Metabolism refers to all the chemical reactions that happen in your body that keep you alive and functioning. When you see the word metabolism used in this context, it means the rate at which your body burns calories.
The faster your metabolism, the quicker you burn off calories from your food, and the easier it feels to keep weight off. Which, when you're on a diet, can feel like the holy grail!
The Bad News…
Unfortunately, your metabolism is generally consistent from day to day. There is only one scientifically evidenced way to increase your metabolism significantly. You can speed up your metabolism by being physically heavier.
The Good News…
There are ways that you can increase the amount of body fat burned despite the limitations of your metabolism. Effectively that means you're getting the same results as someone with a naturally higher metabolism than you! Let's see what those ways are.
#1. Protein Intake
Prioritising lean sources of protein at every meal can help to make you feel fuller for longer. Protein, like all foods, has a thermic effect on your body. By eating, you raise your body temperature while your body digests. Protein-rich foods create the largest increase in body temperature, temporarily increasing your metabolic rate by 15-30% compared with 5-10% for carbs and 0-3% for fats.
#2. Put on Lean Muscle
What if I told you there was a way for you to be heavier, e.g. you can speed your metabolism, but you'd still have a lean physique? When you put on weight, you have two options. Either gain fat or gain muscle. The solution here is to focus on adding lean mass.
Before you start worrying, let me assure you that gaining muscle won't make you look bulky. It's far more likely to give you the sexy lean and toned look that you admire. Muscle is metabolically more active than fat. So, having a little bit of extra muscle tissue means that your body will burn more calories - even when at rest. Lifting weights not only can help you to gain that lean muscle mass, but it also stops you from losing the muscle that you've got while you're dieting.
#3. Understand NEAT and Increase it
If your work is sedentary, you'll likely spend several hours a day sitting. Besides being a recipe for back pain, this probably means that your step count will be lower than you'd like. There are two ways you can increase your metabolism here. Firstly, stand up more often and consider - where possible - working while standing. There are standing desks which can help facilitate this. While this doesn't burn many extra calories - around an extra calorie for every ten minutes, it's more likely to increase your NEAT.
NEAT stands for non-exercise activity thermogenesis. That means all the calories you burn from merely existing, and not intentionally exercising. NEAT includes pacing around the house while you take a phone call, usual fidgeting or just popping upstairs to fetch something that you forgot. NEAT actually makes up a massive proportion of the calories you burn in a day - far more than intentional exercise. So by standing up to work, you're more likely to increase your NEAT quite naturally.
A Word of Advice: Ignore The Rubbish
There are many myths around speeding up metabolism by eating "calorie negative foods" like celery, which were once thought to take more calories to digest than they gave. This isn't true. There are no calorie negative foods.
Some claim that eating spicy foods or including certain spices in your diet can increase metabolism, or that drinking green tea or caffeinated drinks like coffee can increase the amount of fat you burn. The reality is that while these things do have a small thermic effect, the impact they have on your metabolism and fat loss is minimal.
When fat loss is the goal, fundamentals will always matter more than minor things like a spicy diet or a cup of tea. The most crucial factor is being in a calorie deficit which is most easily done with your dietary choices.
You can complement that with a regular training routine that includes resistance and cardiovascular training. There's no one particular type of cardio better suited to fat loss, so don't feel obliged to force yourself into one method of exercise if you don't like it.
If you prefer walking to running or tennis to cycling - that's absolutely fine. Choosing something you enjoy and want to stick to will have a more significant effect on fat loss because you'll consistently do it.
Lifestyle choices which support good quality sleep and the accountability of an honest and supportive coach will make a more immense contribution than temporarily raising your body temperature.
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