“That girl eats a lot and is still lean. She must have a high metabolism!”
You may have heard this before. You may not have. In our younger years, we could eat what we wanted and not gain an ounce. Now, for many of us, this isn’t the case.
Your metabolism involves a complex network of hormones and enzymes that not only convert food into fuel but also affect how efficiently you burn that fuel.
“The process of metabolism establishes the rate at which we burn our calories and, ultimately, how quickly we gain weight or how easily we lose it,” says Robert Yanagisawa, MD, director of the Medically Supervised Weight Management Program at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York.
Not everyone burns calories at the same rate. There are several different factors that go into your metabolic rate. Your metabolism is influenced by your age (metabolic rate slows down gradually at age 40); your sex (men generally burn more calories at rest than women); and proportion of lean body mass (the more muscle you have, the higher your metabolic rate tends to be). Heredity can make a difference as well. Although we have age working against us, there are ways to keep your metabolism working at an efficient rate.
What are ways to increase your metabolism to prevent those extra pounds?
- Build Muscle – Resistance Train! Time to pick up those dusty dumbbells. The truth is that muscle tissue will burn seven to 10 calories daily per pound. Fat burns two to three calories daily per pound. “Replacing a pound of fat with a muscle, therefore, helps you burn an additional four to six more calories each day”, says Cedric X. Bryant, chief science officer for the American Council on Exercise.
- Add Aerobic Workouts – Cardio/Aerobic training may not build muscle post-workout your metabolic rate remains high. High intensity interval training (HIIT) gives a longer lasting elevated resting metabolic rate than low intensity workouts.
- Drink Up! Water that is- Lack of water can slow the metabolic rate just as lack of food can, says John Acquaviva, PhD, assistant professor of health and human performance at Roanoke College in Salem, Va. “Since water is the body’s most important nutrient, the liver will turn its concentration to water retention instead of doing other duties such as burning fat.” Aim for 32oz of water for every 50 pounds of body weight per day, more if exercising at high intensities outside. Factors such as diet, exercise habits and health status all affect the amount of water a person actually needs to drink in a day. Try to drink a glass of water (8oz) prior to eating your meal. Also, snack on fresh fruits and vegetables, which naturally contain water, rather than pretzels or chips which contain too much sodium.
- Avoid Energy drinks- Yes, they do have caffeine which allows your body to have more energy to burn and may have taurine, an amino acid. Taurine can speed up your metabolism and may help burn fat. However, most energy drinks have high sugar content and may cause problems such as high blood pressure, elevated heart rate, anxiety, and sleep issues (Web MD). Looking for an energy boost mid-day? Try black coffee or tea instead, as you will get a quick metabolism and energy boost.
- Spice it up! – Spicy foods have natural chemicals that can kick your metabolism into a higher gear. Cooking foods with a tablespoon of chopped red or green chili pepper can boost your metabolic rate. The effect is probably temporary, but if you eat spicy foods often, the benefits may add up. For a quick boost, spice up pasta dishes, chili, and stews with red pepper flakes.
- Protein Power – Consuming protein can have a positive effect on your metabolism. Your body burns more calories digesting protein than it does eating fat or carbohydrates. As part of a balanced diet, replace some carbs with lean, protein-rich foods to boost your metabolism at meal time. Good sources of protein include lean beef, turkey, fish, white meat chicken, tofu, nuts, beans, eggs, and low-fat dairy products.
- Your body burns many more calories digesting protein than it does eating fat or carbohydrates. As part of a balanced diet, 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, eggs, and low-fat dairy products.
- Avoid Crash Diets- Crash diets involve eating fewer than 1,200 (if you’re a woman) or 1,800 (if you’re a man) calories a day. These diets may help you drop pounds but can affect your overall metabolism. There is also a great chance of losing muscle, which in turn slows your metabolism. The final result is your body burns fewer calories and gains weight faster than before the diet. Aim for a healthy diet rich in
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