So many people are talking about how slow their metabolism is and why they need to start taking the latest diet supplement scam yet they don't even understand how the human metabolism works. So before I even go into how to speed yours up, I want to first go over some of the basics.
What is metabolism?
Although there are many scientific ways for me explain it, and I could make it seem really confusing like most of the so-called experts do, but I won't. I'm going to give you my extremely simple and easy to understand definition... metabolism is the rate at which your body burns calories to sustain life
I should also note that your body, yes yours, burns calories 24 hours a day, everyday - regardless of whether or not you workout. Remember that your body needs energy all the time, even while you're asleep and that is why skipping meals is the absolute worst thing you can do if your goal is to lose weight (body fat).
Before we go any further let's talk about what affects metabolism...
What affects metabolism?
What do you think has the biggest impact on your metabolism? Activity levels? Your Thyroid? Age?
WRONG! WRONG! and WRONG! Activity levels, Thyroid function, and age do affect metabolism but not nearly as much as...
Any idea? It's muscle tissue! The more muscle you have the more calories you burn regardless of how active you are, how old you are, etc. It's live tissue and it's there working for you and burning calories 24 hours a day - each and every day!
Here's a list of some of the factors affecting metabolism in order of greatest impact to least:
- muscle tissue (you already know why this is on the top of the list)
- meal frequency (the longer you go between meals the more your metabolism slows down to conserve energy)
- activity level (important but doesn't make any difference if you don't match your eating to your expenditure)
- food choices (ex. low-fat diets tend to result in poor hormone production which leads to a slower metabolism)
- hydration (over 70% of bodily functions take place in water - not enough water causes all your systems to slow down and unnecessary stress)
- genetics (some people have higher metabolisms than others - you can't change genetics but you can still win the battle!)
- hormone production and function (think you have a slow thyroid? it's not likely - before you go blame it on the thyroid first stabilize your blood sugar and throw in some progressive exercise 2-3 times each week)
- stress (stress also can slow metabolism by placing extra stress and strain on numerous systems. plus, many people tend to overeat when "stressed out")
Why does it slow down?
How many times have you heard someone say, "as soon as you hit 30 your metabolism slows down"? Maybe you've said it. I know I hear it all the time and I got tired of hearing it so I did a little research and found that the metabolism does NOT slow down significantly due to aging but DOES due to a lack of muscle. And, you don't lose muscle quickly due to aging either but due to a decrease or lack of physical stress.
So, the major cause of a slowing metabolism is three fold...
- you lose muscle due to the lack of physical stress
- your body cannibalizes muscle when it needs energy but you won't supply any because you are "dieting" and skipping meals
- your activity levels tend to decrease as you get older
So now that we know the problem... what's the solution? Address those 3 issues! I've found through years of experience helping hundreds of people, that increasing your metabolism and getting rid of that excess body fat can often times be quite easy! Yet you'll hear of all these experts telling you how hard it is and why you need to buy their new diet program, supplement, or fitness contraption.
It's not that hard, it doesn't have to be confusing, and you don't need any of that crap! All you need is an understanding of how your body works and the willingness to make some small changes.
Here's my basic formula for jump starting your metabolism:
Step 1 - Stop the storage of new fat
It doesn't make any sense to start an exercise program if you just end up adding new fat later that day. This is a problem that is very common among people who start an exercise in an attempt to lose weight.
See the problem is this...
We don't get fat due to a lack of exercise - we get fat because we supply the body with more calories than it needs at a given time. So the solution has nothing to do with exercise - it's all about your eating! And I'm not saying you have to eat low-fat, super clean and healthy diet consisting of salad and tofu only. You can still eat the foods you like IF you can give the body just the amount it needs.
The key is to give the body the energy it needs, but just that amount and not a bunch extra because extra is extra is extra, it doesn't matter what it's from. Salad can be stored as fat, celery can be stored as fat - if it results in extra it can be stored as fat. I should also note that not all extra energy is stored in the fat cells and I will touch on that later.
So forget about trying to burn off any fat unless you can first stop storing new fat! Again, you do that by matching your eating to your activity level. This means small, balanced meals or snacks every 2-3 hours and the amount of calories in each feeding should depend on how active you are at that time of day.
Step 2 - Attack the existing fat
This requires a combination approach consisting of stable blood sugar/energy levels, and progressive cardiovascular/aerobic exercise and strength training.
We already talked about how important stable blood sugar and energy levels are and how to match your eating to your activity level so now I'd like to cover the exercise part of the equation.
In order for the exercise to even be worth your time you must be sure it's progressive. Just because you run on the treadmill for 30 minutes three times a week, that doesn't mean your body has to burn off that unwanted body fat! You have to force the body to make changes and improvements and the ONLY way to do that is to consistently provide a stimulus or stress that is greater than what the body is used to.
Here are some general guidelines on how you can make your exercise progressive and productive:
- Change exercises frequently (every 2-4 weeks)
- Increase resistance
- Perform more reps
- Slower reps
- Advanced techniques
- Increase speed/resistance
- Perform intervals
- Increase distance traveled
- Cross train by performing numerous activities