We've all heard people blame genetics for a sluggish metabolism and excess weight, but is that really the cause? On the one hand, metabolism and weight do go hand in hand. Metabolism is the process by which your body makes energy out of what you eat and drink. In fact, a calorie by definition is a unit of energy, and you derive that energy from food. When you consume more calories than you metabolize, the body stores the excess as fat, and you gain weight.
On the other hand, it's highly unlikely that genetics are responsible for a slow metabolism and weight gain. While genetics can be a factor in your metabolism, two far more powerful determinants are what you eat and how much you move. In other words, you're far from stuck with the metabolism you have right now. If you're trying to lose weight, drop body fat, or both, boosting your metabolism will help you reach your goals more quickly. Here are seven ways to rev up your metabolism into a fat-incinerating inferno.
1. Strength Training
Muscle is more metabolically active than fat, meaning it burns more calories simply by existing. If your metabolism is the fire, think of muscle like gasoline and fat like water. Each pound of muscle requires six calories per day to maintain itself, while a pound of fat requires only two. The difference may seem small, but it adds up over time.
The calorie-blasting effects of weight training don't stop there. When you lift weights, you not only burn more calories while actually lifting but also for hours and hours afterwards. Exercise scientists call this the "afterburn effect." One study published in the Journal of Translational Medicine, for example, found that men who lifted heavy weights for a brief period had a resting metabolism that was 452 calories higher than it was before the workout.
Finally, strength training is essential to combat the muscle atrophy and metabolism decline that comes with age. As we get older, our bodies tend to lose muscle and gain fat, but it appears that strength training can reverse this process to some extent. According to Dr. Gary Hunter, a professor at the University of Alabama, lifting weights a few times per week can reverse 50 percent of age-related metabolic slowing.
2. Drink Up
You're probably well aware that water is good for you, but you probably don't know that it's also metabolism dynamite. In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, researchers found that drinking 17 ounces of water boosted the metabolic rate of average men and women by about 30 percent. The metabolic increase started at 10 minutes but peaked about 30-40 minutes after drinking.
The study discovered that 40 percent of this boost came from the body's attempt to heat the water. Drinking water also combats dehydration, of which even mild cases can drop your metabolism by as much as three percent.
3. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
All forms of cardio are good for your metabolism, but only one type will make your metabolic rate skyrocket and remain elevated for days. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) involves short bursts of nearly all-out effort followed by slightly longer active recovery periods. This form of cardio pushes the body to such an extent that it takes the metabolism up to 36 hours to recover.
According to Warwick University Professor Victor Zammit, just 20 minutes of HIIT is enough to boost your metabolic rate by 10 percent. So if your metabolic rate is 1600 calories per day, that’s 160 calories of afterburn, which translates into a weight loss of almost 1.5 pounds per month. And that’s just from the calories you burn after your workout!
To get started, run, bike, row, or do whatever other cardio you prefer for 30 seconds as fast and as hard as you can. For 90 seconds, take your effort level down to about 30 percent of your max while you recover. Repeat these intervals for 20 minutes and cool down for five.
4. Eat (a Protein-Filled) Breakfast
We've all heard the clichés about not skipping the most important meal of the day, but there's a little more to it than that. Wolfing down the typical American breakfast of cereal, donuts, orange juice, and other quick-digesting carbohydrates is metabolic suicide. These simple carbohydrates spike your blood sugar and then send it crashing, wreaking havoc on your metabolism in the process.
The key is not so much eating breakfast as eating the right breakfast. Protein-filled foods — think eggs, Greek yogurt, turkey sausage, and oatmeal — require the body to work harder to break them down, ratcheting up your metabolism in the process. The slower digestive process also means your blood sugar will stay stable, saving your metabolism from the highs and lows that can bring it to a screeching halt.
5. Go Green
In the 1990s, researchers discovered that green tea boosts the metabolism with its thermogenic, or heat-producing, properties. Researchers in a 1999 study hypothesized that the metabolic boost came primarily from the caffeine in green tea. The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that subjects who drank green tea experienced an average energy expenditure increase of 4.5 percent.
Since then, research has suggested that green tea's metabolic boost has to do with more than caffeine. In 2014, a study out of Penn State discovered that rats on a high-fat diet that exercised and consumed decaffeinated green tea extract showed drastic reductions in body weight and improvements in overall health. Specifically, the rats demonstrated a body mass reduction of 27.1 percent and a belly fat reduction of 36.6 percent. Rats on the same diet that just exercised but didn't consume the green tea extract showed far less significant changes in weight and health.
6. Chill out and Get Some Sleep
When we say "chill out," we mean it literally. In cooler temperatures, the body has to work harder to stay warm, and that burns additional calories. The metabolic boost of cooler temperatures is especially salient during sleep. One study published in Diabetes in 2014 found that sleeping in cooler temperatures increases the body's stores of brown fat, which scientists now regard as good fat.
Unlike the traditional white form of fat that burns no calories, brown fat is metabolically active, meaning it uses up calories just by existing. After four weeks of sleeping in a 66-degree room, the subjects of the study had doubled their amount of brown fat and improved their insulin sensitivity, which affects the body's tendency to store calories as fat.
Now that you know the perfect temperature for a metabolically charged slumber, make sure you also get enough sleep. The International Journal of Endocrinology has reported that sleep deprivation leads to metabolic dysregulation, increasing your appetite as well as your body's tendency to hold on to calories and fat. Researchers suspect that these metabolic effects are at least partially responsible for the correlation between sleep deprivation and obesity.
7. Choose Your Liquids Carefully
On the one hand, liquid calories are almost instantaneously absorbed into the digestive system, which means the body doesn't expend many calories to break them down. The result is an immediate blood sugar spike, quickly followed by a crash that will put the brakes on your metabolism. This is why you often hear nutritionists advise against drinking your calories, such as with sugary sodas, and instead recommend eating whole foods that take the body more time to process.
But that doesn't mean that all liquids are bad for your metabolism. In fact, some liquids can do quite a bit to rev up your metabolic rate. For example, caffeine has a thermogenic effect on the body, and remember that more heat equals a higher metabolism. Various studies have shown that caffeine boosts the metabolic rate by anywhere from 3 to 10 percent for about three hours after consumption. Of course, caffeine is also a central nervous system stimulant, which means it sends signals to the brain to break down fat and raise the heart rate.
Remember, though, that with caffeine-based supplements, you run the risk of cardiovascular and even psychological side effects. Overstimulating your central nervous system can lead to jitters, anxiety, insomnia, irritability, high blood pressure, and even heart attacks. With these kinds of risks, it's best to rely on natural supplements to improve your metabolism without taxing the body in the process.
For example, Zenwise Labs' coconut-derived 100-percent Pure MCT Oil fills the body with natural, sustainable energy without leaving you nauseated, jittery, and vulnerable to sugar crashes. Our MCT Oil is specifically formulated for prime energy to help you feel active and lively, not anxious and keyed up. Other natural alternatives include our green tea extract, mentioned earlier, and magnesium chelate, which supports energy production and heart health.
As you can see, what you do with your body is far more important to your metabolism than heredity. The two biggest favors you can do for your metabolism are exercise, in intervals and with weights, and consume the right foods and beverages. In addition, you now know a few extra tips and tricks that will help you take your metabolic rate to new heights.