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Can eating spicy foods help with weight loss as some studies suggest? Could the same spices that set the mouth on fire in Mexican dishes also ignite the metabolism and lead to greater fat loss? This would be welcome news for those who love spicy food and have a few extra pounds to lose.

Eating Spices for Fat Loss

A group of Canadian researchers looked back through past research studies and found that certain spices have the potential to increase the rate of thermogenesis or fat metabolism. These include such common spices as black pepper, ginger, and red chili pepper, as well as capsaicin, a chemical found in red chili peppers that gives them their red hot, fiery taste. They also believe that eating these spices in combination with one another might produce an even greater effect on fat metabolism and weight loss than eating a single one.

Capsaicin: A Spice With Thermogenic Potential

Capsaicin is natural chemical that’s long intrigued researchers because of its thermogenic properties. In a study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, researchers discovered how capsaicin may enhance thermogenesis. They found that capsaicin uncouples the action of a protein involved in muscle contraction, causing the energy to be released as heat, resulting in a slight increase in body temperature and metabolic rate.
Another study showed that eating capsaicin with a meal boosted the rate of thermogenesis by as much as twenty-three percent. Although this sounds promising, research suggests that it would take large quantities of this chemical to have a significant impact on fat loss, greater than most people could achieve through eating spices. The hope is that this finding could be used to create similar compounds that work to increase thermogenesis at lower doses.

Eating Spices for Weight Loss: Does It Have Potential?

Despite this, there may be some benefit to eating spices when it comes to weight loss, although the results are unlikely to be effective in the absence of a good diet and exercise plan. The benefits of eating spices may be two-fold. Spicy foods tend to satiate the appetite more quickly than bland foods, particularly foods that are both hot and spicy. Combine that with the subtle boost in thermogenesis induced by the spices and a slight weight loss benefit might be achieved. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely to replace the need for healthy eating choices. The bottom line? A healthy diet and regular exercise are still the best way to achieve lasting weight loss.

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body fat percentage

People who decide to lose weight too often focus on a number on the scale rather than what they really want to lose - fat. The biggest disadvantage of using weight loss as the ultimate measure of success is that the amount of weight lost has no bearing on what was lost, fat or muscle, yet losing fat, as opposed to muscle, has a large effect on a positive outcome. Too much muscle loss results in a smaller, yet still flabby, version of the dieter while increased fat loss results in more desirable muscle tone.

Measuring Body Fat, the First Step to Fat Loss Success

There are many methods of estimating body fat percentage, but some are more easily accessible than others. Several methods, such as underwater testing and the DEXA test are very accurate, but impractical for repeated measurements. Better options for those hoping to improve their body composition are skin-fold calipers and bio-electric impedance devices.

Measuring Body Fat Percentage Using Skin-fold Calipers

Skin-fold calipers are small devices used to measure the thickness of skin pinches at precise locations on the body. There are several protocols, including a 3-site test, as well as a 7-site test, that are accurate, but require someone else to perform the test due to the pinch locations. The thickness of the pinches are totaled and a body fat percentage is determined based on gender and age.

For those interested in a convenient method of performing a skin-fold body fat test on themselves, Accumeasure makes an inexpensive, skin-fold caliper that gives reasonable results from an accessible, single-pinch location.

Measuring Body Fat Percentage Using Bio-Electric Impedance Devices

Several manufacturers make scales or hand-held devices that measure body fat percentage by a process called bio-electric impedance. These test the body’s resistance to a small electric current which is then translated into a body fat percentage. Some of these devices are expensive and they are very sensitive to hydration levels. Large increases, or decreases, in hydration can throw off the calculations by several percentage points.

Losing Fat is Not the Same as Losing Weight

A prerequisite of losing weight is a calorie deficit. A person must consume fewer calories than are being burned, and once the deficit totals approximately 3500 calories, a pound is lost. The composition of that pound of weight is typically a combination of fat, water, and muscle. To minimize the amount of muscle lost, and maximize fat loss during dieting, dieters must strength train with a general conditioning program utilizing as much muscle mass as possible. Strength training forces the use of muscles and makes the body burn fat preferentially, while maintaining muscle mass, and increasing the resulting muscle tone after dieting.

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Increasing metabolism is essential for anyone that plans on losing weight quickly. The faster the metabolism is working, the more calories that will be burned during the day, which will determine someone's weight loss.

Cut Down on the Alcohol for Weight Loss

The first step to increasing metabolism is to cut down on alcohol consumption (to get the metabolism functioning at it's optimum level and get the body to start losing weight quickly it is better to cut out alcohol all together if possible). When a person drinks alcohol their body views the alcohol as a poison, so it works to remove the alcohol from their system before anything else. So if someone has food in their stomach while there is still alcohol in their system, their body is only working to get the alcohol out and not the food. Only when the alcohol is gone does the metabolism begin to process the food. This can quickly result in a slow metabolism. Eating lots of food while drinking is a quick way to gain weight. An increasing metabolism is an extremely difficult goal for people who drink alcohol and then eat. Keep the alcohol consumption as low as possible and do not eat after drinking alcohol.

Avoid Fried Foods to Boost Metabolism

Foods that are deep fried in fat can result in a slow metabolism and can make you gain weight as a result. Instead of eating fried foods, eat foods that are grilled or boiled instead. Boiled and grilled foods are not going to add unnecessary calories and fat to a meal. To increase metabolism, always boil or grill any type of meats or fish that are going to be consumed. Eating meats and fish that are grilled or boiled is an easy way to start losing weight quickly. Chicken is a meat that is typically deep fried in restaurants, so avoid any chicken that was prepared using deep frying.

Yo-Yo Dieting Slows Metabolism

Studies show that yo-yo dieting can slow down the metabolism, sometimes even permanently. Instead of starting and stopping diets, focus on maintaining a healthy diet throughout the year so as to not end up with a slow metabolism. Losing weight quickly will come from a healthy balanced diet, not crash diets that will only help weight loss for a short time before an inevitable eating binge occurs.

Do Not Eat Before Bed

As the night goes on, the metabolism begins to slow down as the body prepares itself for sleep. When someone starts eating late at night right before bed, the metabolism is not working at a very high level and this will make it very easy to gain weight. As a general rule, do not eat any food after 8pm. This is an important step to losing weight quickly because almost everyone gets late night cravings but it takes will power to fight this urge and avoid eating unnecessary calories.

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Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or to guide treatment without the opinion of a health professional. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact a doctor for advice.

real weight loss

When it comes to the world of dieting and weight-loss, beginners often find that it is a difficult sea to navigate. From celebrity-endorsed weight loss plans to websites saturated with advertisements for various supposed “miracle” supplements, the person who is just stepping his or her foot into the door of fitness has vast amount of superfluous information to sift through. Although every fitness guru has his or her “angle” on what exactly will reduce body weight, there are five healthy things that most fitness professionals and physicians will agree on.

Five Tips for Weight Loss Success

Five tried-and-true tips for success at the weight loss game are as follows:

Use smaller plates for meals.
It’s profoundly simple, and sounds very silly in principle, but in practice, the theory of using a smaller plate works. The author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, Brian Wansink, PhD, says, “When you use large dishes, you will inevitably serve more food because they make the food look so small.” Essentially, a smaller plate creates instant portion control, but knowing exactly what a “serving” of something is helps too. WebMD has a great tool for helping learn about portion sizes in various foods.

Chew gum while cooking.
Using the toothbrush before cooking works well, too. The flavor of mint not only suppresses hunger, but the taste contamination will make one lose the desire to take the food for a while.

Keep track of caloric intake, as well as calories burned from exercise.
What is the most difficult part of tracking calories? Being honest about consumption! A food diary forces one to be mindful of everything eaten, and an exercise diary helps motivation. FatSecret has a fantastic calorie-counter and exercise-tracker for BlackBerry. It includes several popular restaurants, brands, and the calories burned from exercise are based on the users height and weight.

Weigh-in only once per week.
For a dieter, to weigh-in more than once a week can create unnecessary stress from the day-to-day fluctuations from foods, water retention, and clothing. Weekly progress can help show a timely progression of success.

Switch up the work-out routine, but not too often.
Fitness trainer Joe Dowdell writes for That’s Fit, a fitness website that tackles all topics of living healthy. He says that a “normal” (i.e. not Olympic-level) athlete should only change up their workout every “three to four weeks.” He says that, “The nervous system is what actually sends the messages to the muscular system to perform a particular movement pattern. It's also what helps you refine various movement patterns and allows you to get stronger and have more control when performing these patterns.” Thus, allowing a routine to settle in allows the muscles to progress, but changing occasionally keeps tedium from setting in and keeps the athlete from doing routines that he or she has outgrown.

Further Reading

weight loss success
Ensuring calories are below maintenance level can be tricky because the number of calories required varies individually by genetics, metabolism, and activity levels. There is a simple way that each individual can determine their own calorie needs – keep a food log. Keeping a food log can be as simple as writing down everything eaten in a day, or as complicated as calculating food amounts and associated calories, fat, or other nutrients.

Write down everything consumed in a day, including drinks. Once the number of calories consumed each day is known, they can be incrementally reduced to a level which allows for a healthy weight loss of one to two pounds per week, an approximately 500 to 1000 calorie per day deficit.

Cardiovascular Exercise – Putting the Fitness in Fat to Fit

The second element of long-term weight loss is cardiovascular exercise. Exercise that can be maintained at a moderate intensity level for a minimum of 30 minutes helps burn additional calories and is recommended for health benefits beyond weight loss, such as lower blood pressure, decreased cholesterol levels, and increased bone density.

Cardio exercise is beneficial from a health perspective and makes people feel good, but those hoping to lose weight should realize that exercise is not the most efficient means of creating a calorie deficit. A common assumption is that short duration of moderate exercise burns many calories.

In reality, an intensity level achievable by a typical out-of-condition person will burn a maximum of 150 to 200 calories in 30 minutes. It is far simpler and less time consuming to avoid eating 200 calories per day than it is to burn those same calories in exercise.

Weight Training Means Less Fat, More Fit

The final element of long-term weight loss success is weight training. It may seem counter-intuitive to weight train while attempting to lose weight, but weight training has been shown to improve fat loss while maintaining metabolically-active, calorie-burning muscle. People who weight train while losing weight lose more fat, and some studies have show that they lose more unhealthy abdominal fat. Weight training also has the additional benefits of increasing strength and boosting self-esteem.

Putting it All Together

Once a person is regularly doing each of these healthy behaviors, weight loss should be monitored frequently, but no more frequently than once a week. The week-long time frame is great for showing progress and allowing those wanting to transition from fat to fit to make adjustments to diet or exercise and ensure continued progress. As the body adapts to fewer calories and more exercise, adjustments will be necessary to continue to progress in weight loss, or fitness levels.

Going from fat to fit is not easy, but with vigilance and determination, anyone can lose fat and become a fitter, healthier person.

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resistance training
Resistance training is by no means only for professional bodybuilders or weightlifters looking to gain weight, though this is a common exercise misconception that has persisted for some time. Instead it has been proven a safe and effective method for achieving a desirable body composition, as well as promoting an individual's overall health and wellness for men and women of any age. Resistance training has been linked to numerous positive effects including benefits in strength, posture, and flexibility.

In addition, it boosts the immune system and improves cardiovascular health. It is frequently overlooked by those seeking to lose weight or reduce body fat, but in actuality, resistance training is far more effective at achieving these goals than it is given credit for, and is even superior to basic aerobic exercise methods.

Resistance Training Explained

The basic structure of resistance training typically consists of a series of repetitions between six and 12, followed by a short period of rest. This operates on very different principles than those of aerobic activity which utilizes a consistent state of an elevated heart rate . The traditional method is to use free weights, or dumbbells, but most modern gyms contain a variety of alternatives. The preset machines are an easier and quicker method of teaching one the basic movement that should be followed and as such is an effective introduction to weight training which can avoid injuries. Another option is to use cables. These can range from simple elastic bands, that can be wrapped around a pole or stepped on while performing the motions, to a complex setup of pulleys and cables that many modern gyms offer.

The advantage of cables is the superior range of flexibility they offer over machines, and as such they are ideal for complex whole-body movements and warm-ups. Free weights, on the other hand, offer the least restricted range of motion and the most comprehensive expanse of resistance, but at the same time they can lead to a higher potential for injury if performed incorrectly, so a good tip is to start light and slowly increase weights as the motions become easier. Although an ideal advanced regimen would incorporate all three methods, any option is an effective way to burn fat and improve wellness while avoiding the potential joint injuries associated with long bouts of running or biking.

A Problem with Many Current Weight Loss Programs

The fact that so many individuals insist on the use of low intensity aerobic exercise to achieve their goals represents a flaw in the information available to them, a flaw that must be amended in order to achieve the results one desires. One reason why such cardio is so widely advocated is the ease with which it can be performed. It is often true of human nature that one is more likely to succeed at a task that requires minimal effort when compared to one that is difficult. For this reason, low intensity aerobics are advanced as a way to begin exercising, an initiation of sorts. The dilemma is that few people are aware of the moment when it is no longer effective and continue to exercise the same way with few results. This often leads to a lack of motivation to persist and thus constitutes a failure in the exercise regimen.

Ideally, one must continually increase the difficulty of their activity in order to keep progressing. This is due to the body's ability to adapt to the pressures placed on it and respond accordingly. Thus, as time progresses, one's physical activity must increase just to continue to elicit the same response it once did. Eventually the time one must spend engaged in such activity becomes almost counterproductive and as few calories will be burnt by the activity in question as by doing nothing. This is especially true when considering the stress that is placed on the joints in contact, potentially leading to pain in the knees and back.

There is an easier solution; the calories burned - and thus the success of an exercise session - are based on the total energy expenditure. This is calculated, not just by the duration of the session but the intensity as well. It is for precisely this reason that the results of resistance training far outweigh those of conventional steady-state aerobic exercise.