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Dieters today are frustrated and discouraged. Their strict eating plans are carried out in vain and their trips to the gym don't pay off. If they do see some success, their results quickly vanish as soon as they veer -- even slightly -- from regimented diet and exercise programs.
Many people don't burn calories efficiently, and they store food as fat rather than burning it up for energy.
Frustrated dieters simply need to fire up their metabolism.
So now you may be saying, "What exactly is metabolism and how can I fire up mine?"
Simply, metabolism is the way your body uses calories from the food you eat. The speed at which it does so is called your metabolic rate. Everyone who likes to eat wants to have a speedy metabolism so that they can burn food for energy without storing it as fat, which is what happens when the metabolic rate is slow. Unfortunately, the body's natural tendency is to slow the metabolism and store food as fat, causing weight gain.
Yet no one is doomed by these factors.
People who have a slow metabolism often blame their weight gain on their genes. Or their age. Or their inactive jobs. They don't realize that they can burn more calories by making relatively small changes in their diet and lifestyle.
It's probably not news to you that what you eat and how you live affect your weight. Despite this, desperate dieters want a quick fix, and they jump to try the newest fad diet, such as the Atkins Diet, Sugar Busters!, and The Zone in hopes of seeing quick weight loss.
These diets can cause an initial quick weight loss, but when they do this, they do something else, too: They actually slow the metabolism. And that hinders long-term weight loss.
We are all too familiar with the embarrassed dieter who rebounds to a higher weight after each round of dieting.
When weight fluctuates in this manner, not only is body composition altered, but so is metabolism. You see, chronic dieting transforms metabolism to favor weight gain.
Because each time you lose weight, you also lose lean muscle tissue. Lean muscle tissue needs calories simply to exist. So the more times you gain and lose weight, the more lean muscle tissue you lose, and the fewer calories your body burns.
When you fire up your metabolism, you are not going on a diet. So there's no such thing as "cheating." Yes, you will make some changes to what you eat, but more than anything you are changing the way your body uses food.
On the Fire Up Your Metabolism plan, you will try to apply as many metabolism-revving tips to your life as possible -- and you will see results. This plan will become your nutrition and fitness bible, your way of life, a lifestyle that keeps your metabolism on high. You can have that cookie. Take a bunch of french fries. Enjoy a slice of pizza. Relish your favorite foods. You can't have a lot every day, but you don't have to swear off the foods you love to fire up your metabolism.
After reading our book and following our tips, you will lose weight and keep it off -- without feeling deprived. Whether you are a man in your mid-twenties trying to stave off a gut, or a menopausal woman, our strategies combined with the nutrition principles we explain in plain language will help anyone who has struggled to achieve a thinner body. Weakness and lethargy will be feelings of the past.
This is not a fad diet book. It's a plan that adheres to the recommendations of the American Heart Association and the American Dietetic Association. The plan is rooted in nine principles that will teach you how to speed up your metabolic rate:
You may have heard these suggestions before yet not fully understood how to incorporate them into your eating and lifestyle habits. Or, like many of our clients, you may be suspicious of anything that promises weight loss. We are, too. Not only will we tell you what to do, but we will explain why it's important for revving up your metabolism. We know that if you don't understand why something works, you won't be motivated to try it. For instance, you will understand why you must become a devotee of breakfast.
We had a great way to prove our theories -- and we took advantage of it. Each chapter contains a "twin trial." There are many things twins can do that no one else can.
For example, you can make your other half be a guinea pig for you. If you don't like what happens to your twin, then you don't follow in her footsteps. A few years ago, Tammy watched as a hairdresser got scissors-happy. She chopped Lyssie's long locks, which had hung halfway down her back, to hair that barely reached her earlobes. Lyssie's heart sank as she looked in the mirror with horror -- the bobbed hair was far from flattering. On this particular day, Tammy happened to be the lucky one; she immediately noticed that this short hair was not a good look for us and decided that she would skip the chop.
When it came to writing this book, both of us fought to avoid being the guinea pig. When it comes to nutrition and exercising, we both practice what we preach because we like to do what makes us feel healthy -- that makes us feel good. We realize that eating any other way won't allow us to feel our best. Our first twin experiment, which involved manipulating the carbohydrates we eat, caused quite a battle, as neither of us wanted to be the one to mess with the body's major fuel source.
However, despite the tension caused by the first trial, we continued to test each of these nine principles, one of us serving as a control, and one of us serving as a guinea pig. We are extremely regimented (almost to a fault, if you ask our mom), but this made us excellent study subjects, as we both eat the same amount of calories and foods. We have the same jobs and exercise together. Therefore, we could run trials in which the twin who was the guinea pig would not follow the recommendations of one of our basic premises. We saw the results -- and they were dramatic!
You may wonder why we tested the nine principles, which people already seem to know about. But the truth is, they just don't get it. And until we saw the results of our trials, we weren't aware of how much each principle completely affects metabolism.
In addition, we conducted these trials because we didn't just want to tell you what to do. We wanted to prove to you why our tips will fire up your metabolism. People always make the mistake of thinking that they can lose weight only if they make drastic changes. We wanted to prove to you that making small changes, like any of the tips based on our nine simple principles, will fire up your metabolism and cause lasting weight loss more than anything else.
Whether you have tried every possible trick to lose body fat or have never tried in your life, whether you travel frequently or spend most of the day at your desk, this book will help you. We give you hundreds of specific suggestions and show you how to incorporate them. We help you time your meals and offer dozens of ideas for what to eat so that you're neither hungry nor craving metabolism-slowing foods. We also provide sample menus to help on the frontlines of your metabolic revolution.
Hundreds of tips is a lot. We include that many because we want you to choose which ones suit you best. You don't have to take advantage of every tip to see results.
If, however, you like to follow a step-by-step plan, we've got that for you, too.
So no matter who you are and what works best for your lifestyle, this book is designed to help you succeed.
Each chapter includes our clients' success stories. You will be inspired by how our clients gave their metabolism a jolt and not only saw mind boggling results but also changed their lives in other important ways. You, too, will experience this.
You will feel rejuvenated.
You will be more energetic and light on your feet.
Physical challenges such as staying alert in the afternoon, or walking up several flights of stairs, or running a couple of city blocks will be so easy that you won't give them a second thought.
Life will be easier. Everything from meeting your health and fitness goals to advancing in your career to having successful relationships with family, friends, and significant others will seem like less of a struggle.
Looking in the mirror will be enjoyable, and you will want to show off your new body.
People will compliment you.
You will have a newfound confidence.
You will have the knowledge and the motivation to have a completely fulfilled life.
Do You Have a Slow Metabolism?
Take This Test and Find Out
1. Do you have a hard time losing weight?
2. Do you gain weight more easily than you lose it?
3. Do you frequently skip breakfast?
4. Do you often skip other meals?
5. Do you often wait longer than five hours between meals/snacks?
6. Do you often sit down to one or several large meals a day?
7. Do you often feel sleepy after a meal?
8. Do you usually finish everything on your plate?
9. Do you sleep fewer than seven hours a night?
10. Some days, do you feel much more tired than others, despite getting an adequate night's rest?
11. Do you often feel sluggish?
12. Do you often almost doze off at your desk after eating lunch?
13. Do you often have restless nights because of indigestion or feelings of fullness from eating too close to bedtime?
14. When you eat carbohydrates, do you usually choose pasta, white rice, white bread, and other refined carbohydrates?
15. Do you drink fewer than eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day?
16. Do you drink more than three alcoholic beverages a week?
17. Do you usually choose full-fat cheese, milk, yogurt, and other dairy products?
18. Do you frequently eat cookies, cakes, and candies?
19. Do you regularly use butter, lard, sour cream, or cream cheese?
20. Do you eat fried foods more than twice a week?
21. Do you exercise fewer than five times per week and/or fewer than thirty minutes per session?
22. Do you lift weights fewer than three times per week?
23. Do you often try popular diets?
24. Do you frequently lose weight and then gain it back?
25. Do you rarely get hunger pangs even if it has been many hours since you last ate?
26. Is your skin either very dry or very oily?
27. Are you apple-shaped (excess abdominal fat) rather than pear-shaped (excess hip, thigh, and buttocks fat)?
28. Are you impatient?
29. Do you have mood swings more than two times a month?
30. After eating sweets, do you frequently crave more?
31. Do your nails break or peel easily, or have grooves or yellow or white spots?
32. Are you very sensitive to heat or cold?
33. Does your body seem to change in an undesirable way with every passing year?
34. Do you sometimes feel as though you could eat all day long?
35. Do you eat more than usual when in social situations (with friends, at cocktail parties, etc.)?
36. Does your weight generally fluctuate by more than five pounds over the course of six months?
37. Do you eat fish less than once a week?
38. Have any of your family members, including grandparents and parents, had any of the following diseases/conditions?
High cholesterol yes___ no___
High blood pressure yes___ no___
Heart disease yes___ no___
Stroke yes___ no___
Diabetes yes___ no___
Cancer yes___ no___
Obesity yes___ no___
39. Do you take any medication regularly, including birth control pills?
40. Do you sometimes forget to take your vitamins, or not take them at all?
41. Do you frequently drink juice, Gatorade, or other caloric beverages?
Now score yourself. Count your yes answers.
0-6: Excellent! Your metabolism has not slowed at this point. You are probably like us, who practice our Fire Up Your Metabolism tips regularly. However, as you will see in our twin trials, a lifetime of good work can easily go bad when our major principles are not applied, even for a short period of time. So use this book as a guide to help you to make sure that you are consistently revving your metabolism forever. You certainly do not need to follow the entire plan to fire up your metabolism. You can simply take advantage of as few as 10 percent of the tips that you aren't following now and really fire up your metabolism to its ultimate potential.
7-14: Although you have not drastically slowed your metabolism, it is not working as efficiently as it could be. You may be like our client Dawn, who considers herself health conscious. Dawn avoids fried foods and limits metabolism doozies like butter and rich meat. She tries to include fiber in her diet -- she eats oatmeal and fruits and vegetables. Dawn rarely skips a meal, unless an unusual situation comes up at work and she simply doesn't have time. Like Dawn, you may go out to eat a couple of times a week and realize that it is harder to control exactly what you eat when you eat out; however, you still do your best. And like Dawn, you may have a job where you rarely get up from your desk, so you aim to get to the gym at least five to six times a week (although occasionally social situations get in the way of good intentions). And you may not get enough sleep.
Or perhaps you are more like Mark. Mark has the best intentions for his health, too. However, he is very social and occasionally has a couple of drinks with the guys and sometimes overeats at restaurants. Heart disease runs in his family, and he tries to protect his health by working out frequently and avoiding foods that have a lot of saturated fat, such as full-fat dairy products, baked goods, and fatty meats. He also makes sure never to skip a meal.
So like Mark and Dawn, you have the best intentions for your health, but you could be burning more calories and fat than you are. If you take advantage of 20 percent of the tips that you are not currently incorporating into your life, or if you follow the plan, you can fire up your metabolism to its ultimate potential.
15-26: Your metabolism is slowed and your body is not burning fat and calories efficiently. Perhaps you skip meals too frequently, or space them out too much, or overeat. Or maybe you eat at restaurants and your choices are wreaking havoc on your metabolism. Perhaps you are inconsistent -- some days you eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and whole grains, non- or low-fat dairy products, and lean meats; then other days you give in completely to your cravings and end up consuming fries and brownies. Or maybe you have omitted an entire food group such as grains from your diet. Or maybe you've grown so accustomed to snacking and grabbing a soda that you've completely forgotten about meals and water.
You might be like Tammy's husband, Scott, an athlete in high school and college. However, by the time he met Tammy, he had gained thirty pounds despite working out regularly. He thought he was in great shape, because he watched what he ate. Unfortunately, he didn't notice that he was choosing a lot of the wrong foods -- refined carbohydrates such as white rice, bagels, muffins, white pasta, fatty cuts of steak, and ground turkey (which he actually thought was a health food).
Scott lost those thirty pounds quickly after meeting Tammy and learning about the principles of firing up his metabolism.
Although you may feel that you lead a healthy lifestyle, you have some metabolism-slowing habits. If you take advantage of thirty percent of the tips in this book, or if you follow the plan, you will dramatically speed up your metabolism every day, for the rest of your life.
27+: You are probably not at all surprised that your metabolism has been drastically slowed. You already know that you are burning far fewer calories and less fat than you should be. Chances are you have tried many diets in the past that may or may not have promoted weight loss, yet you probably have gained much of the weight back or find yourself as heavy as or heavier than ever.
Of course it's also possible that this is the first time you have taken steps to lose weight. Whichever scenario describes you, you are probably confused about what you should be eating. You may benefit the most by following the plan. However, if you are able to take advantage of 50 percent of the tips in this book that you don't currently follow, you will speed up your metabolism now and for the rest of your life.
Copyright © 2004 by Lyssie Lakatos and Tammy Lakatos Shames
FOUR: Power Proteins Versus Problem Proteins
Myth: If you load up on protein you will be lean and muscular and have great muscle tone.
Busted: If you eat more protein than your body needs (if you eat more of anything than your body needs), you will gain body fat, not muscle.
Myth: If you replace the carbohydrates in your diet with protein, you will have a lot of energy and look great.
Busted: Carbohydrates provide your body with energy; protein doesn't. If you replace carbs with protein you will be exhausted, and when you look and feel tired, you don't look good.
Myth: Most people, and especially vegetarians, don't get enough protein in their diets.
Busted: Most people eat far more protein than their bodies require. Even most vegetarians get adequate protein. Many foods other than meat provide good sources of protein.
Myth: The fat in low-fat and nonfat dairy foods is replaced with chemicals.
Busted: Most low-fat and nonfat dairy products use the same ingredients as the full-fat versions, only whole milk is replaced with 1 percent or skim milk.
Our Twin Trial
in which you will witness the benefits of combining proteins and carbs
For this twin trial, we decided that the loser of the coin flip would have to eat a high-protein diet, with limited amounts of carbohydrate, just as many innocent, ill-fated dieters do. We wanted to see just how eating this way would affect us -- and our metabolism.
We made sure we didn't change the amount of calories we normally ate, as this would jeopardize our trial -- the change in calories, rather than the avoidance of carbohydrates, could influence the results. Instead, we just made sure to eat the amount of protein that "low-carb" diets have you eat, and to limit the carbohydrates that we ate to meet those recommendations as well.
Having witnessed countless clients come to us in desperation after trying very low-carbohydrate diets, we were prepared for the worst. These dieters had warned us: They had lost weight and gained it all back. They had gained back even more weight in some cases. Discouragement, deprivation, and an all-around crummy feeling were common refrains.
So we braced ourselves and held our breath as the coin sailed in the air.
Lyssie: I lost this coin flip. I would be forced to trade my morning breakfast of cereal, soy milk, and fruit for an equal-calorie portion of protein: an egg white omelet with nonfat cheese.
On the first morning of the experiment, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed my omelet. In fact I felt quite satisfied. That is, until midway through my morning exercise bike ride when I suddenly felt exhausted and hot. About forty-five minutes into my normally hour-long bike ride I actually began to feel so weak that I thought I was sick. I went home instead of finishing my workout.
At home I still felt faint and knew that I needed some carbohydrates to replace the muscle energy stores I had just depleted. I plopped down on the couch with a tuna sandwich with mustard. Just as I was about to take a bite, I remembered that during this experiment, I was allowed only a small amount of carbohydrate daily, equivalent to the two slices of bread on the sandwich. (This is actually almost twice the amount of carbohydrates that the Atkins diet allows during its initial phase.) If I ate this sandwich, I couldn't have any more carbohydrates for the rest of the day. I contemplated scraping the tuna from the whole wheat bread and leaving the bread behind, but that was for just a moment -- right before I ate the whole thing.
After all, I was sick!
Several minutes later, I was feeling much better, and within about a half hour, I was back to normal. In fact, I got angry with myself for not finishing my workout and thinking I had been sick. I should have known that my dizziness and exhaustion were due to having the wrong kind of fuel for my body -- protein. I had felt hot and overheated because I had perceived my workout to be too difficult when in fact I was just inadequately fueled. I decided to return to the gym later in the day.
I spent the rest of the day contemplating the challenge of figuring out what to eat. My next meal consisted of a chicken breast on a bed of lettuce with 1/2 cup of cottage cheese and low-fat string cheese. As midafternoon rolled around, I realized that I wasn't hungry for a midafternoon snack. Although this was nice, on the flip side, I was also tired and sluggish, and later in the day quite shaky. That night for dinner I had grilled fish and some vegetables. (This continued to be my usual dinner during the course of this experiment -- fish, turkey, or chicken with veggies.)
The next morning I woke up feeling as though I hadn't even slept. I decided that I would need to eat my carbohydrate portion in the morning so that I could get through my exercise routine. My workout was easier than it had seemed the day before; however, it still felt much more challenging than usual, and I could not pedal as quickly. As the day continued and I was primarily fueling myself with protein, the sluggishness set in again. The only thing I could think about was sleep. I nodded off six times during the day! I had a hard time getting up from my desk to make photocopies. I was craving sleep.
There was also something else I was craving -- carbohydrates. My carbohydrate cravings couldn't have been worse. You can't imagine how much restraint I had to use at lunch when I ate my tuna and turkey "sandwiches" on lettuce instead of on bread. Several days I actually had to drag my exhausted body out of my house just so that I wouldn't ruin the trial by diving into a loaf of bread. And things worsened as the day crept on. What fun were my snacks -- cheese without crackers? By the time dinners rolled around, I would nearly cry staring at the hunk of fish, chicken, or turkey on my otherwise seemingly empty plate. What I would have done for pasta, rice, bread, or a potato. I was ready to sell my left kidney for just a couple of bites of bread or a Snyder's hard pretzel.
And one other thing. I wish I didn't have to mention it, but it's an issue for anyone who eats a high-protein, very low-carb diet: constipation. I finally know what this word means, literally, since I experienced it, despite eating decent portions of vegetables. "What do you mean I can't have prune juice?" I would have never dreamed that these words would come out of my mouth, but thanks to the carb restrictions, they did, as prune juice contains too many carbs for this trial. I now understand why my grandma drinks it. I would drink or eat anything to prevent the discomfort of constipation, too.
The only good thing about this experiment was that I never really felt too hungry. However, I never felt healthy or energetic either, and especially not during my exercise, which I still dragged myself to do anyway, only at a much slower pace than usual. I convinced Tammy to allow this experiment to last only three weeks.
I was relieved to be done with the experiment -- and crestfallen to learn that in just twenty-one days my body fat increased 1 percent even though my calorie intake was the same as it was before the trial. The reason: I felt so lifeless during the whole trial that I didn't burn off nearly as many calories through exercise and everyday activity as I usually burn when my body gets the fuel it needs.
Unfortunately, I didn't gain muscle either. Instead, since I had not fed my body the carbohydrates it needed for energy, my body was forced to use some protein I was eating to get energy, stealing it from its real job -- assisting in muscle growth. In fact, since my weight remained the same yet my body fat increased, that signified that I had actually lost muscle (my fatigue prevented me from completing my normal strength-training routine) and worse still, I had gained body fat and slowed my metabolic rate. My muscles looked less shapely, particularly in my arms.
On the bright side, I have to say that the next morning, my granola, soy milk, and fruit had never tasted so good, and my workout had never seemed easier and more fun!
Protein bars, protein shakes, protein powders, protein drinks. Protein seems to be all the rage. Shelves nationwide are stocked with the latest popular protein supplements. Fueled by all of this hype, everyone from stay-at-home moms and weekend exercisers to professional athletes comes into our office for the first time with many misconceptions about what these protein supplements will and will not do for them. Some clients tell us that they eat an afternoon protein bar to give them energy and to keep them lean. We repeatedly hear many of the same comments and questions:
"I don't love the way this protein bar tastes, but I should eat it because it's good for me, right?"
"I heard this protein drink will make me lean. It will, won't it?"
"If I take this protein powder three times a day like the container says, it will help me to build muscle, right?"
Everyone wants to hear the same thing: Eating a protein bar or drinking a shake will make them stronger and leaner and able to perform better.
Well, here's the truth: Don't waste your time and money on these protein supplements. They will not make you stronger or firmer. Nor do they provide any benefit over eating a protein-containing food. In fact, foods that contain protein provide many benefits over the protein supplement, such as giving you the vitamins and minerals that naturally occur in the food, as well as making you feel full. Not to mention, it is easy to get all of the protein you need from real food, and it is a lot more flavorful and a lot less expensive. So instead of protein supplements, you should choose the right protein-rich foods at the right time; this will fire up your metabolism and help you to look the way you want to. In order to understand why certain proteins must be chosen at certain times, you must first know a little bit about protein and the way it works in your body.
What Does Protein Do for Me?
Protein is the main component of muscles, organs, and glands. Every living cell and all body fluids, except bile and urine, contain protein. Protein helps blood to clot by plugging cuts and scrapes with fibrin, a stringy mass of protein fibers. If it weren't for protein, a pinprick could drain your body of all your blood. Protein maintains the cells of muscles, tendons, and ligaments and helps to control your body's fluid balance by regulating the quantity of fluids inside the blood vessels, inside the cells, and surrounding the cells. It also helps maintain the body's acid-base balance, which is critical -- if the blood gets either too acidic or too basic, life cannot be sustained as protein becomes denatured and cannot carry out any of its functions, causing bodily processes to fail.
Why Is Protein Essential for a Speedy Metabolism?
Remember, your metabolic rate is the speed at which your body burns calories.
Protein helps build and repair muscle broken down from activity and exercise. This is huge -- the more muscle you have, the more calories your body burns. The presence of muscle alone burns calories because it is metabolically active; this means muscle uses calories even while your body is at rest.
Protein also revs your metabolism by slowing down the digestion of carbohydrates. Protein is digested more slowly than carbohydrates, so when you mix carbohydrates with a little bit of protein, the protein causes the carbohydrates to digest more gradually, giving you an even energy flow. As you may remember from Chapters 2 and 3, carbohydrates provide the body with glucose, the primary fuel for the brain and muscles. The presence of carbohydrates prevents the body from feeling threatened and using your "calorie-burning" muscle tissue for fuel. However, as you also learned in Chapter 3, when carbohydrates are eaten alone (especially the "sometimes" or "rarely" ones), glucose (fuel) quickly enters your bloodstream, causing your pancreas to kick out an abnormally large amount of insulin, the hormone whose job it is to quickly shuttle the glucose out of the blood and into the tissues and muscles. This large surge of insulin results in your blood sugar level dropping quickly. As your blood sugar level dips, so does your energy level. Immediately, your brain realizes that your blood sugar is low and it sends the signal to your body to get more fuel...and so you eat.
Therefore, in the absence of a small amount of protein, carbohydrates cannot fire up the metabolism to its ultimate potential; the calorie-burning blast is short-lived. What's more, without a little bit of protein, the surge of insulin released may trigger you to overeat.
What Happens If I Don't Eat Protein at My Meals?
Some clients come to us wondering why they always seem to be hungry shortly after finishing their meals. Actually, "ravenous" is the word they use. They claim that this hunger causes them to snack excessively and to consume extra calories. Debbie, for example, wanted to lose her "last six pounds" and return to her prepregnancy weight. Debbie's diet consisted of fruit and whole wheat toast with jam for breakfast; a large salad of greens with croutons, mixed vegetables, and nonfat dressing at lunch; and a small plate of pasta for dinner. Every hour or two, Debbie would get hungry, so she would snack on fruit, pretzels, frozen yogurt, and/or an occasional piece of candy. Although this is a seemingly healthy diet, and very similar to that of many Americans who are diligently trying to watch their weight, it is missing a key ingredient when it comes to speeding up your metabolic rate.
None of Debbie's foods provided her with a significant amount of it. Without protein, the carbs Debbie was eating could not satisfy her nearly as long as they could had they been mixed with a bit of protein. Within one day of replacing the jam on her toast with some low-fat cottage cheese, exchanging the croutons on her lunchtime salad for tofu slices, and adding chicken to a smaller plate of pasta at dinner, Debbie no longer needed more than two or three snacks a day. Within three weeks, she had lost those six pounds and she has kept them off ever since.
An appetizer of miso soup? That's a ball that goes right through the hoop. Most appetizers are loaded with fat and calories. Although miso soup is quite high in sodium, it is low in calories and provides you with a little bit of a great source of protein, tofu.
Eating Italian? The Chicken Marsala is one of your best bets. It uses the lean chicken breast, and a typical ten-ounce portion has 460 calories and only seven grams of "bad" fat -- not bad for a restaurant meal. Keep in mind that ten ounces may be all the protein you need for the entire day, so don't eat it all in one sitting. If you get this much, take home half for tomorrow.
I Lift Weights, So Where Are My Muscles?
Like Debbie, a handful of clients come to us as protein conservatives, yet they have a different issue from hunger pangs. These clients exercise and lift weights but never seem to see the muscle tone or definition they are looking for. After making sure that these clients include a few more protein sources in their diet, these former "protein neglecters" are thrilled by their results as they finally see the body they work so hard for.
After reading this, many of you are probably going to add protein liberally to your plate. Not so fast. Being too extreme one way or another can ultimately fizzle rather than fire up your metabolism.
Buying ground beef? It had better be a dark, deep red -- without even a hint of pink! If your ground beef is pink, there is a lot of white (fat) mixed in with the red (lean meat [protein]).
Ban bacon, unless it's Canadian or turkey bacon. Just 2 1/2 ounces of bacon (half the size of your palm) has 410 calories and thirty-five grams of fat (twelve of them are saturated), which is close to the maximum amount of artery-clogging saturated fat that you should get in an entire day. Regular bacon is about the worst thing you can eat. However, you can eat Canadian bacon or turkey bacon, which are lean, "thumbs-up" proteins. If you choose extra-lean turkey bacon or extra-lean Canadian bacon, you could have three slices for around the same calories as two slices of the regular turkey bacon or Canadian bacon. If you must eat bacon (a "thumbs-down" protein), eat just one slice.
Don't even think about ground turkey...unless it's the breast. Many people assume that ground turkey is leaner than ground beef because it's turkey, a supposedly healthy meat. Unfortunately, their good intentions backfire and they often get more calories and fat than if they had eaten red meat. That's because if it doesn't say ground turkey breast, you can bet that the skin and fattier parts of the bird are ground in there -- tripling the fat and calories. Be sure to buy the ground breast of the turkey and avoid plain ground turkey.
Portion distortion. Never sit down to more than a palm-size (about five to six ounces) portion of protein, which is the maximum amount of meat that inactive people need each day. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends a maximum of six to nine ounces of meat a day, depending on your total calorie requirements. It is easy to go to a restaurant and get eight to nine ounces at just one meal! So put your hand next to your meat portion so you can see how it compares to the size of your palm (fingers not included). If it is bigger than your palm, cut away the excess and put it on your bread plate. Immediately ask your server to put it in a doggy bag or just take it away. That way it won't tempt you.
Brain teaser: When does 80 percent lean = 70 percent fat? When it comes to ground beef. Don't be tricked by "lean" or "extra-lean" ground beef labeled with its fat content, such as "10 percent fat" or, on the other hand, "90 percent lean." This is the percentage of fat by weight, not the "percentage of calories" from fat. Expressing fat by weight is misleading. If the meat is labeled 80 percent lean, 20 percent of its total weight is fat, which is equal to 70 percent of the total calories coming from fat. Meat that is labeled "10 percent fat" actually has 51 percent of its calories from fat. If it says "25 percent fat," then 75 percent of its calories come from fat!
What Happens When I Get Too Much Protein in My Diet?
We hate to have to be the protein police, but there are several things you should know before you have an omelet for breakfast, a chicken sandwich for lunch, and a steak for dinner.
First, when you consume more protein than you need, as the average American does, you crowd out your metabolism-revving carbohydrates, so your body starts the arduous, metabolism-inefficient task of using protein for fuel.
But more than anything, a diet that is too high in protein makes you tired. Protein takes a long time to digest (about four to six hours versus one half to four hours to digest and burn up carbohydrates). Although protein's slower digestion rate can be a good thing (it promotes satiety when you combine the right amounts of the best carbohydrates with the appropriate portions of the best proteins), it can also be a negative thing when you overdo it because a large portion of blood leaves the brain and muscles and stays in your stomach (and intestine) for a long period of time for digestion. This means that there is less blood available to supply the muscles and brain with oxygen, causing sluggishness and decreased energy. In addition, too much protein in the diet can lead to high cholesterol (many foods that are high in protein are also high in the artery-clogging saturated fat and/or cholesterol) or calcium loss from the bone, promoting osteoporosis or other diseases, such as gout. High-protein diets may also put a strain on your kidneys and liver, as these two organs are responsible for breaking down protein and then excreting the excess nitrogen that is created from the protein.
The trick to firing up your metabolism is balancing your intake of proteins and carbs.
Surprise! A red meat that's leaner than chicken. Buffalo is actually a red meat that's leaner than most. Three ounces of buffalo have just 111 calories and 1.5 grams of fat. Even the leanest parts of the cow, such as the loin and the round, have about 180 calories and 7.5 grams of fat in the same-size serving. So if you enjoy the flavor of red meat, try buffalo.
Rotisserie chicken isn't as good for you as you may think. Usually, when you cook chicken, the fat drips off, but rotisserie chicken keeps turning and the fat drips right back into the chicken.
Good-bye, chicken pot pie. This meal usually uses the fatty dark meat. Making matters worse, the pastry dough is loaded with butter. Things don't get any better when it comes to the sauce, which is usually made of cream.
Eating Chinese? Always specify that you want white meat chicken. Otherwise you're sure to get the very fatty, dark meat, which can almost double the calories in your meal.
How Can I Get the Right Amount of Protein?
Follow our guidelines to get the right mix of protein and carbohydrates so that you will be like our clients who have fired up their metabolism.
Your daily grain servings (as determined in Chapter 3) equal your daily protein servings. Also refer to the "thumbs-up" and "thumbs-down" protein lists on pages 33 to 37 to see which list your favorite proteins are on and what constitutes a serving.
You can be sure that you're getting just the right amount of protein to fire up your metabolism by matching the number of your daily grain servings to your daily protein servings. For example, if you are allowed six grain servings daily, you are allowed six protein servings. (This should make it easier for you to remember how many servings you need.) Just be careful how you count them: Add up only your grain carbohydrates, not vegetables and fruits, when you are matching your protein servings. Remember, you can eat vegetables in unlimited quantities (just be sure to get a minimum of 4 1/2 servings). And you can find how many servings of fruit you need on pages 73 to 74.
To ensure that you boost your metabolism to your utmost ability, you will never eat a grain by itself, even for a snack. Instead, you will couple it with a protein that you have chosen from the protein list on pages 33 to 35 (or with a fat, which we discuss in the next chapter). It is okay to eat a vegetable or a fruit by itself for a snack. Just make sure that you will be eating a larger meal within one to two hours, as the fruit or vegetable will neither satiate you nor provide you with energy for very long.
When you choose a protein, you will then use the Rule of Hand (see page 92) to apply the correct protein portion size to the carbohydrate serving you eat. Ideally, if you eat two servings of carbohydrates at one sitting, you also should aim to eat two servings of protein from the protein list. However, this is not always possible, so just remember to stick to your total daily servings of each grain and protein.
The Rule of Hand
The foods that contain protein are divided into two categories: powerful proteins, which receive the "thumbs-up"; and perilous proteins, which receive the "thumbs-down."
To get started, combine your carbohydrate choice with any of the options from the "Thumbs-Up" Powerful Proteins list on pages 33 to 35 in Chapter 2, and stick to the Rule of Hand. Each protein is listed with its part of the hand-size portion. The "thumbs-up" proteins have been carefully selected, as they are the best protein options for combining with carbohydrates. The "thumbs-up" options are ideal for firing up your metabolism because they are lean protein sources (low in fat) and, therefore, in their appropriate portion sizes they will adequately extend the metabolism-revving boost of the carbohydrates. What's more, since these protein portions are moderate size, and because they are low in fat, they don't overwhelm your system by causing the blood to stay in the stomach for too long, competing with your blood supply to your muscles. Therefore, you will have plenty of energy to be active and burn calories. And although it takes a little bit of practice to get accustomed to the serving sizes of each, soon, after using the Rule of Hand, it becomes easy.
Tired of chicken? Take a walk on the wild side. Try ostrich, which, like chicken, is poultry. This bird has gained a lot of popularity as a healthy alternative to the same old chicken. Chicken breast has about 140 calories and three grams of fat in a three-ounce serving. Ostrich has 108 calories and two to three grams of fat in the same-size serving. (Three ounces is about the size of a deck of cards or the size of four fingers.)
A "thumbs-down" protein can become a "thumbs-up" one. Here's how to remove about half the fat from ground beef. 1) Start with the reddest, leanest meat possible. 2) Brown it in a skillet. 3) Place cooked meat on paper towels. 4) Dump meat into a strainer and rinse it with hot (not boiling) water. 5) Drain it completely.
Choosing the Best Proteins
Many protein foods, such as many of the "thumbs-down" proteins, contain saturated fat, which raises your cholesterol level and is responsible for making your blood "sticky." "Sticky" cells are more likely to clump together and clot, or become part of the plaque in artery walls, thereby contributing to heart disease. (What's more, although it has not yet been scientifically tested, we believe that anything that hampers smooth flow of blood and oxygen throughout your body and to your working muscles also negatively impacts your body processes, including your metabolic rate.) The "thumbs-up" proteins such as white meat chicken and turkey without the skin are much lower in artery-clogging saturated fat and are much healthier than beef, lamb, or most cuts of pork. Protein foods like fish, soy products, nonfat and low-fat dairy products, and especially beans have many health benefits.
By far, the best meat to eat is fish. Fish have omega-3 fatty acids that protect the heart by reducing the clotting tendency of the blood and reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke. The omega-3s in fish may also help to maintain a normal heart rhythm and may lower triglycerides. As strange as it may seem, the fish that have the most of these benefits are the ones that are highest in fat (the omega-3 fatty acids), such as salmon, herring, anchovies, oysters, sardines, whitefish, and mackerel.
Search for scallops. Scallops are low in fat and high in protein, and they are sure to fire up your metabolism when served on a small bed of brown rice with vegetables.
Fried fish? Fish for something else. Eating fish with an "always" carbohydrate is one of the best ways to extend the metabolic boost from that carbohydrate food. However, if your fish swam in oil on its way to your plate, kiss it good-bye. Eating fried fish overwhelms your metabolism, leaving you a lethargic, calorie-hoarding rather than calorie-burning machine. Eat your fish baked, steamed, grilled, poached, or even cooked in wine, just steer clear of it fried, and you'll be just fine.
Try the tuna! Grilled, poached, steamed, topped with teriyaki sauce, or wrapped in seaweed in your favorite sushi roll, tuna is sure to please. Note: To fire up your metabolism, when you buy canned tuna, be sure that it is canned in water and not in oil.
Give tuna salad a tune-up. To save your waistline, instead of using regular, calorie-dense, fat-packed mayonnaise, use mustard or nonfat or low-fat mayonnaise as your dressing.
Getting bored? Try the sword! Swordfish has only 150 calories per three-ounce serving and a healthy dose of omega-3s. Try preparing this fish with a summer salsa made with chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, apples, and bell peppers.
Sushi is super -- unless it is the spicy rolls, then steer clear! The fish in sushi gives you your "thumbs-up" protein. Unfortunately, the spicy rolls have a mayonnaise sauce, which makes this healthy protein an artery-clogging, fatty meal.
Mercury in Fish
Recently, the Food and Drug Administration warned women in their childbearing years to avoid certain fish, including swordfish, shark, king mackerel, and tilefish, as they contain concentrated levels of mercury. The FDA is being urged to target tuna, both raw and canned, as also being high in mercury and potentially harmful to a fetus's developing nervous system. So if you are a woman of childbearing age, stick to the fish/seafood with the lowest levels of mercury: blue crab, farmed-raised catfish, croaker (not white), flounder, haddock, salmon (both farm-raised and wild), shrimp, and farm-raised trout.
Lobster, prepared in white wine, is just fine. Lobster is a "thumbs-up" protein that is usually made a "thumbs-down" protein by being dunked in butter. Butter adds one hundred calories per level tablespoon. So cook it in white wine and the lobster won't add an ounce to your behind. And say yes to lobster if it's dipped in lemon and cocktail sauce.
Shrimp tempura? What a horror! After the shrimp are battered and fried, they have more than twice the calories as grilled shrimp.
Eating Thai? Try the shrimp shumai. Steamed and not fried, this dish is packed with shrimp's "thumbs-up" protein.
Steamed crab? How fab! This "thumbs-up" protein is low in fat and calories. Go to a Maryland crab feast, and with a little wishful thinking you may even burn more calories than you eat by cracking open the crab shells.
Crab cake? Big mistake. Not only are crab cakes usually prepared with tons of mayo, they are then deep-fried. Save your waistline and go for the lump or fresh crabmeat, which are "thumbs-up" metabolism-revving proteins.
Be a fan of steamed mussels and steamed clams. Both are "thumbs-up" proteins that are sure to give your metabolism a boost when combined with an "always" carbohydrate.
Fillet of sole is good for your soul. You'll feel good after eating this fish, knowing that you just ate a "thumbs-up" protein-packed, low-fat fish. As with all foods, just be sure it isn't fried. And be sure to have a metabolism-revving "always" carbohydrate, such as a small baked potato, with it.
Soy and its products are some of the best protein options. As dietitians, we have heard people say that just the thought of including soy foods into their meal plans makes them cringe, although usually they admit to having never even tried any soy foods. When we tell them that they probably have already unknowingly welcomed it onto their plates -- in miso soup, in smoothies or fruit shakes, in omelets, in Chinese dishes, or in the edamame (green pea pods) that are served at Japanese restaurants -- they realize that their fear is unfounded.
Soy protein can lower your body's "bad" LDL cholesterol. What's more, it may keep your blood vessels healthy because one of the components in soy, called genistein, helps to prevent blood from clumping and clotting (clumping narrows the vessels and leads to clogged arteries and heart disease). A bonus: Including soy in your diet may reduce the risk of other chronic diseases like cancer and osteoporosis. The great news is that you don't have to give up eating beef or chicken to reap the benefits of this "thumbs-up" protein. Just make a few adjustments in some of your favorite meals to include soy products. For example, in a sloppy joe, use half ground beef and half soy crumbles.
Make it crumble. Soy meat crumbles are easy to include in your meals to make a lower-calorie, heart-healthy dish. Cook sloppy joes, lasagna, and spaghetti and meat sauce with this tasty alternative to high-fat meat. Find soy crumbles in the frozen section of your grocery store. And while you're there, be sure to pick up a soy burger. Try Boca Burgers, which are a favorite of our clients. One original burger is one protein serving.
Bring me edamame. This green pea pod often served at Japanese restaurants is a soybean. It is one of our clients' favorite appetizers. It is surely one of the healthiest appetizers and one of the few ways that you can actually get fiber when you eat protein! Each 2/3-cup serving, with shells, is one "thumbs-up" protein.
Hot diggity dog! Yes, you can have a hot dog, but only if it is a soy hot dog. And while you're at it, give a nod to soy sausage. Our clients love Morningstar Farms brand.
Believing in the Bean
Beans are loaded with iron, folic acid, and fiber, all of which many Americans are deficient in. Also filled with protein and potassium, lentils, pinto beans, and garbanzos (not green beans or wax beans), have been shown to lower cholesterol within three to four weeks when eaten by people with elevated cholesterol levels.
Don't bean shy. All you need is 1/2 cup. In addition to being a great source of protein, beans are a source of "always" carbs. So beans are the entire metabolic-revving package in themselves. They contain carbohydrates to provide you with energy to be active. They also have fiber to help you to feel satiated and to make the metabolic-revving and energy boost of the carbohydrates last longer. (A bowl of beans has more fiber than your basic high-fiber cereal.) What's more, they are packed with protein that will extend the metabolic boost of the carbohydrates. So don't bean shy! Aim for 1/2 cup three times a week. Order a bean burrito at a Mexican restaurant (just be sure the beans aren't refried). Try lentil soup or bean chili. Sprinkle beans in your salad, and dip your veggies in hummus or a low-fat bean dip.
Refried is usually a sin, but it doesn't have to be. Choose Bearitos or Old El Paso fat-free refried beans. These beans have the texture and taste of their lard-ridden counterparts. Roll up 1/2 cup of these beans and some chopped bell peppers in a small whole wheat tortilla and sprinkle with nonfat cheese and salsa. Then microwave, and voilà! You have a healthy lunch, snack, or dinner. Remember, just 1/2 cup is all it takes to have a great dose of metabolism protein and fiber! (Note: More is not better.)
Live for the lentil. But only 1/2 cup. A 1/2-cup serving contains a whopping eight grams of fiber, nine grams of protein, and virtually no fat. And lentils are like other beans in that they provide a metabolic boost with a satiating burst of nutrients, especially folate and iron.
Nonfat and low-fat dairy products round out the "thumbs-up" protein list. The key is choosing nonfat and low-fat dairy products rather than reduced-fat and whole-milk dairy products, which are high in saturated fat and calories.
Reduced-fat cheese is not as low in fat as it sounds. Reduced-fat just means 25 percent less fat than the original product, so it is still high in fat. Choose low-fat and nonfat cheese. Avoid cheese in meals at restaurants when you can't ensure that you are getting low-fat and nonfat varieties. This little adjustment alone has terrific results.
Did you think farmer's cheese was low-fat? Think again. This fresh cheese is a form of cottage cheese from which most of the liquid has been pressed. It contains one hundred calories per ounce and eight grams of fat (six of which are saturated). For an item to qualify as a "low-fat" food, it must contain fewer than three grams of fat per serving. So this cheese is far from low-fat.
Avoiding pizza? Here's one that won't sabotage your efforts to fire up your metabolism. One slice of Pizza Hut's Hand Tossed Veggie Lover's Pizza has 180 calories and five grams of fat (only two grams of fat are the artery-clogging kind).
Our clients love snacking on low-fat string cheese or nonfat and low-fat yogurt and cottage cheese. Add nonfat cheese varieties to burritos, lasagna, mashed potatoes, soups, and other combination dishes. There is a bonus to eating low-fat and nonfat yogurt: Yogurt has enough carbohydrates and protein to provide your body with the benefits of both carbohydrates and protein; it doesn't have to be mixed with more carbohydrate, protein, or fat in order to fire up your metabolism. Yogurt can be eaten alone for a metabolism-revving snack.
Here's how to keep skim milk skinny yet buff. You say that skim milk is too watery? Try Skim Plus or add a teaspoon or two of nonfat dried milk to each cup. Skim Plus is the same as skim milk but with added calcium and a consistency more like whole milk. You get a thicker and richer-tasting milk with more calcium and protein yet not more fat.
Think twice about half-and-half. Just 1/2 cup of half-and half has 160 calories and thirteen grams of fat, and nine of those fat grams are saturated. Eighty percent of half-and-half's calories come from fat, not from protein. On the other hand, Land O' Lakes fat-free half-and-half, made from skim milk and a little carrageen (added to make a creamy texture), is a "thumbs-up" protein that can fire up your metabolism. And it can revolutionize fettuccine Alfredo.
Eat yogurt, be lean? Not so fast. Most people assume that yogurt and cottage cheese are the original weight-loss foods. However, some regular fruit-flavored yogurts have a whopping 250 to 280 calories in just one cup (eight ounces). And if it's not skim or 1 percent cottage cheese, it can actually cause you to pack on the pounds. When it comes to yogurt, look for the nonfat light yogurt, which has just 120 calories in a cup, or plain nonfat yogurt, which has 110 calories in a cup. For cottage cheese, have 1/2 cup of the nonfat or 1 percent fat cottage cheese and you will get one hundred calories.
Love creamy yogurt? Fat-free Greek yogurt has a deliciously thick and creamy texture, yet with no fat. Look for it at specialty markets and Greek markets.
Accused of raising the body's cholesterol level, the egg has gotten a rotten rep. Recently, however, eggs were given a clean slate, as they contain only 11/2 grams of saturated fat, the main dietary culprit for raising blood cholesterol levels. They are a healthy "thumbs-up" protein and can help you jump-start your metabolism. Combining one whole egg or several egg whites with an "always" carbohydrate is a surefire way to feel satiated while firing up your metabolism by extending the metabolic boost from the carbohydrate. Just remember, moderation is the key. (If you have high cholesterol, limit egg yolks to three per week.)
Wakey, wakey...eggs and oatmeal. For the ultimate Fire Up Your Metabolism breakfast, have two scrambled egg whites (cooked in cooking spray, of course!) and one cup of cooked oatmeal.
Eggs in a brown bag? Absolutely, when you're talkin' hard-boiled. Your midafternoon snack is easy to pack -- just toss a hard-boiled egg and ten Health Valley Whole Wheat crackers in a brown bag for a great carbohydrate-protein combination.
There are a few times to say no to salad. Egg salad, chicken salad, tuna salad, and whitefish salad are all loaded with mayonnaise. Therefore, most of the calories in these salads come from fat and not from the protein found in eggs, chicken, and fish. Steer clear!
Don't Deny Yourself
Chances are you love at least some of the "thumbs-down" foods. Don't deny yourself. Just be cautious with the portion size. Portions of "thumbs-down" proteins should be one-half the size of their "thumbs-up" counterparts. We realize that these portions are probably smaller than you are accustomed to, but the point is that you can eat these foods as long as you limit yourself. Here's what to do: Limit the "thumbs-down" options to seven servings each week. You can have these servings any time you choose. This means that you can have all seven servings in a splurge day, or you can have one serving every day.
Copyright © 2004 by Lyssie Lakatos and Tammy Lakatos Shames