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Winter Fat

Metabolism and Weight Management in the Winter

by Calvin Zaryski

Hunker down, the winter months are upon us and most will gain fat mass. Blame the fact that most mammals fatten up over the winter due to colder temperatures or less daylight, the question remains on how to avoid this phenomenon. Most attribute it to a lowering of metabolism, if so, how can we increase our metabolic rate in the winter months to minimize fat gain.

Metabolism is a combination of physical and chemical processes that are responsible for regulating and maintaining your body health. All of the nutrients responsible for these processes come from your diet. Your metabolic rate is the amount of calories you expend everyday.

Three factors determine your total metabolic rate. The basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the rate your body uses energy for vital body processes. The rate you burn energy during physical activity and the rate you use energy during digestion of food are the two other factors involved in your total metabolic rate.

Research has proven that in order to either lose fat mass or maintain your current state, you metabolic rate and caloric expenditure should be equal or more than the amount of daily calories your consume. If you accomplish several days of this negative imbalance, it is likely that you will lose body fat.

The notion of consuming certain foods that increase metabolism has some validity. Research has shown that chili peppers and spicy foods increases metabolism, but only slightly and only for a short period of time. Even green tea has been investigated but was concluded that normal amounts would have no effect on losing fat mass. There are no foods that have been scientifically proven to increase your metabolic rate enough to shed those unwanted pounds.

The entire process of eating food in general does increase your metabolism. Therefore, eating frequently but in small amounts, is more advantageous than eating two or three larger meals per day. Furthermore, protein requires about 25% more energy to digest when compared to most carbohydrates and could be part of the explanation why higher protein diets tend to have better weight loss results. However, there are some carbohydrates that are termed negative calorie foods. These foods use more calories to digest than the calories the foods actually contain! For instance, a 25 calorie piece of broccoli (100 grams) requires 80 calories to digest, resulting in a net loss of 55 calories.  In fact, there are a large number of foods that combine low calories, delicious taste, and excellent negative calorie properties. Some of these natural foods are asparagus, apple, beet, berries, broccoli, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, celery, chili, cucumber, garlic, lettuce, grapefruit, lemon, mango, onion, orange, papaya, pineapple, spinach, turnip, zucchini to name a few.

Of course, exercise must be mentioned as a major factor that will increase metabolism. Specifically, the higher the intensity and the amount of time spent at high intensity, the greater the metabolic rate will be elevated and the longer it will remain high. Simply monitor your heart rate after an easy 60 minute run, versus a 10km running race pushing your physiological limits. Also, it seems that exercising in the morning tends to elicit better overall fat loss results, particularly if the exercise is intensive. Morning intensive exercise is more likely to become a habit and an increase in morning metabolism helps burn calories for the rest of the day.

Resistance training also increases metabolic activity and is responsible for maintaining and gaining muscle mass. Muscle tissue burns much of the calories when at rest. Even when not formally exercising, activating muscles, such as fidgeting, walking around while talking on the phone or wiggling your fingers and toes when watching TV, increases your metabolic rate. So always keep moving!

The science is clear on how to ward off that unwanted fat or shed those unwanted pounds. There are no safe long lasting metabolic enhancement foods that can be consume. But rather some simple nutrition tips that, if all are incorporated, results are likely. Bottom line, you must focus on low calorie foods, eat them often in the day but ensure adequate protein and essential fats are being consumed. Couple this eating strategy with regular exercise with at least 2 session per week pushing the intensity with a sprinkle of resistance training and you have the formula to stay trim over the winter.

Author: Calvin Zaryski MKin, CEP



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