Loving our bodies can take many forms. One of the most important ways to care for ourselves is to keep the metabolic fires burning hot. Most people’s metabolisms drastically slow down as we age, but there are ways to them burning. And while it’s true that the base rate of our metabolisms are determined by genetics, there is a lot we can do to help nature along.
Our activity level is the one metabolism factor over which we have the most control. Frequent exercise is one of the best things you can do for increasing your metabolism. In addition to the calories and fat burned during the workout, exercise increases our basal metabolic rate (BRM). This means we continue to burn calories at a higher rate, especially in the 2 hours after we exercise. Vigorous exercise can increase metabolism for up to 24 hours after the workout.
Aim to exercise at least 4 to 5 days per week. On your rest days you can still go for a walk or practice Yoga in the morning to rev your engines for the day.
And keep moving throughout your day. If you sit for your work, break it up by walking briskly around the office or your neighborhood every couple hours.
Add Variety to Your Workout
If you are just doing one form of exercise you are more likely to get bored and find excuses to not do it. And with any activity after a while the metabolism-boosting effects slow down when your body adapts to it. Variety really is the spice of life.
Interval training burns more calories than straight cardio. Quick bursts of high intensity movement throughout your workout force your cells to work harder. This improves the benefits of the workout without making you too fatigued.
Add strength training to your routine 2-3 days per week. Building muscle burns more calories than cardio alone. And those newly worked muscle will keep burning more calories as they recover. Four months of twice weekly strength training routines can raise your resting metabolic rate by as much as 100 calories per day.
There’s a reason we call it “break fast.” Eating in the morning is ending the 6 to 12 hour fast of the night. The metabolism slows way down when we sleep. We literally need to wake up the metabolism by eating something as early as possible. The longer we go before having breakfast, the slower the metabolism will run that day. Try to have something with protein within the first 30 minutes of waking.
Eat When You Are Hungry
The worst thing you can do for your metabolism is go hungry. When you go too long without eating, the body goes into “starvation mode” to conserve energy. Then when you eat again you are not burning calories as efficiently. This is one of the reasons it is important to come off a detox cleanse slowly and carefully, so you don’t overwhelm your body’s reduced ability to metabolize nutrients.
To keep your metabolism functioning optimally, eat six small meals throughout the day instead of just a couple large ones. Eat when you start to feel hungry but before you get ravenous. And stop before you feel full, as overeating is a sure-fire way to slow your metabolism down.
A study at Georgia State University showed that people who eat only 2 or 3 meals per day have more body fat and slower metabolisms than people who eat every 2 to 3 hours.
To keep your metabolism going, you will need to eat at least as many calories as you would burn on a rest day. That is 1,200 – 2,000 calories, depending on your height, weight, age, and gender.
Eating this way will help you maintain steady blood sugar levels. When the blood sugar raises or drops too dramatically our insulin levels can spike, which leads to weight gain. Keeping balanced blood sugar levels helps us evenly burn calories throughout the day.
When we do not get enough sleep our metabolism decreases. Insufficient sleep makes the body believe we are in some sort of danger (why else would we do that to ourselves?). This sense of impending doom triggers the nervous system into “flight or fight” mode. Digestion, metabolism, fertility, and other systems not essential for immediate survival are shut down so we can have the energy to run away or engage in combat.
Over time, this chronic stress wears down everything, including the metabolism. Chronic sleep debt has been linked to obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome, amongst other illnesses. Strive for 7-8 hours of sleep every night, preferably going to bed by 11p.m.
You may have been given a slow metabolism, or might start to feel it slowing as you age. But luckily there are many things you can do to boost your metabolism naturally. Get moving, eat several small healthy meals throughout the day, and get adequate rest. Then your fires will keep burning strong your whole life.