“I can’t lose weight, I have a slow metabolism.” Raise your hand if you or someone you know has used this excuse before. Blaming a slow metabolism on your inability to lose weight is a common excuse. And if you think that’s what’s been holding you back lately, I have some good news for you.
Metabolism is the rate at which a person burns energy, and this is measured in calories. Without it, we would lack the energy to get out of bed in the morning, let alone burn calories all day long. The secret to permanent weight loss is training your body to be a more efficient calorie-burning engine by maximizing your metabolism.
As we age, our metabolic rate slows down. Starting at about age 25, the average and not physically active person’s metabolism declines between 5% and 10% per decade, which accumulates to between 20% and 40% metabolism over the adult life span.
One of the biggest myths about metabolism is that naturally skinny people have a faster metabolism, which keeps them skinny no matter what they eat. This is false. Smaller, skinnier people actually have slower metabolisms than larger people.
If someone is larger, they’ll burn more calories to maintain life than someone that is smaller. Overall size is a big indicator of metabolism, as is body composition, age, food intake, gender, and other factors.
Please don’t take that as “great! I’ll just load up on ice cream and whoopie pies to get larger and then my metabolism will be faster!”
Muscle has a huge effect on the amount of overall calories someone burns throughout the day. If you compared 2 people of similar weight, the person with the larger amount of muscle will generally have the faster metabolism. That’s why strength training (not just cardio!) is so important to incorporate into your workouts if you’re looking to lose weight. Research has found the extra muscle can help accelerate weight loss much faster than a diet-only plan.
Remember that stat from earlier about our metabolism slowing as we get older? Well if we continue physical activity our whole lives, we have only a 0.3% metabolic decline per decade. Keep hitting the gym or getting your workouts in however you can! I believe this to be one of the most effective ways to boost your metabolism.
Here are some other ways to give your metabolism a boost PLUS things to avoid that might be slowing it down:
Focus on the quality of the foods you’re eating, versus how often you eat them.
Think you should eat more smaller meals or eat more frequently to rev up your metabolism? Turns out that’s not exactly true. How frequently someone eats has little to do with the speed of their metabolism. Eating more often does however help us keep our hunger under control and not get to that “hangry” state, while helping us stay in a better state of mind to want to choose healthier options instead of convenience processed foods.
Keep this in mind: whether you eat 2,000 calories of rice in one sitting or spread it out throughout the day, it still has a similar effect on the metabolism. Instead, focus on the quality of the food you’re eating and be sure you’re getting enough of all different types of nutrients.
Get more shut-eye.
The amount of sleep you get each night affects your body in so many ways, including your mood, productivity, hormones, and your metabolism. Sleep-deprived individuals have a decreased ability to manage blood sugar levels and also may find themselves hungrier (particularly for simple carbohydrate foods like white pasta, white bread, and cereals).
Eat carbs at night.
One study in the European Journal of Nutrition put two groups of men on identical weight loss diets. The only difference? Half of the group ate their carbs throughout the day while the second group reserved carbohydrates for nighttime. The result? The nighttime carb group showed a significantly higher diet-induced thermogenesis (meaning they burned more calories digesting their food the next day). Moreover, the daytime-carb group showed increased blood sugar and insulin (fat storage hormone) levels. Another study in the journal Obesity saw similar results. Nighttime carb eaters lost 27 percent more body fat—and felt 13.7 percent fuller—than those on the standard diet.
Make sure to eat enough.
I see all the time how women try to cut their calories like crazy to lose weight. It’s a lot more complex than that. Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is an estimate of how many calories you’d burn if you were to do nothing but rest for 24 hours. Your BMR does not include any of the calories you burn from normal daily activities (brushing your teeth, walking into work, etc) or exercise. By cutting the amount of calories you’re eating in a day below this number, it can cause your body to lose muscle mass, which will decrease the rate of your metabolism. Plus, when you skimp on calories, your body slows the rate at which is burns calories to conserve the fuel it’s got.
For example, I weigh 118 pounds and the absolute minimum number of calories I should eat in a day to keep my metabolism going strong and not eat away at my muscle (aka my BMR) is 1340.
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Don’t drink diet soda.
For like 1,000 reasons, but it affects your metabolism too. Research published in the journal Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism shows that artificially sweetened beverages may screw up the body’s normal metabolic response to sugar, actually increasing appetite! You might already know this, but diet drinks are linked with weight gain, metabolic syndrome and a lots of other health problems.
Drink plenty of water instead.
Researchers have found that consuming water may increase the rate at which you burn calories throughout the day. This is because of a process called thermogenesis where the body burns calories to warm the water up to body temperature. According to a study in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, researchers found that drinking water (about 17oz) increases metabolic rate by 30% in healthy men and women. The boost occurred within 10 minutes but reached a maximum 30-40 minutes after drinking.
Get plenty of omega-3’s.
Omega-3s balance blood sugar and reduce inflammation, which also help to regulate our metabolism and effect how fast fat is burned. A study in Obesity Research found rats that ingested large doses of fish oil while exercising lost weight. If you get the “fish burps” from fish oil supplements, try storing them in the freezer. Eating salmon is my favorite way to get my omega’s! If you’re not a fish fan, try flaxseed oil, walnuts, or grass-fed beef.
Fruits, vegetables, and grains grown without pesticides have been shown to your fat-burning system running at full-gear because they don’t expose your thyroid to toxins, according to Dr. Mark Hyman. Non-organic produce, on the other hand, “blocks your metabolism mainly by interfering with your thyroid, which is your body’s thermostat and determines how fast it runs,” he explains. Buying organic is expensive, so if you want to save on some of these toxins and not break your bank too, check out this post.
Eat healthy fats & protein.
Eating healthy fats like avocados, olive oil, and full-fat versions of products are needed in our bodies in order to lose weight and function properly. The right kinds of fats and oils help regulate our hunger, maximize our metabolism, and aid in absorbing nutrients through our bodies. Healthy monounsaturated fats like in avocado and olive oil can actually help the body to burn more calories.
Researchers found that those taking in adequate levels of protein have a higher calorie burn when at rest. Eating protein keeps muscle from breaking down and slowing your metabolic rate as a result. Research has also found that because protein is more difficult for the body to break down and digest than other nutrients, it can increase post-meal calorie burn by as much as 35%. Incorporate some protein into every meal and snack throughout the day.
There are lots of other types of food that naturally help boost the metabolism and aid in weight loss, check them out here.
It’s no joke: genuine laughter may cause a 10–20% increase in basal energy expenditure and resting heart-rate, according to a study published in the International Journal of Obesity. That means a 10-15 minute giggle-fest could burn up 40 to 170 calories. Laugh it up!
Apple cider vinegar (raw, organic) has also been proven to rev up the metabolism. Click here to check out my post to learn more PLUS get some yummy recipes that’ll help you incorporate it into your daily routine.