What is Metabolism?
Before you begin trying to tweak the speed of your metabolism, it’s important to understand the vital role it plays in every aspect of your bodily functions. It is also important to understand what causes a slow metabolism, in order to understand what can be done to begin the shift towards a high metabolism.
Metabolism is the term used to describe the series of chemical processes taking place within an organism to maintain the living state of the said organism. In essence, metabolism is the basis of life. The two primary aspects of the process are catabolism and anabolism.
Catabolism: The process of converting nutrients into energy. It is responsible for giving us the energy we need to perform cardiovascular activities.
Anabolism: Using energy created through catabolism, anabolism creates complex molecules from simple ones. This process is a series of chemical reactions that lets your body maintain and create new tissues and cells.
How does metabolism (the combination of both catabolism, and anabolism) lead to differences in body weight? Essentially metabolism is a mathematical equation, of catabolism minus anabolism. In other words, body weight is whatever energy remains once our body uses up whatever energy it needs. Excess energy is subsequently turned into fat and stored away for another day. If you produce more energy than you consume, it will eventually increase your body weight.
Although there may not be much we can do to instantly and dramatically change our resting metabolic rate, there are many small lifestyle changes that can begin to shift it over time. First it is important to gain a good understanding of your own body’s calorie requirements vs your typical calorie expenditure. Different body types and different lifestyles will all have different requirements. Obviously, a larger body with an active lifestyle, will need a much higher calorie intake than a small body who may sit in front of a computer screen all day.
How to Increase Metabolism
Increasing metabolism safely and for long term requires a bit of commitment, but the steps are nevertheless easy, simple and small.
1. Lift Weights and Build Muscle
Don’t think you can get away with increasing your metabolism without changing your workout routine! After all, metabolism is essentially about how much energy your body eats up on a daily basis. One way to increase your body’s energy consumption is to shift your workout focus to muscle building activities. Muscles, even when resting, require much more energy than fat tissue. Healthy strength training will slowly change your resting metabolic rate. Especially for people on a diet, which technically slows down metabolism because there are fewer calories to be consumed, it’s important to also build muscles at the same time in order to ensure that once your diet is done, your metabolism is still strong and still working! Studies have shown that weight is kept off even when the diet is done when study participants also maintain a routine of building muscle mass.
2. Drink Green Tea
Okay, admittedly green tea has been touted as a miracle weight loss supplement, and while it is extremely beneficial for weight loss and other bodily processes, it isn’t a quick fix. However, in combination with healthy diet and exercise, green tea has been found to increase metabolism and boost energy. When consumed as a tea (be wary of ‘miracle’ extracts), green tea has high levels of antioxidants and flavonoids. It also has been shown to increase metabolic rates for a few hours after consumption. When combined with moderate exercise green tea gives an added boost to your metabolism over time.
3. Increase Workout Intensity
More exercise? Yes, you need to increase the sweat to increase your metabolism. However, it doesn’t mean you need to dedicate hours a day to the treadmill, even adding short bursts of exercise to your routine three times a week has been proven to reduce fat and in association increase metabolism. One study showed that over a 12-week period, men were able to reduce their belly fat by 17% and lose 2 kg of fat mass when they committed to 20 minutes of high intensity workout three times a week. That’s only one hour a week total, and has many more benefits for your mind and body than just weight loss.
4. Many Small Portions
Instead of eating three hearty meals a day, try spreading out your calorie intake over many smaller portions throughout the day. The idea behind splitting up your meals into many smaller portions is that it prevents your body from converting excess energy into fat. After a large meal, your body doesn’t expect more food immediately, and proceeds to convert excess energy into fat. However, if you begin to train your body to expect food every few hours it will continually burn off the energy much more quickly instead of storing it for later. An added bonus, is that you will likely not get extremely hungry between your small meals, and then avoid overeating as a consequence.
5. Get a Good Night’s Rest
On top of diet and exercise, a good night’s sleep is the third major activity all healthcare professionals recommend for losing weight and increasing metabolism. This is because sleep has been found to be related to much more than simply energy levels. People who struggle to get a good night’s sleep are more likely to be obese, and have also been found to be hungrier more often while also feeling less full. Lack of sleep is also directly related to decision making, and self-control. If you get a full night of uninterrupted sleep, you are much more capable of resisting poor food choices, and committing to that 20 minute workout.
There is no miracle pill to swallow to change your metabolism, but through small, easy-to-make changes, primarily focused around diet, exercise, and sleep, it is possible to begin to shift your metabolic rate and thereby lose more weight and keep it off.