Everyone wants to know how to speed up your metabolism. Is this even possible, or is it just a cliche without any scientific evidence to back it up?
First, let’s start with the definition of metabolism: “the sum of the physical and chemical processes in an organism by which its material substance is produced, maintained, and destroyed, and by which energy is made available.”
By that definition, you can’t exactly speed up a “sum,” but, you can speed up your metabolic rate. Metabolic rate is the amount of energy expended in a given period (or how fast calories are burned). Therefore, your body is constantly working and potentially burning fat even when your butt is nestled snugly into it’s custom-made imprint on the couch.
Unfortunately, if you aren’t very physically active, then your metabolic rate is probably very low. The good news is there are ways to speed it up!
How to Speed Up Your Metabolism (ahem, metabolic rate)
- Start with the numbers – Yes, everyone hates “counting calories” and keeping food journals, and while it’s not absolutely necessary to get results, it can help tremendously to at least determine your personal daily caloric needs. Don’t worry, it will only take a few weeks to find your sweet spot, then you can just eyeball things from then on.
First, determine the ideal amount of calories you need to consume each day. There is no perfect formula that will work for every single person, but one of the simplest ways to determine a good starting point is to multiply your body weight by 11 (12 if you consider your physical activity level above average). For example, a 200 pound man would start with a diet consisting of 2200 calories (2400 if more active).
Remember, this is not an exact science, and it’s up to you to make the necessary tweaks. To do so, start with the number you got from above, and follow it for at least 7 days, preferably up to 2 weeks (using the meal frequency discussed below). Based on your measurements, adjust your number accordingly, until you are getting the results you want, whether it’s losing weight or gaining muscle or both.
- Eat more often – This tactic is finally receiving the recognition it deserves, and more people are seeing the benefits. It’s also one of the easiest changes to implement into your daily routine. The key, obviously, is to eat more often — not just eat more!
Once you’ve determined your daily caloric needs from above (and while you are figuring it out), aim for 6-8 meals per day, as opposed to the traditional breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Why? When your body goes for extended periods of time without food, it starts to protect itself from starvation (a bit extreme, I know, but our paranoid bodies are just trying to do what’s best for us), and your metabolic rate slows down (not nearly as beneficial as lowering your normal resting heart rate). This is great if you really are lost on a deserted island with no food or water; otherwise, tell your body, “I know you’re trying to look out for me, but I don’t need your help right now!”
By eating every 2-3 hours throughout the day, your body is constantly having to digest that food, break it down, send it to the right places, and all of these processes keep your metabolism running, which, over time, can speed up your metabolic rate (one of the first steps in how to get a six pack).
Don’t forget the most important of these frequent feedings: Breakfast! Get your day started right with these seven easy breakfast recipes.
- Surprise: Exercise! – You didn’t think you could get away with just eating a few more meals a day, did you? Exercise and diet go hand in hand, and both are absolutely essential to transforming your body.
When it comes to increasing your metabolic rate — and your overall health, for that matter — a combination of cardio and strength training will produce dramatic results in the least amount of time.
Most people already do cardio training to lose weight (even though their methods are usually flawed; more on that below), but few realize how important strength training is to burning fat and raising your metabolism. Let’s start with this fact: Muscle burns more calories than fat.
This means even when you’re not doing anything, i.e. sleeping, your muscle tissue is “feeding” on calories just to keep itself alive. Muscle needs these calories to build and repair itself, while fat tissue is content with expanding and multiplying like two rabbits on ecstasy.
In layman’s terms: One pound of muscle burns 30-50 more calories per day than one pound of fat.
As for cardio, it can be equally effective, but not in the way you are probably used to. Running in place or mindlessly pedaling for hours on end will not do you any good. Just because you are extremely tired and are sweating more than Patrick Ewing in a championship game (rumor has it: he sweat so much that he had to get a new jersey at halftime of every game), does not mean you are doing the right thing. Remember, you don’t want to lose weight (which could include muscle and water); you want to lose fat.
The good news is the best way to lose fat through cardio training only takes about 20 minutes per workout. The bad news: Those are 20 heart-pounding, balls-to-the-wall, shake-what-ya-momma-gave-ya minutes. It’s a little technique called High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).
For a detailed explanation of exactly how to perform HIIT, click here.
- H20, Agua, Clear Gold – No matter what you call it, drink more water! Your metabolism needs water to carry out every function in your body, and if you want to speed up your metabolic rate, you need to be drinking water like your life depended on it — because it does!
Aim for at least 8-10 glasses per day, and even more if you’re reasonably active. Also, many people confuse thirst with hunger, so drinking more water may keep you from reaching for those fat-laden cupcakes too!
- ZZZzzz… – Right up there with water, sleep is one of the most important (and most ignored) elements of a healthy lifestyle.
Not getting enough sleep, or even irregular and sporadic sleep patterns, can throw your metabolism completely out of whack. Your body won’t know when to store fat, when to shut down, or when to repair itself.
Get at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night, and try to develop a regular schedule, so you go to sleep and wake up at the same times every day.
Now that you know how to speed up your metabolism, fat won’t have a chance at surviving in your new and improved metabolic machine!