as pumpkin, sesame, sunflower seeds or shelled hemp seeds can be eaten on their own or added to salads or generously sprinkled over fruit. A few nuts as a snack is a great protein-rich pick-me-up, with almonds and walnuts being popular for their nutritional profiles and taste. You may prefer them in smoothies made with nut milks, and fresh fruits.
Starting the day with a focus on protein and healthy fat is also a good move. Try a bowl of fresh fruit, with berries, walnuts, and ground flax or hempseeds. Alternatively, go for a Nori seaweed wrap filled with avocado and spinach or watercress. These meals provide a good amount of protein and “good” fats to start the body's engine and keep your metabolism going throughout the day. Plus, these low carb meals will moderate the insulin response and result in more constant blood sugar level, as well as better fat burning capacity.
3) Don't forget your healthy fats!
Think especially about the omega-3 rich hemp seed oil, or flax oil which "rev up" the metabolism, specifically in helping the body more efficiently burn body fat. Add seed oils to salads or smoothies. Plant foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids include hemp seeds, flax and chia seeds, walnuts, and certain leafy greens and herbs such as watercress, lamb’s lettuce, purslane, and seaweeds/sea vegetables such as samphire.
As a nation we still believe that cutting all fat from the diet is the fastest way to lose weight! In many cases, eating less fat does help with weight loss, but let's not forget that the body needs quality, healthy, "essential" fats to make, maintain and repair all the trillion of cells in the body. Cells communicate to each other using receptors in their membranes that receive signals and messages all day long. These cell membranes must be fluid and flexible which means we need to feed them quality, unsaturated, healthy fats. Cells function very poorly on a diet high in saturated fats or refined "cooked" fats. In addition, our ATP (energy) production can be severely compromised.
If you eat an unbalanced diet full of unbalanced fats (i.e. not enough omega-3 and too much saturated and omega-6), the cell lipid layers are made up of these unhealthy fats which leads to insulin resistance and allows less sugar into the cells. This puts a person at far higher risk of insulin-resistance and diabetes.
4) Watch your intake of carbohydrates
If you want to lose some body fat, you may well need to reduce and limit your carb intake - that means potato, bread, porridge, muesli, other cereals, rice and pasta. Choose a little of the following healthy carbohydrates to accompany meal - quinoa, brown rice, beans and lentils. Try puy lentils which need no soaking and cook in 15-20 mins. Alternatively sprout your legumes!
5) Get good quality sleep
Too many of us underestimate the importance of a good night’s sleep. Sleep is crucial to keeping the body's metabolic pathways running smoothly. Not enough sleep has been linked to an increased output of the hunger hormone, ghrelin, as well as weight gain, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
6) Stoke the metabolic fire with the right kind of exercise!
Building muscle means an increased number and more efficient mitochondria (the cell structures that are the powerhouse of your metabolism). Exercise daily if you can, or at least 3-4 times a week. When you are short on time, spend it doing interval training (i.e. short intense bursts of exercise), and strength-training too, to increase muscle.