If you ever feel like you are sluggish; you can’t seem to lose weight; you feel blah and cant seem to feel good in your own skin… you may just need to jump start your metabolism.
As we get older it is said that our metabolisms tend to slow down naturally, but don’t consider that to be the end all be all. There are ways that you can help to keep your metabolism in check, and to start to feel better and reach those fitness goals you have.
While I am not a doctor, and can’t guarantee the below steps will fix everything, it is always good to consult a doctor to make sure you don’t have underlying issues that could be contributing to the things you are feeling. Metabolism can be affected by hormones, age, genetics, and physical activity among other things.
What is Metabolism?
Metabolism is the chemical process that happens within your body just to maintain life. Everything you put into your body is broken down into energy or used to build and repair the body or in some cases just stored as fat.
Each person has a minimum amount of calories they need just so the body can function. Look at it this way… if you were to lay on the couch all day and do nothing, you would still need to feed your body a certain amount of calories just so it can keep your organs and muscles working.
Now add in a walk for the day; a good workout session at the gym; a day at the park with kids or grandkids. All of these things are going to require even more fuel to help maintain the minimum. Which means your calories needed for the day just went up!
The problem most people have when trying to lose weight, get lean, or build muscle is they think they need to stop eating or cut back on their eating. While this may be the case for some people, not everyone needs to cut calories to achieve their goals. Cutting too many calories can send your body into starvation mode, and you end up storing more fat than you want or need. And this will cause weight gain, bloating feeling and could cause you to give up on your goals.
Why do you want to build your metabolism?
Having a faster metabolism means that your body is burning and using more of the calories you are eating. And its using them in ways to help you achieve your goals versus just adding weight and fat to your body. Imagine being able to eat more food, and still lose weight and gain the muscle you are so desiring? If you are like me and you love to eat… this is the best news ever! We just need to make sure we are doing it in healthy ways. This isn’t a green light to go eat all the fast food you want 😊
How can we rev up the Metabolism?
Below are 4 ways that can help speed up your metabolism. As with most things, if you can find or afford to have a personal and/or nutrition coach to help you along the way please do!
#1 Control Stress
When stress goes unchecked it can take control of your body. Besides hormones and many other things being thrown out of balance, your metabolism can take a huge hit as well. When your body is always is a state of stress, it focuses all of its energy on just helping you to survive. This means that no energy is going towards rebuilding, and healing…. Or in the case of fitness… no gains.
When people are in a constant state of stress, they also tend to not sleep well and overeat. These 2 factors usually go hand in hand. While some people will turn to food as a way to comfort themselves while stressed, your body’s lack of sleep can also trigger eating. Not only can it trigger eating, but your judgement of what you eat is also out of whack and you tend to grab less nutritious healthy options. That bowl of ice cream is going to look much more enticing than cooking chicken, rice and veggies.
Keeping your sleep in balance and managing your stress will most definitely help your body be able to better metabolize the food you are giving it.
**Read our previous blog on ways to destress to help guide you in this area**
#2 Lift weights/Strength train
Besides the fact that strength training is fundamental for your body, it also helps you burn more calories. Resistance training will increase your lean muscle mass. The more intense the Resistance training, the longer your body will continue to operate at a higher metabolic rate. Lets break this down a little more for you….
Muscle is a more metabolically active tissue than fat. The more muscle your body has on it, the higher your metabolism will operate. This is because it needs more calories just to maintain the basic functions. To further aid in the increased metabolism, you can increase the intensity of your training. Someone that lifts heavy for a day, or does a High Intensity Interval (HIIT) workout will not only increase their metabolism, BUT they will increase the length of time that their metabolism will remain in an increased state. After a resistance workout, your body will operate at a higher than usual metabolic rate for 24-72 hours!
While this is a great way to help increase your metabolism, you have to make sure you don’t overtrain your body. Over-training will put your body in a state of stress, and that puts us back in the place of Topic #1. Find the balance that works for you.
#3 Increase your Calories (and protein)
As we mentioned earlier, your body has a minimum amount of calories needed just to maintain its daily functions. This should be your starting point for caloric intake. As you add exercise and activities to the mix, you want to make sure you adjust your intake accordingly. As you start to increase your caloric intake, your metabolism will respond. Your metabolism will realize that it has the calories needed to provide all the functions needed to maintain your body AND aid in muscle and body repair. Your body will start to operate at its best form of itself!
If you wish to keep your lean muscle and still lose body fat, then adding a high protein diet to your intake will most certainly help. Protein has been shown to contribute to building and repairing muscle after a lifting session and it will also help you to eat less overall. In addition, protein requires more calories for breakdown and absorption so your metabolism will be working harder causing potential weight loss to occur.
On the flip side of this, if you are not consuming enough calories in a day, then our body will reserve what it needs to, and you will be less inclined to be active and get moving because your body doesn’t have the fuel it needs to do so. This will not aid in speeding up your metabolism or to help you lose fat.
#4 Add Cardio and keep it changing
Getting and keeping cardio in your life is very important to keep the metabolism going and to help rev it up. I know when most people think of cardio, they think of treacherous treadmills, stair climbers, and endless amounts of sweating…. BUT cardio could be something as simple as going for walks after dinner, gardening in your back yard, or taking your dogs for a hike. Any physical activity that will increase your heartrate is essentially cardio. The best part of adding this type of cardio to your routine is that it is readily available, doesn’t tax the body like more intense cardio does therefore also helps to keep stress levels in check.
Now I am not saying that 10 minutes a day of walking to the mailbox is going to help you lose weight and send your metabolism into overdrive, but if you are used to having a very sedentary lifestyle than this is a great start! Just remember that in order to keep this progress going you will need to keep increasing the amount of time that you are active, and keep the activities changing!
Your body has a great memory! And it gets accustomed to what you put it through…. So if you go to the gym everyday and run for 3 miles, or you hike the same mountain everyday your body is going to remember that. It will learn and acclimate to the activity you are doing and in return you will start to burn less energy doing the same exercise. So where you saw great strides with your increased metabolism, these changes will start to subside because your body has learned how to better operate during those activities.
If you are a more seasoned fitness guru, or just want something to mix it up, than adding HIIT workouts to your routine could be the adjustment you need. AS we mentioned earlier, High Intensity Interval workouts give your body bouts of cardio bursts mixed with resistance training so you will continue to have a higher metabolic burn for 24-72 hours post workout. Where as a steady state cardio (running for 3 miles with no increase in pace or incline) will not give you this increased burn.
The best arsenal you have with cardio, and any workout is to keep your body guessing. Change up your routine every few weeks, do something different every day of the week- hike one day and then swim the next. Whatever you like to do…. Find ways to do it and to change it up. The list of things you can do to make subtle changes is never ending, so you can always keep that body guessing.
In conclusion, the biggest thing to remember is that all of these tools to help build your metabolism all work together. Finding the balance between your stress, caloric intake and workouts is the key to reaching the goals you want. You can’t let one area go unchecked and hope to still get the long term results you so desire. You may see small and quick changes, but they will inevitably not last. Your body will adjust to compensate for the area you are lacking in, and the results will go away.
It is a balancing act that can take time and patience to figure out what works best for you. Don’t get discouraged and keep pushing forward. The changes and results will come!