We’ve all indulged in the holiday treats and may now feel the need to eat clean and work towards shedding a few holiday kilos. Of course swapping the biscuits and chips for bliss balls and kale chips is going to help, but there are also some other natural ways to boost your metabolic rate which is going to help shed those kilos even faster! So, what is metabolism anyway? It is the process of the body turning calories we consume into usable energy. Calories (also called kilojoules) are really a measure of energy, and our body depends on getting enough of them to keep us functioning in all aspects of life.
Your metabolism is determined by several factors, including your genetic makeup, body composition (muscle mass and fat), gender, hormonal health, level of activity and age. Some of these factors you can control such as your muscle mass by lifting weights and activity level. Others are out of your control like genetics and age. Luckily, there are some proven metabolism boosters that can kick-start the body into using calories more efficiently, protecting the body from disease and slowing down signs of ageing.
Your metabolism will determine how well you burn calories, which has a big impact on your mood, energy levels and appearance. How do you know if you need a metabolism boost? Here are some common signs that you may be suffering from a sluggish metabolism:
- Struggling to lose weight
- Ongoing fatigue
- Cold body temperature/easily feel the cold
- Irregular periods
- Constipation and slow transit time (mouth to bowel time should be between 12-24 hours)
- Thinning hair on your head
- Waking throughout the night
- Trouble concentrating/brain fog
- Low energy levels
- Bloating after eating
- Slow growing/brittle nails
If this sounds like you, then keep reading to find out what you can do:
- Ditch the diet and give your body the calories it needs! There are many diets out there and nothing is necessarily wrong with any of them. However, some can be very restrictive and leave you feeling moody, tired and maybe even sick more frequently, (all signs your metabolism may be becoming more sluggish). If you keep your body properly fuelled, it will perform better for you. Here’s what happens…if you are calorie deficient and your exercise level is too high and food intake is too low, your metabolism thinks that it must slow down all the functioning to conserve energy. You actually go into starvation mode, which increases appetite while at the same time slows down your fat burning. It’s not about counting calories, but counting nutrients. By eating enough whole, unprocessed foods daily it supports your cells, tissues and organs and therefore you experience better digestion, positive moods, more motivation, better mental health and stabilised blood sugars. Your relationship with food will be healthier too as there are no ‘forbidden’ foods. So, make sure you’re eating every meal and not skipping any. I see many people who tell me they don’t have breakfast because they’re too busy or not hungry. Not eating breakfast has been tied to irregular moods and weight gain.
- Make sure you’re getting enough sleep! Studies prove that there is definitely a link between adequate sleep and a properly functioning metabolism. When fatigued the body is working to conserve energy, so will hold onto excess weight. Everyone’s needs are different when it comes to sleep, but generally most people need seven to nine hours of sleep to keep hormone levels in check.
- Don’t overtrain! Ensure you rest enough between workouts, (especially if heavy lifting). Overtraining causes fatigue and muscle loss which slows down your metabolism. Too much intense exercise raises the hormone cortisol, which leads to weight gain and insulin sensitivity. This can stall the body’s ability to recover from workouts and damage the process that helps to repair and build healthy lean tissue. It is suggested to have at least one off day a week and maybe more if you’re doing intense training.
- Try high intensity interval training. We still need exercise as we all know it’s important for keeping metabolic function working as we get older. Yes, metabolism does decline as we age, but if muscle mass is maintained it doesn’t have to. Interval training is a form of exercise that includes intervals that vary from full on effort to short periods of rest. Quick bursts of intense exercise such as sprinting, cycling, burpees, knee-highs and more help the body to continue to burn calories long after the workout is complete. By getting the heart rate up, bringing it down again and then up again, you burn more calories in the process. Your body has to work harder to get the heart rate back up again, (one thing I love about Zumba is we do cardio interval training throughout class). More intense interval training though, can be done in only 20-30 minutes. Short bursts such as this result in more fat loss due to the overall effects on metabolism versus steady cardio. Such workouts help improve cardiovascular function, insulin sensitivity, lower cortisol (stress hormone), improve respiratory health and overall stamina. Stay tuned in February to hear more tips on what you can do to increase metabolism.