Boosting your metabolism is like the “Holy Grail” of weight management. Everyone has a different metabolism, which is the rate at which your body uses energy/calories to support body functions—even when we sleep we use energy. our body composition is an important factor when it comes to your metabolism. Regardless if it’s due to obesity or an extremely muscular physique, the more you weigh, the faster it is. This partially explains why it decreases when you lose weight so you must exercise as you lose the weight to counteract this decline.
With a higher metabolism your body needs more calories—you can eat more without gaining weight and it is easier to lose or maintain the weight you have. Some people inherit a fast metabolism and can control their weight easier. But, you can manipulate yours to work in your favor and facilitate weight loss. Physical activity and exercise require more calories to support your body functions. During a session of strength training activates muscles all over your body, raising your metabolism. Muscles use more calories than fat cells so the more muscle mass you have, the higher your metabolism. Also, when you exercise on a particular day your energy use rises on that day, but when you start exercising on a regular basis, your muscle mass and metabolism increase.
Although aerobic exercises like jogging may not build big muscles, they can actually speed up your metabolism for hours after a workout. The key is to push yourself—do high intensity exercises. The more intense they get, the bigger and longer the rises in metabolism are, compared to low intensity workouts. To get the benefits, try a more intense class at the gym or include short bursts of jogging during your regular walk.
Don’t forget to drink water—if you are even mildly dehydrated, your metabolism may slow down. Eating often can help you lose weight and keep your metabolism high—it decreases when you don’t eat during the day and then overeat before going to sleep. Having a small meal or a snack every 3 to 4 hours keeps your metabolism high, so you burn more calories over the course of the day. Try to eat within the first hour of your day and dinner should be at least 3 hours before bedtime.
Keeping your thermostat at a slightly cool temperature (70° F) will keep your metabolism high
Make your morning and midday meals the bigger ones and the last meal the smaller one of the day. Fasting, or hardly eating can produce malnutrition and reduce your metabolism. When you don’t eat or eat too little, 1,000 (woman) or 1,600 (man) calories a day, your brain responds by lowering the metabolism to save energy. The body then starts using energy very efficiently in order to protect you from starving to death. Not even exercise will counteract the metabolic effects of dramatic restrictions of food intake.
Although low calorie diets may help you drop some pounds, it also adversely affects your nutritional status and makes you lose muscle mass, which in turn slows your metabolism. As a result, your body burns fewer calories and gains weight faster than before the diet. The foods we eat require energy to be digested. The breaking down of protein needs more energy than carbs and sugar. High protein foods like lean meat, poultry, fish, tofu, nuts, beans, eggs, and low-fat dairy products delay digestion and make you feel fuller longer. Avoid sweets and replace some carbs with lean, protein rich foods. Go for a walk after eating to give yourself an additional meta-boost at mealtime.
Some foods or ingredients like hot peppers or green chili can also speed up your metabolism temporarily. For a quick lift, spice up your pasta, meats and stews with red pepper flakes. The acidity in grapefruit, vinegar and lemons can stimulate the digestive system and accelerate the calorie burning process. Coffee can give you a short-term rise in your metabolism, help you feel less tired, and even increase your endurance while exercising— Green or Oolong tea and energy drinks with caffeine have similar effects.
There are many actions you can take to boost and maintain a high metabolism that can also support weight control. All you have to do is stay active, maintain a healthy balanced diet and distribute your calories throughout the day. Do this and keep that bikini figure all year round!
By DR. IRIS I. MERCADO, EdD, CDNS
Health Educator and Nutritionist/Dietitian hostos.cuny.edu/healthyhostos