Surviving Summit: Make metabolism your best friend, not your worst enemy
Life isn’t fair. Some freakishly lucky people have naturally higher metabolisms, and that means they aren’t slaves to calorie counting and exercise. For the rest of us, we have to work a little harder to find lifestyle choices that increase our metabolism. All of this is good news for weight loss, as the higher your metabolism is, the more calories you burn — and the easier it is to keep weight off.
We aren’t all freakishly lucky, but we can all take care of our metabolism. Here are a few ways to get started.
Pump some iron
While it’s important to cut calories with cardiovascular exercise, after you’re done running or rowing (or anything else) your calorie burning returns to resting levels.
Strength training, then, is vital to your metabolism as it allows you to burn more calories, even when at rest. More lean muscle mass means your body is more efficient at burning fat, and therefore increases your metabolic rate. Your body simply has to use more energy to burn calories when you have more muscle.
So whether you’re working out with weights, bands or bodyweight exercises like push-ups and squats, start mixing up your workouts to help prevent the dreaded weight-loss plateau. When you grab your running shoes, make sure you incorporate high-intensity interval training, as it increases your metabolic rate more than steady-state cardio.
Get some ZZZ’s
Need another excuse to sleep in? Forget your alarm clock: When you don’t get enough sleep, the hormones that control your hunger aren’t properly regulated. The hunger hormone ghrelin is increased, while your fullness hormone leptin is decreased, and so you lose the ability to know when you are full, fitness expert Tiffani Bachus writes. What’s more, when you don’t get adequate sleep the calories you eat are burned less efficiently.
Aim for at least seven hours of sleep each night. Following the natural rhythms of the sun and sleeping from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. is best for getting enough ZZZ’s.
Get off your butt
I was recently told that “sitting is the new smoking.” While it may not be quite that extreme, the argument does hold weight. Even if you exercise at least one hour each day, make sure you don’t spend the other 23 hours on your booty. Sitting for more than 20 minutes can put your body into a relaxed, non-energy burning state, Bachus continues.
If your job keeps you sitting a lot, get up once an hour to move around for a few minutes, or go out of your way to take a walk while on conference call, use a stand-up desk, or schedule walking meetings. Periodically moving is shown to help fight high blood pressure, cholesterol and obesity, as well as bring a small rise in metabolism. The results are noticeable, according to dietician Helen West: compared with sitting, an afternoon of standing up at work can burn an extra 174 calories— the equivalent of a can of soda.
Guzzle water, not booze
All your body’s cellular functions require water, so be sure to sip often. Bachus says drinking too little water leads to dehydration, which can cause you to burn up to 2 percent fewer calories. Your metabolism will be increased even greater if you drink cold water, as your body uses energy to heat it up to room temperature.
At the other extreme, too much alcohol can impact your metabolism because excessive alcohol causes your liver to focus on breaking down alcohol molecules instead of burning fat, Bachus explains. Plus, the calories from alcohol can add up quickly and impact weight. Green tea has many metabolism boosting properties, as it’s packed with fat-crushing compounds called catechins that rev up metabolism. Those who “go green” with drinks will increase their metabolism by up to 5 percent, West says.
No worries, bro
It’s not quite so easy to solve, but stress has a huge impact on your health and physiology. It increases production of the stress hormone cortisol, which increases appetite and makes us reach for starchy, sugary and fatty foods. It can decrease our desire for exercise (even though exercise is a powerful stress reliever) and slow digestion, causing calories to metabolize slower. In addition, stress can impact both the quality and amount of sleep we get, which can decrease metabolism and stimulate weight gain.
But what’s the answer? It’s still not straightforward, but meditating, exercise and getting out in nature are a few ways to combat stress.
Eat to lose weight
What did you say? But truth is, this can be a very frustrating aspect of dieting. Although cutting calories will help you lose weight, there’s a point where the body goes into starvation mode with too few calories. That’s right — eating too little can actually cause weight gain. Your metabolism thinks it needs to conserve energy and puts the brakes on fat burning.
To avoid this, be sure to eat enough calories to at least match your resting metabolic rate. It’s the calories your body naturally burns at rest, and you can calculate it online. Also be sure to eat enough protein, as it helps you feel full and prevents you from overeating. It also combats metabolism drops by retaining muscle, which is a common side effect from dieting.
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