How to lose weight? That’s a question more and more people are asking as the number of overweight and obese individuals continues to climb every year.
There are many strategies to lose weight but the successful ones revolve around consuming low glycemic eating, regular exercise that triggers hormonal responses, and hormone optimization.
Weight loss can be best achieved by consuming a low-glycemic diet, engaging in regular exercise that raises hormone levels, and through hormonal optimization.
Overweight and Obesity: Tale of the Tape
According to the NIH two-thirds of adults are overweight; defined as a body-mass index (BMI) of 25 to 30, and one-third of adults are obese; defined as a body-mass index greater than 30.
Why We are Fat
Most are aware that exercise and nutrition are important to maintaining a healthy weight but many are not aware that not all calories are the same. Some calories are more fattening than others. This is related to how foods raise insulin levels. Insulin is a fattening hormone. If you want to lose weight you need to keep your insulin levels low.
Consuming foods that are high in sugar (high glycemic) causes the body to secrete too much insulin. White starchy carbs also cause a spike in insulin levels. If you want to lose weight you should avoid pastas, breads, rice, and potatoes as much as possible.
It is not possible to burn calories from fat tissues when insulin levels are excessive. That’s how detrimental high insulin levels can be.
Even some of those who eat a well-balanced diet and who exercise regularly struggle to maintain an optimal weight. The best exercises for weight loss trigger hormonal changes that improve metabolism. This includes the release of growth hormone and testosterone. Exercises that trigger this hormonal response include weight training and high intensity interval training.
If you are gaining weight despite no change in your diet and exercise program you likely have developed a hormonal imbalance.
As we age our hormones decline. In women an imbalance between estrogen and progesterone occurs, and in men testosterone levels decline with aging frequently leading to increase fat around the waist. In addition, growth hormone, DHEA, and thyroid levels frequently decline in men and women as we age.
How to Lose Weight: Getting the Sugar Out
It’s difficult to lose weight when insulin levels are high. Insulin is produced in response to carbohydrate consumption. There are complex carbohydrates and simple carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates come from fruits and vegetables and are healthy. Simple carbohydrates are found in processed and pre-package foods, and also include snacks and soft drinks. Simple carbohydrates cause a spike in insulin production. Insulin helps drive glucose into the cells, but too much insulin prevents our ability to burn calories from our fat stores.
High glycemic foods are those that cause a rapid and excessive rise in insulin levels. Consuming a low glycemic diet allows the body to keep insulin secretion at healthy levels. To keep insulin levels to minimum consume carbohydrates that have a glycemic index less than 55 and a glycemic load less than 15. Click here for more information on the glycemic index.
The Food Pyramid developed by the USDA does not distinguish between high and low glycemic carbohydrtates. A low glycemic model is the Cenegenics’ Food Diamond. Notice the importance of water.
Eating more frequent meals (every three to four hours) is also associated with lower risk of obesity.
How to Lose Weight: Pumping Iron
Though the typical recommendations of walking 30 minutes most days of the week is a good starting point for those who are sedentary, it is not enough to achieve optimal health, nor does it improve hormone levels which are essential in controlling and maintaining an ideal weight.
The health benefit of strength training is finally being recognized. Moderate and strenuous strength training stimulate the body’s production of testosterone and growth hormone (women need testosterone too) which increases our lean muscle mass. Muscle is far more metabolically active than fat. So even at rest a more muscular person burns more calories than a similar weight person who has more body fat.
Also, high intensity cardiovascular training, or interval training increases our metabolism to a greater degree than the typical aerobic training performed at steady pace for 30 minutes so. High intensity interval training can increase metabolism sometimes up to 16 hours in women and 48 hours in men.
See “Exercises to Lose Weight” and “Diet and Exercise are the Keys to Weight Loss”.
How to Lose Weight: Hormonal Optimization
It is vital that adults struggling to achieve an acceptable weight have their hormones checked and replaced if low, preferably with bio-identical hormones. This would include thyroid, DHEA, testosterone, and growth hormone levels in men and women, and estrogen and progesteronelevels in women.
Healthy hormone levels are usually defined as levels seen in a healthy 30 year-old or levels in the upper third of the range for a given age range. Optimized hormones are associated with lower rates of cancer and heart disease, better sense of well being, better mental acuity, better sex lives, and better strength.
See “Anti Aging Hormones“.