Many people who are just beginning their weight loss journey often struggle to lose weight despite following the right dietary and exercise principles. If you're battling with this right now, you're definitely not alone. You might have heard some people say they've "just got a slow metabolism", which is why they struggle to lose belly fat.
But what does that mean? For starters, it's best to define what the metabolism is. When we say "metabolism", we talk about all the metabolic processes involved in converting what you eat and drink into energy. If any excess calories from food and drink aren't used for energy, they become stored as fat. This is why people who use more energy (for example, doing more exercise and moving more throughout the day) tend to store less fat than those who live a largely sedentary lifestyle.
This is where "fast" and "slow" metabolisms come in: those with a higher metabolic rate are said to process more foods as energy, and store less foods as fat, than those with a lower metabolic rate. You can see here how metabolism comes into play when trying to lose weight.
There are a few ways to raise this metabolic rate number: for one, intense bouts of exercise. One study, published in the IDEA Fitness Journal, found metabolism was raised by high-intensity interval training, or HIIT for short, an exercise philosophy comprised of intense bursts of exercise punctuated by short breaks. It's one of the best exercises for weight loss, and we've got a four-week HIIT workout training plan ready-made.
However, it's not just exercise that can boost your metabolic rate. You can also make some simple food swaps to help you on your way to lose weight. These foods aren't just low in calories, but actively improve the way your body uses food for fuel. Make these swaps to see the benefits in a matter of weeks.
1. Swap sugary coffee for green tea
Your standard coffee shop concoction often contains loads of calories in the form of simple sugars and syrups. Sugar is processed by the body very quickly, which is why marathon runners suck down those tubes of syrup halfway through a race. However, if you're not already in motion, much of the sugar is not used as energy, instead being stored as fat.
Instead, opt for the metabolism-busting green tea. One study published in the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences (opens in new tab) monitored the effects of green tea in diabetics, finding four cups of green tea per day for two months led to a drop in body weight, waist circumference and blood pressure. We'll drink to that.
2. Swap cereal for eggs in the morning
Now you've swapped your wake-up brew, let's take a look at your breakfast. Cereals, unless they're whole grains like oats, are often just sugary calorie bombs based on simple carbohydrates. Ditto for toast in the morning.
Instead, opt for an omelette or scrambled eggs to really start your day on the right foot. Eggs are full of immune and mood-boosting vitamin D, while the protein content also improves metabolism by helping you create muscle mass. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn at rest, helping your metabolism keep working even while not exercising.
3. Swap red meat dinners for chicken or fish
If more protein equals a better metabolism, you might that's carte blanche to start chowing down on steak for dinner. However, unfortunately, you'd be wrong: one study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (opens in new tab) found red meat consumption was related to a lower metabolic rate in adult women. Red meat is full of beneficial stuff, such as protein and iron, but it's long been associated with cardiovascular risk.
It's best to eat red meat in moderation, and the study recommends swapping it out for an alternative protein source. Chicken, fish or legumes such as kidney beans are a great alternative to get plenty of protein into your diet while dodging unnecessary metabolic risks.
Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and News Editor at Fit&Well, covering all things exercise and nutrition on the Fit&Well website. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.
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