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Every year, millions of Americans struggle to lose excess weight. There are just so many barriers to shedding those unwanted “lbs.” Not enough time, not eating enough of the right foods, and not having the right tools to succeed. But with a few tips, and the right tools in your “get fit” toolbox, you can achieve your weight loss goals and feel great in the process.
Vinegar has been used as a weight loss aid for almost 200 years1 and researchers are now proving why. Apple cider vinegar (ACV), in particular, may hold promise for those wishing to lose weight. In one study,2 a tablespoon of ACV mixed with eight ounces of water and consumed twice daily at meal times reduced fasting blood sugar levels in adults at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This is beneficial to weight loss via multiple mechanisms, such as reducing cravings and reducing insulin spikes in the body. Insulin is our “fat storage” hormone, which causes us to hold onto weight. Another study3 showed that two teaspoons of vinegar taken directly before meals effectively reduced post-meal blood sugar levels by 20% when compared to a placebo group. ACV has also been shown4 to activate something called AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK)—an enzyme in our cells that helps protect against obesity and diabetes.5 AMPK is essentially our “metabolic master switch.” In one study,vi 150 overweight men ingested a daily beverage containing either 15 ml (~3 teaspoons), 30 ml (~6 teaspoons), or 0 ml of vinegar. The study showed that body mass index (BMI), visceral fat, waist circumference, and triglyceride levels were significantly lower in both vinegar groups compared to the placebo group, leading the researchers to conclude that daily intake of vinegar might be useful in the prevention of metabolic syndrome—a group of health problems characterized by excessive weight gain around the abdomen, that can increase your risk of heart attack, stroke, and diabetes.
For many years fat was demonized as the enemy of weight loss, and low-fat products flooded the market. But since then our waistlines have been increasing, not decreasing. What gives? Turns out, the right type of healthy fat is actually very beneficial for those trying to lose weight. High-fat, low-carb foods help you to feel satiated and keep blood sugar stabilized, which in turn reduces insulin spikes—a known culprit behind weight gain. In addition, there is emerging scientific evidence that low-carb, high fat (LCHF) diets—known as ketogenic diets—support sustainable, long-term weight loss compared to high-carb, low-fat (HCLF) diets. A LCHF diet is usually made up of less than 20% of energy from carbohydrate, more than 50% of energy from healthy fats, and variable amounts of protein. The healthy fats from this type of diet come from coconut oil, olive oil, butter, whole fat dairy products, animal fats from pasture-raised and grass-fed animals, nuts and seeds, seafood and wild-caught fish. What research has revealed is, despite a common misconception that diets high in fat would increase the risk for obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes—instead, long-term LCHF diets actually reduce these metabolic risk factors. Several meta-analyses and systematic reviews concluded, “Individuals assigned to a very-low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet achieve greater weight loss than those assigned to a low-fat, high-carb diet in the long term; hence, a low-carb, ketogenic diet may be an alternative tool against obesity.”7 8
But are all fats created equal? Research shows that unlike other fats, medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) are easily converted into ketones by the liver. Coconuts and coconut oil are particularly helpful when it File Under “Weight Loss—Tips” CLF 02/18 2 comes to weight loss due to their high content of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). Coconut oil contains 65% MCTs,9 and are easily burned as fuel in the body instead of being stored as fat. In fact, coconut oil has even been shown to temporarily increase metabolism.10 Other healthy fats from foods like avocados and avocado oil, olive oil, palm oil, cheese, butter, nuts, nut butters, and seeds—all contribute to ketone production in the body when you consume a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet.
Exercise really is an important ally when it comes to losing weight—whether it’s taking daily walks, practicing yoga or hitting the gym. Besides the obvious benefits like burning calories and maintaining cardiovascular fitness, exercise increases metabolism and muscle mass and often leads to weight loss. Unfortunately, a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet, chronic inflammation, a sedentary lifestyle, and the natural aging process can all increase muscle loss, which in turn sabotages metabolism and promotes weight gain. Additionally, a common weight loss practice of restricting calories—eating a low calorie diet to lose weight—also causes us to lose muscle mass. This then sabotages our weight loss efforts, as anything that negatively impacts muscle mass reduces metabolism and our ability to maintain a healthy weight. The good news is, weight-bearing exercise, also known as resistance training, combined with the right diet and supplements, can counteract these negative effects. According to the latest research, “When performed regularly, resistance training has been shown to increase strength, muscular endurance, muscle mass and results in favorable changes in body composition, including decreases in body fat mass and increases in lean mass.”11 Good stuff. But, studies show that having adequate protein during and after exercise is key and certain supplements can facilitate muscle regeneration, especially in the case of restricting calories (which is popular when trying to lose weight). Leucine, isoleucine, and valine are a family of amino acids, known as branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), renowned for their pro-muscle, pro-health benefits. BCAAs are found in certain foods and can also be consumed in supplement form. They aid in building and maintaining muscle mass because they stimulate muscle synthesis and slow down muscle protein catabolism, also known as breakdown. In other words, you’re building more muscle and breaking down less muscle—providing a one-two punch. Studies show individuals on low-calorie diets that supplemented with BCAAs during resistance training, maintained lean mass, suppressed post-exercise muscle breakdown, and lost fat mass while those not taking BCAAs lost muscle mass.12
There’s another whey to get BCAAs! Whey protein contains BCAAs and is one of the best natural sources.13 It’s beneficial for weight loss because it’s absorbed faster than other forms of protein, which means it increases muscle synthesis more effectively.14 Additionally, in one animal study15 it was shown that consuming whey protein before exercise supports fat burning and may help maintain lean body mass, therefore improving overall body composition. Another reason why whey is so beneficial for weight loss is because it contains glutamine. Glutamine is an amino acid that promotes muscle growth and decreases muscle wasting.16 It’s also commonly used to curb sugar cravings17 and improve insulin sensitivity18, which can both play a positive role in successful weight loss programs. By incorporating these helpful tips, you can lose weight and feel great in the process.