by Stephen Kelly
On paper the concept of losing weight seems simple enough: calories taken in versus calories burned. While diet and exercise are obviously crucial in shedding weight, your body’s metabolic rate can be a bigger determiner of how easily you shed pounds. But what is metabolism, and how does it affect your body’s ability to lose weight?
Quite simply, metabolism is the process by which your body turns food into energy. It does this through a complex network of hormones and enzymes that also affects how efficiently you burn that fuel. Metabolism refers to the way, and not the speed, that your body processes and uses the foods you eat.
Unfortunately, not everyone’s metabolism is the same. Diet, gender, lifestyle, and age are important components in how efficiently your metabolism does its job. People with high metabolisms will lose weight faster than those with sluggish metabolisms. But no matter your metabolic rate, there are easy ways to boost your metabolism to effectively turn your body into a lean, mean fat burning machine.
Diet: It’s not so much the amount, but the types of food you eat that are important in how they work with your metabolism. Choose dense foods low on the glycemic index that take your body time and work to digest, which in turn raises your metabolic rate. Fiber, lean proteins, berries, nuts, beans, cinnamon and hot peppers all contain compounds that will raise your metabolism for an extended period of time.
Other metabolism boosting foods include: Oatmeal, green tea, yogurt, apples, poultry, soy milk, grapefruit, spinach, lean beef, cayenne peppers, coffee, celery, almonds, kidney beans, salmon and broccoli.
For your body’s metabolism to reach a perpetual state of high gear, it needs to be fed on a regular basis. So the old adage of eating small meals every three to four hours is especially true here. Avoid eating processed sugars as well, as too much will throw your metabolism into fat storage mode.
Exercise: Next to a smart diet, building lean body mass through resistance training is the single most important factor in boosting metabolism. The work it takes to build and maintain muscle shifts your metabolism dramatically into high gear, and determines how well you metabolize food and how efficiently your burn calories and body fat. The best news is that your metabolic rate stays revved for hours after you complete your workout. So whether you have the gym routine of an Austrian bodybuilder, or you simply work with resistance bands at home, two to three sessions a week of resistance training goes a long way in boosting your metabolic rate.
Sleep: Speaking of lean muscle mass, it’s known that muscle is regenerated in the last few hours of nightly sleep, so rest and recovery is important in boosting metabolism and losing weight. Research also shows that those who don’t get seven to eight hours of sleep a night are more prone to put weight on, and keep it on despite their best efforts to lose it. But getting enough sleep in our stressful world can be difficult, and those who suffer from insomnia should learn meditation or relaxation techniques to ensure a restful night’s sleep.
Stress Reduction: Stress and anxiety can shut down your metabolic growth rate faster than taking the wheels off a car. Stress releases the body steroid cortisol that can effectively bring your metabolism to its knees. This tip may be the toughest to enact in your daily life, and the same relaxation techniques mentioned above can help reduce stress, as can simply reading a book, listening to music or interacting with friends.
Having a high metabolic rate is especially important as we age, as metabolism can slow as much as 2 percent a year, or 5 percent per decade after the age of 40. But boosting your metabolism can help you turn back the hands of time, no matter what your age.