Metabolism – we all know this word, but what does it mean? According to Wikipedia, “metabolism is the set of chemical reactions that happen in the cells of living organisms to sustain life. These processes allow organisms to grow and reproduce, maintain their structures, and respond to their environments. The word metabolism can also refer to all chemical reactions that occur in living organisms, including digestion and the transport of substances into and between different cells.” Too sciencey for you? Basically, metabolism is the work our body does to keep us alive and functioning. Related to weight loss, the more work your metabolism is doing, the more calories you burn.
So what can you do to help your metabolism work harder? What can you do to burn more calories through out the day, every day? Here’s 4 things you can do to help boost your metabolism!
Our metabolism is hard at work when the body is digesting food. It’s working to break our food down into a usable form. So every time we eat, our metabolism “boosts”. However, when we eat we are also intaking more calories. So the solution is NOT to eat big meals or drive-thru McDonald’s every three hours
As discussed in previous posts (Get Your Plate in Shape), we should be eating a combination of high-fiber carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats. And we do want to eat frequently, possibly every three hours, in small portions relative to our size and activity level. Has anyone told you that you eat like a bird? That’s kind of the idea. Basically eating slow, small meals, but frequently, means more metabolic revving. So eat healthy, but eat often!
Eating like a bird, or grazing, helps us control our appetite, regulate blood sugar levels, stay energized and alert, and build lean muscle mass. The idea is to eat five or six small- to medium-size meals or snacks per day. That typically means eating every three hours. A good description is “grazing” through the day, instead of sitting down for three big meals.
Six meals may sound like a lot, and we might think our busy day will not allow time to eat that often. But remember that six eating times does not mean a long-sit down meal, it should be a quick light a meal or a snack. We can still have few sit-down meals, but three of our six should just be snacks; one or two of which might be shakes/snacks before and after a workout. We may also find that eating more often allows our traditional breakfasts, lunches, and dinners to be lighter.
Benefits of eating like a bird or grazing:
This is the same idea as above, where our metabolism revs up when eating, but our first meal of the day is 10 times more important. If we think about the fact that we’ve been sleeping and essentially fasting for 7 to 10 hours, we really should be ravenous by morning time! This also means that our metabolism is the at it’s lowest point after waking up. When we eat breakfast, our metabolism kicks into gear. Thinking about weight loss and calorie-burn, we want that metabolism boost as soon as possible when we wake up!
Everybody has thought about not eating to lose weight. Just don’t eat the calories and you won’t gain weight, right? WRONG! You may lose weight, but you won’t be healthy and won’t be able to maintain the weight loss. The most important fact about metabolism is that it increases with the amount of muscle we have in our body. The reason this occurs is because muscle cells are harder to maintain than fat cells so our bodies (through metabolism) have to work harder to sustain muscle than to sustain fat. The more muscle mass we have, the more calories our bodies burn throughout the day, when we are active and at rest. Essentially, every pound of muscle we gain requires an additional 20 calories per hour, on average.
We do have to work for this muscle mass. Obviously it requires that we include strength training in our exercise regimen. And the sooner the better because the average person loses a pound of lean mass per year.
It also requires that we include healthy protein, in our diet. Without enough protein supplied by our diets, our body will “borrow” protein from the only other source, our muscles. But our body won’t give it back, it’s “borrowing” the protein expecting that we will put it back through our diet. Our muscles are made of pure protein, so if there is not protein available in the blood stream from our pre-workout snack, whatever muscles are not working will donate their protein and reduce their muscle size. That’s the opposite effect that we want our work-out to have, so be sure to include healthy proteins through healthy eating!
Yes, this may sound like a reiteration of the last 3 topics… because it is, to help drive home the point. We should include a healthy protein source with every meal, all 5 or 6 of them. Protein has the biggest effect on our metabolism. All food revs up our metabolism, but protein allows us to use all cylinders for that rev, burning the highest amount of calories with each digestion period as well as sustaining and/or building muscle mass.
As always, contact me with any questions.
Healthy, happy metabolism boost!
Core Performance: How to Boost Your Metabolism. Available: CP 101: How to Boost Your Metabolism. Last accessed 18th April 2012.