Plenty of people pay lip service to working to slow down their metabolism by taking pills or fad dieting, but the truth is very few people actually understand how their metabolism works or what it takes to boost the metabolism. If you suspect that your metabolism needs a kick in the pants–it likely does–then we need to do a little bit of metabolism education first.
I could give you a really complicated medical explanation for metabolism that would only serve to confuse you and continue misguided methods of boosting metabolism, but I won’t. It serves no purpose. The simplest explanation for metabolism is that it is the rate that your body burns calories in order to sustain life. See…simple!
Keep in mind that the body is always burning calories, regardless of how frequently or infrequently you exercise or engage in other physical activities. There is no set schedule by which the human body burns calories and any efforts to speed up or slow metabolism at a particular time will be ineffective.
What Affects Metabolism?
There are many things that affect your metabolism such as age, activity level and even the efficiency of your thyroid function. These factors have a minimal effect on metabolism, but what makes the biggest impact is muscle tissue.
This factor is why some people are supremely successful at increasing metabolism while others fail miserably. The fact is that the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn no matter your age or level of activity. It’s one of the reasons personal trainers the world over recommend strength training exercises to help boost calorie burning.
So you want to know why muscle affects metabolism so much? Well muscle is there, inside your body working hard day in and day out, burning calories around the clock. No matter whether you are at rest or working at a maximum heart rate and every level in between, some muscle (or muscles) is working to help you and therefore it is burning calories.
What else can affect your metabolism? Here’s a small list:
- Meal Frequency. Long gaps between meals will cause your metabolism to slow down so it can save energy.
- Level of Activity. This is only important to your metabolism if you’re eating far more fuel than your body needs, and can therefore burn each day.
- Smart Food Choices. Fad diets that restrict or calorie intake to dangerous levels will slow down your metabolism because your hormone production is insufficient.
- Hydration. More than 70% of important body functions occur in water and without a sufficient amount of water each day your systems will not work at an optimal level.
- Genetics. While it is true that some of us won the genetic lottery and were born with a high metabolism, that doesn’t mean you can do things (things on this list) to boost your metabolism.
- Hormone Production & Function. For some people thyroid function can affect metabolism but the truth is that you may simply suffer from inconsistent blood sugar. Correct this by eating more healthy foods and engage in a gradually intense exercise regimen 3 times a week.
- Stress. Sure some people lose weight when they are stressed but that’s usually do to not eating because stress actually slows down the metabolism because it places stress on many of the body’s systems. Add that to “stressed eating” and you can see why a stress person is putting on weight.
There is this common misconception that 30 is somehow the age when your chances to be fit and thin go away. People believe that 30 is when your metabolism begins to slow down. If that’s the case how do you explain all those fit and sexy 30, 40 and 50 year olds?
The truth is that age plays such a tiny role in metabolism that it isn’t worth mentioning. What actually plays a role is a lack of muscle, which does tend to deteriorate over time if you’re not engaging in regular strength training exercises.
What’s The Solution?
This is a basic formula to jump start your metabolism:
Step 1 – Stop the storage of new fat
When you start a new exercise program do you compensate for the burned calories by eating more than you would had you not worked out? For many people the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. Most people don’t do this on purpose but because they feel as though they should be giving back those calories.
So what happens is that your workout time burned a solid amount of calories, but those additional calories you consumed were more than the body required so they get stored as fat. This is one of the major problems people have with weight loss. While you should be eating a healthy diet because it contributes to good health, the key in weight loss is the amount of food you’re eating.
Think of your body as a gas tank; it can only hold so much to help the car do what it needs to do effectively. If you put too much gas in the tank then the car won’t work as it should. The lesson from this is to avoid overeating. Easier said that done…right?
Stop storing new fat by eating more meals each day that are smaller. We all grew up with the “three squares a day” but the truth is our food needs aren’t that uniform. If you’re physically active you may need to consume more calories than someone who sits around all day. But just because you’ve started working out today doesn’t mean you need to increase your energy intake.
Step 2 — Attack existing fat
Attacking fat requires a one-two punch of stabilizing energy and blood sugar levels combined with progressive aerobic and strength training exercises. You know that a balanced diet can help with energy and blood sugar, so let’s talk about how exercise will help you attack body fat.
First you need progressive aerobic exercise so that your body doesn’t get used to the same exercise. If that happens, the work you’re doing becomes less effective and you’ll reach that dreaded weight loss plateau. Instead you should always be increasing the level of difficulty of your workout. For example if you haven’t worked out in a while you may start with 15 minutes on the elliptical machine for the first week. But when the second week rolls around 15 minutes seems like a walk in the park. That means it’s time to ramp it up by extending the time, increasing the resistance and incline levels.
Here are a few guidelines to make your exercise regimen progressive and productive:
- Change exercises frequently (every 2-4 weeks)
- Increase resistance
- Increase the number of reps
- Slower reps
- Advanced techniques
- Increase speed and resistance
- Perform intervals
- Increase distance traveled
- Cross train
This plan of action is most effective if you have given careful consideration to your diet and exercise plan. Simply declaring that you want to lose weight and boost your metabolism isn’t enough to get it done, you have to know what to do to make it happen and create a plan to help you achieve your goals.
If you’ve have trouble with diets in the past, perhaps you should seek guidance from a professional to help you get started. Whether it is a personal trainer or nutritionist, you may be missing key information that can impact your ability to succeed.
Losing weight isn’t supposed to be brain surgery. In fact when armed with the proper information you’ll wonder why you ever made it so difficult in the past.
Written By: Updated: May 6,2008