Boost your metabolism for healthy weight loss

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Friday, 28 November 2008.
Tagged: exercise, healthy eating, healthy lifestyle, metabolism, supplements, weight loss

Boost your metabolism for healthy weight loss
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Many people complain they can’t lose weight simply because they have a “slow metabolism”. And they think this is just them, something they have to live with. Is this fact or fallacy? And can you do anything to speed it up? Here’s the real story.

 What is metabolism?

Metabolism is the collective word for all the processes by which your body converts food into energy. Think of metabolism as your body’s engine, burning fuel (kilojoules or Calories or energy) and regulating your energy needs.

Many factors determine how fast your engine runs. Some of these you can control, such as your level of activity, the ratio of muscle to body fat, and the number of meals you eat throughout the day and others, like your genes, gender and age are all factors you can’t change.

9 easy ways to boost your metabolism, burn more energy and promote healthy weight loss

1. Exercise

A sure-fire way to increase your metabolic rate is to exercise. You can feel the immediate effects when you do aerobic exercise such as running, fast walking, dancing or cycling, and the benefits remain for a couple of hours after you stop. And don’t forget to be more active in your daily life too – take the stairs, walk when you can, put on your favourite CD and vacuum in time to the music. Anything that gets your body moving will help speed your metabolism and your weight loss.

2. Fidget

Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) or fidgeting, as it’s commonly known, is thought to be even more powerful than moderate exercise in determining how fast you burn kilojoules. So don’t just sit there – wiggle, wriggle, squirm and jiggle those feet – and the rest of you - as often as you like.

3. Drop the diets

Healthy eating = healthy weight loss. Crash dieting actually slows your metabolism because your body tries to conserve energy. Never cut your kilojoules to less than 4000 per day as it will send your body into starvation mode and your metabolism – and your weight loss efforts - into low gear.

4. Eat regularly

Make sure you eat every three to four hours. The body works hard to digest the food you eat and your metabolism revs up to do this. Just remember to keep your portion sizes down. The idea is to eat more OFTEN throughout the day, not to eat MORE. Aim to divide each of your meals into two mini-meals. For instance, have a small bowl of cereal and milk first thing at home, then eat a piece of toast with cheese at about 10am.

5. Add more protein

Eating any food will give your metabolism a slight boost, but protein will give your body a bigger metabolic boost (20 to 30 per cent) than eating carbohydrates (5-15 per cent) or fat (less than 3 per cent). To maximise your results, simply increase the amount of meat, fish, chicken, eggs and tofu you eat – just be sure to keep it lean. Plenty of protein – around 130 g a day, or up to 30 per cent of your kilojoules – also helps you maintain muscle mass, which in turn significantly boosts your metabolic rate and your weight loss.

6. Eat breakfast

People who eat breakfast are far more likely to be a healthy weight than those who tend to skip it. Researchers believe that breakfast somehow “switches on” the metabolic rate after it has been in a resting phase during sleep. If you skip breakfast you’re missing out on nutrients and a kick-start to your metabolism that can really help with weight loss.

7. Add spice to your food life!

Spicy foods, such as chilli, horseradish, ginger and cayenne pepper can increase your metabolism by up to 50 per cent for up to three hours after eating. So be liberal with the chilli sauce, indulge in a hot curry or snack on a fiery salsa. Try my recipe for Easy Thai fish cakes with fresh red chillis.

8. Stay cool

Being cold can increase metabolism by up to 20 per cent. The theory is that you burn kilojoules through shivering, as well as the internal biochemistry needed to “warm” the body back up to its set point of 37°C. If shivering doesn’t take your fancy, then drink your water icy cold.

9. Bulk up

Build muscle with strength training or activities using weights. More muscle means a higher metabolism that “idles” at a higher rate, burning up more kilojoules even when you are doing nothing which means you’re more likely reach your weight loss goal. 

Factors you can’t control

  • Your genes

Some people are lucky enough to be born with a metabolism that is set on high, while others spend most of their time in the slow lane. It’s not hard to spot the difference.

  • Your gender

Men typically have faster metabolisms than women, because they have more muscle.

  • Your age

The reality is that metabolism slows down as we age because we tend to lose muscle and become more sedentary. An average 40-year-old burns 400 fewer kilojoules a day than a 25-year-old. You can delay this by staying physically active over the years and building muscle mass through strength training or weights.

Metabolism-boosting supplements – help or hoax?

Sales of supplements are booming with enticing claims such as “enhances fat oxidation” or “facilitates cellular fat breakdown”. But do these pills really work?

Supplements usually contain a number of different ingredients, including chromium picolinate (supposedly to help insulin work better), guarana (a herbal form of caffeine), iodine (to boost the thyroid), chilli extract as well as vitamins and Ayurvedic or Western herbs.

There is little evidence for any real weight loss effect from ANY supplement. Without changing your diet and exercise routine, you’ll be wasting your money. If there is an effect, it’s quite small – much less than what you can achieve by a heart-pumping workout or a session doing weights.

The bottom line

Yes you can boost your metabolism and burn more energy. Try my 9 easy ways to do this.

References cited:

  • Lejeune MPGM et al. Ghrelin and glucagons-like peptide 1 concentrations, 24-hr satiety, and energy and substrate metabolism during a high protein diet and measured in a respiration chamber. Am J Clin Nutr 2006;83:89-94
  • Levine JA et al. Interindividual variation in posture allocation: possible role in human obesity. Science 2005; Vol. 307(5709): 584 – 586.

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Catherine Saxelby About the author

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