by Eve Lees
Tip # 5: Boost your metabolism program
Welcome to the next tip in the Boost Your Metabolism program!
To help with weight loss and/or avoid weight gain, this self-paced program gradually adds healthy habits to your lifestyle. These are lifestyle skills or tools, that may help your body operate at a faster pace. They can assist in increasing your metabolic rate – or how efficiently your body utilizes the food you eat.
Gradual changes, practised over a long period of time, are much easier to accomplish and likely more permanent. It's like breaking a new path through a field of grass. The first few times you walk the new path, the grass springs right back up again. But with constant repetition, over time the grass will stay flattened. The new pathway becomes permanent and so has your new habit! I encourage you to follow each tip longer than a week. All the tips or 'habits' in this program are easily – and will always be – accessible in this Blog. You can move on to the next tip whenever you are ready.
Incidentally, it’s best to do them in order (because I may refer back to past tips), so if you are visiting for the first time, please begin with week 1 here: Tip #1
If you missed the 2nd week’s tip, go here: Tip #2
If you missed the 3rd week’s tip, go here: Tip #3
If you missed the 4th week’s tip, go here: Tip #4
And if you’re ready to move on to the next tip . . .
Tip # 5: Replace at least one sugary beverage with a glass of water.
Every day for the next week (or longer) replace at least one hot or cold sugary beverage that your regularly drink, with a glass of water (lemon optional).
Sugary beverages include those with table sugar (sucrose) or artificial sugars added: soda pop, sweetened juices, energy drinks, sports drinks, sweetened alcoholic beverages (martini’s, coolers, etc.), coffee and tea and latte’s with added sugar (including sweetened herbal or Chai teas). Basically any drink, hot or cold, that contains any amount of added sugars. Not sure if the beverage contains sugar? Read the ingredient label or ask the server what the ingredients are.
What if you never drink sugary beverages? You get a gold star! You can choose to skip this tip, or, if it's not your regular routine, start your day with a cup of herbal tea or perhaps water (heated or cool) with a thin slice of lemon. Actually, those who are going to replace a sugary beverage can follow this practice too. (So, if you don’t feel too overwhelmed practising two habits this week, go for it!). Lemon water first thing in the morning is an old remedy that’s believed to prepare your digestive system for the first meal of the day. Yet other sources claim there's no evidence to prove this. In any case, it may be a good idea to be prudent with adding lemon, as too much can be very acidic for your tooth enamel. If you are concerned, perhaps rinse your mouth afterward with plain water. However, all sources do agree lemons are good for you and lemon water (or unsweetened herbal tea) first thing in the morning is certainly a convenient way to boost your water intake!
Tip: If you are drinking tap water, adding lemon to your water immediately dissipates any chlorine. Only a few drops of lemon juice or a thin slice of lemon per glass is sufficient. This is good to know if you want to avoid drinking chlorinated water but you're not sure of the water source: in a restaurant, just ask for a slice of lemon with your water.
How does drinking water affect metabolism? Your body’s many daily cellular functions need water to operate efficiently. Lack of water causes dehydration and that will make your body’s systems slow their speed of operation (your metabolism). In a study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, researchers found just 10 minutes after drinking 16 ounces of water, the participant’s metabolisms increased by 30 percent. Other studies find dehydration can make you up to 2% less efficient at burning your food for energy. And for just a tiny extra boost, some studies found drinking ice cold water increases your metabolism slightly because your body has to heat the water to your internal temperature. But, as I said, the boost is pretty minimal.
Additionally, cutting back on your sugary beverages – especially that “liquid sugar” soda pop – will help reduce the amount of unnatural sugars you consume. Even 'low-calorie, sugar-free' pop can still affect your ability to maintain a healthy weight: Artificial sugars are suspected to negatively affect 'gut' health, which, over time, can reduce your ability to lose weight. As for refined sugars like sucrose (table sugar) they can slow your metabolic rate because of the direct impact on your hormones (like insulin and cortisol). But it’s not just the health of your teeth, or weight gain, or poor gut health, or diabetes that you risk when consuming sugary beverages. Research now links cardiovascular disease with “consumption of typical amounts of added sugar.”
If your “liquid sugar” is predominantly in the form of alcoholic beverages, replacing at least one of those drinks with water is a wise choice as well. Alcohol can have a negative impact on metabolism because it can make your liver focus on breaking down the alcohol instead of burning fat. It is also dehydrating and that contributes to slowing your metabolic rate. In addition, alcohol 'calories' can add up quickly which may contribute to increased body fat. Personally – and this is my opinion only – I think the recommendation of one to two drinks of alcohol daily is far too much. I think it should be one or two drinks maximum per week.
Other benefits of drinking
It helps provide satiety (fullness) reducing the desire to overeat. Water is also necessary to burn stored body fat: the kidneys need water regularly to perform their major function of filtering your blood. If they can’t work optimally because you aren’t drinking enough water, the kidneys will recruit the liver to help filter your blood. The liver excretes bile which breaks down fat for digestion and absorption. But if your liver is busy helping the kidneys (because you aren’t drinking enough water) your liver isn’t going to be very efficient at utilizing fat.
Yes, I know, your initial instruction for this tip is to add at least one glass of water by replacing one sugary beverage. It's not to commit you to drinking more than that. But the purpose of this tip, if you aren’t drinking enough water, is that hopefully it will encourage you to drink more. Getting the right amount of water is necessary to achieve a healthy balance of electrolytes (essential minerals). Dehydration is an imbalance of these electrolytes, particularly the balance of sodium and potassium. Incidentally, forcing yourself to drink too much water can also upset a healthy
mineral balance: hyponatremia is a severe dilution of sodium. It can be just as debilitating or dangerous as not drinking enough.
FYI how much water do you need? It depends on who you are. If you eat lots of processed foods, you need more water (because a diet rich in whole plant foods is rich in water from the natural hydration provided by plants). Eight cups of water a day is merely a guideline, it was never gospel. Some claim it was an estimation suggested by one researcher who, many years ago, found he lost approximately eight cups of water daily due to respiration, perspiration, urination, and defecation. In any case, eight cups can be a reasonable starting point to help you determine how much is best for you. You may need more. You may need less. We are all different and exposed to many differing factors (temperatures, diet, physical exertion, genetics, health conditions, etc.).
Dehydration symptoms: Muscle cramping, fatigue, inability to concentrate and dizziness are among the more common symptoms of dehydration. Experiment with your water intake to see if it may be the reason for your chronic leg cramps, lethargy, or vertigo. The colour of your urine is often a good indicator, too – although it can be affected by certain medications or by the colour of some foods. But if your urine is usually the light colour of apple juice (and not a darker or brighter yellow), you are probably well-hydrated. What about sports drinks to prevent dehydration during physical activity? Electrolyte-infused drinks are only necessary to replace a loss of excessive amounts of fluid, such as from lengthy vigorous activities and/or from sweating profusely in high temperatures. Otherwise, water is fine. And it comes without all the refined sugars and 'empty calories' in sports drinks, which you really don't need.
Tip: If water doesn’t appeal to your taste buds, spike it with lemon, lime or – to add mild flavour – float a few chunks of watermelon, strawberries, even cucumbers . . .
Experiment with this tip to help boost your water intake. Have fun with it. Hopefully it will encourage you to continue gradually adding more water to your day (if you need to). By the way, here's a link for more tips on increasing your water consumption (just something to ponder while you follow this tip).
If you do not want to follow this tip, you certainly don’t have to. Keep following the first few tips and move on to the next. But I encourage you to experiment with each and every tip. And I hope you choose to practise each tip longer than a week. All the tips presented in this program will be kept on this blog, so you can access them whenever you are ready to advance. Remember the penny analogy from week three: Small steps can accumulate into huge rewards!
If you are ready to start practising the next tip, here it is: TIP # 6
Another tip: Note the image above. This "fruity drink" can be a great dessert idea to try for Tip # 4 where you practised having only fresh fruit for dessert. You and your guests can enjoy drinking the flavoured water as well as eating the fresh fruit chunks. Try it with all varieties of melons too. Perhaps float frozen blueberries or strawberries in the water.
Have a short question or comment about this particular tip? Feel free to e-mail Eve
Eve Lees is a Certified Nutrition Coach, a former Certified Personal Trainer, a Health Speaker, and a Health Writer for several publications. She has been active in the health & fitness industry for over 35 years.