Without going into complex bio-chemical functions that our bodies constantly perform, the easiest way to define metabolism is by describing it as a process of converting foods we consume into energy.
We often hear that slow metabolism is responsible for our weight gain but is it true? Not necessarily…
According to some experts, slow metabolism rarely is the cause of excess weight. Even though it does decrease with age at a rate of about 3% per decade, it is mainly due to the lack of exercise. Yes, hormonal changes also contribute but if we maintain the exercise routine we can prevent the muscle loss and we can even slow down the process of hormonal changes.
Basal metabolic rate is the number of calories your body uses to execute its basic functions and it’s also referred to as metabolism. This rate depends on several elements:
- Age – calories burn slower with age due to the loss of muscle tissue and gain of fat tissue
- Sex – man have more muscles and less fat than women – that’s the way the nature has created us; and thus they (men) burn more calories on the average
- Body size – larger bodies require larger energy expenditure so they burn more calories. In addition to metabolism, physical activity and food digestion/processing also contribute to the overall calorie-burning mechanism. The more exercise and the more vigorous and strenuous, the more calories you burn.
Food processing by our bodies is quite an activity in itself. While metabolism amounts to about 65 to 75 percent of the calories you burn each and every day, food processing by can amount to 10 percent all by itself. The rest is attributable to the physical activity.
Here are the 10 elements that can boost your metabolism.
1) Strength training – when you build your muscles you increase your metabolic rate by anywhere from 10 to 40 and more calories per day. There is some disagreement between scientists on exactly how many calories a pound of muscle can burn but even the conservative estimate might help us lose some weight. You would be surprised how these small amounts add up quickly. Just put on some pounds of lean muscle and you will see.
2) Interval and fartlek training – these two exercises can really help you increase your metabolism. The first one (interval training) is based on alternating short, intense workout periods with those of low intensity. An example is running; in the first, intensive period you sprint for about a minute or so and then you run at much slower pace for about two minutes. It is not limited to running, however. You can do interval training with most aerobic exercises. Fartlek is similar. The main difference between fartlek and interval training concerns the time periods. You do not use a specific time, you might sprint for 3 minutes and then run at a slower pace for 7 minutes and do another sprint for 2 minutes followed by a 5-minute slower run.
3) Have adequate amount of sleep – according to a study conducted by American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, sleepless night causes 5% decrease in metabolic rate. In addition, skimping sleep causes significant decrease of calories burned that the body uses to break down and digest food. This decrease could amount to as much as 20% compared to the times you get regular amount of restful sleep.
4) Eat five to seven small meals per day – when your brain doesn’t get enough sugar to function normally, your body releases cortisol, hormone that breaks down tissue, such as your muscle, to turn it to glucose in order to feed your brain – glucose is its primary fuel source. It happens when you don’t provide enough glucose to your body by either starving yourself or by simply skimping on meals. Smaller meals prevent glucose depletion by providing and maintaining more even sugar levels.
5) Have a pre-bed snack – it’s a common myth that you should not eat before going to bed. On the contrary, bed-time snack can help you keep your metabolism going by burning calories even when you are sleeping. Your blood sugar fluctuates based on a 2 to 3 hour schedule. If you go to bed at 11:00PM your body is sugar deprived at about 2:00AM and your metabolism slows down. There was a reason that Hilary Swank’s trainer was supposedly waking her up throughout the night and forcing her to drink shakes every two or three hours during the making of Million Dollar Baby – to keep her metabolism up.
6) Do not starve yourself – eat 1,200 calories per day at minimum. If you consume fewer than that amount your body goes into a starvation mode, which, in turn, causes stress and this is followed by more belly fat. It also slows down your metabolism significantly, which means less efficient calorie-burning actions of your body. You should cut your calories gradually. Do not go from consuming 3,000 calories per day to 700. It does your body no good and your weight loss will not be as effective.
7) Get your daily vitamins – studies show that vitamin C and D can help you burn and lose more fat. The omega-3 fatty acids contained in fish oil have similar beneficial effects on the body. In addition, they are used in treating high triglyceride levels and in prevention of heart disease.
8) Spice up your life – some spices are known to increase metabolism by as much as 25%, some say that you can speed up your metabolism even more. Cpsaicin (compound that gives red chili pepper its powerful kick), black pepper, ginger, green and black tea and caffeine have the potential to produce significant effects on metabolic targets such as satiety, thermogenesis (food processing), and fat oxidation. Canadian study showed that men, who were served hot sauce before meal, consumed fewer calories throughout the day as compared to those who did not have any food with capsaicin. Be careful, though. Spicy foods are not good for those who have ulcers.
9) Drink plenty of water – University of Utah study shows when you keep your body well hydrated and you drink 8 to 12 glasses of water you will burn more calories than when you consume only 4 glasses.
10) Eat more proteins for breakfast, instead of carbohydrates – In addition, follow each carb meal with some proteins. It will decrease the chance of carbohydrates being stored as fat. Since proteins are more difficult to process, their digestion increases your metabolism.
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