Weight Loss Tips and Tricks
How food and exercise affect metabolism

by Mary Howard, RN

You have probably heard so many tips and tricks about weight loss that you're left wondering which tips are best and which tricks really are tricks. Let's look at how food and exercise affect metabolism and weight loss to help us understand why some of these tips work and why others do not.

Lately there has been a lot of publicity about the low carbohydrate diet, which claims that people are losing weight and getting healthier without paying attention to the amount of fat they are eating. You may have even heard that the USDA is looking at changing the food pyramid.

You have likely also heard about the low fat diet plan. There is a major flaw in the low fat diet and scientists are finally being forced to admit it. Very little of your blood cholesterol comes from diet. Your body manufactures most of your cholesterol from carbohydrates. The culprit of turning these carbohydrates into fat is insulin.

The Role of Insulin in Weight Gain

Insulin is vital, for it regulates blood sugar, controls fat storage, regulates the liver's production of cholesterol, functions as a growth hormone, plays a role in appetite control, drives the kidneys to retain fluid, and much more. Insulin is absolutely essential to life, but too much of a good thing can cause problems. Too much insulin can cause fat storage and cholesterol production, and is caustic to the blood vessels.

By activating or inhibiting various metabolic pathways, insulin can make you sleepy, hungry, satisfied, dizzy, lightheaded or bloated. As you age, your insulin receptors become less sensitive to insulin, and your body produces more than you need.

Carefully monitoring the types and amount of carbohydrates you eat will help can clean up the insulin receptors. Decreased insulin receptor site sensitivity is frequently a problem with Type II Diabetics (Adult Onset Diabetics).

Food Combinations

Not mixing certain food types is a popular dietary concept that actually makes some sense. For example, if you eat only a fat and a protein together the fat goes right through you. Dietary fat by itself is not the culprit, but when you add a carbohydrate to the mix, the body converts the dietary fat into body fat.

Even if you don't eat fat, if you eat a little protein and carbohydrate together, your body will make fat to either store or use for energy depending on your activity level at the time.

By decreasing your intake of concentrated sweets, like sugar sweetened food, and by not overeating starches like breads, pasta and potatoes, you may keep your body from the overproducing insulin. Carbohydrates actually have a metabolic effect that causes any fat you eat to be worse for you. Carbohydrates also affect the hormone balance in your body, contributing to depression, lack of energy and mood swings.

Because carbohydrates turn dietary fat into body fat it is healthier to avoid carbohydrates than to avoid fat, because avoiding naturally occurring fats often results in also avoiding good quality protein sources.

Exercise: the Key to Healthy Weight Loss

Exercise really is the key to healthy weight loss. By increasing the strength and mass of your muscles you burn calories more efficiently. Exercise makes the rest of your everyday activities easier, not only by burning up more calories from the exercise, but also by giving you more energy to complete your daily activities. Having that energy is more likely to keep you busy and prevent you from thinking too much about food.

Not eating for three hours before bedtime is also one trick that does work. If you go to bed shortly after a big meal you won't sleep as well, plus you will not have a chance to "work off" your meal. There is also another important factor - Human Growth Hormone (hgh) is produced at night to help our body build and repair muscle. If you eat a carbohydrate within two to three hours of sleeping, your body will not produce nearly as much of this hormone.

Exercising first thing in the morning is also effective. If you have not eaten after your evening meal your body is in a fasting state the next morning. Exercising before breakfast forces your body to burn fat. If you follow that exercise with a protein breakfast, you would stay in the "fat burning" (glycogen dominant) phase a little longer. Quality protein sources such as those found in meat, eggs, fish, and nuts are the best and quickest way to build lean body mass when you exercise regularly. Lean body mass (muscle) will help you burn calories.

Tip on foods to eat and foods to avoid:


If you are serious about losing weight, avoid all sugar sweetened foods. As much as possible, avoid foods that contain all or mostly starch, such as potatoes, white bread, and pasta. Processed foods should also be avoided as they often contain unhealthy fats and chemicals that will make your system less healthy and efficient.


  • All vegetables, especially green vegetables, raw vegetables and salads.

  • Meat, eggs, nuts, fish, tofu and beans.

  • Whole grain cereals, pasta and breads. Ensure any carbohydrates you eat come from whole foods in their natural state

  • Fresh fruit with the skins - the extra fiber will help with carbohydrate digestion.

Eating whole foods in their natural state is always best. Now we can understand why our grandparents could eat bacon and eggs for breakfast and still be in great health. By eating certain foods at certain times and with moderation, we can eat well, feel great, and improve our overall physical and emotional health.

Mary Howard RN, http://members.tripod.com/homegrownmo
Mary Howard is Registered Nurse, mother of two, and enjoys natural gardening. More or her articles are posted on the Homegrown web site. Feel Free to contact her at: rmlhoward@juno.com



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