Burn more calories all day long with these simple lifestyle changes.
How’s your relationship with your metabolism? Chances are, rocky—and probably getting worse. It’s as if you’re growing apart.
It’s time for some metabolic therapy. Your metabolism isn’t some uncontrollable force that causes you to mysteriously gain weight. How you behave every day has a tremendous impact on how fast it moves—and how well it works.
When people use the word “metabolism,” they’re typically referring to basal metabolic rate, explains Jumaah Goldberg, D.P.T., a physical therapist and health and fitness expert.
“When you’re sitting, or even sleeping, your body burns energy to fuel important functions like circulating blood, breathing, and repairing cells,” she explains. “The number of calories your body uses for these functions is known as your basal metabolic rate.”
In short, your metabolism is the way your body converts calories from foods and beverages into energy. And as you probably already know, someone with a “fast metabolism” burns more energy while at rest than someone with a “slow metabolism” does. (Lucky them!)
A slow metabolism can be caused by several factors—some of which can’t be changed, such as genetics and age.
“Our metabolism tends to slow with age as we lose muscle mass, since muscle uses more energy than fat,” says dietician Summer Yule, M.S., R.D.N. “So people with a higher body fat percentage need fewer calories every day than people of the same weight with a lower body fat percentage and higher lean muscle mass.”
Finally, metabolic diseases and hormonal imbalances may also impact your calorie burn, Goldberg notes, and require medical intervention.
Now the good news: “You can control key factors to jumpstart your metabolism for weight loss,” Goldberg says. Just like your car’s engine needs some tuning up every once in a while, you can tweak your lifestyle to keep your metabolism running smoothly.
Metabolism-Booster #1: High-Intensity Training
“Some workouts simply burn more fat than others—regardless of how long you exercise for,” Goldberg says. She recommends adding two HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workouts to your weekly exercise schedule, like a boot camp class, or even adding intervals to your walking routine.
Here’s why it works: For hours after a HIIT workout, your body consumes more oxygen (and, thus, burns more calories) to help it return to its pre-exercise state, Goldberg explains. So even though you may burn fewer calories during the workout itself, compared to traditional cardio, you’ll actually burn more overall calories post-workout.
Metabolism-Booster #2: A Good Night’s Sleep
Catching enough z’s can help stoke your metabolic fire, while a lack of sleep has been linked to weight gain.
Not only do sleep-deprived people tend to eat more but their bodies also tend to go into survival mode, which slows metabolism, Goldberg explains. Aim for seven to nine hours per night.
Having trouble hitting the hay? Be sure to cut out these 12 foods guaranteed to disrupt your slumber before bedtime.
Metabolism-Booster #3: Morning Exercise
Although the ideal workout time varies from person to person, some research suggests that a predawn workout—the kind you do even before you eat breakfast—is a surefire way to rev your metabolism.
“Fasted training is one of the best ways to jumpstart your metabolism because it can help increase your body’s overall fat-burning capabilities,” Goldberg notes. She suggests performing easy-to-moderate exercise roughly one to two hours before your morning meal.
Metabolism-Booster #4: More Calories
“It may seem counterintuitive, but you actually have to eat enough to avoid slowing down your metabolism,” Goldberg explains.
When you don’t fuel yourself with the proper amount of calories (like with most low-calorie crash diets), your metabolism shifts into “starvation mode” and slows down your fat-burning ability to ensure you can still fuel bodily functions.
Instead of fad diets, focus on preparing balanced meals packed with lean protein and fiber, which can help you feel fuller and eat fewer calories, Yule recommends.
And don’t forget to drink water: “Staying hydrated can be a helpful strategy to help prevent overeating in those who confuse feelings of thirst and hunger,” she adds.
Metabolism-Booster #5: Intermittent Fasting
It often gets slapped with a “fad diet” label, but intermittent fasting does seem to boost metabolism, says Goldberg.
“Intermittent fasting can help you lose weight by manipulating the timing of eating instead of the type or amount of food you eat,” she says.
There are two main types of intermittent fasting plans. The first plan, 5:2, is where you eat normally for five days out of the week and restrict calories on the other two. With the 16:8 plan, you don’t eat anything at all for 16 hours out of the day, and then resume a normal eating schedule for the remaining eight hours.
When you take these breaks from eating, you lower the amount of insulin in your blood, which is a hormone that tells your body to store fat, she explains. These fasting periods can also boost fat-burning hormones such as norepinephrine, which can lead to weight loss.
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