When we talk about metabolism, most of the time we are referring to body’s metabolic rate. This is the rate at which the cells ‘burn’ food to produce energy which is measured in calories. The metabolic rate is influenced by a number of different factors in the body but most of us think of the thyroid gland and thyroid hormones. It probably has one of the biggest effects on the metabolism, but so does the food we eat and our level of activity.
The body’s metabolic rate is directly related to your mood, energy levels and even body weight. If you metabolism is higher then your body will burn more calories to produce energy. This means that it will store less as fat, thereby reducing the body weight. And it will produce more energy which means you will feel less tired and more energetic. Our metabolic rate does not stay constant in life, and not even during the course of the day.
It lowers when we are sleeping and rises during waking hours or when we are more active. Sometimes though the changes in metabolic rate are not as we would expect. It does not always mean that we have to turn to synthetic thyroid hormones or stimulants to boost our metabolism. There are many other simple dietary and lifestyle measures that we can undertake in order to boost the metabolism without drugs. Some work faster than others and may be long lasting or only short term.
Why does the metabolism slow down?
- Underactive thyroid gland with lower thyroid hormone secretion.
- Sedentary lifestyle with minimal physical activity.
- Too little food intake on a regular basis.
- Meals spaced too far apart and skipping meals.
- Periods of starvation, like with extreme dieting and strict fasting.
- Lower muscle mass/bulk.
- Men have a higher metabolism than women, largely due to their higher muscle mass.
- Advancing age, the body’s metabolism significantly slows down after the age of 40 years.
- Insufficient sleep on a daily basis.
Muscle Are High Calorie Burners
All cells in the body produce energy to survive. The muscle cells are highest calorie burners, even when at rest. Therefore the muscles have a direct effect on the body’s metabolic rate. If you want to boost your metabolism, you should ensure that you have sufficient muscle cells to keep burning calories, all day and night. But muscle is dependent on the degree to which it is used. If you are less active then your muscles shrink in size, effectively burning fewer calories. Exercise, and specifically weight training, can therefore be helpful in building your muscle size and ensuring greater calorie usage. You do not have to be bulky and muscular to benefit from the higher calorie expenditure of muscle cells.
Daily Aerobic Exercise
Aerobic exercise or cardiovascular workouts force your body to produce more energy. During these exercises, your level of physical activity is greatly increased over a short period of time. In order to sustain your higher energy demand, the body must burn more calories. Having enough food to burn is obviously necessary. But even so the cells must contend with the increased demand by raising its energy production. By doing daily aerobic exercise, your body is forced to keep the higher metabolic rate which is sustained over hours and days. As long as the increased demand in the form of aerobic exercise is ongoing, the raised metabolic rate will be sustained.
Keep Up Your Water Intake
You would think that turning to an energy drink or sugar-laden beverage is the best choice for boosting your metabolism. But plain water can also do wonders. Water is the primary medium in the body and is required in sufficient quantities for optimal functioning. Unfortunately many of us do not drink enough water on its own. Even mild dehydration can slow down your metabolism and you experience it as low energy levels even though you are working out, eating right and getting enough sleep. Remember the 8-8 rule. You should be drinking 8 glasses of water daily, where each glass is 8 ounces at least. The daily amount of water intake should be around 68 ounces or 2 liters.
Eat Small And More Often
The human body has various mechanisms to survive. One of these is to take any excess calories (food) that is not being used immediately and store it away for later use. Your metabolism can slow down if your meals are spread out too far apart. Naturally you will tend to eat more per meal if you have fewer meals per say. This excess is stored as fat which is not utilized as rapidly for energy production. By eating smaller meals more frequently in a day than 3 square meals, you constantly supply your body with food for energy production. Ideally you should eat about 5 times a day rather than 3 meals as most of us think is normal. Three moderately-sized meals and two small snacks in-between is ideal.
Get Sufficient Sleep Everyday
Sleep has a host of physiological effects on the body. It allows your body to rest and recover from the physical and mental exertion of the day. Naturally you feel tired and less enthusiastic to engage in physical or mental activity if you do not get enough sleep the night before. It is now known that people who do not get enough sleep tend to gain weight for a number of reasons. Sleeping for a sufficient amount everyday will help your body contend better with the energy demands of the waking hours. The issue is not always about how much sleep you get but the quality of the sleep. Try to ensure that you sleep in a cool room, that you are comfortable and that you can afford to sleep for at least 7 straight hours.
Energy Foods For A Boost
Most of us would think of sugar and other sweet foods for an energy boost. But this is not necessarily the case. Rather judge the food you eat, specifically the carbohydrates, by its glycemic index (GI). Low GI foods are metabolized slowly thereby ensuring a prolonged supply of nutrients for energy production. Therefore it is better for boosting your metabolism for long periods. Unrefined carbohydrates and high protein foods are typically low GI. Some foods can pick up your metabolic rate for a short duration. Caffeinated foods and beverages are known to have this effect. But it is not often known that spicy foods also cause short boosts in your metabolism. Spicy low GI foods are therefore ideal.