Certain mistakes such as relying on a high-carb diet can compromise your body’s ability to burn fat. Known as metabolic flexibility, fat burning makes losing body fat much easier. If your body isn’t adapted to burn fat, you’re stuck with blood sugar fluctuations, periods of low energy, food cravings, and the need for a high-carb diet.
This article will give you ways to improve metabolic flexibility, improving your body’s ability to burn fat so that you are well on your way to living a lean, fat burning life.
#1: Go High-Fat, Low-Carb
By limiting carbohydrates in your diet in favor of fat and protein, you can force your body to burn fat for energy. In one study, in as little as 3 days, lean subjects were able to increase fat burning by about 27 percent from a high-fat diet that was 70 percent fat, 15 percent protein, and 15 percent carbs.
Obese subjects who ate the same diet were termed “metabolically inflexible” because fat burning didn’t increase in response to the high-fat diet. Researchers think that over the longer term, obese people would respond to the shift in macronutrients by increasing fat oxidation rates, but the process is “uncomfortable” because energy levels are compromised.
#2: Replace Unhealthy Carbs With High-Fiber Carbs
A kinder, gentler way to increase fat burning is to switch out unhealthy, refined carbs for whole, high-fiber, low-glycemic carbs. There are two interrelated problems with refined carbs: First, they lead to a large increase in blood sugar, which is often followed by hypoglycemia and increased appetite. Second, they are rapidly digested, spiking insulin and shifting the body into fat storing mode. This combination means that any extra calories are promptly stored as fat.
On the other hand, high-fiber carbs, such as vegetables and select fruits lead to lower insulin levels, while keeping blood sugar steady so you avoid hunger and don’t overshoot calories. A simple way to put this in practice is to swap out sandwiches for salad, dessert for mixed berries, and pasta for grilled vegetables. Also, instead of planning meals around carb-based foods like pizza, grains, or pasta, choose whole protein like meat, fish, eggs, or beans for the entrée of your meal.
#3: Do Sprints
Sprint training increases levels of enzymes necessary for fat burning, enhancing metabolic flexibility. In one study, doing four 30-second sprints on a stationary bike increased fat burning by 75 percent.
This raises the question of whether it’s better to do sprint training or aerobic exercise for greater fat burning. Aerobic training at a low intensity is done in the “fat burning” zone because a greater proportion of calories are burned from fat. But sprint training burns more calories overall and it increases lean muscle mass so you get a greater net calorie burn. This pays off for fat loss: A study comparing sprints with aerobic exercise found that the sprint group burned 9 times more body fat than the aerobic group, while dramatically increasing metabolic flexibility.
#4: Don’t Train Fasted
Despite the pervasive myth that doing fasted cardio in the morning increases fat burning, research consistently shows that when you eat pre-workout, fat burning is greater in the 24-hour recovery period. Therefore, best results will come from eating a low-glycemic meal of high-quality protein, healthy fat, and veggies, allowing enough time to digest, for your pre-workout meal.
#5: Supplement With Green Tea
Green tea is a powerful performance aid that improves fat burning at rest and following a workout. A new study found that when subjects supplemented with green tea at meals, they had a significant increase in fat burning during and after a 20-minute sprint workout. Fat burning was also elevated on rest days. Why does it work?
Besides decreasing fat absorption in the body, the antioxidants in green tea increase the use of fat for fuel and trigger apoptosis, which is the death of fat cells. Fewer fat cells mean less body fat overall!
#6: Use Caffeine Pre-Workout
Caffeine is a well-known performance enhancing aid that can support fat loss by increasing the quality of your workout. It also raises metabolic rate and fat burning in the post-exercise period. A new study found that when subjects took caffeine and then did 30 minutes of sprints, both fat burning and the number of calories burned were increased by 10 percent during recovery.
Be aware that it’s recommended to avoid caffeine after training because this will elevate cortisol and impair recovery.
#7: Eat Healthy Fat
One of the downsides of saturated fat is that eating it doesn’t lead to a comparable increase in fat oxidation. Fortunately, other healthy fats like fish oil and the monounsaturated fats from avocados, nuts, and seeds increase fat burning. Put this in practice by taking fish oil or adding nuts or avocado slices to saturated-fat rich meals.
Besides providing necessary nutrition and antioxidants, another benefit of healthy fats is that they raise body temperature, increasing the amount of calories your body burns after eating by as much as 50 percent.
#8: Drink Water In Between Meals.
Research shows that drinking water when blood sugar and insulin levels are low increases the rate of fat burning. Ice cold water gives your metabolism an extra lift because the body has to burn energy warming it up.
Extra water is especially important for obese individuals who are metabolically inflexible because it raises energy expenditure and lowers energy intake by as much as 200 calories a day. Shoot for at least three liters daily.
#9: Take Carnitine
Carnitine is a nutrient in the body that is responsible for the transport of fats into the cells to be used for energy. Elevating carnitine stores has been found to reduce fat gain when eating a high-calorie diet because it increases fat burning and raises energy expenditure.
During exercise, higher muscle carnitine levels lead to the sparing of glycogen for greater work capacity due to elevated fat burning. The effect is a significant increase in time to exhaustion when training hard. This also means you get a better quality workout, burning more total calories, which is obviously favorable for losing body fat.
#10: Take Whey Protein With Resistant Starch
Despite improving body composition and insulin sensitivity, whey protein alone does not increase fat burning. But when you pair it with resistant starch in the form of a waxy maize supplement it leads to a significant increase in fat burning and energy expenditure. The combination also suppresses appetite and decreases hunger compared to resistant starch by itself (fullness increased 125 vs. 45 percent in the combination supplement compared to resistant starch alone).