Your metabolism is like a fire that needs to be fed wood to keep it burning efficiently!
Boosting the Metabolism
By: Shandalla Rigby, MSA, EAMP, Nutritional Therapist
As we head to the new year, many of us are making resolutions to lose weight and get healthier. Many of us will work our hardest to achieve these goals, but what if we could make it easier on ourselves by boosting our metabolism? When the metabolism runs higher, then we burn more calories. The goal is to optimize the burn off of calories and to maximize weight loss. This can be done in a variety of ways, but many people will lose the battle of weight loss before they start by cutting too many calories in hopes of creating a caloric deficit. This is good for initial weight loss, but it actually causes the metabolism to slow down, which is why many people end up hitting long term plateaus or gain back even more weight than they initially lost.
Obesity scientists are finding that weight loss is not as simple as calories in calories out. The human body is designed to protect itself from famine by slowing down the metabolism when there is a shortage of food. What is a diet and caloric restriction to the body? It is the absence or shortage of food calories. The body interprets this a famine. Your body doesn’t necessarily recognize the excess weight you need to burn off, but it most definitely recognizes the caloric shortage. Because of this, long term weight loss is easier to manage by eating the right foods in the right amount. Here are some of the top recommendations I give to my patients for boosting their metabolism.
1. Drink plenty of water. Most people know that replacing sugary drinks with water will help them lose weight just because you are decreasing calories from simple carbs, but what most people do not realize is that because our body is roughly 2/3 water, just drinking water speeds up the metabolism because it optimizes the body’s daily functions. Research shows that drinking water increases the resting metabolism for about an hour after you drink it. This means your body is burning more calories even when it is not doing work.
2. Consume foods high in fiber. Not only does fiber keep you fuller longer causing you to eat less calories, but it also adds fuel to the metabolism and removes toxins from the body by acting like a scrub brush cleaning the inside the large intestine. In addition, the body will spend a lot of time trying to digest fiber as it moves through the body. This in turn causes your body to burn more calories.
3. Eat more protein. This can be plant proteins like tofu or animal proteins like meat. Eating protein helps you feel more satiated, so you need less food to feel satisfied. Eating protein also causes a rise in the metabolism because it is harder to break down than carbohydrates. More calories are used for the breakdown, digestion, and absorption of protein to convert it into usable substances by the body.
4. Eat 3 small meals and 2-3 snacks per day. Like the fire in your fireplace has to be fed wood or else die out, your metabolism acts in a very similar way. By constantly feeding it complex carbs, proteins, and good fats, you are feeding your metabolic fire and keeping your metabolism running at the highest level. Research has shown that by decreasing calories and meals in severe ways (like in extreme diets) you actually cause your body to think it is starving. This actually causes the metabolism to drop and go into a type of hibernation mode storing all the calories you’re consuming to keep the vital organs functioning. To prevent this from happening, start your morning with a healthy, balanced breakfast. Then eat a small snack, followed a few hours later by lunch. Then enjoy another small snack, followed later by a small dinner. If there are 4 hours between dinner and bedtime or if you are including workouts on a daily basis, adding a 3 snack is recommended.
5. Drink green tea or oolong tea. I recommend 2 cups of tea: one at mid morning around when you would take your first break at work, then a second one in the mid afternoon around your second break after lunch. Pair with your snack to make it easier to remember. Not only has tea been shown to be high in antioxidants that fight free radicals in the body and prevent aging, but studies have shown that tea gives you a quick bump to your metabolism.
6. Get a good night sleep. I recommend a minimum of 7-1/2 to 8 hours. Sleep is as important as healthy food and clean water. While we sleep, our body repairs all the damage we did to our cells throughout the day. This means using calories to make all the things we need to repair our bodies. This includes creating everything from new blood cells to making our hormones and replenishing our neurotransmitters (like testosterone and serotonin). It also allows the body to clean up environmental toxins we were exposed to, which can make us sick. Also, getting enough sleep regulates metabolic hormones and decreases cortisol levels. When our metabolic hormones are out of balance, our hunger and satiety hormones don’t function correctly, which makes losing weight very difficult. Concurrently, high levels of cortisol have been shown to cause excess weight gain—especially in the middle stomach area. A good night’s sleep helps to regulate this.
7. Lift weights, stand up more, do body weight exercises, and build some muscle. Lifting weights, standing, and body weight exercises (like lunges and squats), not only help the body build lean muscle, but helps to prevent diseases like osteoporosis and diabetes. Further, lifting weights adds lean muscle to the body, which will burn more calories when you are at rest than fat does. Also, lifting weights means your body will need to repair the muscles you are training, which translates to more caloric burn. There is one additional caveat for men to building muscle; as you age, testosterone decreases. More muscle mass means that this will keep your testosterone at a more balanced level.
8. Mix up your workout routine. By adding new routines to your workout, you keep your body from adapting to the exercises you are doing. This prevents plateaus in weight loss and maximizes your workouts. You can do this by swapping a spin class for Pilates or by doing things like adding high intensity interval training (HIIT) to your cardio days. HIIT adds short bursts of quick physical activity like plyometrics or sprints to your regular cardio workout. The switch will force your body to adapt in a different way using different muscles to keep the metabolism higher in the after burn phase of your workout. Talk about maximizing your results.
Together all these things will help to boost your body’s weight loss by promoting an increase in metabolism. The key to optimizing your metabolism is increasing your resting metabolic rate. What this means is that you burn more calories at rest than you did prior to starting these activities. This will help your metabolism even when you are doing things like watching tv or surfing the internet. More calories burned means higher weight loss, but without the after effects of the weight gain later on that follows a crash diet. These changes are meant to be long term sustainable changes to any lifestyle and only represent a few of the things that can be added.
If you have any questions or would like more information on nutrition, boosting your metabolism, and optimizing your health, please feel free to visit my website and read my blog at www.personalizedwellnessllc.com or make an appointment with your Naturopathic Doctor, MD, or Nutritional Therapist.
Please do not start a new diet or exercise program until your primary care provider has determined that you are healthy enough to do so.
Brooks, Daniel. Good Decisions Most of the Time. Aviva Publishing,2014.
Cooper, Emily. Metabolic Storm: The science of the metabolism and why it is making you fat and possibly in fertile. 2nd ed. 2015
Rigby, Shandalla. “An Ounce of Prevention”. Personalized Wellness Blog: 2017.
West, Helen. “10 easy ways to boost your metabolism”. Healthline Newsletter: 2017.