In simple terms your metabolism determines the amount of energy (otherwise known as calories) required for your body to operate efficiently each day. The metabolic rate is calculated as the rate required at rest although there are many actions you can take to control your metabolic rate to differing degrees.
Why would you want to increase your metabolism?
The higher your metabolic rate the more calories your body burns and eventually this will reduce your body’s fat content. Dieting in itself is a very simple format, reduce the number of calories going in and increase the number of calories used via increased exercise. It is not quite as simple as that because if you simply slash your calorie intake and increase your exercise not only can this be potentially dangerous but your metabolism will change drastically. It will go into what many refer to as “survival mode” which essentially means that your metabolism actually slows down, fewer calories are burnt and more fat is stored. Not exactly what you want when looking to lose weight!
Fat free mass
Fat-free mass is muscle, bones and organs in the body which are deemed to be metabolic active i.e. they constantly burn calories. So, the greater the muscle tone in your body the more calories are being burnt on a constant basis compared to somebody who has a relatively high fat content. As fat is simply stored energy, this does not create any calorific burn and as a consequence remains consistent if your calorie intake is equal to your body’s energy requirements.
This is why toned athletes have relatively high metabolic rates and tend to eat healthy foods on a regular basis throughout the day. When you look at some of the diets of famous athletes and sports people many of us are amazed at where they put their food which is often significantly more than the average person can eat in a day. It is simply the higher metabolic rate amongst those who have greater muscle tone which allows them to eat significantly more than the average person.
Increasing your metabolism
There is a term known as thermic effect of food (TEF) which is a measurement of the calories your body requires in order to digest, absorb and process certain types of food. Protein has one of the highest TEF ratings and can increase your metabolic rate, for a short while at least, by between 15% and 30%. If you can increase your rate by this level for just a couple of hours a day it will make a difference to your energy output and eventually burn off excess fat leaving a greater level of toned muscle and fat free mass. There is also evidence to show that high-protein diets can in some way suppress excessive hunger which for many people is in the mind.
Drinking cold water
In reality we all know the downside of sugary drinks which can contain excessive calories. So, while the general benefits of hydration are well documented, replacing sugary drinks with cold water will immediately reduce your calorie intake. There is also evidence to suggest that drinking water on a regular basis throughout the day will improve your metabolism if only for a relatively short period of time.
Studies show that drinking 0.5 L of water can increase your metabolism by between 10% and 30% for an hour afterwards. We also know that drinking cold water also forces the body to burn energy to bring the temperature of the water up to your core body temperature. While this effect in isolation is relatively small, if you constantly drink cold water it will help increase your metabolism over time.
While there is nothing wrong with any increase in exercise, whether relatively mild or a high-intensity workout, but there is evidence to suggest that high-intensity exercises are more beneficial when looking to increase your metabolic rate. Aside from the fact that short sharp bursts of activity will suddenly increase your body’s energy requirement there is also medical evidence to show that this impact can continue for in excess of an hour after you have stopped exercising. So, not only do you get the benefits of the short sharp increase in activity, burning excess energy, but even after you have finished exercising, your body is still converting fat into energy to feed your calorie burning tissues.
As we mentioned above, fat-free mass, which is made up of muscle, bones and organs is metabolically active or in simple terms, constantly burning calories. Therefore, as you increase your muscle content this will increase your fat-free mass and automatically your body will begin to burn more calories. The greater your fat-free mass the higher your metabolism even at rest.
We know that in order to build muscle tone the tissue is broken down during exercise and given time to rebuild bigger and stronger during rest time. Therefore, you need to be cautious with regards to pushing yourself too hard when it comes to weightlifting and it is vital that you have rest days to give your body time to effectively regenerate your muscle.
Sitting down is bad for your health
Some health commentators have gone as far as to suggest that excessive sitting in one place is the “new smoking” and can be extremely unhealthy in the long term. The simple fact is that sitting down places less pressure on your body which burns fewer calories compared to standing up when your organs and muscles burn energy to effectively keep you upright. Standing up on a more regular basis will not in itself create a massive increase in your metabolism but the cumulative effect of various changes to your diet, exercise and daily routine will help.
While tea drinking is not for everybody, there is evidence to suggest that not only are the likes of green tea relatively low in calories but they can assist weight loss. We know that green tea helps to convert fat stored within your body into “free fatty acids” which are known to increase fat burn. The rate of increase of fat burn is anywhere between 10% and 17% and there is evidence to suggest that the increasing in your metabolism as a consequence of drinking green tea can be anywhere between 4% and 5%. We are not suggesting that green tea will have a major impact upon your metabolism but again the cumulative impact of various small actions can create a significant end result.
Eating spicy food
Many people may not be aware that ingredients such as peppers contain capsaicin which in safe doses can increase your metabolism and weight loss. We are not suggesting a massive increase in your intake of food such as peppers but there is evidence to show that eating spicy foods encourages a sharp increase in your metabolism and up to 10 additional calories can be burnt per meal. For those who like their takeaways, this could be an interesting excuse to go down that route!
Improve your sleeping patterns
While the intake and outtake of energy into your body will have a major impact upon your metabolic rate, there is evidence to suggest that improved sleeping patterns can also help. Aside from the fact that sleep deprivation can challenge you on so many levels such as mentally and physically, with increased blood sugar levels and insulin resistance more common amongst those deprived of sleep, a lack of sleep can boost the hormone ghrelin which controls your hunger pangs. This is why many experts suggest that a simple improvement in your sleeping pattern will reduce your levels of hunger and help you to control/lose weight.
Drinking caffeinated coffee
While decaffeinated coffee may be all the rage amongst many people, there is medical evidence to show that caffeinated coffee can help to boost your metabolism by anywhere between 3% and 11%. In a similar fashion to the likes of green tea, caffeine increases your metabolism and therefore increases the rate at which fat is burnt. As with any food and drink, you need to be careful you do not overindulge and maintain everything in moderation.
Coconut oil as opposed to cooking fat
There are many types of cuisine which are cooked in fat and while there is medical evidence to show that so-called “long chain fats” can increase your metabolism by around 4%, there is more benefit from using coconut oil. As opposed to the “long chain fats” coconut oil contains an array of “medium chain fats” which can increase your metabolism rate by as much as 12%. Obviously, the higher your metabolic rate the more energy required and the greater the fat burn within your body.
We hope this article has helped you understand how your body works and how you can to a certain extent control your metabolic and fat burn rate. Many of the above actions will have a minimal impact in isolation but the cumulative impact of healthier eating and more exercise can significantly increase your metabolic rate. The simple fact is that muscles constantly burn calories and fat is simply stored energy. So, if you can improve the element of muscle tone in your body then ultimately this will increase your metabolic rate as your body will burn more energy while at rest.