Feeling the struggles of weight loss after an indulgent Christmas? Nutritional Director Rick Hay reveals 3 easy ways to lose weight you can start tomorrow
It can be hard to lose weight – and don’t we all know it. Unless you are one of those rare people who has the luxury of time to sweat it out at the gym everyday then weight gain can sneak up on you, and weight loss can prove impossible.
Of course, exercise and diet are the two main things that will contribute to healthy weight loss, but what if there were a few natural tips and tricks we could follow to help make that weight loss journey slightly easier?
That’s where Nutritional Director Rick Hay comes in to answer our weight loss prayers, with three super-easy ways we can try to lose some weight that don’t involve complete lifestyle shifts.
Put a stop to cravings with chromium
Cravings are often the downfall of successful weight loss. We could have been to the gym, eaten a healthy breakfast but then the office biscuit tin is refilled and those Hobnobs and Custard Creams are calling your name.
Cravings not only aid to the difficulties of losing weight but can also affect you mentally. When we give in to those cravings we think of ourselves as weak, and so we give up and eat more of those office biscuits. So what if we could lessen or stop those cravings?
The answer is chromium. In fact ‘chromium is key where cravings are concerned,’ says Hay.
Glycemic control is a medical term referring to a steady state of blood sugar (glucose) in the body. Chromium improves glycaemic control through its action on our insulin receptors – insulin is the hormone the body uses to process glucose. Excess glucose not processed properly will be converted to fat and stored in tissues not suitable for fat storage.
This essentially means that chromium can keep our blood sugar levels steady, stopping them from spiking which is what causes those nagging cravings and possible weight gain.
A systematic review and meta-analysis of twenty-five randomized controlled trials found favourable effects of chromium supplementation on glycaemic control in patients with diabetes, again showing that chromium can reduce our blood sugar and therefore our cravings.
The recommended dietary reference intake (DRI) of chromium in the United States is, 35mcg (microgram) a day for adult men and 25mcg a day for adult women. After the age of 50, the recommended intake of chromium decreases to 30mcg a day for men and 20mcg a day for women.
Although chromium is usually found in dietary supplements, many foods also contain the mineral chromium. Meat, whole-grain products, fruits and vegetables are considered good sources of chromium.
Research has shown that broccoli is high in chromium (11mcg per half a cup). Oranges and apples too may contain approximately 6mcg per serving.
However, it is important to note that the agricultural and the manufacturing processes can affect how much chromium is in foods. ‘Consuming a balanced diet containing a variety of minimally processed foods may help you meet your chromium requirements,’ suggests Hay.
Vitamin B3 is said to work alongside chromium in insulin regulation.
Eating less meat and focusing on filling up our plates with more fruit and veggies, will also help with cleansing and regulating our blood sugar levels too – ‘this again means less cravings and snack attacks,’ explains Hay.
A 2008 study looking specifically at the effects of chromium on food intake and satiety, assessed the effect of chromium in modulating food intake in healthy, overweight, adult women who reported craving carbohydrates.
The double-blind placebo-controlled study randomly assigned 42 overweight adult women with carbohydrate cravings to receive 1,000mg of chromium or placebo for eight weeks.
Findings demonstrated that those who supplemented with chromium, as compared to placebo, reduced their food intake, their hunger levels and their fat cravings. They also tended to decrease body weight.
B vitamins such as B3 and B7, are incredibly important for our macronutrient and carbohydrate metabolism and for energy production. ‘Essentially this means that these vitamins help keep the digestive system on track and fully functioning,’ Hay explains. ‘A fully functioning digestion is integral to successful weight-loss.’
As well as chromium, an abundance of B vitamins can also found in colourful vegetables. Aim to eat a rainbow of brightly coloured veggies.
It’s all very well suggesting that you up your intake of fruits and veggies but busy lifestyles means this isn’t always possible. If you are struggling to eat an abundance of fruit and veggies with every meal, it may be an idea to take a supplement containing chromium and B vitamins.
Sucroguard is a supplement that contains the key mineral chromium and important B vitamins. It contains Vitamin B3 which is said to work alongside chromium in insulin regulation to support blood glucose and energy levels. Take one capsule daily with food.
Try intermittent fasting (IF)
Intermittent fasting, similar to the well-known 5:2 diet, is a popular go-to for sustainable weight loss. This style of eating made popular by celebrities such as Beyonce, Liv Tyler, Hugh Jackman and Ben Affleck is shown to promote weight loss.
Intermittent fasting is simple and that’s why it’s so popular. There are no crazy restrictions, other than the fact you can’t eat for 14-16 hours. But we promise that isn’t as shocking as it sounds.
If you incorporate this ‘fast’ time into the time you spend asleep it can be quite easy. For example, lets say you finish eating at 8pm, if you then don’t eat anything until 10am (which is totally doable for most) then you’ve fasted for 14 hours – congratulations. That would be a 14:10 fast. You could also stop eating at 8pm and start at midday the next day, fasting for even longer, 16 hours, which would be a 16:8 fast. The longer your fast period and the shorter your eating window, the more a break you will give your system, or so goes the reasoning.
Essentially, intermittent fasting is eating (fasting) in the way our ancestors typically ate, exposing yourself to intermittent cycles of famine. We had to hunt for our food, it wasn’t readily available at our nearest Tesco stores at every breakfast time.
Science now tells us that 14 and 16 hours is the best fasting window for burning body fat and losing weight.
But why do we need to fast for 14-16 hours? Because after 12 hours all the glucose has been cleared from your blood stream and that’s when your body switches to using your own body fat for energy. Yes, you’ll be burning though your body fat without dieting.
Findings suggest that short term intermittent fasting may be a safe and tolerable dietary intervention for those already diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and may improve body weight and fasting glucose levels.
After we eat a meal, our digestive system processes the food we have just eaten; digesting and absorbing, so that the body can use the nutrients the food has provided. This process takes around four to five hours, during which the body will prioritise using the carbohydrates provided as its preferred energy source, rather than rely on fat stored in the body.
Following the meal, insulin levels will be high and when insulin levels are high, the body is less likely to use fat as fuel.
After a certain point however, between 12-16 hours after a meal, the body will need to use its fat stores as a source of energy instead of carbohydrates, this is where you will burn body fat and lose weight.
Sounds easy enough right?
The 5:2 diet, however is slightly trickier. The 5:2 diet is similar, however on two days of the week you have to restrict your calorie intake to just 500 calories a day – which can be tricky if you’re an early riser. However, for the other five days you can eat when you want and what you want (as long as it isn’t all McDonalds and ice cream).
What does the science say? The rationale behind the 5:2 diet centers on the effects of fasting on levels of a hormone called IGF-1 (Insulin-Like Growth Factor 1).
Restricting the calories you consume, so the theory goes, lowers blood levels of IGF-1, protecting you against some major diseases, while also allowing you to burn fat at a higher rate and regulate blood sugar levels, meaning less cravings.
Add cinnamon to your porridge
The last little weight loss trick you can try is cinnamon. Cinnamon contains a polyphenol that helps to reduce blood sugar levels in subjects with type 2 diabetes. And as we know, reducing out blood sugar levels will mean less cravings.
‘Cinnamon helps regulate blood sugar and so in turn, reduces cravings. This is especially beneficial for weight management or weight loss,’ says Hay.
By regulating blood sugar, cinnamon can also improve mood and keep it steady, a benefit that has been shown in research with people who have Type 2 diabetes’.
In a study to determine whether cinnamon improves blood glucose levels, 60 people were divided randomly into six groups.
Groups one, two, and three consumed 1/3/6g of cinnamon daily, and groups four, five, and six were given placebo capsules corresponding to the number of capsules consumed for the three levels of cinnamon. The cinnamon was consumed for 40 days followed by a 20 day washout period.
The results of this study revealed that an intake of cinnamon each day reduces our glucose levels. Therefore an inclusion of cinnamon in the diet of people with type 2 diabetes specifically, will reduce risk factors associated with diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
Cinnamon also contains an important oil called eugenol, which has antiseptic properties – therefore helping the immune system too.
In addition, studies from the University of Science, Malaysia show that cinnamon is good for cardiovascular health as it was found to have the potential to be used to treat cardiovascular diseases.
Cinnamon can be added to porridge and smoothies to help regulate blood sugar. You can even try poaching pears or apples in some cinnamon and sugar – delicious.
Rick Hay is an Anti-Ageing and Fitness Nutritionist with many years clinical experience in nutrition, naturopathy, botanical medicine and iridology. He specializes in obesity treatment and weight management. He writes a regular Natural Health and Fitness Blog for Healthista. Find out more at rickhay.co.uk. Follow Rick on Twitter @rickhayuk