Any time that we are having trouble losing fat or maintaining a fat loss, we tend to wonder if our metabolism is to blame. “Metabolism” refers to the body’s ability to change food, including glucose and fat, into energy. You can find more complicated definitions of the word but that is the simple definition. If this process is slower than it should be to maintain optimum conversion, you may gain weight or have a more difficult time losing weight. Although a “slow metabolism” is not usually the problem, there are some habits that can help to keep it running more efficiently.
One mistake that we often make is to starve ourselves in an attempt to lose weight. I know a young girl who approached me about losing 5 pounds. First of all, this girl did not need to lose any weight whatsoever. Secondly, when she kept a diary of what she ate, we discovered that she was eating about 500 calories a day. I told her that her health was in jeopardy and that I could not help her lose weight. She had stated that no matter what she did, those 5 pounds would not budge. Eating too little will cheat you out of the thermic effect of a healthy diet.
The thermic effect is the rise in metabolism that occurs during digestion. Calories are required to digest the food that we eat. When we go long periods of time without eating, in an effort to lose weight, there is a natural drop in metabolism.
Protein causes the most dramatic rise in metabolism, requiring 20-30% of its calories to be used for processing by the body. Carbohydrates require 5-10% and fat, a mere 0-3%. To peak your metabolism, eat more protein! Whenever I look at nutrition profiles, I am appalled at the scant amount of protein that most people eat. David wrote an excellent article on protein consumption here.
Complex vs: Simple Carbs
Carbohydrate intake has a direct effect on metabolism. Complex carbs require an increase in metabolism to break them down into useable energy for the body. Simple carbs require very little effort to digest. If all of our carbohydrate intake is complex, our metabolism is naturally running at a higher rate than if we eat all simple carbs.
Complex carbs, NOT simple carbs are a necessary part of a healthy diet. Examples of complex carbs are those that are found in vegetables, beans, whole grains, quinoa, brown rice, oats, lentils, fruits and peas. Whole grain pasta also counts as a complex carbohydrate, although it is a processed food. I stay away from processed foods as much as possible. They digest quicker than whole foods, which allows hunger to return more quickly than after eating whole foods. Whole foods are foods that are consumed in their natural state.
The most obese people that I know, tend to eat almost exclusively simple carbs. Simple carbs serve little purpose. Examples of simple carbs are white rice, white wheat flour, white bread and added sugars of all kinds, including honey. Most traditional cakes, cookies, snack cakes and candies are almost exclusively simple carbs. Sugar sweetened drinks, such as traditional soda, sweetened teas and the “coffee” drinks that have been popularized by chain “coffee” houses are almost pure sugar.
Fruit juice and cold breakfast cereals are simple carbohydrates incognito. They present as healthy, but fruit juice has been stripped of its fiber leaving mostly sugar and most cereals contain excessive amounts of added sugars of all kinds.
Spicy foods, coffee and green tea are also noted to increase metabolism. The idea that increasing these “thermogenic” foods will cure a weight problem is in error. Many popular “diet aids” are formulated with this theory in mind. These foods will never override the habit of eating too much, so if you are overeating, the first thing you need to do is track your calories and adjust the amount of food that you consume.
Unless we are accountable for what we eat, we tend to gain weight in the form of fat. As we gain more and more fat, we tend to move less. Although heavier bodies burn more calories, sedentary bodies DO NOT. As you lose control of what you are eating and the scale begins to rise, you will almost always become less active. Inactivity results in a slower metabolism. To maintain an efficient, smooth-running metabolism, maintain a healthy weight through good nutrition and full nutritional accountability. It will be much easier to exercise in a healthier body, which brings us to…
Any exercise that your doctor approves and YOU WILL DO is good. 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise per week is recommended for optimum health. Cardio speeds the metabolism in the moment and also contributes to better overall muscle mass. Muscle burns more calories than fat so anything that changes the muscle to fat ratio in favor of muscle, will boost your metabolism. Examples of cardiovascular exercise are walking, running, bike riding, swimming and cardio classes. Anything that gets your heart rate up is a form of cardiovascular exercise. I like using a heart rate monitor to know when I am in the zone that I want to be in for the best conditioning. Your doctor can guide you in the choosing the type and rate of cardio best for you.
Resistance Training is an excellent way to boost metabolism. It builds muscle more efficiently than cardio because that is the point of resistance training. Again, your doctor can help you select the type of resistance training best for you. I love free weights, but they are not for everybody. Keen programming and focus are necessary to lift free weights safely. A trainer is a critical part of successful and safe weightlifting.
There are many other forms of resistance training including resistance bands and simple body weight exercises. Choose the one that is right for you with your medical doctor’s approval.
Getting a good night’s sleep is critical to an efficient metabolism. When we sleep well, we awake refreshed and energized. More energy means more activity which is an instant metabolism booster. Sleep deprivation is also associated with inefficient conversion of food and fat to energy. (1) If this food/fat bomb is not burned, it’s stored as fat. Poor sleep is also thought to impair the way the body utilizes glucose. This can raise your chances of developing diabetes and also cause weight gain by decreasing the body’s ability to use insulin properly. If you have trouble sleeping, see your doctor and get that fixed for maximum benefits of a metabolism boosting program.
While any one of these tips can improve your metabolism, utilizing as many of them as your doctor approves can certainly make a difference. Having the information is good but acting on it is necessary to make changes.
It’s up to you.
Create Your Life.