Metabolism is the process that your body performs to break down food into forms that provide energy to your cells. Most of us who’ve ever been overweight know the word. We hear “you have slow metabolism” as the reason why we’re fat, so we look for ways to boost metabolism. In truth, weight gain is always caused by eating more calories in your diet than you burn by your activity. However, metabolism plays a factor, and as we age, the problem gets worse. In fact, Dr. Oz says our metabolism slows down 5% every decade starting at age 40. No wonder we have trouble with weight loss as we get older!
The longer name for the word “metabolism” is your basal metabolic rate, a phrase that means the amount of calories your body burns even when you’re at rest, for activities such as breathing and circulating blood through your body. Some people truly have a slow metabolism, but most of us don’t need to worry about our at-rest calorie burning…we need to increase the number of calories we burn overall. That’s the focus of this article. And fortunately, there are a number of effective ways to speed up metabolism.
Major Ways to Boost Metabolism
To increase metabolism, you should consider both your activity level and the way you eat. Increasing your exercise burns more calories, but your diet affects how level your calorie-burning processes run throughout the day.
Eat Breakfast to Boost Metabolism
First of all, when you get up in the morning, eat breakfast. Studies have shown that people who eat a healthy breakfast are more alert, and burn calories more steadily starting in the morning. On the contrary, people who don’t eat breakfast have more trouble feeling awake and burning calories through normal bodily processes – and they tend to eat more overall calories because their bodies are trying to make up for the sluggishness they feel in the mornings.
Build Muscle and/or Increase Your Workout Intensity
Your body burns more calories maintaining lean muscle than it does maintaining fat, so increasing the muscle in your body is a great way to boost metabolism. Even if you’re already exercising, you can increase your muscle mass by adding or increasing resistance workouts such as lifting weights. You should also increase the intensity of your aerobic workouts, which may mean running faster, biking longer, or moving from low-impact aerobics to a high-impact class. (Impact and intensity don’t always go hand-in-hand, but they often do.)
Your body needs a certain amount of water to stay healthy. Dehydration will make you sleepy and lower the number of calories your body burns, even if you’re just sitting at your desk or reading a book, so to boost metabolism, make sure you drink water steadily throughout your day. Additionally, drinking cold water causes your body to burn more calories readjusting its temperature. Your daily water intake goal should be one ounce of water for each pound you way.
An interesting side note – similarly, if you spend time indoors in the air conditioning, your body burns fewer calories, so turn the temperature up or even shut off the a/c.
You may want to stop drinking water a couple of hours before bedtime so that you don’t have to get up in the middle of the night to use the restroom.
Eat Healthy Snacks
Your metabolic rate fluctuates based on your blood sugar levels. Don’t let them drop in between meals because you’ve gotten too hungry. Rather than three large meals with a complete eating gap in-between, aim for smaller meals with a healthy snack in the morning and the afternoon. Protein-enriched snacks, such as nuts, will help boost metabolism even more.
Get Enough Sleep
If you don’t sleep enough at night, your body will slow down functions to help conserve what energy remains. Adults should sleep 6-8 hours per night – the amount varies by individual. If you workout a lot, especially endurance training for activities like distance running or cycling, you will need to increase the amount you sleep during your training.
Other Smaller Ways to Boost Metabolism
Take a Chromium Supplement
If you take a multi-vitamin, check to see if it contains chromium. According to The Institute of Medicine, you should take 25 to 45 micrograms of chromium daily to boost metabolism. Chromium has long been popular among dieters and body builders, but more recently it has also been used for diabetics and those with heart problems. If your multi-vitamin doesn’t include it, switch to a brand that does, or add a separate chromium supplement.
Eat Spicy Foods
The chemicals in spicy foods, particular the capsaicin in hot peppers, can give you a slight boost in your calorie-burning rate. Don’t overdo it, though, or you’ll regret it when all that spicy food makes its way back out of your body.
Drink Small Amounts of Coffee
Natural caffeine can also boost your metabolic rate. Don’t drink so much that you become addicted or get the shakes, and don’t ruin the benefit by adding lots of sugar or cream. But a little bit of hot or iced black coffee with caffeine can help you burn more calories.
Drink Green Tea
Green Tea has become very popular over the past decade and it’s easy to find in most supermarkets now. In addition to helping fight disease, green tea also boosts metabolism and increases fat oxidation – good things for those of us trying to lose weight.
Keep these tips in mind as you work to create a healthier lifestyle, and hopefully you will boost metabolism at the same time.