Low Calorie Diets and Metabolism


The human metabolism converts calories into energy so the body can perform many functions during periods of rest, exercise and food intake. Food digestion has a thermal effect on metabolism which causes an increase in the metabolic rate. Smaller, frequent meals fool the body into believing that there is a constant supply of food and it adjusts by raising its metabolic rate. On the other hand diets that are calorie restricted or consist of one or two meals per day send signals of famine and the body compensates by storing fat. This is similar to a hibernation effect in certain animals where the metabolism slows down to conserve energy for longer periods. This is what you don’t want to happen.

A finding, according the US Department of Agriculture, in the October 1997 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, revealed that as people get older they may be able to reduce risk of weight gain by eating more but smaller meals.

It is very important to have 4-6 meals per day which should include breakfast. These should consist of 3-5 portions of fruits and vegetables as well. Starchy and simple carbohydrates should be reduced (pastries, products made with white flour and sugar). That doesn’t mean however, that all carbohydrates should be reduced. Remember, the body uses carbohydrate for its main source of fuel during exercise.

Carbohydrates are still an important part of our diet. We need carbohydrates that are rich in fiber and low in starch and calories. These include fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts (walnuts and almonds), and whole grains. These carbohydrates speed up the metabolism and travel faster through the body, they don’t just sit there.

Water is also a very important component in weight loss. Drinking eight glasses a day makes you feel less hungry between meals. Water helps maintain muscle tone and weight loss. It helps carry oxygen and nutrients to the body’s cells while it removes wastes and toxins.

The effects of saturated and unsaturated fat on metabolism

A study was conducted to determine the effect of fat composition of diet on the body’s metabolism, at the University of Limburg, The Netherlands. A group of 6 men participated in two different diets over a period of time. One consisted of saturated fat and the other unsaturated fat. Their resting metabolic rates were measured following each diet regimen. It was found that these men had higher metabolic rates when they ate unsaturated fat. In other words they burned fat quicker when they consumed unsaturated fat as opposed to saturated fat. The scientists also concluded that this could be important in the treatment of obesity.

It is wise then, to avoid or reduce saturated fats like butter, margarine or anything that is solid at room temperature. Use instead unsaturated oils especially olive and canola or fats that are high in non-hydrogenated oils, but use them moderately.

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