Imagine an office with bad Wi-Fi connectivity. Or helplessly crawling through traffic during rush hour. Sometimes, faster is better. The same can be said about our metabolism.
We all have one — some of us have it faster, others slower. Ultimately, metabolic rate matters, because the frequency at which your body burns the calories and converts fuel to energy can also affect how easily you gain or lose weight.
It also says a lot about how at-risk you are for diabetes, and how much pep you’ve got in your step. While much of your metabolic rate is determined by genetics, age, gender and body size, there are certain lifestyle changes that can speed up the process (pun intended).
1. Protein is King
Eating can actually increase your metabolism by a few hours. Yes, you heard us right. But before you eagerly sign yourself up for a Man v. Food documentary challenge, be informed that it must consist of food sources rich in protein, such as chicken breasts or red salmon.
Protein causes the largest rise in thermic effect of food (TEF). TEF is basically the extra calories required to digest, absorb and process the nutrients in your meal. A diet rich in protein has been shown to increase your metabolic rate by 15–30%, as compared to lower-protein diets.
Additionally, loading up on protein reduces the drop in metabolism often associated with weight loss through dieting, as the steady supply of protein keeps muscle loss to a minimum. Furthermore, it also helps your stomach feel more satisfied, thus minimising the odds of binging or overeating.
Some studies have demonstrated a relation between caffeine consumption, increased metabolic burning of calories and a reduced risk for type 2 diabetes. They further concluded that caffeine or coffee indeed stimulates the metabolic rate in both normal and obese individuals.
Be advised, however, to consume your caffeinated beverages in moderation. One too many cuppas may cause nervousness, nausea or insomnia. Not to mention, some are high in fat and sugar.
3. Spicy Food
Capsaicin, a molecule found in spices, such as pepper, has been shown to increase body temperature and speed up fat loss, albeit temporarily and by a small percentage. A particular study of capsaicin suggested that eating peppers would burn around 10 additional calories per meal. While the effects of adding spices to your meals may be small, they may lead to a slight advantage, when combined with other metabolism-boosting strategies.
4. High-Intensity Interval Training
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) involves quick and very intense bursts of exercises, alternating with low-intensity recovery periods.
Typically, a HIIT workout will range from 10 to 30 minutes in duration. Despite its short workout span, it has been proven to produce health benefits similar to twice as long moderate-intensity exercises. This translates into burning more calories in a shorter amount of time.
Not only has HIIT been shown to burn fat efficiently, it also increases your metabolic rate even after you are done exercising.
5. Quality Shuteye
Poor sleep is strongly linked to weight gain. Not getting enough quality shuteye has been shown to slow metabolism in both men and women. Getting a good night’s sleep is absolutely crucial and can be rewarding, especially if you are trying to lose weight and reap beauty benefits at the same time, like improved dark eye circles.
In addition, lack of sleep has also been linked to increased blood sugar levels and insulin resistance, both of which are contributors to a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Moreover, poor sleep induces higher levels of ghrelin — the hormone that stimulates appetite — and reduces the levels of leptin — the hormone that suppresses appetite.
So, on top of crawling under the covers early, be sure to give yourself enough uninterrupted sleep hours to get the full amount of rest and recovery your body needs.
6. Active Lifestyle
Muscle is more metabolically active than fat, and therefore, building muscle can help increase your metabolism. This means you will burn more calories each day, even at rest. And while the common perception of building muscle typically involves clanking weights in the gym, we are here to assure you that it does not have to necessarily be so.
The trick is to cultivate a more active lifestyle. Walk more often, climb the stairs instead of using the elevator or carry your groceries home from the store (read: ditch that trolley). Use an activity tracker to increase your daily step count and increase your total calories burnt per day.
Once your body has adjusted to a more active lifestyle, incorporate workouts that increase metabolism, such as HIIT. You can gradually increase your training load by adding strength exercises into your regime, to further increase your metabolism with lean muscle mass.
Remember, movement is key. Any type of physical activity — even a 20-minute brisk walk — can help speed up metabolism.
It is important to note that metabolism cannot be solely held responsible for weight gain or loss. It is impossible for someone with a super-fast metabolic rate to stay slim by eating junk food and not exercising. At the same time, people with slower metabolisms are not automatically doomed to an overweight fate, either.
There is no quick-fix way to boost your metabolism, but you can make small changes to your daily habits, like walking instead of driving or standing instead of sitting. Stay active and experiment with new workout regimes, such as adding high-intensity and muscle-building exercises to help increase the amount of calories you burn each day.
Anything is better than sitting or lazing for hours, so turn off the TV and get that bum off the couch, Jimbo.