Firing up your metabolism this Winter
Metabolism is an issue that is brought up quite often when it comes to health, and in particular where weight loss is concerned. With a plethora of diets, exercises and supplements available to attempt to shed those unwanted kilos, it is often a daunting and confusing time especially when trying to seek advice as to the best plan to follow on your path to weight loss.
However, what if you’re one of those individuals who has “tried everything” to lose weight? You’ve tried following a low-carb diet and perhaps exercising up to 5 times a week for example. Yet the kilos and centimetres barely change. Then the frustration hits you, and you’re being tempted to give up and reach for a chocolate bar or a bucket of hot chips.
For a number of patients of mine, who have visited my clinic seeking weight loss solutions, the above scenario is quite common. They don’t know what else to do. They would like to take to their weighing scales with a sledgehammer (as one patient once said to me in frustration!). They don’t want to give up but where to from here?
One aspect of weight loss that is a constant is metabolism. Think of metabolism as a slow fire that’s burning inside you, making sure that everything “moves” around in the body. In winter especially, it may feel like your metabolism is even slower. Ideally you should “stoke” that fire with adequate support including nutritional and lifestyle factors such as exercise.
A METABOLISM TEST THAT YOU CAN DO AT HOME
Fortunately, there is a simple test that one can perform at home to see whether or not metabolism may be an issue when it comes to weight loss.
All you need is a thermometer. The idea is to take a measurement of your basal temperature, which by definition is the lowest body temperature during rest. The best time of the day to take your basal temperature reading is 6am, and the ideal measurement is 36.5 degrees Celsius.
To perform the test, simply take and record your temperature upon rising at 6am for three (3) consecutive mornings. Now if the temperature on any of the three days falls below 36.5 degrees, then it is likely that your metabolism is sluggish, and requires attention.
SO WHAT GOVERNS METABOLISM:
The two main areas of the body that requires focus when it comes to supporting optimal metabolism is the Thyroid Gland and Muscle Mass.
The thyroid is responsible for the production of a hormone known as Thyroxine (T4) and is the key hormone to regulate metabolism. Thyroxine converts to Triiodothyronine (T3) and is considered the free thyroid hormone, the one that does the work in maintaining your metabolism.
Certain nutritional factors play a crucial role in process of manufacturing T4 and T3. The thyroid requires an adequate dose of the trace mineral Iodine from the diet to assist in the synthesis of T4. For the conversion of T4 to T3, the body requires other specific nutrients. These are Zinc, Selenium and Tyrosine.
Both Zinc and Selenium play a crucial role in the conversion of T4 to T3 whilst the amino acid Tyrosine is crucial as a precursor nutrient to both T4 and T3.
Therefore, having adequate amounts of Iodine, Zinc, Selenium and Tyrosine in the diet can definitely assist in the support and maintenance of healthy thyroid function and, therefore, healthy metabolism.
Apart from specific supplements that are normally prescribed by health care professionals and target thyroid health, you can also obtain these nutrients from the diet.
Food sources of Iodine include seaweeds such as kelp and dulse. Dulse in particular is one of my favourites as you can purchase them from the health food store in the form of flakes and you can sprinkle a teaspoonful onto your favourite salads or on a warm bed of brown rice or quinoa. Seaweeds in general have a wonderful array of nutrients, with Iodine being one of the main nutrients sourced, and is considered one of the most important superfoods that we have at our disposal.
Food sources of Zinc include animal proteins such as beef and lamb, eggs, oysters and pumpkin seeds (or also known as pepitas). Selenium food sources include Brazil Nuts, Lean Beef and Wild-Caught Fish such as Tuna and Sardines.
As for Tyrosine food sources, given that it’s a key amino acid, you would find it mainly in protein sources such as Egg Whites, Salmon and Turkey. However, it appears that you can also receive adequate levels from Spirulina, a well-known blue green algae and classified as a superfood.
At times I’ve had to prescribe supplements, which include all the important nutritional factors mentioned, when it appears that dietary sources aren’t being met.
For specific details about your levels of thyroid hormone, you can request from your doctor a blood test that will measure your Thyroid function via three different areas:
TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone)
TSH is the most common measurement taken and it’s the TSH that is produced when thyroid hormone output is low and therefore stimulates the thyroid to produce more. Also, if seeking this test, please ask if the doctor can also measure T4 and T3 levels, as I’ve found from my experience that T4 and T3 often get left out of a Thyroid Function Test and in my opinion, measuring T4 is T3 is crucial to establish the overall current status of thyroid health.
AS FOR EXERCISE
When it comes to exercise and supporting metabolism, any form of exercise engaging muscle mass is the most ideal way. Furthermore, I would encourage exercises that target the biggest groups of muscles in the body, namely your legs and glutes, chest and back.
Exercises that engage these large muscle groups include:
Deep Squats and Dead Lifts (legs and glutes)
Pull-Ups/Chin-Ups and Row (Back)
Burpees (Whole Body)
It is crucial to add a selection of exercises such as these to target metabolism, especially where slow weight loss results are being seen. Quite often I’ve seen and heard stories from individuals struggling with weight loss, saying that they do so much cardio workouts such as runs, walks, cycle, etc. Yes these are important when it comes to weight loss to burn off the calories. However, by including weight-based exercises focusing on muscle mass, you will increase your chances of firing up that potentially sluggish metabolism (and ultimately you chances of achieving your weight loss goals) dramatically.
With the exercises mentioned previously, you can do a few of these at home (such as the push ups, squats and burpees). My recommendation here is to perform these using the TABATA technique. TABATA is a form of high-intensity interval training where you perform an exercise for 20 seconds then have a 10 second rest. This is repeated 8 times giving the total time of exercise of 4 minutes. Studies have shown that TABATA can improve both aerobic and anaerobic fitness levels and in such a shorter space of time. Very convenient when you can’t get to the gym or especially during the winter months where you may not want to leave the comfort of your living room.
So give your thyroid and muscle mass every support that they need in order to boost your sluggish metabolism during the winter months.