In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, Dr. Lowery taught us how to eat big meals with surprisingly few calories. In Part 3 he wrote about how to expend extra calories without throwing a monkey wrench into your ability to retain muscle. In this article, he'll expand on those ideas and let you in on some "dirty" fat burning tricks that'll get you lean and mean for summer!

Prepare yourself. The metabolic tricks in this article are going to get a little, well, freaky. You see, when a person is too fatigued to keep up NEPA (non-exercise physical activity) near the end of a strict, date-specific, competition-style diet, extreme measures are often needed.

Some of these are definitely not blanket recommendations for every dieter, but if you've "been there" as a competition approaches and know how tough it can be to get those last ounces of fat removed, these tricks can come in handy.

Trick #1: Eat Protein

Consume protein, not just to dilute calories and stay "full," but because protein itself is by far the most thermogenic of the macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate, and fat). Due to the high metabolic costs of processing it (deamination, etc.), protein provides fewer storable kcal.

The thermic effect of a mixed meal is about 10% of intake, while the thermic effect of protein per se is more like 25-30%. (1) That could mean 200 kcal drained just from your 200-gram (800 kcal) protein intake.

Trick #2: Manipulate Caffeine Intake

Carefully schedule coffee, tea and other metabolism-boosting measures prior to lifting. The resulting intensity boost may just keep you going and prevent training workload from dropping off.

This maintained intensity is in addition to the 10% or so rise in metabolic rate that such stimulants can provide. (Dietary stimulants are not for everyone, though!)

Trick #3: Be Cool

If you're desperate to burn a few extra calories, consider keeping the thermostat at just 55 degrees or so. Cold-air thermogenic studies have actually used 42 degrees F, but that's getting pretty nutty.

Why stay cold? Researchers have described how workers in cold climates have 10 to 20% higher metabolic rates than do those in hot climes.(1) I suppose those desperate enough to do this "thermostat maneuver" would also save money during cold months, eh?

A cool environment for rest and even exercise does take advantage of the fact that we humans are homeotherms (warm blooded) and will basically hold body temperature at all costs.

Trick #4: Beat the Heat

Lounge in an unheated pool this summer. Cool water is a more potent heat drain (calorie drain) than cool air is. Unless you're specifically looking to depress glycogen, shivering is a sign that it's too cold. Mildly uncomfortable coolness for perhaps 30 to 60 minutes should be enough to help drain some kcal.

However, common sense is called for here. Don't go getting ill or getting full-blown hypothermia; core temperature can drop precipitously in some persons.

The physiology lab in which I used to slave – er, I mean, work – as a grad student had cold-water thermogenesis experiments going on all the time. Here's a quote from one of the researchers there:

"It's fairly well understood that during exposure to the cold, shivering can cause up to a 2.5 times increase in resting metabolic rate in an effort to maintain core temperature."

Whoa! That's a potent 2600 additional kcal lost over the course of a whole day's exposure... but this just isn't practical or safe. Lab studies monitor core temp in ways that you just don't want to think about! (I've got some great stories there!) This brief pool technique is just more food for thought on the possibilities of keeping the kcal drain open in those final weeks when a strict contest-like diet takes its metabolic toll.

Trick #5: Fidget!

Yes, it sounds a little weird but it's a real kcal drain, as in up to 1000 kcal per day. A little-known book by noted exercise physiologists Frank and Victor Katch, The Fidget Factor, specifically explained the benefits of being just plain fidgety! (2)

As far as examples, fidgeting constitutes just about anything other than watching TV with drool coming out of your mouth. So, if you like to draw, draw. If you like to build bird houses, build bird houses.

Trick #6: Drink Ice Water

Slam a big glass of ice cold water (or tea) two or three times daily for its ability to raise metabolic rate and drain calories. This is partly due to that "homeotherm thing." Hey, it helped mammals beat reptiles to the punch in ages past; why not cash in on our warm-blooded nature now?

Trick #7: Chew Gum!

This is yet another little "leak" in our calorie balance. Here are some study quotes:

"Indirect evidence suggests that gum chewing may have greater metabolic effects than has been appreciated. In cows, chewing increases energy expenditure by approximately 20 percent." (3)

"The protocol was 100 chews per minute for 12 minutes. After calculating the volunteers' energy expenditure before, during, and after the experiment, Levine and his colleagues determined that you could burn an additional 11 calories an hour by chewing gum. They estimated that someone could lose 11 pounds a year by chewing at that rate."

Okay, so you probably aren't going to chew gum all day long every day of the year, but if you're desperate to burn a few extra calories during a strict diet, chewing sugarless gum may help.

Trick #8: Stay Awake!

Stay awake during those afternoon urges to crash and haul your arse out of bed on time each morning (unless you need to catch-up for legitimate missed sleep). Metabolic rate falls 10-15% below normal during sleep. (1) That's just not desirable for calorie draining. Snooze only as much as you feel is typical for you; eight hours should be enough for most people.

Putting It All Together

Yep, these metabolic tricks are pretty freaky, but they're scientifically supported. So, to wrap this entire series up, here's an example day for those with no contraindications. It incorporates several of the energy balance techniques – both restrictive and wasting – that we've explored throughout this series.

  • 6:15 AM Get up after a maximum of eight hours sleep. Have a half-scoop of Metabolic Drive® Protein upon waking with one cup of java, then strap on the Xvest for a 30 to 60 minute outdoor walk. Minimize clothing on cool days but not to the point of shivering or scaring the neighbors.
  • 7:15 AM Boil one cup of oats or half a cup oat bran, cool, then add 42 grams of Metabolic Drive® Protein (two scoops) for breakfast. Boil some flax pasta on another burner for later. Drink plenty of ice cold, unsweetened tea. Meanwhile, cook two or three overnight-marinated chicken breasts on a Foreman-style grill for later. Pack these lunch items with a baggie of frozen broccoli for work or school.
  • 9:00 AM Add a scoop or two of Metabolic Drive® Protein to a water/ice/skim milk mixture.
  • 11:30 AM Snack on an apple and 20 oz. ice-cold mineral water (or non-sweet tea) before lunch.
  • Noon Tear up the pre-cooked chicken breasts on a handful of your pre-cooked whole wheat or flax pasta and nuke 1 c. broccoli; add tomato sauce or at least butter spray and parsley flakes. Drink a cold 20 oz. Propel if desired. After lunch, chew some sugar-free gum.
  • 2:30 PM Snack on another apple or pear and more cold mineral water. Peanuts are energy-dense but are so satiating that a serving is still okay regarding energy balance.
  • 4:00 PM Prepare for an after-work training session with a nice hot cup of coffee; stir with a cinnamon stick for a potential benefit to your glucose tolerance. Drink it with a red pepper and chicken breast low-cal snack of your liking. Perhaps chew some gum afterwards. Crank-up the AC in the car after work.
  • 5:30 PM Hit the gym (warm up thoroughly).
  • 7:15 PM Feel free to drink 50-75 g fast-acting carbs with up to 50 g protein (depending on body size) post-workout. Chill some strawberry-banana flavored sugarless gelatin layered with a sucralose-sweetened serving of cottage cheese – or add a few berries for a bedtime snack later. Walk your dog or go for a dip in an unheated pool, then prepare dinner.
  • 8:30 PM Dine on wheat bran or oat bran-diluted, 90% lean meatballs or meatloaf with a nice side dish of sun dried tomatoes in oil, and mushrooms or nuked mixed vegetables with low-cal butter spray. Have another cold Propel. Chew some gum afterward and do a "fidgeting" hobby (draw, paint, build models, assemble chain mail armor... whatever trips your trigger) or stretch major muscle groups during TV time.
  • 9:00 PM Enjoy your gelatin dessert and maybe even set that thermostat at just 55-60 degrees for the night.

Extreme? Sure, to the average dieter. But if you're on the last few weeks of a competition diet and your deadline in looming, these techniques could be just what you need to get the edge!

References and Further Reading

  1. Guyton, A. and Hall, J. Textbook of Medical Physiology, Ninth ed. 1996, W.B. Saunders Company: Philadelphia, PA. p.908.
  2. Katch, F. Katch, V. and Brown, G. The Fidget Factor: The Easy Way to Burn Up to 1000 Extra Calories Every Day. 2000, Andrews Mcmeel Publishing: Kansas City, MO. pp.1-240.
  3. Levine J, Baukol P, Pavlidis I. The energy expended in chewing gum. N Engl J Med. 1999 Dec 30; 341(27):2100.