There are a growing number of proven methods for losing weight and boosting your body’s fat-burning ability—for the general population and Keto followers alike. Although there is no single transformational ‘magic bullet’ strategy to boost fat burning, the following 5 strategies can improve your odds and help your overall health in the process:
1. Boost your Lean Body Mass (LBM)
There are few basic principles of human metabolism and physiology that are agreed on by all nutrition and medical professionals. One of them is that muscle mass is more metabolically active than white (vs. brown) fat mass—the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn throughout the day at rest. The single most effective way to increase LBM is through growing the size of muscle with resistance or strength training and through high intensity workouts. Of course, in order to build muscle, you need to consciously maintain an adequate intake of protein – increased LBM goes hand-in-hand with increased protein needs. If you’re following the Keto Diet, your intake of protein should ideally be spread out throughout the day so as to minimize its impact on blood sugar and ketone levels.
2. Increase your ‘Brown Fat’ Mass
Brown fat, despite being fat itself, has the unique ability to reduce the type of white fat commonly referred to as body fat, by activating a process known as thermogenesis, which increases the body’s energy expenditure1. Brown fat is able to increase energy expenditure because each brown fat cell contains more fat-burning and energy-producing mitochondria. Once considered to be a physiological trait among only infants and young children, research has recently revealed that adults also have small (but physiologically significant) reserves of brown fat in the neck and shoulders. The amount of adult brown fat is highly variable and is inversely related to their body mass index (BMI). One of the easiest ways to boost brown fat is to increase your exposure to a cold environment. So aside from an ice bath or standing outside in the cold this winter, the following are three practical ways to boost metabolically active brown fat and increase fat-burning:
- Eat foods rich in L-Arginine: This amino acid, abundant in dairy, poultry, fish, and nuts and seeds, is known to stimulate mitochondrial growth and brown fat development, favoring fat loss and a reduced growth of white fat cells2 3.
- “Shake-on the Spices”: Chili Pepper, Piperine, Ginger, Cinnamon, and Turmeric. The active compounds (polyphenols) in each of these spices—Capsaicin, Piperine, Cinnamaldehyde, Gingerol, and Curcuminoids have been shown to activate the fat-and energy-burning mechanism in brown fat cells and reduce body fat4 5 6. Although the fat-burning effect of each of these spices is likely only temporary, eating these spicy foods on a regular basis will have cumulative benefits.
- Enjoy your tea and coffee. Similar to spices, the compounds caffeine and catechins in both coffee and green tea have been shown to briefly rev up the metabolism. Consuming these compounds throughout the day will help add to their fat-burning impact7.
3. Drink more water!
Staying well-hydrated by drinking adequate amounts of water throughout the day can boost your body’s metabolic rate and help you lose weight faster. A 16-oz (i.e. average size of a water bottle) serving of water consumed before meals has also been shown to reduce overall meal-time calorie consumption8.
4. Turn your Gut into a Fat-Burning Machine
There are approximately 100 trillion microorganisms residing in our GI tract at any given time, giving new meaning to, and an appreciation for, the term ’gut health’. An imbalance between the ‘healthy bacteria’ and ‘bad bacteria’ in our gut is linked to numerous health issues, including obesity. The good news is that ‘good’ bacteria, or probiotics, can restore the natural balance of our gut bacteria and have a major impact on our general health – including our ability to lose weight and burn more fat. The following are two ways to boost your body’s beneficial bacteria and help get you on track to better overall health:
- Make Friends With Fiber: Dietary fiber, specifically soluble fiber, provides fuel for the growth of healthy gut bacteria. By feeding on the soluble fiber, these ‘probiotic’ bacteria produce end-products that not only decrease our body’s storage of fat but can also stimulate a fat-burning effect in multiple body tissues9 10. Great soluble fiber food suggestions for anyone following Keto include: inulin, psyllium husk, flaxseeds, chia, green leafy vegetables, and nuts and seeds.
- Prioritize Your Polyphenol Intake: These plant compounds are ‘nutritional powerhouses’ with multiple health benefits, including their ability to change our gut environment to one that favors the growth of beneficial bacteria, resulting in a similar effect as that of soluble fiber11 12. Keto-friendly sources of polyphenols include: nuts (especially walnuts), flaxseed meal, cocoa powder, spices, coffee, green and black tea, dark green leafy vegetables, and olives. You can read more about the health benefits of polyphenols here.
5. Manage Stress
This is easier said than done, but the importance of minimizing stress to help your weight loss (and fat-burning) efforts should not be downplayed. Stress is known to increase levels of cortisol, our body’s primary ’stress hormone’. Not only can cortisol crank up your brain’s ‘appetite center’, sending you into a sugar-and fat-laden feeding frenzy, but it can also promote the storage of abdominal body fat surrounding our organs—the most unhealthy type13. So make sure you are getting a good night’s rest, taking a brief ‘time out’ to clear your mind and decompress each day, and are doing some strength or HIIT training (that promote the growth of lean muscle for increased fat burning) as an outlet for de-stressing to counter the negative impact of cortisol.
For anyone seeking to increase their body’s fat-burning potential, there are the ‘tried and true’ ways of regular exercise and drinking ample amounts of water throughout the day, as well as the less conventional ‘functional food’ and dietary approaches to converting your body into a lean(er)-machine and metabolic furnace. The effectiveness of each of these methods will be further compounded as you apply several of them at a time and on a regular basis. After all, it’s what you do consistently that counts for the long term.
- Turning the white fat brown: a new approach to obesity?https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK189496/
- Regulation of brown adipose tissue development and white fat reduction by L-arginine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23075933
- Beneficial effects of L-arginine on reducing obesity: potential mechanisms and important implications for human health: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20437186
- Metabolic effects of spices, teas, and caffeine: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.621.5810&rep=rep1&type=pdf
- Cinnamaldehyde induces fat cell-autonomous thermogenesis and metabolic reprogramming https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29046261
- Ginger consumption enhances the thermic effect of food and promotes feelings of satiety without affecting metabolic and hormonal parameters in overweight men: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3408800/
- A green tea extract high in catechins reduces body fat and cardiovascular risks in humans: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17557985
- Water-induced thermogenesis: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14671205
- Lifestyle Factors and 5-Year Abdominal Fat Accumulation in a Minority Cohort: The IRAS Family Study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3856431/
- The role of short-chain fatty acids in the interplay between diet, gut microbiota, and host energy metabolism: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3735932/
- Dietary Polyphenols and Obesity: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257683/
- Interaction of dietary compounds, especially polyphenols, with the intestinal microbiota: a review https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4365176/
- tress and Body Shape: Stress-Induced Cortisol Secretion Is Consistently Greater Among Women With Central Fat: https://journals.lww.com/psychosomaticmedicine/Abstract/2000/09000/Stress_and_Body_Shape__Stress_Induced_Cortisol.5.aspx