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Having a quick and efficient metabolism is the key to weight loss. Contrary to popular belief, eating a very low calorie diet will actually slow down metabolism and stymie the weight loss process. While eating regular, well-portioned, whole food meals can actually boost metabolism.
So what exactly is metabolism?
Simply put, metabolism is body’s process of converting food and beverages into energy. The metabolic process, of course, is complex but understanding it is not. But first, we have to bust a few metabolism myths.
When you eat more calories than needed for basic energy, exercise and daily tasks, the excess is stored as fat to use later. But in modern life, we don’t have food shortages, so most people rarely call upon stored fat to provide fuel. Instead we just carry around those emergency rations as belly or thigh fat.
Many people blame their excess fat on a slow metabolism, but actually, metabolic speed can be changed with some effort. So the good news is that we have some control over the speed and function of our metabolism.
While metabolism directly influences energy needs, diet and movement influence metabolism. Lifestyle effects weight more than anything else.
So here’s some metabolism 101.
Your body needs energy even when at rest or sleeping. Energy is required to breath, circulate blood, digest and power organs. The calories needed for these basic tasks is your ‘basal metabolic rate’. And this is determined by your age, sex and body composition. While you can’t change your sex and age, you can change your body composition.
To raise metabolism we must focus on body composition. Here are 4 ways to increase metabolism through body composition.
Studies show that caffeine increases metabolism for up to three hours after consumption. It also reduces fat oxidation. Though this is good news, it’s not license to go overboard on coffee. Too much caffeine can have the opposite effect by taxing the adrenals. If you can’t feel the effects of caffeine it means you’re over caffeinated.
Sleep deprivation will tank your metabolism because it decreases your body’s ability to balance blood sugar levels and increases appetite. The less you sleep, the more you will crave serotonin-boosting carbs. Lack of sleep also increases the belly-fat storing hormone, cortisol.
So while sleeping more than you need to will not boost metabolism, not getting enough shuteye will slow it down. Shutting off blue lights (TV, phones, computer screens) 30 minutes before bed will also increase sleep quality by regulating melatonin.
This is most surprising for most people. We associate weight loss with eating less, but in reality the body compensates for lower calorie diets by slowing down metabolism. This is a brilliant survival strategy; the body becomes more efficient on less fuel. But it’s not great for weight loss because some people can actually gain weight while dieting, especially post-diet, when normal eating resumes.
Eating regularly tells your body that food is plentiful and abundant so it doesn’t need to go into conservation mode and is more likely to burn fat for fuel.
When you understand that eating actually speeds up metabolism, it can change your relationship with food and help you ditch low calorie dieting.
Choosing the right foods to eat is the key to weight loss, not starvation. Protein is one of the best foods to fuel metabolism.
Exercise is a known metabolism booster but it’s important to pick the right type. Focus on building muscle because muscles raises metabolism by burning more calories. And with more lean muscle you can eat more, which raises your metabolism further.
Cardio workouts may burn calories but when the exercise stops, so does the calorie burning.
Resistance training and high intensity interval training (HIIT) are much better at boosting metabolism. Resistance training increases lean muscle mass and tone, which elevates metabolism while at rest. Resistance training means exercising muscles using opposing forces like dumb bells, resistance bands or your own body weight.
HITT uses short, intense burst of activity to spike heart rate. It creates post exercise oxygen consumption, also called ‘after burn’, which raises calorie burn for up to 30 hours post exercise.
So don’t blame your hormones for weight gain after 40, focus instead on boosting your metabolism in these 4 ways.