METABOLISM is commonly equated with simply burning energy. It is the collection of processes which sustain life in living organisms, be it catabolic (breaking down) or anabolic (building up).
To set the platform for clarity, let us focus on what we are primarily interested in — our basal metabolic rate (BMR). This is the number of calories we require to stay alive for 24 hours — not to perform any activities, just to sustain life. To have a better understanding of actual caloric requirements, your activity factor (a BMR multiplier) must be factored in.
The reality is, your metabolic rate can vary based on your nutrition, exercise, stress, sleep patterns, health, hormone issues, and more. This implies that our metabolic rate can be controlled by our choices. In part, this is true, but there are many myths surrounding metabolism.
Let’s review a few true and false items to clarify what you can do to increase your metabolism.
Eating less can put the brakes on your metabolism — True
Simply reducing calories will begin a process of perceived hunger, which will eventually tell your brain that a famine has begun. You have many thousands of ancestors who have faced famine, from the ice age to droughts, and the one thing they did was survive famine. They did this because they had a brain, which successfully reduced how much energy they needed to get through a day.
This is exactly what your body will do: Regardless of when you eat and what you eat, if your total, daily caloric intake is suddenly consistently reduced, your metabolic rate will lower and you will burn fewer calories and retain more fat each day.
Cutting out sugars and alcohol will improve your metabolism — True
There are no secret sugars and alcohol can do you grave damage; they will also slow your metabolism.
They are easily and quickly absorbed and are completely calorie-positive, requiring very little energy from your body to process. They also promote insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome — a cluster of conditions including increased pressure, high blood sugar, excess visceral fat, and abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Many people like to make exceptions for sugar and alcohol, stating that in moderation the ill effects may be avoided, but I am not inclined to say any of that for non-essential foods, which can do harm.
Cardio workouts will boost your metabolism — False
Burning calories is not increasing your metabolism. In fact, excessive cardio can actually slow your metabolism — remember your body is always trying to do more with less.
So, if you send the signal that you have a stressful life and have to be running around just to survive, it is likely to make you more efficient by throttling back your metabolic rate. Furthermore, excessive cardio for long periods may promote inflammatory, stress and hormonal responses.
Moderate cardio has great cardiovascular benefits, but pace yourself. Balance your high-intensity cardio with moderate-pace activities which offer other health benefits, such as walking, yoga, dancing, etc.
This brings us to our next point, what is the exercise that will most increase your metabolic rate?
Weightlifting will increase your metabolic rate — True
The bigger the engine the more energy to keep it going. Lifting heavily or training like a body builder to gain muscle will burn energy, even when you are at rest.
The single best form of exercise for increasing your metabolic rate is progressive resistance exercise. There are also the added benefits of improved mobility, tissue strength, general physical durability, joint strength, heart strength, pressure regulation, bone density, and improved ageing factors.
Drinking water can increase your metabolism — True
No water equals no metabolic processes. A study showed that drinking water regularly may increase metabolic rate by 30 per cent, and German research showed that, thanks to its thermogenic response, drinking six cups of cold water can increase metabolism by 50 calories per day. Always pay attention to your water intake.
Other recommendations which are known to boost the metabolic rate are:
Reduce your stress: Chronic stress is shown to contribute to long-term fat retention, weight gain and ill health. There is a reason the billionaires of the world are not dropping dead every day. They are quietly taking the right advice while you are proudly on the hamster wheel. Take the time to do what you need to bring your stress levels down.
Have adequate protein: Protein is used to build and maintain the healthy muscles you need.
Spicy foods: A study published in the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology showed a metabolic spike of 23 per cent with a pepper-flavoured meal.
Keep your micronutrients high: Vegetables and fruits have the essential nutrients required for metabolic processes and for the support of the systems. Having two to three proper servings of vegetables and one to two servings of fruits each day will keep your metabolism at peak performance levels. Also, consider nature walking and getting some sunlight for your vitamin D boost.
Sleep your proper number of hours each day: Sleep plays an important part in our stress and hormone regulations, which absolutely will influence your metabolism. Never underestimate the importance of sleep for your general wellness. Actively work to correct any sleep issues you may have.
You have one life, one total gift, one absolute responsibility, one chance to get this right. Understand what works for you and what doesn’t. Be good to yourself first.
By: Fitz-George Rattray