Fad diets and quick fixes. With so many options circulating the internet, there’s one thing that’s certain: there are no shortcuts to the discipline required to lose weight.
However, there are many evidence-based choices that can help us achieve our goals.
Modifying our diets, adding spices to dishes, drinking green tea and adding strength training to our overall routine are a few of the evidenced-based weight loss tips that we can take advantage of in the pursuit of better health.
Get to sleep
There are plenty of reasons to get enough sleep at night. Sleep is essential to living happy, healthy lives, from relieving chronic pain to elevating mood, from a better sex life to lower risk of injury in daily activities.
It turns out that sleep also plays a key role in controlling our weight.
Both physiological and behavioral factors are affected when we aren’t getting enough sleep. Leptin, a hormone that tells the brain that we’re full, decreases when we’re tired.
We tend to crave junk foods when our leptin levels are low; this is why potato chips, ice cream or chocolate sound so good when we’re exhausted.
As if that weren’t enough, when we’re tired, we also have less self-control. We don’t have the energy or the drive to cook a good meal at home or get outside to do something active.
In a review published in Sleep, researchers from the United Kingdom found that studies show a consistent and significant increase in obesity in children and adults who don’t get long stretches of sleep. Other conditions such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes are also associated with short nights.
Eat less sugar
Sugar hides out in places we least expect it: breakfast cereals, foods labeled “fat-free” and trail mixes. Other products are easier to spot for their high sugar content including soft drinks, candy and processed carbs.
In a study published in JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, young and middle-aged women were studied for the incidence of weight gain and type 2 diabetes related to the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks.
While researchers did not find a direct correlation between consuming such drinks and the incidence of weight gain or type 2 diabetes, they did find a worrisome correlation.
Women who increased the amount of sugar-laden drinks they consumed from one or fewer drinks per week to one or more drinks per day were at a higher risk for increased weight gain. The results point to dietary changes — namely the increase in consuming sugar — as a predictor of weight gain.
Another study from Harvard School of Public Health offers evidence that sodas, fruit juices and other sugar-sweetened drinks may contribute to larger health problems. Researchers found that sugar consumption plays a role in the incidence of coronary heart disease as the sugar contributes to inflammation in the body.
The study shows that when we consume excessive amounts of sugar, our body stores the energy and sugar from food in our fat cells. Cutting sugar from our diets helps our bodies to regulate naturally and let go of some of those excess pounds.
Eat more coconut oil
We love coconut oil for many reasons; one of those reasons is that coconut oil can aid weight loss. As a medium-chain fatty acid, coconut oil is metabolized in a different way than other fats.
Medium-chain fatty acids travel straight to the liver and are processed into ketone bodies before other forms of energy. The relationship between our bodies and medium-chain fatty acids, like coconut oil, means that our energy expenditure increases, which helps us burn more stored fat and thereby lose weight.
In a study conducted by the University of Geneva, Switzerland, subjects’ energy expenditure increased by five percent over a 24-hour period after consuming medium-chain fatty acids.
In addition, eating coconut oil instead of other fats may prevent weight gain. In a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that rats gained 20 percent less weight when fed medium-chain fatty acids rather than long-chain fatty acids.
The findings of the study suggest that medium-chain fatty acids promote the oxidation and burning of fat in the body in such a way that they may prevent obesity in humans.
Drink more water
We’ve all heard the recommendations: eight 8-ounce servings of water a day for health. Weight loss experts have also claimed that drinking plenty of water helps the body manage metabolism.
Often, we perceive thirst as hunger, so it’s a good idea to make sure you’re hydrated throughout the day to avoid overeating.
A group of researchers from Germany looked at 14 healthy subjects who were asked to consume 500 millilitres, or a little over two cups or 16 ounces, of water over a certain period.
Researchers found that subjects’ metabolic rate increased by 30 percent within 10 minutes of consumption. Energy — fats in men and carbohydrates in women — was burned at this increased rate after subjects drank water.
The results led researchers to conclude that drinking two liters of water a day could have a positive metabolic effect for those wanting to shed some weight.
Enjoy a cup of coffee or green tea
Too much caffeine can be bad for your health, especially if you have certain conditions, but it turns out that limited amounts of coffee and green tea may help you lose weight.
A study conducted by the Department of Human Nutrition at Wageningen Agricultural University in The Netherlands found that the metabolic rates of men increased immediately after the consumption of caffeinated coffee and remained elevated for over three hours.
An increased metabolism is one of the ways that the body burns fat, and how we lose weight.
If green tea is more appealing, its combination of catechin — a natural antioxidant — and caffeine makes it a great way to supplement weight loss.
A study published in Physiology & Behavior found that green tea improves the body’s ability to maintain appropriate weight and burn fat while also maintaining fat-free mass, that is muscle and connective tissues.
When you hit the gym, be sure to do some strength training. Not only does muscle burn more calories than fat — a significant help when starting a weight loss plan — but it also helps to maintain body mass and strength while losing weight.
One of the challenges that arises when reducing caloric intake is that muscle mass can decrease right along with the fat. In a study from the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, researchers found that subjects who lowered their caloric intake and engaged in both resistance training and cycling experienced a significantly lower body fat percentage while maintaining their fat-free mass percentage compared to other subjects.
The study suggests that a combination of resistance training, aerobic exercise and reduced caloric intake results in more effective weight loss.
There are innumerable benefits to staying active: flexibility, improved mood, and better overall health. Despite what some hardcore weightlifters may claim, aerobic exercise is beneficial to weight loss efforts.
A review published in Obesity Reviews found that aerobic workouts do help people lose weight and found that obese individuals may not have to engage in long workouts to benefit.
Try high-intensity interval training (HIIT) if you want to change up your workout routine. HIIT sessions provide beneficial cardio workouts in half the time it takes to run on the treadmill.
Eat plenty of protein
Protein gets a lot of attention from the fitness and weight loss world, and with good reason. It’s essential to the building of muscles, cartilage, skin, bones and blood.
Protein also helps repair the damage done to tissue, a function that’s particularly useful when engaged in a fitness routine. When we eat plenty of protein, we reap other benefits as well.
According to a study conducted by the University of Missouri, people who eat a higher percentage of protein experienced improved satiety and control over their appetite compared to subjects who participated in restricted diets.
What’s interesting about this study is that frequency of eating did not change; subjects simply remained satisfied for longer periods of time when eating more protein.
Various types of protein are readily available to people with any dietary restriction, even vegans. According to Dr. Reed Mangels, contributing author of Simply Vegan: Quick Vegetarian Meals, Vegan Nutrition, and Cruelty-Free Shopping, tempeh, cooked soybeans, seitan, cooked lentils and various forms of beans provide ample protein for those following a vegan diet.
Eat eggs for breakfast
For non-vegans, eating eggs for breakfast is a great way to boost weight loss. Eating eggs may help you lose weight by making you feel full for longer stretches of time.
In a study published in the International Journal of Obesity, researchers found that subjects who ate eggs for breakfast lost 65 percent more weight than those who ate morning meals that were full of carbohydrates.
The people who ate eggs in the morning also showed a 16 percent reduction in body fat. An omelet made with organic eggs and fresh organic vegetables is a great low-carbohydrate, high-protein breakfast to add a little boost to your day.
Eliminate refined carbohydrates
Carbohydrates get a bad rap, but not all carbohydrates are created equal. Carbs in the form of vegetables, fruits and certain whole grains can provide us with ample fiber and nutrients to keep our bodies functioning properly.
However, refined carbohydrates in the form of bread, cereals, pasta and sweets are bad news. Products that contain gluten and high amounts of sugar can lead to inflammation in the body and brain, leading to disorders like Alzheimer’s, depression, as well as weight gain.
Scientists have found that high glycemic index foods, namely refined carbohydrates, significantly contribute to overeating and lead to obesity.
In fact, a study conducted by the USDA and Children’s Hospital, published in the journal Pediatrics states, “The rapid absorption of glucose after consumption of high-GI [glycemic index] meals induces a sequence of hormonal and metabolic changes that promote excessive food intake in obese subjects.”
High glycemic index foods affect our bodies in such a way that we actually want to eat more than we should.
Being stressed out is one of the many reasons people gain weight. It’s hard to maintain healthy habits, and when our schedules become overloaded with tasks, it’s hard to break away for some exercise or time outdoors.
Biologically, our bodies come under fire when we’re stressed.
Cortisol, a key stress hormone secreted by the adrenal glands, is important for our survival. It’s the hormone that wakes us up in the morning and tells us it’s time to eat. One of its many jobs is to metabolize carbohydrates and fats into fast energy.
However, continual psychological stress can disrupt cortisol levels, and we tend to hold onto weight as a result. By reducing stress through sleep, meditation, yoga or other forms of relaxation, we can lower our cortisol levels so that our bodies can return to a normal state and we can lose weight more easily.
Spice things up
Looking for a quick boost toward your weight loss goals? Try adding a little spice to your mealtime routine. According to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, cinnamon helps reduce the concentration of blood glucose levels and boosts insulin sensitivity, which may help combat those extra pounds.
Capsaicin, a key component in red peppers, has been observed by researchers in Denmark to extend satiety and suppress hunger. Adding some spice to your next meal may be the boost you need to help achieve your weight loss goals.
Weight loss isn’t an impossible goal. With dedication and discipline, new behaviors and ways of eating will become habits that lead to better health and overall wellness.