At least once a week, we’re sent an SMS, handed a pamphlet, or find ourselves watching a TV advert featuring a brand new fat-busting diet or product – and let’s be honest, most of us will try everything once to make sure we’re not missing out on a miracle. We might just be lucky this time… But let’s not rely on miracles, and rather go for something that offers guaranteed results. Here’s an easy to-do list of morning rituals that’ll stoke your fat-burning potential:
1. Drink lemon water or green tea when you wake up
Get into the habit of drinking a cup of warm lemon water just after you wake up. This will cleanse your digestive system and jumpstart your metabolism. To take the edge off the lemon, add a bit of honey and cinnamon – a spice that’s been linked to better blood-sugar levels.
Green tea is another warm drink that’ll help you reduce your kilojoule intake and, ultimately, your waistline. According to researchers, the antioxidants in green tea, along with the caffeine, may increase the rate at which fat in your body is broken down. Brew a fresh pot daily as the antioxidants in bottled green tea may not be as effective.
2. Rise and shine 30 minutes earlier
This is arguably the most difficult step, but waking up half an hour earlier than usual can help keep your weight in check.
Research by Northwestern University in the United States shows that early-morning light exposure influences body weight, as well as the circadian rhythms (the body's internal time clock) – so much so that people who catch those first sunrays every day tend to have a lower body mass index (BMI) than folks who sleep in.
That said, you still need to get your recommended seven to eight hours of sleep. If you don’t get enough sleep, it drives levels of leptin (the “satiety” hormone) down, which means you don’t feel as satisfied after you’ve eaten. Sleep deprivation also causes levels of ghrelin (the “hunger” hormone) to rise, which means you’ll want to eat more.
So, also try to get to bed 30 minutes earlier.
3. Stretch your body
Now that your body is well hydrated and rested, find the time to stretch before launching into your day. Spending at least 10 minutes doing a varied routine of stretches will prepare your body for the day ahead.
There are many other benefits to doing morning stretches, such as reducing muscle tension, retaining your current level of flexibility, but most importantly, it will make you feel good and give you a sense of purpose.
4. Meditate your stress away
A meditation session each morning will give you an opportunity to centre your thoughts and focus on the day ahead. In addition, research by Johns Hopkins University shows that
mindfulness meditation (where you, for example, focus your full attention on the inflow and outflow of breath) may help you cope better with psychological stress.
Stress doesn’t only cause sleepless nights or lead to nail biting, but also increases the secretion of cortisol, one of the stress hormones. Chronically elevated cortisol levels can cause reduced immune function, increased blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease and weight gain.
5. Work it out
Working out in the morning boosts your metabolism, reduces junk food cravings, and gives you a sense of happiness and accomplishment. You don’t have to do the kind of workout that’ll make you want to crawl back into bed. Half an hour is all you need to kickstart the day and stay in shape.
If you have to choose between the treadmill or the weight section at the gym, opt for the treadmill.
In a study published in the American Journal of Physiology, researchers assigned a group of overweight, sedentary adults to one of three exercise groups – aerobic (cardiovascular) training, resistance training, or a combination of both. They found that the group that ran, cycled, rowed, or used the elliptical exercise machine, in other words those who did aerobic (cardiovascular) training, burned 67% more calories and lost 6,5% more total belly fat. Although the combination group (cardio plus resistance training) fared the same as the aerobic group, they spent more time exercising.
So, if you’re strapped for time and want to burn calories, remember that cardio gives you more bang for your buck. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderately intense cardiovascular exercise five days a week. Even 20 minutes of walking or on-the-spot training will do the trick.
Building muscle is also a sure way to increase your metabolic rate, so work this into your weekly routine, too (even if it’s later in the day or over weekends).
Physical activity is one ritual you don’t want to skip – after all, it’s one of the best ways of preventing chronic diseases of lifestyle, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. If you choose only one activity on this list, make it exercising first thing in the morning. You’ll reap the benefits in no time.
6. Don’t skip breakfast
Never skip breakfast as this will slow down your metabolism. A healthy breakfast refuels your body and replenishes the glycogen stores that supply your muscles with immediate energy. And a well-balanced breakfast will ensure that you have enough energy to take on the day.
Be careful of foods that have a high concentration of sugar and other simple carbohydrates. While these foods may jumpstart your morning, simple carbohydrates will not sustain your energy. Often sugar will spike your energy levels, but as the day progresses you’ll become tired once the short-term burst is over. In the long term, a diet rich in refined carbohydrates can lead to health problems.
Fibre and protein are ideal for breakfast. This could be anything from a scrambled egg on whole-grain toast to Greek yoghurt topped with fruit for added fibre, vitamins and antioxidants. Protein is essential to a healthy diet, but the type of protein you eat may impact your weight. Steer clear of fatty sausages and bacon, and opt for eggs, salmon and/or the protein in dairy instead.
Adding a healthy plant fat to your breakfast (e.g. flaxseeds or almonds added to good-quality muesli and yoghurt) will also help keep you satisfied.
These six quick and easy steps will help boost your metabolism, kickstart your weight-loss efforts and improve your general sense of well-being. Good morning to you!
Why morning exercise is best
How to get energy for early morning exercise
Wake-up exercise workout
Sources: Mayo Clinic, WebMD, Shape.co, Northwestern University, HealthDayNews