Metabolism refers to the chemical processes continuously occurring inside your body. These processes support life by maintaining the normal healthy function of your body, or homeostasis. This includes breaking down your food to provide energy and nutrients that help us grow and repair our bodies.
Most of the carbohydrates, proteins, fats and sugars we consume through food are converted into energy that gets used in functions like:
o Breaking down food
o Keeping your heart pumping blood around the body
o Repairing and forming new cells
The amount of energy your body needs to perform this ongoing maintenance is called your basal metabolic rate (BMR), and accounts for 50-80% of your daily energy expenditure (1). BMR will vary from person to person depending on factors such as age, weight, gender and genetic make-up.
Your BMR is out of your control and is impossible to drastically alter, however, there are outside factors that can influence the rate at which your body burns energy when not exercising. So, how can we ensure that we are keeping our metabolism moving at the right pace and, most importantly, keep us healthy?
1. Eat More Protein
A balanced diet is one of the more obvious ways to ensure the body receives all that it needs to maintain healthy homeostasis. On top of this, eating regularly and eating enough is also paramount to good metabolism. This is because your BMR speeds up immediately after you consume food as your metabolism kicks in to break it down and store it.
Some foods take more energy than others to digest and store and therefore have a higher thermic effect. There is a reason why nutritionists and fitness gurus alike are always harping back to the benefits of protein! During digestion, protein burns more calories than carbs or fat. Around 30% of the calories in protein are used in digesting and absorbing it alone (2), making it the most effective compound in using energy. As well as this, protein is known to keep you fuller for longer and therefore can prevent you from overeating and also from snacking on unhealthy food.
An easy way to increase your protein intake alongside consuming healthy whole foods is to use a protein powder such as True’s Whey Protein Isolate. Adding protein into your breakfast routine, in a recipe, shake or smoothie can easily boost your protein intake.
2. Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Good sleep is a two-fold step to maintaining a functioning metabolism:
1. The body does a vast amount of its growth and recovery overnight
2. Getting enough sleep can ensure we have enough energy to effectively burn calories during the day
Studies have shown a link in feeling hungry and increased blood sugar levels in sleep-deprived people. This is because a lack of sleep negatively affects the body’s ability to metabolise food and can even go on to increase the risk of obesity (3).
Supplements such as True’s ZMA can help to promote a restful sleep and ensure the best chance for recovery and repair each night.
3. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
HIIT workouts are rising in popularity, and for good reason. Involving short bursts of high intensity movements, interval training forces you to consume more oxygen than cardio workouts and therefore encourages your cells to work harder to burn energy. It’s one of the most effective types of exercise, burning calories in half the time of cardio.
Evidence shows that it can elevate your metabolism for up to 24 hours after a workout, as well as being great for burning fat (4). Though this ‘after-burn’ isn’t dramatic (no more than 200-300 calories), it could make small improvements to your BMR with regular practice.
4. Drink More (Cold) Water
The benefits of keeping hydrated scarcely need a reminder, but here are some you may not have heard of:
o The digestive system depends on water to aid with the breakdown of compounds
o Our airways need hydration to stay inflated and effective
o Water makes minerals and nutrients more easily absorbed by the body
Not only is water crucial for healthy organ function, it can also speed up the BMR while being digested. Some suggest that cold water is even more effective at burning calories as the body uses energy to heat it back up in order to digest it (5).
Water can even be an easy weight loss tool when used to replace sugary drinks such as juice and soda. This simple switch means you will consume less calories, and a calorie deficit across the day is key for weight loss. Moreover, dehydration is often confused for hunger, and water can help to fill you up. It can even be useful to stop you from overeating if consumed half an hour before a meal.
5. Get Into Green Tea
Green tea has long been celebrated for its health benefits including aiding digestion, the reduction of inflammation and being rich in antioxidants. Though not all researchers agree, a recent study suggested that green tea also speeds up metabolism, revealing that it increased energy expenditure by up to 4% in a group of young men (6). There are also research claims that green tea is good for burning fat and improving cognitive function.
Matcha Powder is made from the whole green tea leaf, as opposed to regular green tea where the leaf is steeped in hot water. Because of this, matcha is said to contain up to 10 times the nutritional value of standard loose leaf green tea.
6. Consume Caffeine (in moderation!)
Caffeine is not only shown to improve athletic performance (7) but it’s also claimed to speed up the body’s resting metabolic rate. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, which sends signals to break down fat. The effects of caffeine can vary in each individual, however. Some report it to be somewhat of an appetite suppressant, causing them to feel less hungry. In this way, caffeine can be a useful tool to prevent a calorie surplus from excessive snacking or overeating.
Coffee is perhaps the world's most widely consumed source of caffeine and is available everywhere you look, though not all are of the same quality. True Protein’s Organic Coffee Powder has an exceptional profile of antioxidants that protect the body from free radicals, therefore allowing for healthy metabolism.
7. Lift Heavy Weights
People with higher muscle mass actually burn calories faster, and that’s because muscle uses more energy, or is more metabolically active than fat. Lean muscle mass takes a lot of energy for your body to maintain, and subsequently burns more calories at rest. Lifting heavy weights is the most effective way to build lean muscle mass, and in turn speed up your BMR.
8. DON’T Cut the Calories
Many people think that the key to weight loss is to stop eating. While portion control is important to avoid an excessive calorie surplus, cutting out meals altogether will actually have a negative effect on your metabolism. Denying yourself food to the point of hunger will trick your body into thinking there’s not much food around, and you may begin to store fat. This is called metabolic adaptation and can often cause difficulty in weight loss in those who have used experimental dieting or ‘yo-yo’ dieting for extended periods of time.
It’s important to remember that the calories and nutrients you consume are actually the things that kick your metabolism into gear – so don’t shun those calories! If we consume more food than our bodies generally need to perform metabolic functions or to fuel exercise, it is stored as fat. As long as the foods you’re consuming are not in excess of the energy you’re expending, there is no need to stress about carbs and fats.
9. DO Cut Out Trans-Fats
Trans and saturated fats are commonly found in processed and fast foods. When consumed in excess, these fats can slow down the body’s ability to burn fat by binding to cells in the liver and creating inflammation. They are also known to increase the risk of heart disease and high cholesterol.
Steer clear of processed meats, deep-fried foods, pastries, butter and other junk foods as much as possible. In short, eating clean and green will mean your body can easily digest your foods, speeding up your metabolism and reducing your fat intake!
10. Start Eating Early
The early bird gets the worm – and in the case of your digestive system, there’s a lot to be said for this old proverb! Breakfast is the most important meal of the day in terms of ‘waking up’ your metabolism.
Beginning the day with a well-rounded meal can boost your energy, ensure your metabolism is on the grind, and improve your focus for the day ahead (8). Not only this, but regularly eating breakfast can form a healthy relationship with eating by creating routine, as well as promoting a healthy body weight (9).
No longer can you blame your ‘slow metabolism’ on your dad’s bad genes. Although there is no way to dramatically change your BMR, with the help of a few simple lifestyle changes, regulating your lifestyle can become second nature. It is most important to remember a few key healthy habits, and the rest will fall into place:
o Adequate sleep and rest are paramount for recovery
o Eat clean, lean and green – but don’t skip meals
o Drink plenty of water and occasional caffeinated (but not sugary) drinks
o Maintain a regular exercise routine that incorporates weights and HIIT circuits
O’Neil, Carol E. et al. The Role of Breakfast in Health: Definition and Criteria for a Quality Breakfast. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2014;Volume 114 , Issue 12 , S8 – S26doi:10.3402/mehd.v26.26191.