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How to increase your metabolism

How to increase your metabolism

Do you think you have a slow metabolism? would you like to speed it up? In this post I’ll discuss what your metabolic rate is and how you might be able to get your motor running faster.

What is your metabolism?

Your metabolism is the process of converting food into energy. When food and drink are digested, the energy and nutrients they provide are used by the body to perform various functions and processes to keep you alive.

This process is done at different rates depending on your metabolic rate. Your genetics, gender, body and organ weight, body composition, age and even certain medical conditions can influence your metabolic rate.

The metabolic rate is the rate at which your body takes to process the calories you consume. The basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the amount of energy your body needs to maintain basic functions at rest. About 40-70% of the calories you take in are used by your BMR. The additional calories over this are therefore needed to carry out everything else, such as physical activity and general movement and digestion.

Contrary to belief and interesting to note is that larger build people tend to have higher metabolic rates than slimmer people. This is because in order to maintain their current weight requires more energy, so the rate at which energy is needed is usually higher in order to provide that energy.

By having a faster metabolism, more calories are burnt over a period of time, essentially allowing you to either eat more and/or lose weight quicker. Of course the biggest factor for those looking to lose weight is based on their calorie intake verses their energy expenditure. More on that next.

Ways to speed up your metabolism………….

Food and your metabolic rate

As mentioned above, what you consume is converted for use by the body and while it is important that you eat well to maintain health, the biggest factor for those looking to reduce body fat is how many calories they consume verses their energy expenditure.

Having said that, it is important to not over reduce calories. Why? Dieting too hard has been shown to actually slow down your metabolism. This occurs due to your body’s ability to go into survival mode. Back when food was something that had to be hunted or gathered and scarce, your body would slow its metabolism down to preserve stored energy (read body fat) as it didn’t know when the next meal was going to be. The exact same thing happens now, even though most people now no longer go long periods without food. But crash dieting does indeed replicate this starvation mode. It is therefore much better to reduce more gradually and even include exercise to keep your metabolism up at the same time.

With that said here are some foods that can help with controlling or possibly even help indirectly with speeding up your metabolism.

Firstly, don’t skip breakfast, while it won’t do a lot for increasing your metabolic rate, it will help stop you from over feeding later in the day, which will just help store more body fat. You have just had an 8+ hour fast, so get some food to help stabilise your blood sugar and stop you getting hunger pangs.

Increase your intake of Omega 3, as this may help balance blood sugar and control leptin (the hunger inhibiting hormone), so can help to regulate your metabolic processes.

Eat more protein. Protein can help you feel fuller and has a thermic effect. This thermic effect means it takes more energy (calories) to metabolise protein than carbohydrates or fat. Protein also helps maintain muscle tissue and is the building blocks needed to build muscle (more on that below).

Reduce bad fats in the diet, such as foods high in saturated and trans fat. These bad fats tend to slow your metabolism down, as well as being calorie dense they can increase bad cholesterol levels.

Note that all the above has a small effect on your metabolism. The number one way to boost your metabolism is being more active. Eat the right foods to supply energy and the building blocks of muscle and avoid foods that slow you down and make you sluggish and add unnecessary calories. When I say energy, I don’t mean sugary foods as these create a rush then a fall in blood sugar leaving you tired and lethargic. Eating sugary foods also makes you crave even more sugary foods, which in turn gets stored as excess energy in the form of more body fat.

The bottom line for food is to eat more healthy and eat less of the bad foods and more importantly be aware of how much you are eating and don’t underestimate how many calories you are consuming and how calorie dense some foods are. But also don’t crash diet. Remember crash dieting can cause your body to go into starvation survival mode and in order to maintain weight and keep an emergency storage of energy (body fat) it will slow down your metabolism and even start to breakdown muscle tissue.

Exercise and your metabolic rate

When it comes to reducing calories and trying to maintain your metabolic rate, exercise can certainly help keep your metabolism up throughout the day. Not to mention all the health benefits that exercise can provide.

One thing people fail to understand however is that they shouldn’t expect to burn large amounts of calories with exercise. Remember when they say you can burn 2-300 calories doing an activity, it pays to remember that you already burn 100 or so calories doing nothing in that time, so it’s not usually an extra 2-300 calories, but an extra 100-200 calories. With these small amounts of calories they are easily cancelled out by bad eating habits with a post workout treat or even a coffee from one of those well known coffee shops.

On the other hand a few more calories can be burned off with the right type of exercise post workout. You could benefit from any type of exercise to help burn more fat calories and use resistance training to build muscle.

Muscle is more metabolically active than fat, meaning it uses more energy to exist than fat. Resistance and strength training can help boost your metabolism and with an increase in muscle, there will be an increase in energy needed to maintain it, even as you sleep. But please bear in mind it’s not by a huge amount. Even 10-20 lbs of extra muscle will burn less than 100 extra calories per day.

Doing HIIT causes Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) This EPOC creates an after burn, where your body takes longer and more energy to recover from this type of training, with up to 48 hours of increase in your metabolic rate. But it is still only by a small amount and as time goes on the effects get increasingly less. Having said that quick bouts of regular energy bursts can help keep your metabolic levels elevated, helping burn more energy or help prevent the slowing down of your metabolism when dieting.

Get more active in general. Get up and about, if you sit around a lot, take a break away from the computer, desk or TV every hour or so. Just being more active over the course of the day can have a good influence on your metabolic rate, just move more, take walk breaks, do more vigorous cleaning. The more oxygen used by your body, the more energy needed and the faster your metabolism becomes.

There are a couple of caveats with exercise though. Don’t tire yourself out so much that you end up doing nothing for the rest of the day. Get active, stay active. Keep it at a level you are comfortable at and gradually increase your intensity or activity level as your fitness level increases. Also don’t use the fact you workout and do things to increase your metabolism to create the excuse to eat what you want, as already mentioned a calorie dense meal or treat can easily out stripe the benefits of a workout or 2, this happens all the time and people tend to fail to see it and blame their metabolism instead.

Other things that can help raise your metabolic rate

Sleep well, get up and start the day with a good breakfast.

Not getting enough quality sleep can increase production in stress hormones and increase blood sugar levels that make you hungry and tired. Your body can also try to conserve energy when tired and will therefore then try to slow your metabolism down.

Have a breakfast with protein, this will help stop the breakdown of muscle tissue after your sleep. Have carbohydrates to provide fuel for your body and brain. A breakfast will reduce fatigue later in the day and also reduce the chances of over eating later on. It will also help control blood sugar levels, which in turn will help reduce those hunger pangs.

Don’t take supplements to increase your metabolic rate, they are usually not very effective and expensive anyway.

Finally and to summarise

As stated above I mentioned that increasing your metabolic rate means your body can consume more or burn more energy over a period of time and that I said intense exercise made the biggest change to your metabolic rate due to an increase in oxygen use and muscle development…..well I really want to also hit home the important message that the amount of exercise you can do without burning yourself out is limited, however the amount of calories you take in can be controlled and ultimately do the same as burning more calories. ie burning off 2-300 extra calories with exercise is hard work, but reducing your daily intake by 2-300 calories is much easier. Therefore while exercise will help get your motor running faster, your calorie intake will also have the biggest impact on how much energy (body fat) will get stored. So it makes sense to combine both exercise and calorie control.

However also remember you don’t want to try to reduce your calories too much, as your body can start to use muscle for energy and we have already said that more muscle mass means more energy needed to maintain it with an increased metabolic rate. Also restricting your calories too much will make your body try to maintain stasis and maintain weight and in order to do this it will slow down your metabolism to reduce energy being used.

It’s important to note that ‘significantly’ increasing your metabolic rate is extremely difficult and whether you can increase your metabolic rate or not isn’t the key to losing body fat. The fact remains eating well and even exercising can only do so much against any predisposition you have with your genetics, age, current weight etc. The key is to get your body to burn more energy than you take in and do it in a way to keep your metabolic rate up. In order to do this, you need to become more active, build some muscle and eat more good food and eat less bad foods and more importantly become calorie aware, it’s as simple as that.

Don’t expect miracles, just remember everything helps a little and time and consistency are the key to a change to your body.