As the summer begins, our sun-kissed skin and newly made tan lines are all indicators that we are ready for some fun in the sun action! With more daylight hours to take advantage of during the summer season, the chances of falling off the healthy bandwagon seem to increase due to the influx of beach bash invites and BBQ outings. Follow these five tips to help keep you and your health on track this summer!
1. Calm Down!
Being a super spaz about looking like the girl on a magazine, or stressing out about fitting into a size small shirt at the new hipster store can actually be causing you to gain weight!
Within seconds of the stressful event, neurotransmitters and hormones, such as cortisol are released into the bloodstream, igniting the flight or fight response in the body. The fight or flight response causes our blood glucose to rise rapidly, which then releases insulin quickly to shuttle glucose into our cells, which lowers our blood sugar too quickly, leading to low levels of blood glucose again. This leads to blood sugar imbalances and sets our body up for hormone dysfunction and overeating.
Chronic low-grade stress can lead to weight gain. Stress results in our body releasing cortisol, leading to weight gain, specifically belly fat. Evidence shows that increased cortisol hormone levels caused by prolonged stress can lead to overall weight gain and muscle breakdown.
2. Pack Your Lunch Box
“It’s what you eat, not how hard you try to work it off, that matters more in losing weight”-John Cloud
Food is information for your cells and you want to tell your cells to turn up your metabolism and burn off that stored fat. No secret pill will ever do what real food can do for your long-term health and wellness.
Believe it or not, you have to eat to keep your metabolism healthy and to prevent your body from going into starvation mode. Cutting calories might seem like the right thing to do when the thought of putting on your two-piece is lurking in the back of your mind, but eating the right foods throughout the day can actually help to prevent extreme dips in blood sugar. In fact, research has shown that dieting, combined with extreme caloric restriction, does not lead to long-term weight loss. Bouts of dieting has been shown to be ineffective because it can actually increase chronic psychological stress and cortisol production—two factors that are known to cause weight gain.
When you go too long without eating your blood sugar levels will drop quite low, which most likely will lead to over eating later in the day. Once you succumb to your rumbling tummy, the chances of you making poor food choices (when you actually do decided to eat) after hours of prolonged non-eating might be impaired and favor more sugar laden, nutritiously neutered options, such as processed snacks or even fast food.
Chose nutrient dense food; this means foods that provide the greatest amounts of nutrients, as well as a large amount of vitamins, minerals and flavor, such as grass fed protein, organic produce and healthy fats.
3. Drink Tea
That’s right, sip your way to slimmer body. You don’t have to attend a proper high tea to reap the benefits, simply have a tea party right in your own living room.
Green tea is known for its role in increasing fat oxidation, inhibiting fat cell development and increasing metabolism.The active compound found in green tea, EGCG, supports the production of the hormone noradrenaline, which increases fat-burning and modulates fat absorption and metabolism.
Holy basil, also known as Tulsi, is one of the most revered plants in India. It dual ability to act as an adaptogen herb and antioxidant tea allows holy basil to offer a host of benefits to the entire body. Extremely popular in ayurveda, holy basil does a great job of helping the body adapt to stressors. Tulsi’s adaptogenic properties helps balance hormones, specifically our stress hormone cortisol, and support the adrenal glands, which deals with our energy levels and thyroid health.
The amino acid L-theanine, which is found in black tea, can help with relaxation and reduce the body’s stress hormone cortisol, which can affect weight management.
Kombucha, a probiotic rich tea, can contribute to healthy digestive gut flora. Kombucha can help to enhance the breakdown of food and absorption of nutrients, which can support a healthy metabolism.
4. Get Tropical
This functional food and miracle fat should be a stable in your diet, beauty regimen and staple in your kitchen cabinets … I’m talking about coconut oil! Coconut oil is different from other fats in the diet; coconut oil contains medium chain triglycerides (MCT), which are metabolized, or broken down, differently than other fats.
MCT go straight to the liver from the digestive tract, where they are used as a quick source energy, as well as increasing energy expenditure. A recent study found that the medium chain triglycerides in coconut oil have been shown to increase 24 hour energy expenditure by as much as 5 percent, potentially leading to significant weight loss over the long term. For a sweet tooth fix mix together a tablespoon of coconut oil, with some stevia, cinnamon and raw cocoa powder and pop in the freezer for 15 minutes and enjoy!
5. Stop Boozing!
I know the summer is a time to socialize and drink but remember those dreadful 40 minutes on the Stairmaster … well you just blew it in about 5 minutes with those two for $1 dollar beers. It’s really no secret that alcohol is wasted calories and offers no nutritional value (not to mention toxic for your liver, turns into straight sugar, dehydrates you, bloats you and most likely makes you feel less than ideal the next day).
Drinking can also set you up for some poor decision making skills when it comes to food choices, in fact according to a new study by researchers at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) found people who drink more are also likely to eat less fruit and consume more calories from a combination of alcoholic beverages and foods high in unhealthy fats and added sugars. The study of more than 15,000 adults in the United States found that increased alcoholic beverage consumption was associated with decreased diet quality; the study found that as alcoholic beverage consumption increased, Healthy Eating Index scores decreased, which is an indication of poorer food choices.
If you must booze do it wisely. Try not to turn the entire weekend into a booze-bender—cap it at two drinks and keep them low calorie and sugar free. Opt for vodka and seltzer or even try sipping on some tequila on the rocks with a splash of lime juice. If you are looking for some extra points, try and break out your best moves on the dance floor to burn some extra calories and count it as cardio!
Extra Credit: Skinny Ingredients
Whether you are heading to a BBQ, packing some healthy snacks for your next road trip or simply looking for additional ways to fire up your metabolism this beach body season try adding in some of these “skinny ingredients” to your health regimen.
Apples—The secret to this delicious and nutritious treat lies in its all-star antioxidant glutathione. Glutathione has been found to increase levels of antioxidant enzymes in the blood, which protect your body from toxins that are linked to weight gain. Remember toxins are stored in your fat cells, so when you are losing fat you are losing toxins…you want to be sure you have the proper nutrients to help eliminate the toxic back up. Apples also contain ursolic acid, which increase muscle while reducing body fat.
Healthy Fats—Essential fatty acids (EFA’s) increase the production of fat-burning enzymes in the body, as well as balance blood sugar levels and support hormone balance. Try adding avocados, nut butters and seeds to your protein shake in the mornings; you can also add liquid EFA’s to your smoothies, such as fish and flax oils, as well as CLA to reap all of the extra fat burning benefits! .
Probiotics—More and more research is showing that the healthy bacteria in our gut plays a significant role in metabolic function. Probiotics can help enhance digestion and detoxification, both which are important for supporting the metabolism. Researchers have discovered a correlation between higher levels of probiotics in the digestive tract and successful long-term weight loss. If a good quality probitic supplement doesn’t fit your budget you can add some fermented foods to your diet, such as kefir, culture coconut milk and even kombucha tea.
Stevia—I am sure you have sworn off sugar by now, but eventually some of those sugar cravings are going to creep back in. Adding this natural herb to your protein shake can help stabilize glucose levels and sugar cravings. Stevia is a 100 percent natural, zero calorie sweetener, that can help increase insulin sensitivity and actually lower blood sugar levels. Stevia has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory and diuretic effects.
Brianna Diorio is a clinical nutritionist with an MS in human nutrition. She is also a holistic lifestyle coach and NASM CPT. Diorio advocates a holistic and naturopathic approach toward health and wellness, placing importance on proper digestive health, gluten-free living, herbal supplementation and using food as functional medicine as information for our cells. She is the director of training and education at Vitamer Laboratories in Irvine, CA.