Summers are meant for chillin' and boozin' and having fun in the sun. Yes, all true. But some of these habits can be slowing down our metabolism.
Metabolism, put simply, is the process by which our body converts food into fuel. It’s basically a little machine in our cells that keep us running. Like how a car runs on petrol, our bodies run on calories (otherwise known as units of energy).
The calories we consume through food is then used up by our bodies by simply existing and being alive. Like our heart pumping, our blood circulating, our lungs breathing, etc. (you get the gist). Our bodies are constantly using calories, even while we’re asleep.
Fun fact: Our brain alone, needs 420 calories a day, just to function.
How does it work?
Your body breaks down the food you eat into its simplest forms of carbohydrates, protein, and fat.
The calories in these are then converted into energy that our cells and tissues use to grow and repair.
What affects it?
The amount you eat.
When your body is taking in more calories than you need, the excess that isn’t being used is then stored as fat.
What you eat.
Eating complex and high-nutrient carbohydrates that take longer to digest and keeps you fuller for longer may help you avoid hunger pangs and allow your metabolism to keep working to digest your food.
On the flip side, eating simple and low-nutrient carbohydrates takes a shorter time to digest, which sets off a torrent of metabolic reactions that will make you hungry again very shortly after you eat!
You can find out and calculate your daily energy needs here.
Other factors to note?
Genetics, size, gender, and age.
Genes can play a role in the ability to grow muscles and muscle size, both may affect your metabolism.
Muscle cells need more calories and energy to maintain than fat cells. If you have more muscle than fat, you’re more likely to have a faster metabolism.
Our metabolism slows down as we get older. But, this will never be an excuse for poor health, if we can help it.
In general, genetically, men tend to have more muscle mass, less fat and heavier bones so their metabolism usually tends to be faster.
Chronic and long-term stress can mess with your hormones and, in turn, mess with your metabolism.
When your body is sleep-deprived, it automatically goes into conservation mode. This means you burn fewer calories and thus, reduces your metabolism.
Despite some predetermined factors, like gender and genetics, there is still plenty of room for us to boost and improve our metabolism. John Berardi, Ph.D., C.S.C.S., author of The Metabolism Advantage says, “you have a huge amount of control over your metabolic rate.”
Why would you want to raise your metabolism?
The higher your rate of metabolism, the more calories your body can expend. This can aid in fat-burning, improve your energy or simply allow you to get off a body goal plateau. Either way, increasing your metabolism is always a huge help to your health.
How to boost your metabolism?
We’ve compiled a list of 10 things you can do to rev up your metabolism.
1. Eat a good and nutritious breakfast. Every. Day.
Not eating breakfast may make your body slip into starvation mode (your body can be a little paranoid like that). This is bad for your metabolism because your metabolism slows down to conserve energy.
What should you eat for breakfast?
Your morning munch should be slow to digest to help you feel fuller for longer and for your energy to slowly release before your next meal.
You can find some ideas here.
There are so many reasons to work out. It’s great for your body – your heart, immune system, lungs, bones, etc.
Because the more active you are, the more you move. And the more you move, the more calories your body uses up. Exercise can also speed up your metabolism by boosting the growth hormones in your body.
3. Mix up your exercise with strength training.
More muscle = more calories needed to maintain them gains = higher metabolism. Pretty simple, right?
Fun fact: even when you’re resting, muscle burns more calories than fat.
So you can try to introduce one weight work-out a week. Or if you already do, then perhaps look to add one more weight-workout to your existing work-out regime.
4. HIIT workouts.
Stepping up the intensity of your work-outs can allow you to burn the same amount of calories, in a shorter amount of time. And if you’re looking to increase the frequency of your workouts, then shortening your work-outs can allow you to find enough time in the week to do so!
You can try this suggested 12 minute HIIT home work-out here.
5. H20 is the way to go!
Studies have shown that by drinking half a litre of water can increase your metabolism by 10-30% for an hour.
Not only does H20 help to boost your metabolism, it also helps you have healthier skin, more energised muscles, and less fatigue, just to name a few. It’s a waterfall effect of more health benefits.
6. Unwind and de-stress.
Stress is a silent killer and can do more than drive you nuts and tire you out. It can also slow down your digestive system and hinder your body goals by slowing down your metabolism.
Why? Cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone that your body produces. When cortisol levels are too high it impedes your body’s ability to burn fat.
A quick fix can just simply be to take a break from the day and take a few moments to consciously breathe in and out deeply and allow yourself to relax. You can also flow through a calming yoga sequence at a yoga class. If you don’t have time, you can follow yoga home videos (there are plenty available online for all levels.)
And if you feel like treating yourself, you could do a nice spa weekend away from all the hustle and bustle of life. I like this option the best.
7. Add a little spice to your food/cooking.
Cayenne pepper, or the capsaicin found in hot peppers (also the stuff that sets your mouth on fire when you eat it), may help mobilise fat cells that are used for energy and, in turn, help to boost your metabolic rate.
Top tip: Mix black pepper and turmeric to increase the effects and absorption of curcumin into your body.
8. Increase your iron intake.
This is particularly useful for women, as we lose a lot of iron during our menstrual cycles every month. That can be detrimental to our metabolism as iron’s main purpose is to help carry oxygen to our muscles.
And, if our muscles don’t get enough oxygen, it also affects our energy levels.
Look into adding more iron-rich foods into your diet with dark leafy greens such as kale, spinach, and broccoli.
9. Avoid drinking too much alcohol. (Yes, I said it.)
Your liver converts alcohol into acetate and uses that to fuel your body, instead of the fat stores that it normally uses.
Fact: According to the researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, drinking the equivalent to two glasses of wine or two bottles of beer can stop your metabolism by 73%!!
So, think twice before you knock back that drink.
10. Sleep well.
Leptin and Ghrelin are hormones that your body produces to help regulate your appetite and energy use. When you sleep fewer hours than you should, it throws off how much of these hormones your body produces, in turn, reducing your metabolism.
And the less sleep you get, the more likely your body is pushed into conservation mode, whereby your body burns fewer calories to conserve energy.
The more hours you lose of sleep, the more cortisol (stress hormone) is produced. So, sleep well, to also avoid feeling stressed. Because, as we’ve mentioned before, stress can also slow your metabolism.
Metabolism is the process by which our body converts food into fuel. Your body breaks down the food you eat into energy, that our cells and tissues use to grow and repair. There are plenty of different factors that can affect our metabolism, but, ultimately, most of these factors in our control. The main ways of boosting our metabolism are through exercise, diet and nutrition, and self-care.