By: Lea Goldsmith
How do I increase my metabolism? This is a question I hear rather frequently, because there is so much misinformation being quoted as truths on unreliable websites. I am happy to state that I have the answers, and they are relatively easy to comprehend- although the execution of the process can be challenging to most. However, following these few key tips can help you recharge your metabolism and jump start your fat loss.
1. Drink more water
Perhaps the easiest, and most beneficial of all these tips is to drink more water. Your body needs water to process calories. If you are even mildly dehydrated, your metabolism may slow down. In one study, adults who drank eight or more glasses of water a day burned more calories than those who drank four. To stay hydrated, drink a glass of water or other unsweetened beverage before every meal and snack. Also, snack on fresh fruits and vegetables, which naturally contain water, rather than pretzels or chips. " When people experience 3 percent dehydration, their metabolism diminishes by about 2 percent, reported University of Utah researchers in 2003. If you regularly burn 2,000 calories daily, that means you burn about 40 calories fewer per day."
2. Build Muscle
Your body constantly burns calories, even when you're doing nothing. This resting metabolic rate is much higher in people with more muscle. Every pound of muscle uses about 6 calories a day just to sustain itself, while each pound of fat burns only 2 calories daily. That small difference can add up over time. After a session of strength training, muscles are activated all over your body, raising your average daily metabolic rate. Furthermore, your body can burn extra calories for up to 24 hours after a hard strength training session, which makes lifting weights on a regular basis essential for fat loss.
3. Kick up your cardio
Aerobic exercise may not build big muscles, but you can burn a ton of calories during your workout. The key is to push yourself some days, and maintain moderate intensity anaerobic threshold workouts the other days. Anaerobic Threshold (AT) is the point at which your body stops efficiently utilizing fat as an energy source, and converts to burning carbohydrates and eventually, your muscle. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) delivers a bigger, longer rise in resting metabolic rate, while threshold workouts target fat burning exclusively and improve your aerobic efficiency. To get the right mix, do a combination of both HIIT training workouts as well as AT workouts each week. Note: Your AT is NOT determined by your age. Your fat burning capabilities are very much dictated by your level of conditioning and your genetics. For more information regarding how to establish your AT, read my article "Finding your Anaerobic Threshold", or call me anytime to schedule your own personal AT Test.
4. Eat more, and more often
Eating small meals throughout the day maintains homeostasis in your body and promotes weight loss. When you eat large meals with many hours in between, your metabolism slows down between meals. Think about kindling on a fire- if you throw kindling on every few hours the fire burns bright, however, if you throw a whole tree on the fire, then you smother the fire, and it goes out. Same with your body- too much food in one sitting keeps your digestive tract from efficiently burning the food (ie. raising the metabolism.) Having a small meal or snack every 3 to 4 hours keeps your metabolism cranking, so you burn more calories over the course of a day. Several studies have also shown that people who snack regularly eat less at mealtime. The key- snack on healthy snacks, not junk.
*Side note: I RELIGIOUSLY eat 6 small HEALTHY meals per day, comprised of lean proteins, veggies and a gluten free carbs pre and post workout. When prepping for a competition, I bump up to 7. Now please understand, I fought this concept for years (and I sometimes still do.) It's definitely a mind game ;) But yes folks, more food = higher metabolism. Got it?
5. Avoid Crash Diets
Crash diets -- those involving eating fewer than 1,200 (if you're a woman) or 1,800 (if you're a man) calories a day -- are bad for anyone hoping to quicken their metabolism. Although these diets may initially help you drop pounds, that weight loss comes from water and then muscle- not usually from fat. Losing muscle over time will inevitably slow down your metabolism. The final result is your body burns fewer calories and gains weight faster than before the diet. Remember, you can't maintain a very low caloric intake forever. Therefore, as soon as you increase your calories, you will increase your waistline as well.
6. Protein packs a metabolic punch
Your body burns many more calories digesting protein than it does eating fat or carbohydrates. Why? Because protein is more dense and cannot metabolize in your body as sugar. Think about this: Pretend you have a handful of pretzels, and then you squeeze your hand a few times. The pretzels crumble pretty quickly, right? Same thing happens in your body. When you eat carbohydrates (breads, pastas, cereals), your body can break them down quickly and turn them into sugar, which is eventually stored as fat if it is not completely burned as energy. Now, pretend you have a piece of chicken in your hand, and squeeze it. Can't break it down right? Well the same goes for inside your body. Your body has to do a lot more work (aka. burn more calories) to break down that chicken, AND that chicken does not turn into sugar. That's why protein is essential for keeping metabolism going. Tada! Genius! Therefore replacing some carbs with lean, protein-rich foods can boost metabolism at mealtime. Good sources of protein include lean beef, turkey, fish, white meat chicken, tofu, nuts, beans, and eggs.
To summarize, if you want to find and maintain your ideal weight, enjoy a mix of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats within your dietary habits every day. Limit your intake of processed carbohydrates and sugar, and stay consistent with your caloric intake each day. As for your workouts, find a comfortable balance of strength training and cardio most days of the week. That's it. There's no trick, and there are no successful diets- there's just science ;)