We all know the metabolism is the ruler of the universe when it comes to weight management and sports performance. But, it’s also mysterious, abstract and intangible. It can only be measured with expensive equipment and even then, it’s measured in right now time, meaning what you do next, will change it. Everything you eat and everything you do will speed it up or slow it down. It’s a moving target. You can guesstimate, using basic formulas that take your physical activity level, height, age and current weight into consideration, but really, it’s probably not worth your time.
What exactly is this elusive factor that seems to control . . . everything. Metabolism is the amount of energy your body burns to maintain itself. Your body is constantly burning calories, even when you are at a complete rest. It is the fuel management system in the body. It decides how much energy to burn and when.
Some of the major factors that affect the metabolism are:
~ The amount of muscle you have vs. the amount of fat.
~ Your age – like everything else, it ages too.
~ Aerobic activity level.
~ The food we consume.
Some of us do not have a healthy thyroid which can affect our metabolism, too. We’ve all heard of under and over active thyroid glands, right? There are also lesser known metabolic medical issues. It’s very important to see a doctor if you suspect there might be something wrong. It’s also a good idea to see a doctor before starting exercise for the first time. Be safe!
How can I speed up my metabolism? Is this the question you would ask next? Of course it is. We all want to know.
Let’s cover some of the things that have been said to speed it up.
Eat Spicy Food
This has been a theory for years and years. That eating spicy food speeds metabolism. Is it true? Who knows. It is believable, though. What I can tell you: there are actual studies out there that say countries that consume higher percentages of capsaicin, the colorless compound that is the source of heat for peppers, are sometimes thinner. Some theorize the raise in body temperature that happens when consuming spicy food is what speeds the metabolism up. Others say it has nothing to do with metabolism at all, but spicy food makes us feel more full for longer. Whatever the reason, I think this is one theory we will be happy to try out!
This is a proven method of speeding your metabolism. A well-rounded strength training exercise plan will impact your metabolism more than you think. Lots of us go to our gym and spend all of our time on the elliptical machine, powering away and thinking this is the fastest way to burn off our spare tire. The truth is, it will help, but guess what’s even more effective and is completely overlooked by most: weight training burns more in the hours OFF the machine! Combining 2 days worth of strength training WILL INCREASE your metabolism. Muscle mass burns more calories than fat. When we are asleep, our muscles are burning calories for us at a much more rapid rate. This is actually fact, not theory. Muscle mass = more calories burned.
Not all strength training is created equal, though. If you’ve never trained before, it’s a good idea to hire a personal trainer for a few weeks to learn form (very important for injury prevention) and routine. Your goal is to work all of the major muscles and build up slow. Also, slower is better, during the training. AND, We’ve all overexerted ourselves to the point of not being able to climb the stairs the next day. There is a way around that. If you’re unable to hire a trainer, spend some time researching the correct form on the internet or through books. You can ask gym personnel if you are having trouble. Most will not mind helping you. They can at least, help you with the correct way to use the weight lifting machines. A little note about that: machines are a great way to ensure form, however, they are less effective, in most situations, than a few dumbbells, a ball and a resistance band or cables. If you can financially swing it, hiring a trainer will be the best money you spend. The knowledge you will gain from them will be worth every penny. And if you’re fortunate enough, keep the trainer around for motivation and help with mixing it up.
Drink Green Tea
Some claim this is a metabolic potion. They say there is a plant compound called ECGC, which promotes fat burning. Some studies suggest you can lose 5-lbs of fat in one year by drinking 3-5 cups per day and doing nothing else different. Obsessive? Maybe. Keep in mind, it should be unsweetened. Refined sugar is actually proven to help you store belly fat, so you would be canceling out all benefits by sweetening the tea with table sugar or artificial sweeteners. Try it with mint leaves. If you absolutely must, use a teaspoon of honey to sweeten it slightly. Green tea is also said to have many other health benefits too, so I say, ENJOY!
What is interval training? It’s typically defined as alternating two different physical activities that require different speeds. Such as running, then walking. There is so much research out there about the benefits of interval training that it’s easy to get dizzy. I absolutely believe it is an effective weight loss aid. I believe (and most experts agree) it’s way more effective than doing most cardio exercises on most gym equipment, like elliptical or bike, for half hour. I know I am totally offending many spinners out there, but hold your horses, I’m not necessarily talking about spin class. A good spin instructor will interval train you during the class, to some extent. Most won’t have you totally slow down, but you will have your heart rate soar and slow, soar and slow. That is somewhat, the point. Your body will burn more fat and exert more energy, which for most of us = win win.
It’s murky territory when you start to compare interval training vs running. Running will burn more calories, overall. However, there are studies that suggest interval training will make the body burn more calories during the rest of the day, than running only. Interval training has great benefits to runners and is a great tool used to increase speed and endurance, but typically involves running faster than normal for small sets of time, followed by rest or walk. In other words, sprints, followed by walk.
Please remember my warning about seeing your doctor before beginning exercise. You really need cardiovascular clearance before beginning interval training and also, remember to listen to your body and it’s clues that you are overexerting.
By the way, most beginner running programs start with interval training (often called Couch to 5K) and you can follow those guidelines if you’d like to begin. Or a lot of gyms offer interval classes.
Get Some Sleep
Those of us that sleep less than 7.5 hours per night, typically, experience an increased BMI. It’s your body’s reaction to the hormones that regulate energy and appetite and you guessed it, effect our metabolic rate.
So, get your beauty rest!