If there was a tiny switch located in your body that would increase your fat-burning potential (and finally help you shed those last few pounds), would you turn it on?
Nearly everyone who has ever dieted would respond with a resounding "Yes!" to this question, and this is reflected in how quickly new diet products and supplements fly off store shelves on a daily basis.
But what if burning fat were as simple as optimizing your hormones and, in turn, boosting the production of a little-known enzyme already produced by your body?
This enzyme, referred to as hormone sensitive lipase (HSL), is a natural enzyme responsible for the breakdown of fat cells in the body and—along with insulin—determines how quickly and efficiently our bodies will shed fat.
In simple terms, we want to keep our HSL production running strong while also keeping our insulin (the fat storage hormone) levels low in order to burn fat efficiently. If either system is running less than optimally, our bodies will resist any attempt to shed excess weight, even if we're taking "fat-burning" supplements or dieting heavily.
The great thing about HSL is that we can train our bodies to produce more of it through certain types of training and eating schedules—no pills or supplements necessary.
Below are a few tricks to add to your weekly routine to boost HSL production and rev your metabolism.
1. Intermittent Fasting
The popular mantras of "never skip a meal" and "eat six meals a day" are quickly falling to the wayside as the list of benefits of intermittent fasting grows ever larger.
Aside from increasing longevity and lowering inflammation, one of the major highlighted benefits of intermittent fasting is fat loss, even without intense calorie restriction. When we fast, our entire metabolic environment changes, setting the stage for HSL to work its fat-burning magic.
During the fasting phase, growth hormone (GH) increases while insulin decreases. This lowering of insulin levels is crucial, as insulin is the hormone responsible for storing fat in the body when levels are high rather than burning them.
Once this hormonal environment is set, HSL is triggered, allowing fat to be released from your cells to be consumed (burned) for energy.
Cashing in on the fat-burning power of intermittent fasting involves several different methods and may require a trial-and-error period to find out which works best for you.
Popular methods include:
- Skipping breakfast: This method of fasting involves eating within a shorter time window and would include eating your first meal of the day as lunch around 12 to 1 p.m., with a second meal following at around 7 or 8 p.m., then fasting until lunchtime the next day.
- Alternate-day fasting: This method involves fasting for a full day on less than 500 calories, then "feasting" the next day, alternating every day or every other day.
It's important to remember that a fasting schedule can be structured to meet your needs, as every body is different.
2. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
HIIT involves alternating periods of high-intensity activity—sprints, circuit training, etc.—with short periods of rest for a total of 15 to 30 minutes of exercise.
Besides shortening the amount of time we spend at the gym, HIIT is proven to be superior to other forms of cardio for fat loss due to its ability to mobilize body fat stores through increasing growth hormone, decreasing insulin, and lowering the body's primary fat storage enzyme lipoprotein lipase (LPL).
A simple HIIT workout can include sprints, cycling, rowing, and/or circuit training. The key is to go all out in effort during your "burst" phase.
For example, sprint at maximum effort for 30 seconds, recover for 60 seconds, then repeat for a total of 15 to 30 minutes. Know that you can build up your sprint or "work" time if you're a beginner.
Standing may not be the first strategy that comes to mind when we talk about hormones, but it turns out HSL can be stimulated by simply standing for the majority of your day rather than sitting.
The reason for this is that HSL release is severely limited during inactivity while it is increased when the muscles are contracted, even if that contraction is happening during mundane activities such as standing and walking.
To increase your all-day fat-burning potential, try switching to a standing desk at work or practice standing while watching television.
Employing these methods will kick-start your HSL production, providing you with a built-in edge to becoming a more efficient fat-burner.