RD&T contributing author, Marlene Watson-Tara, shares part three of her Macro Vegan Program: Fat-Burning Simplified.
The Role of Insulin
When you eat a big meal that is loaded with simple carbohydrates (simple sugars, pasta, white rice, bread, or potatoes), it sends your blood sugar soaring. The body immediately releases a hormone called insulin. It is the job of insulin to move the sugar out of the bloodstream since excessive blood sugar can do serious damage.
Insulin escorts sugar into muscle cells to be used as energy. Muscle cells can only use so much energy at once. When they don’t require more energy, the sugar gets “stored” in the cells instead of being utilized. This is why insulin is sometimes called the “fat-storing hormone.”
Insulin doesn’t work alone. It has the help of an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase (LPL), which is the “fat-storing enzyme.” LPL takes triglycerides (fats) from the bloodstream, divides them into smaller parts called fatty acids, and then promptly helps to store them in your fat cells.
If insulin remains in your bloodstream, it eﬀectively locks the doors to your fat cells. If these doors can’t open, you won’t be able to burn the fat stored inside. Once your insulin levels come back down, the doors will open. Of course, if you continue to eat a high refined-carbohydrate diet, the longer insulin will stay active in your bloodstream, the more fat will store, and the less you will be able to burn.
It is important to know that unrefined or complex carbohydrates such as whole grains do not release insulin in the same way.
How Do You Burn Fat?
Insulin has a sister hormone. Its name is glucagon, and it is a critical component of your fat-burning biochemistry. When you need more energy and food isn’t available, glucagon is secreted. The purpose of this hormone is the exact opposite of insulin. Glucagon goes into the cells and causes fat to be released (opening the cell doors), and it does so with the help of a fat-burning enzyme called hormone-sensitive lipase (HSL).
Much like glucagon is the “opposite” of insulin, HSL is the “opposite” of LPL, the fat-storing enzyme we spoke of earlier. HSL breaks down triglycerides (fats stored in your cells) into fatty acids and glycerol. As they travel around the bloodstream, they can be burned for energy or excreted. This glucagon/HSL axis is what is called the “fat-burning switch.”
The Fat-Burning Switch
Fat burning won’t take place unless the fat-burning switch (glucagon/HSL) is turned on. The fat-burning switch is in the “oﬀ” position as long as insulin levels are high. Insulin levels are high whenever blood sugar is high, and blood sugar is typically high in response to high refined-carbohydrate meals.
The solution to the problem of how to burn fat is simple. Keep blood sugar in a moderate range where it won’t trigger excess insulin to stay in the bloodstream. By keeping blood sugar (and insulin) down, you allow glucagon/HSL, the fat-burning switch, to do its magic. This is exactly what Weight Loss Nature’s Way does. In combination with a simple programme of exercise, you will lose weight in a healthy manner and keep it oﬀ.
10 Steps to Get the Best Energy from Your Food
- Use the highest quality, locally grown, seasonally available, fresh ingredients.
- Use organically grown food whenever possible.
- If possible, cook whole grains or beans under pressure.
- Cook with stainless steel, cast iron, or ceramic-coated pans. Replace Teflon-coated and aluminum pans as soon as possible.
- Cooking with gas is preferable.
- Use only sea salt or natural seasonings, such as naturally fermented soy sauce, miso, and herbs.
- Cook dynamically with a variety of foods, styles, colours, tastes, and textures (e.g. creamy, crunchy or chewy).
- Relax in the kitchen, keep a calm, peaceful mind, and make it yourself.
- Chew each mouthful.
- Eat with gratitude.
The way of eating is as important as the food itself. Keeping meals peaceful, relaxed, and eating at regular times is important.
Cook Once – Eat Twice: Save Time and Effort
Use these time-saving tips to prepare your food.
- Cook double the amount and use the rest for tomorrow’s lunch.
- Cook more than you need and freeze the rest. A good idea is to freeze the extra food in small portions so you have ready-made meals when time is of the essence.
- Make double the sauce and use for another dish later in the week.
- Freeze half to use for future quick dinners.
- Use up any leftover vegetables to make a juice.
- Cut enough fresh vegetables for several days and store in the fridge so that all the cutting is done and you can cook quickly.
- Peel and chop carrots, onions, or other vegetables, bag them, and when needed, just take out as much as you require and reseal. No more soggy vegetables at the bottom of your vegetable box.
- Make a weekly menu plan, which makes it possible to use leftovers eﬃciently and makes meal preparation simpler.
- Beans and grains will last three days after being cooked.
- Make enough beans to use in a stew or casserole or add to a minestrone soup.
- Brown rice (or any grain) can be used with vegetables with a nut or seed garnish, sautéed with vegetables, as a stir-fry, or used as porridge by adding water. Grain and beans are good to re-use but do your best to cook vegetables fresh.
- Make a large batch of soup stock with vegetables and wakame seaweed, and keep it in the fridge. Puree a little miso with water and set aside. When you want soup, simply use the amount of stock you need, and heat well. Then put some of the miso in the bottom of a bowl, pour the heated stock over it, stir, and serve.
- Sea vegetable dishes last. Cook up a good amount, and then use a small portion daily.
- Always have some whole grain pasta (spelt is good), bulgur, couscous, and other partially refined grains at hand for last-minute meals.
- Learn to make a few delicious vegetarian sauces and dressings. Make extra and keep them in the fridge. That way you can always make quick salads or other dishes and dress them up.
- Have a stock of organic, cooked beans and other foods on hand for when you get pressed for time.
- Choose two new recipes from your cookbooks every week so that you are constantly expanding your range of dishes and your familiarity with the foods.
The kitchen cupboard is the nerve centre of your kitchen; keep it well-stocked, and you will save time dashing to the shops for that single ingredient and will always have a delicious meal at hand, even when the fridge is looking bare.
Short Cuts to Healthy Eating for Busy People
Succeed by planning ahead. Most people think you are tied to the kitchen when you eat this way, but if you organize yourself, you can spend literally twenty minutes in the kitchen and have a delicious meal ready by having prepped and stored various items like vegetables, grains, bean dishes, and soups beforehand. As you will see from the above quick tips, a breakfast, lunch, or dinner can be put together in no time at all. It is all about planning ahead and being organized.
Storing and reheating cooked food makes it possible to assist you in serving delicious healthy meals in as little as ten minutes. Using soba, udon, quick-cooking grains, or lightly boiled or steamed vegetables are all quick ways to cook something tasty up in no time.
“Cook Once — Eat Twice” is my motto.
Here are some quick breakfast tips. Heat some leftover whole grains into porridge; add seeds, nuts, and dried or stewed fruit of your choice; or toast or steam some sourdough bread, and spread some almond paste, peanut spread, or tahini on it — delicious! Slice an apple and have a serving of some toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds alongside it. Make a green juice or other fresh fruit or vegetable juice. Bancha twig tea can be made in batches so you only need to add some boiling water to it. On the weekends, when time is not of the essence, make some scrambled tofu and serve with a toasted baguette; or make some whole-wheat pancakes with blueberries. Personally, I always start the day with a bowl of miso soup to alkalize my blood and then have porridge.
Heat up some leftover soup. Make enough soup for two or three days and take from the fridge when you need to. Steam or sauté leftover grains, or make vegetable sushi with leftover rice. Having some rice balls stored in the fridge is always a good idea for a snack attack. Any grain like quinoa is a delightful lunch served with a fresh green salad and some tofu dressing. Falafel is a good choice for lunch alongside a fresh green salad.
Use leftover bean stew or leftover nishime vegetables (see recipes) by reheating, and serve with some freshly cooked vegetables and a grain or noodle of your choice. Tempeh and seitan pan-fry up in a few minutes and can be served with a sauce or dressing that you have previously made and stored in the refrigerator. Sautéed baby bok choy with fresh shitake mushrooms takes only minutes to cook; serve with leftover whole grains and top with almonds, again using one of the sauces or dressings. This makes a tasty meal with a minimum of eﬀort. Refer to your recipes, and start creating your own dishes.
The biggest challenge to eating a healthy diet is eating out. Have a healthy snack before going out so that you are not so hungry that you order something that is not on your programme.
Ethnic restaurants are usually a good choice. There is an increasing number of vegan and vegetarian restaurants available, but, other than that, learn to request what you want. You will be surprised how many restaurants will be happy to make you some steamed vegetables with (only on special occasions) some pasta or rice.
Order a salad and relax — don’t be anxious about not eating along with the crowd.
If other people are upset by how you eat, it’s not your problem, it’s theirs.
This is Part Three of a five-part macro vegan weight loss series.