Countdown to Kickstart: This Live-and-in-Person Program Starts Oct. 4!
On Oct. 4, PCRM’s first-ever Kickstart Intensive program will begin in Washington, D.C. In sessions on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, participants will get everything they need to start on a path to better health, a trimmer waistline, and a whole new attitude about life. I hope you’ll join us.
I’ll be giving full-length courses on weight control, breaking food addictions, foods for cancer prevention and survival, tackling diabetes and cholesterol, and a new topic—foods and brain health. Michael Greger, M.D., will present the latest in nutritional science as only he can. Christine Waltermyer will demonstrate the best techniques in the kitchen. PCRM’s Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., and Joseph Gonzales, R.D., will tackle those potentially confusing topics: What about omega-3s? Is soy good or bad? How do I boost my weight loss? And, yes, we’ll feed you! A special presentation by Elizabeth Kucinich will reveal how to follow a healthful diet while on the go and in the public eye.
If you’re new to healthful eating, the Kickstart Intensive is your perfect introduction. If you already know the basics, we’ll bring you to the next level.
To whet your appetite, I’m going to devote a few commentaries to give you a taste of what you’ll learn in the Kickstart Intensive. Today, I’d like to focus on boosting metabolism.
Did you ever find yourself thinking “I used to be able to eat anything I wanted, but now, I just look at food and I gain weight”? Well, it’s not your imagination. Your metabolism—your calorie-burning speed—really can change over time. If it’s slowed over the years, here’s how to give yourself a metabolic boost.
As you’re lying in bed asleep, your calorie-burning speed is at its lowest point of the day. When you rise, your metabolism begins to pick up. And when you eat a meal, it gets an extra boost. As the foods you are eating are digested and burned, they rev up your engine, so to speak. This is called the thermic effect of food, and it lasts for about three hours after the meal.
In one of PCRM’s research studies, we asked a group of people with chronic weight problems to try a plant-based diet and to minimize oils for 14 weeks. Before and after, we tested everyone’s metabolic rate, so that we knew exactly how quickly they were burning calories.
It was no surprise that the participants lost weight. That’s routine with a plant-based diet. What was new is that we were able to understand why they lost weight. Part of the credit goes to the fact that vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans simply do not pack many calories. However, there was another reason. Their after-meal metabolism was about 16 percent faster than before.
How does this happen? The explanation was described in my book 21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart. A diet adjustment actually reprograms your cells to pull sugar out of the blood more quickly, so it can be burned. Here is how:
How Foods Boost Your After-Meal Calorie Burn
In order to burn calories, you need to get nutrients inside your cells. Normally, the hormone insulin escorts sugar and protein from your bloodstream into your cells. If insulin shoots the nutrients from foods into cells rapidly, they can be quickly converted to energy. But insulin’s ability to do that can be impaired when fat has built up inside the cell. And that, of course, happens to many people.
If you had a very powerful microscope that could look inside your muscle cells, you would see that fat from the foods you eat forms tiny droplets inside each cell.
Now, a small collection of fat droplets in each cell is perfectly normal; everyone has some of them. But if you’ve accumulated quite a number of fat droplets, they interfere with insulin’s efforts to move glucose into the cells.
Let me be clear. These are fat droplets inside your muscle cells. This is not a fat layer padding your waistline or rounding your hips. These microscopic bits of fat are lurking deep within the individual cells of your body. Scientists call them intramyocellular lipid.
I liken this situation to chewing gum in a lock. If some troublemaker put chewing gum into your front-door lock, your key would not work very well. Insulin is like a key. If you have a great many fat droplets packed into your muscle cells, the insulin “key” has trouble opening the cell membrane to allow glucose inside. If glucose can’t get in, it can’t be converted to energy. For some people, things get even worse: The buildup of fat inside cells leads to serious insulin resistance and eventually to type 2 diabetes. Those mischievous fat particles come from the foods you eat.
But it gets worse. Normally, your cells can burn up some of the fat you are consuming. Each cell has tiny particles, called mitochondria, which are like little burners, and they do their best to metabolize fat. But when you eat too much fat, these burners no longer work very well.
Scientists in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, asked ten healthy men to eat more fat than they normally would—about half their calories came from fat, compared with the more usual fat intake, which is about one-third of calories. After three days of fatty foods, the researchers removed tiny samples of each man’s muscle cells in order to examine them carefully. It turned out that the cells no longer functioned normally. The fatty foods had partially turned off the genes that produce mitochondria. In other words, fatty meals didn’t just more fat into the cells; they also reduced the number of mitochondria “burners” in their cells. And that makes it harder to burn away fat.
So the secret is this: If you take most of the fat out of your diet, each lean little cell responds to insulin much more quickly. It pulls sugar and protein out of the blood and sends them into your cells, converting them to energy. Your cells become supercharged, ready to burn off calories faster.
From 21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart, by Neal D. Barnard, M.D.
See you at the Kickstart Intensive, Oct. 4-6, 2012, in Washington, D.C.