Written by R. S Jacobs
Metabolism is probably one of the most misunderstood and misrepresented topics when it comes to managing your weight. Society prefers to focus on products that promise to reduce the dreaded weight gain or that promote quick weight loss, however, we don’t actually take the time to look deep into the very core of how our body reacts to food intake and physical activities.
So, first of all, what actually is metabolism? Basically, this can be defined as the chemical process that takes place when we use water, food, air, etc to produce energy for sustenance and repair. Let me use a car as an illustration: our heart is the engine, our brain is the electronic control unit (ECU), and food/water is the fuel. A car uses fuel through the process of combustion, converting fuel into energy to run the car, and this process is equivalent to metabolism in humans.
Throughout our day-to-day life, our metabolism dictates how the calories (fuel) we consume are used up. When you consume more calories than what your metabolic baseline requires, your body is in excess of fuel and the only option is to store this fuel, resulting in excess body fat AKA weight gain. Basal metabolic rate determines the approximate rate at which your body uses energy whilst at rest, this is the recommended amount of calories you require daily. Rest periods include vital functions such as breathing, heartbeats, blinking of the eye, regulating your core body temperature, repairing cells and other bodily functions.
You should also know that many different factors affect your daily calorie requirements, such as age, job type, lifestyle and genetics. The list of contributing factors is extensive and will differ from one person to the next, however, the bottom line is that once you have established your basal metabolic rate you can optimise your daily routine to lose, gain or maintain your weight.
So, What Ways Can You Naturally Boost Your Metabolism?
* Move more. This is the most obvious and simple way to increase your metabolism so that your body can effectively use fuel. Make sure you exercise daily in any way, shape or form. For those who work in an office, sitting down for 8 hours significantly reduces your metabolism. Aim to stand up and walk around at least once every hour, even just to get something from the photocopiers. Why not walk to the stores instead of driving, or take up a new sport as a hobby. Small changes will all count towards increasing your metabolic rate
* Build muscle. For every pound of muscle you have, you burn an average of 35 calories, while a pound of fat burns a measly 2 calories. If the average person has 50lbs of muscle, then they can burn up to 1750 calories every day, without considering food input or exercise output! Your metabolic rate increases based on having more muscle, and better still, your metabolism will continue to work even while sleeping, sitting or resting. As you get older, the muscles start to deteriorate and your metabolism starts to slow down. Daily strength training will make sure you keep your muscles and metabolism revved up. So, start building some muscles today even with simple at home bodyweight exercises!
* Eat enough food for your body. Studies have shown that when you drastically reduce your calories intake by up to 1000 calories (as many quick fix fad diets often recommend), your body metabolism significantly reduces because it thinks you are in starvation mode. It tries to counteract the sudden reduction in calories by slowing down the metabolism to reserve energy stores to keep you alive. The double-edged sword in this instance is that once you resume a normal regime, your body will still think it is in starvation mode and by default, process the majority of the food as stored energy AKA fat to restock the energy stores. So, make sure you don’t overdo the calorie cutting and eat enough to gain, lose or maintain.
* Never skip breakfast. Our metabolism slows down when we sleep and it maintains this rhythm when we wake up. By eating breakfast, you jump-start it because your body basically says “Rest is over, now it’s time to work”. The best breakfast to eat is one that is high in protein and fibre, because not only does it take longer to digest, it keeps you fuller for longer and most of all, keep your metabolism switched into high gear.
* Eat spicy food. I know a lot of people are not a fan of spicy food but research shows that it is really effective at speeding up your metabolism. To put it simply, spicy food activates the body to release adrenaline which increases your energy output, due to increased internal bodily function. In turn, your metabolism simultaneously increases as your adrenaline is elevated.
* Drink more water. If you are dehydrated, your body will not be able to carry out normal daily function, let alone process food efficiently. Water is key to ensuring smooth digestion, which maintains a strong metabolic rate.
* Eat more protein. Protein takes longer for the body to process and digest, as it needs to be transported around the body to fulfill specific bodily functions. Upon consumption of protein, your metabolism has to increase to send them to the appropriate part of the body. As muscles are metabolically active, protein is essential to sustaining growth and repair needed. Protein intake, coupled with increased muscle mass is a winning combination!
I have listed a few simple ways to naturally increase your metabolism, ensuring the food you consume is being used up properly, so you can avoid gaining unwanted and unnecessary body fat. Not only will you feel both physically and mentally better, but you can avoid succumbing to the dreaded consequences that often occur as a result of an office based sedentary lifestyle, increased age or even ‘bad genes’. Keep your metabolism switched on and at top capacity for a happier, healthier body!
Stay strong, warriors.
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