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11 - How to lose fat and boost metabolic rate

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It used to be thought that 'slow metabolism' was just an excuse for lacking the willpower needed to lose weight. However, it is now increasingly recognised that many people have a slow metabolism. This can be caused by many things, including low thyroid or even just by repeated dieting.

The problem is, inbuilt survival mechanisms make your metabolism slower whenever there is limited food, to maximise the chances of you surviving until your next meal. If you restrict your intake of food too drastically, say with a very low calorie diet, your body will think a famine is imminent, and you go into 'starvation mode'. Your body becomes more efficient at using the energy from every last scrap of food, and at the same time becomes better at holding on to the fat stores you've already got. You have now got a depressed metabolic rate, and this clearly makes it even more difficult for you to lose weight than it was when you started your dieting.

More about how to boost your metabolism and lose weight successfully is explained in the book "Why Can't I Lose Weight".

The simple answer is that to get your body to release stored body fat or 'burn fat efficiently' you need to take in less energy than your body needs to maintain and repair itself and to provide the energy you need to go about your daily activities. Your body will then have to break down its fat stores in order to make up the energy deficit.

However, if you simply reduce your calories drastically in order to create a large energy deficit, you won't necessarily lose stored body fat. For instance, inbuilt survival mechanisms make your metabolism slower whenever there is limited food, to maximise the chances of you surviving until your next meal. If you restrict your intake of food too drastically, say with a very low calorie diet, your body will think a famine is imminent, and you go into 'starvation mode'. Your body becomes more efficient at using the energy from every last scrap of food, and at the same time becomes better at holding on to the fat stores you've already got.

If you fail to take in enough protein, which cannot be stored, your body will have to break down some of your lean muscle tissue to obtain the protein it needs. You may lose weight as a result, but it will be lean muscle and not fat that you have lost. This is clearly not what you want, and the resulting lower metabolic rate will also make it even more difficult for you to lose weight than it was when you started your dieting. More about how to ensure you lose stored body fat and not lean muscle when you lose weight is explained in the book "Why Can't I Lose Weight".

Ketosis is the state where your body burns fat rather than carbohydrate for energy. The fat can be from both your diet and from the breaking down of your fat stores. Burning fat from your fat stores is what you are particularly interested in when you are trying to lose weight.

You go into ketosis when your carbohydrate intake is so low that your body is forced to move to a fat-burning metabolism. The Atkins Diet results in ketosis in the first couple of weeks at least for most people, because its restriction of 18 to 20 g carbs per day is low enough for most people to move into ketosis.

It usually takes about 2 to 4 days to get into ketosis, as your body uses its remaining carbohydrate stores before it is forced to start burning fat for energy.

By-products of the ketosis called ketones are excreted in the urine. This enables you to use urine dipsticks to easily test whether you are 'in ketosis' or not.

Burning stored body fat (and not lean muscle) is very important when you lose weight. More about this is explained in the book "Why Can't I Lose Weight".

Body composition is extremely important for successful weight loss. If you have a high ratio of muscle, you will burn more calories in your daily activities than would be the case if you had a lower amount of muscle and a higher body fat percentage. With more muscle, you have a higher overall metabolic rate. If on the other hand you lose weight by losing lean muscle rather than your stored fat (which can happen if you don't take in enough protein), you'll have a lower metabolic rate and it will be even harder to lose weight in future.

So exercise which builds up muscle (such as lifting weight or resistance exercise) is good for helping weight loss.

More about why building or preserving muscle is important for successful and permanent weight loss and what 'burn fat not muscle' means is explained in the book "Why Can't I Lose Weight".