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Five new ways to boost weight loss, from air-conditioning to low-carb to zebras

Zebras are a good source of protein, say experts. Gulp.
Zebras are a good source of protein, say experts. Gulp.
Photo by Alexander Roth-Grisard/Getty Images

When it comes to weight loss success, turning up your metabolism is like tuning up your car: It can make a dramatic difference. Now several new studies have uncovered proven ways to shed pounds more easily, reported the Courier-Journal on July 25.

One method requires no changes to your diet: It's all about the temperature of your home. A colder environment results in a boost to your body's fat-burning abilities. Turn up the air-conditioner when you sleep, and even when it's cold, avoid putting on a sweater.

"When we’re cold, we activate the brown fat we have,” said obesity researcher Sheila Collins, professor at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute.Collins. “When we get cold, shivering is the first response. As people adapt, non-shivering mechanisms take over, and that involves the activation of brown fat, which goes into overdrive to keep the body warm."

The second way to boost weight loss and your metabolism: Cut carbohydrates and boost protein and healthy fats. A high fat low carb diet "causes people to burn more calories in ways we don’t yet understand," said Dr. Steve Smith, scientific director for the Florida Hospital-Sanford Burnham Translational Research Institute.

To learn more, his team of researchers will compare the health and weight loss results of men who will cycle through two different periods of diets. The first diet will consist of 50 percent carbohydrates, 15 percent protein and 35 percent fat. The second diet will involve five percent carbohydrates, 15 percent protein and 80 percent fat.

Although calorie counts will be kept the same, the researchers hope to find out why dieters typically lose more when they increase fat and protein and reduce carbohydrates. It's an approach that has made the Atkins diet popular for decades, with Kim Kardashian recently losing more than 50 pounds.

And it's also turned the Paleo diet into a global-wide phenomenon. "Go Paleo,” said Collins. “Cavemen didn't have many carbs around.”

For a third way to boost your metabolism and lose weight more easily, take probiotic supplements or eat yogurt. Scientists have found that healthy bacteria can help you feel full and reduce cravings, reported Medical Research News on July 25.

The researchers engineered a probiotic that they feel may someday help to reverse the obesity epidemic. Although not yet ready for release to the public, the Vanderbilt University team noted that probiotics can help boost the benefits of "other strategies such as focusing on eating more vegetables and increasing physical activity."

And that's where the fourth method of boosting your metabolism comes in: Exercise. A recent study from Stanford University challenged the conventional theory that diet trumps exercise for weight loss.

Instead, the Stanford researchers contended that the nation's obesity epidemic is due more to our couch potato proclivity rather than the junk food that we consume while we're sitting on that couch. "I'm not sure we're ever going to have precise numbers and explanations - and I'm not sure that's necessary," said Dr. Uri Ladabaum, a Stanford gastroenterologist and lead author of the new study, in an interview with SF Gate.

"The key is to be paying attention to both of these things - diet and exercise," he said. "If there's something good that could come out of this attention on our study, it's the refocusing on both of the factors."

For those who question whether a low carb diet can be effective for athletes, fitness expert Ben Greenfield says "yes." In an exclusive interview, he said that even a high fat low carb ketogenic diet can provide an effective power source.

If you're planning on running a marathon or competing, Ben recommends spending "enough time in a high fat state to develop a large enough amount of mitochondria to produce high amounts of ATP for harder efforts. Athletes who use ketosis for six or more months tend to do just fine at intensity, even on low-carb intake."

Moreover, says Ben, your body "has a very efficient mechanism for converted lactic acid into glucose, so athletes who combine intense training with ketosis will hone this pathway over time." He recommends consuming healthy fats and protein rather than carbo-loading, and allowing enough time to become adapted to a ketogenic lifestyle prior to competing.

And about that diet: Now that you know that protein plays an important role in weight loss and a healthy metabolism, the fifth method involves choosing the right sources of protein. A new option is now available: Zebra, reported Time magazine on July 25.

With 35 grams of protein per serving, zebra may become the king of animal protein options. Just one caveat: You have to find a source.

UK’s fitness food supplier Musclefood sells zebra steaks from South Africa’s Burchell’s zebra, which is the only species that can be legally used. Although health officials say United States companies can sell zebra meat, it must comply with regulations.

“Game meat, including zebra meat, can be sold [in the US] as long as the animal from which it is derived is not on the endangered species list,” said an official with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). "As with all foods regulated by FDA, it must be safe, wholesome, labeled in a manner that is truthful and not misleading, and fully compliant with the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and its supporting regulations."

As a good source of lean protein, zebra fits into the new version of a heart-healthy diet created by Penn State nutrition professor Penny M. Kris-Etherton. Her study revealed that lean meat added to a traditional heart-healthy diet can reduce blood pressure.

Not into zebra? Other good sources of protein include fish, turkey, chicken, eggs and grass-fed beef. Vegans can stock up on soy, beans and nuts.

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