Do you have a sluggish metabolism? Are you contemplating the latest diet fad or diet supplement scam to boost your metabolism?
Like many others, while attempting to boost your metabolism and lose weight, your understanding of the human metabolic system may be somewhat vague.
First things first. Let go over some basics.
What is metabolism?
Scientific and medical definitions of metabolism, as well as expert and medical explanations are at best, totally confusing and confounding. But it can be simplified enough for everyone to understand.
Simply defined: Metabolism is the rate you burn calories (nutrition) to create energy to build and sustain life (your body).
That means you are burning calories every second, regardless whether exercising, watching TV or sleeping. Since the human body is using energy ALL the time (basic functions i.e breathing, heartbeat ect.). It should now be clear why skipping meals can be so detrimental and counterproductive for fat loss. (Interval fasting excluded if done correctly).
What affects metabolism?
Factors generally associated with slow metabolism are: Age, Thyroid Problems, Exercise, Activity Levels, and genetics. While all these can affect metabolic rate, muscle has the largest impact. Muscle is live tissue will boost your metabolism and burns much more energy than fat, 24/7.
Here is a list of most common metabolism factors from greatest to least:
- muscle tissue – already covered, but this is the main reason people with lower BMI lose fat easier and/or faster.
- meal frequency – lots of controversy here but most nutritionists will agree that with more frequency there is less chance of cravings, gorging or over eating.
- activity level – important but must match or exceed caloric intake.
- food choices – i.e. low-fat diets generally create poorer hormone production leading to slower metabolism.
- hydration – more than 70% of bodily functions take place in water (insufficient water causes unnecessary stress and bodily systems to slow down.)
- genetics – not all people have the same metabolism as others (you can’t change your genetics but the battle can still be won!)
- hormone production and function – believe you have a slow thyroid? Perhaps, but before you blame your thyroid take appropriate steps to find out. First, stabilize your blood sugar and add some progressive exercise 2-3 times a week.)
- stress – stress not only slows metabolism by placing extra stress on all bodily systems, it can also cause diseases and death. In addition, for many, overeating seems to be a “go to” when stressed.
Why Metabolism slows down?
Metabolism slows down as you age, starting at 30 (age 25 – 40 depending on source)! It is part of the aging process! At least this seems to be the common belief.
Is it myth or fact?
Your metabolism does slow with age but it does not slow significantly due to just aging. The largest factor is due to muscle loss. At the age of 30 you start losing muscle at the rate of 10% every 10 years without exercise (strength training). Therefore, the slowing metabolism at any age is mostly due to muscle loss.
3 major causes of a slow metabolism are:
1. Lack of physical stress leading to muscle loss.
2. Cannibalization of muscle due to lack of energy needed because you are dieting and/or skipping meals. (too few calories or frequency of calories, so your body starts using muscle for energy.)
3. As you age activity levels tend to decrease.
Steps To Boost Your Metabolism
Yes, fat loss is not always easy, but in most cases it does not need to be confusing and you do not need a bunch of tools. Knowledge and direction are the most critical.
The 2 step approach to boost your metabolism:
Stop new fat storage
Why begin an exercise program if you just add new fat later that day. This is a very common problem among those who start a new exercise program.
Putting on the fat is not always due to a lack of exercise. Fat storage is caused because we supply the body with more (and/or the wrong) calories than it needs at a given time. The solution has very little to do with exercise – it’s all about your eating habits!
You don’t have to subject yourself to a diet consisting of only salad and super foods. You can still eat the foods you love, if you give your body what it needs in the proper amounts.
Note: You don’t have to eat super clean to boost your metabolism, but the cleaner your diet the better for you metabolism and over all health.
The key here is: give the body only the energy it needs. Not a bunch extra, because extra is extra, it doesn’t matter what source. Salad and celery can be stored as fat if in excess. If a food source results in extra it can be stored as fat.
Do not move on to step 2 until you the stop the storage of new fat. Focus on matching your eating habits and portions with your activity level. Plan small, balanced meals and snacks every 2-3 hours to coincide with your activity level.
Attack your existing fat
This step uses the approach of combining the stabilization of blood sugar/energy levels, strength training and progressive cardiovascular/aerobic exercise.
We have already covered the importance of stable blood sugar and energy levels and how to match your caloric intake with activity level. Now we’ll cover the exercise.
For the exercise to be worth your time, it must be progressive. You may be on the treadmill for 30 minutes 3 x’s a week, but that doesn’t mean you have burnt off any unwanted body fat! You must force the body to make changes and improvements. The ONLY way to achieve that is to consistently provide a stimulus or stress that is greater than what the body is accustomed.
Here are some general guidelines on how you can make your exercise progressive and productive:
- Do more reps
- Increase resistance/weight
- Advanced techniques
- Slower reps
- Change and rotate exercises frequently – every 2-4 weeks. (The human body adapts quickly)
- Increase resistance/speed
- Perform intervals (HIIT works great)
- Increase travel distance
- Cross train – perform numerous activities
I should also say that it is extremely important that you have a well thought out and detailed plan to follow (start here). You can’t just say “ok, now I know what to do” and then try a little of this and little of that. You need a well thought out and written plan.
If you are serious about achieving your weight loss and fitness goals I highly recommend you get the help of a professional. “57 percent of people who use a personal trainer, not only achieve their long-term fitness goals, but they exceed them” – 2003 Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (http://www.jssm.org/vol2/n1/2/v2n1-2pdf.pdf)
Whether you have a 1 on 1 personal fitness trainer or just a do-it-your-self fitness plan – your chances of success are much greater.