Some lucky people are simply born with a higher metabolism than others. Men tend to have more active metabolic rates than women. And generally, the younger we are the more vibrant our metabolisms will be. But humans age and change throughout our lives, and just accepting a slower metabolism is not necessary when you know how to keep your metabolic rate revved up and healthy.
Benefits of a Higher Metabolism
The benefits of a higher metabolism are pretty basic. You look and feel better, and you have more energy to live life to the fullest. The essence of raising your metabolic rate is to keep your weight in check and your body in overall good health so that you can fight elements like encroaching age and many diseases with full force. If you regard your metabolism as having the power to befriend you and support your quest for a long, healthy life, that’s a good analogy. But it can also work against you if you don’t give it proper care and feeding. It’s one of your best allies, so treat it with respect and nurture it.
Improving your metabolic rate is possible, and unless you’re one of the rare humans with a serious, medically based metabolic disorder, there are many options for making the most of your metabolism and enjoying the benefits of energy and vitality. It’s rather like the choice between sitting back and watching life pass by, or getting in there and participating!
No matter what we do, our bodies constantly burn calories. Our quest for a higher metabolic rate will see us burn more calories and maintain a healthy weight, but it’s not only about the number of pounds we weigh; it’s about what portion of our weight comes from muscle and what portion from fat. Muscle burns calories at roughly three times the rate that fat does.
People often blame weight gain on a “slow metabolism”, but do they or you know what “metabolism” really is? If you get the facts and learn what to do to speed up your metabolism, then there’s no need to blame, just appreciate having a healthy body. The Bantam Medical Dictionary provides a not-too-clinical definition of metabolism. It tells us that it is the “sum of all the chemical and physical changes that take place within the body and enable its continued growth”. What this involves in lay terms is the intake of calories that quite literally works with the body to “liberate energy”; this energy works hard to create complex substances from simple ones. When the metabolism is functioning at peak performance, it is burning a good balance of calories, sufficient to nourish the health of the body and to give it the energy it needs. The key is to intake adequate nutrition to be well, not overdose on food and have calories hanging around causing trouble.
Metabolic Rates Differ
If you want an example of high metabolism in action, watch a bunch of kids on a hot summer day frolicking in a water sprinkler. You can feel their excitement and enthusiasm, hear their joy. You can almost witness their calories burning! The human metabolism is always busy employing hormones and enzymes to transform the food you ingest into energy (hopefully efficient energy) that you use for various activities, even sleeping! Not all humans burn calories at the same rate; metabolic rates differ. Heredity has a role, but slower metabolic rates are mostly caused by one of three things:
- Your gender. The fact is that males naturally burn more calories at rest than females do.
- Your age. Human biology has taught us that once we reach the age of 40, our metabolisms begin to slow down by approximately 5% per decade. If we do nothing to counter this, it happens by default.
- Your body mass. A lean profile is a good indicator that more muscle is present and because muscle burns calories faster than fat does, a fatter physique means a slower metabolism.
If you go back and read those three factors again, you might be discouraged. Maybe you can get a little exercise and control your body fat to some degree, but there’s not much you can do about your sex or your age, right? Wrong! You can fight the slowing metabolism caused by any of these things by making small, consistent shifts in your lifestyle and maintaining them as you age. Women will have to make slightly different adjustments than men to compensate for the gender factor, and while you cannot reverse aging, you can get older in good health and not just live longer, but live better, too.
So How To Boost Your Metabolism?
Boosting your metabolism is simple and yet complex. That may sound like a contradiction, but on the surface, it’s easy to do: eat smaller portions and be more active. But each of those shifts requires a series of actions to make it work both short- and long-term. For example, it’s not enough to just get some exercise (although any type of movement is good for you!); you need to get a balanced combination of aerobic exercise and muscle training. We all know that walking is healthy, but to make it relevant in an concerted effort to boost your metabolism, break into a jog or a run now and then when you go for a walk and include some kind of resistance workout, like lifting small (5 to 10 pound) weights as you go. That’s the ticket! Make optimum use of your exercise time by getting aerobic and resistance workouts simultaneously.
The same applies to the eating aspect of things. Cutting calories will almost always result directly in short-term weight loss, but that will not necessarily boost your metabolism, which is crucial for long-term weight control. And that’s the objective. Pivotal to eating for the purpose of boosting your metabolism is to eat smaller but more frequent meals, or a combination of smaller meals and light snacks. The other essential ingredient to this formula is what you eat; stick with whole foods, lots of lower-fat proteins and go easy (do not eliminate them!) on the carbohydrates.
Here’s a fact: If you wait more than 3 or 4 hours between eating, and then help yourself to a large, satisfying meal, it actually results in your metabolism slowing down. It’s kind of like biological revenge. You made your metabolism wait too long for something to munch on and now it’s going to get you back. If you think back to very early man, when we were hunters and gatherers, food wasn’t always easy to come by and when we did find it, there was limited means of safe storage. When we found a food resource, we pretty much had to eat it. Our tummies became food storage lockers, hanging on to every calorie in case we needed it later and couldn’t find a tasty dinosaur to barbeque. That’s how our bodies still react when we wait too long to eat and then eat too much in one sitting. Our metabolisms like lots of food in small doses.
Research conducted in 2005 at Georgia State University proved that a higher metabolic rate resulted when athletes were given three 250-calores snacks, plus their three regular meals every day. What naturally occurred is that the athletes started needing less at their three regular meals, and so portion size reduced. But there was another bonus; they all enjoyed better, more consistent energy levels and less body fat. The types of snacks and meals mattered, too. Since proteins require about 25 more energy to digest that carbohydrates do, there were more low-fat proteins, such as lean meats, fish, skinless chicken, beans, nuts, low-fat dairy products, and tofu included in meals and snacks.
Simple Tips for Boosting Metabolism
Regardless of what caused your metabolism to slow down a little or a lot, be that age, obesity or most clinical reasons, you can regain control and boost your metabolism. It’s one of the best things you can do for your body and you have the power. Here are a handful of simple tips for boosting metabolism (be sure to use them in combination; one alone won’t get the results):
- Eat smaller portions more often, preferably three small but satisfying meals every day at the same time every day Your body clock and your metabolism are close friends!), and two or three snacks. Never go more than 4 hours without eating.
- Eat a balanced diet of whole foods, lean proteins, sufficient fiber and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. Avoid refined sugar. If you “go wild” and eat some junk food, forgive yourself, get over it and get back on track with your next healthy snack.
- Move more. Get aerobic exercise at least 4 times a week, preferably daily for at least half an hour. Exercise in the morning; your body will retain the benefits longer than if you exercise in the afternoon or evening. Walking is great, but power walking, jogging or running is better for boosting your metabolism. Dancing is one of the best aerobic exercises, and it’s fun, sometimes even glamorous, and it also helps you learn rhythm and balance. Bonus! Aerobic sports like badminton are excellent, but if it’s golf you love, try jogging between holes! Just move it!
- Develop those muscles! Use weight or resistance training in your regular routine as well as aerobic exercise. You can weight train in serious fashion at the local gym with a good personal trainer, or invest in a couple of adjustable dumbbells (they come with weights that can be added on as you strengthen your muscles). Weight training isn’t just about your arms; build the muscles on your legs, back, abs and torso, too. It’s probably a good idea to take a couple of sessions with a fitness trainer so you know what muscle group workouts are best for you and your metabolism, then you can carry on by yourself. Or workout with a friend and support one another’s efforts.
- Drink enough water. What is enough? You’ll find the right balance when you feel properly hydrated, but without constant pressure on your bladder. Some nutritionists recommend 8 glasses per day. This might work for a 200-pound man, but for a 115-pound woman, it might be too much. And remember, liquids like tea and coffee are diuretics and deplete hydration, so they really don’t count. Salt dehydrates, too, so go easy on the salt-shaker. Avoid so-called power and vitamin drinks; they’re full of calories. Get wet, not sticky! Fruits and vegetables are full of natural water; eating them adds to your fluid intake. It’s better to eat fruits than drink fruit juice because you get the bonus of healthy fiber from whole fruits.
- Avoid “diets”. Adjust how and what you eat and go slowly. A pound or two a week is safe weight loss and enables your metabolism to figure out the new routine. Make eating right a life-long lifestyle choice.
What About the “Miracle” Metabolism Boosters?
What about the “miracle” metabolism boosters? Celebrities, among others, have been claiming that foods and drinks such as red pepper, green tea, and black coffee boost metabolism. Studies have shown that these items, as well as other caffeinated drinks and hot, spicy foods, may in fact boost your metabolism just a little for a short period of time; they have no long-term beneficial effect. If you feel like a spicy pasta dish, go ahead. Just make it a small, sensible serving.
As far as supplements, food and drinks go, in most cases you would need a lot of one particular type to make a significant, sustained boost in your metabolic rate. The fact is that the ingestion of any food raises your metabolism for a brief period. That’s not going to achieve a consistently higher metabolism and a healthier body.
The beauty of boosting your metabolism is more than just safe, long-term weight loss; it’s about feeling energized, younger and more full of life. When your metabolism gets the message that slowing down isn’t okay, it will work with you to ensure a higher metabolic rate. Follow these pointers and be kind, respectful and positive to your metabolism, and you’ll enjoy the boost together, no matter what made it start to slow down in the first place.