The most frequently used word we hear when discussing or reading about diets and food is ‘metabolism’. But why is it so important? And why does it matter how fast it works?
The metabolism is a word used to describe the different life-sustaining chemical reactions that are constantly occurring to keep the body functioning. The main purpose of the metabolism is to convert food into energy, nucleic acids, lipids, and proteins; and to get rid of any nitrogenous waste in the body.
The energy that is made by the metabolism is distributed throughout the body to keep every cell and organ alive. It is the very thing that keeps our heart pumping and our bodies moving during a grueling workout.
The speed at which your metabolism works depends on various factors, but the reason why speeding up your metabolism is the key to losing weight is because the faster these chemical reactions occur, the more calories you burn. And the more calories you start to burn, the easier it is to shed excess body fat.
Some people are born with a fast metabolism while others are not so lucky, but the good news is that there are ways to improve your metabolism without much effort.
If you are looking to drop a few pounds or want an extra energy boost, here are a few things you can try:
Drink More Water
Most of us are guilty of sipping on a soda more often than we would like to admit. Unfortunately, this soda habit is not doing our metabolism any good. Sugary drinks are loaded with calories, which is why switching them out for water can help rev up your metabolism and weight loss efforts.
According to research, drinking at least 0.5 liters or 17 ounces of water helps to increase your resting metabolic rate by up to 30%. Another study suggests that drinking cold water instead of room temperature water has an even greater effect because of the extra energy it takes the body to heat it up.
Another trick you can use to rev up your metabolism is to drink a glass of water before a meal or snack. This helps to fill you up before a meal, which means you are less likely to overeat.
In one study, middle-aged obese participants who drank 500ml of water before meals had a significant reduction in weight of around 44% compared to those who skipped on the water.
Firing up your level of exercise is one of the most effective ways to improve your metabolism. Getting active and moving around more often is a great starting point, but if you really want to get results, HIIT (High-intensity interval training) is the best way to burn fat.
HIIT involves quick but intense movements such as jumping jacks, side lunges, and burpees. This type of workout helps to burn more calories and fat even a few hours after the work out session has ended.
According to a study conducted on overweight men, participants who practiced HIIT for 12 weeks lost 4.4 pounds of body mass and a further 17% reduction in belly fat compared to those in the control group.
If you don’t have access to a gym, you can do some HIIT at home with a few simple moves a few times a week:
- Plank for 30 seconds
- Jumping jacks – 20 reps
- Squats – 20 reps
- Lunges – 20 reps
- Incline pushups for 10 to 20 seconds
Be sure to take a 30-second break between reps.
Get More Sleep
Many of us underestimate just how important quality sleep is. So many crucial bodily functions and chemical reactions happen when we are sleeping. Sleep deprivation can cause the immune system to weaken and can cause the metabolism to slow because of two specific hormones – insulin and cortisol. When we haven’t gotten enough sleep it causes a spike in cortisol, the stress hormone. Cortisol triggers a response in the body to start conserving fuel for when we are awake. This means that our body starts to burn fewer calories, resulting in more fat storage.
In addition to that, when we are sleep deprived our insulin sensitivity drops, meaning that instead of converting glucose into energy, it begins to store it as fat. Once insulin starts going haywire you become more prone to developing chronic conditions such as type II diabetes and obesity. According to studies, lack of sleep can put you at risk for developing type II diabetes and obesity.
Here are a few ways to get some quality sleep:
- Put all electronic devices such as laptops and phones away at least one hour before bed.
- Leave the day’s troubles outside of the bedroom. It’s a place for relaxation and peace.
- Avoid any heavy meals before bed.
- Limit caffeine in the late afternoon and evenings.
- Block out any distracting light like the tiny light indicator on the TV or the notification LED on your phone.
Eat More Protein
When we eat any type of food, the body burns calories in order to create enough energy to digest, absorb, transport, and utilize the nutrients from the food you just ate. This process is called the thermic effect of food (TEF). The body burns a different amount of calories depending on the type of foods you eat, but researchers have found that protein causes a much higher rise in TEF compared to fats and carbs. Protein increases the metabolic rate by almost 30% where fats and carbs only raise it by between 3 and 10%. Eating protein also helps to keep you feeling fuller for longer, which prevents frequent snacking and overeating.
Here are some healthy sources of protein to add to your diet:
- Grass-fed beef
Switch Out Your Cooking Oil For Coconut Oil
If you want to rev up your metabolism and fire up your energy levels then start swapping out your traditional cooking oil for coconut oil. Coconut oil is rich in medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs).
In simpler terms, MCTs are fatty acids that contain a shorter chain of carbon atoms. Unlike long-chain fatty acids, the body is able to digest and absorb MCTs faster. These fats are also processed differently from any other type of fat. Instead of being passed through the body or stored, MCTs are absorbed directly into the liver and converted to energy. The higher your energy expenditure is, the more calories you burn.
Researchers have found that MCTs increase your metabolic rate by almost 12% whereas long-chain fatty acids only raise it by a mere 4%.
In addition to firing up your metabolism, coconut oil also offers a wide variety of health benefits like improved heart health, antimicrobial properties, promotes satiety, and improves cognitive function.
The Bottom Line
While some are lucky enough to have inherited a fast metabolism, there is still hope for those of us who haven’t struck that gene lottery. The metabolism can be controlled and improved by getting a good night’s sleep, drinking more water, and making wiser food choices. All it takes is a few lifestyle changes and your metabolism will be firing on all engines in no time!