Do you ever wonder why your friend can plough through that chocolate torte without putting on a pound and one spoonful goes straight to your hips? The answer is your metabolism
Do you ever wonder why your friend can plough through that chocolate torte without putting on a pound and one spoonful goes straight to your hips? The answer is your metabolism – that little engine in your body that torches calories throughout the day. Although genetics, age, weight, diet and exercise play a big part, there are certain things you can do to stoke your metabolic fire for good.
It sounds simple enough, but just moving more throughout the day will give your metabolism the kick start it needs. “High intensity interval training increases your calorie burn intensely whilst you are active but that increased energy use will also continue after you stop,” says nutritionist Libby Limon (libbylimon.com). “Muscle burns more energy than fat so building muscle tone and density through exercise is key. Resistance workouts is the way to achieve this.” However, if sweating it out at your local gym isn’t your cup of tea, adopting a gentler approach can still maintain significant results. “Yoga is most popularly known as a way to reduce stress whilst increasing fitness and flexibility but it’s also a useful tool for increasing the metabolism,” nutritionist and yoga instructor Julie Montagu (juliemontagu.com) tells us. “Holding poses will increase your muscle mass which is one of the best ways to improve your metabolism,” she says.
Not only does hydration keep our skin supple, our concentration alert and our organs working effectively, it is also vital in keeping our metabolism in tip-top condition. “Research has shown that drinking cold water is better for your metabolism as your body uses energy to warm the water to reach your core temperature,” says Julie. “Aim to drink around eight to ten cups of cool or ice cold water during the day for maximum benefit.” If H2O isn’t quite enough to keep you razor-sharp throughout the day, caffeine is also an effective tool to boost your metabolic rate (yes, really). But before you reach for those sacred coffee beans, there’s a healthier way to burn fat and get your daily intake of antioxidants in one. “Scientists have found that the catechin polyphenols in green tea help to stimulate the metabolism. Not only does it promote fat oxidation, it also helps to protect the body against disease,” Libby explains.
Believe it or not, snacking throughout the day can actually help you to burn fat. Sound too good to be true? Research has shown that eating large meals with hours in between gives the body signals that it should hold on to its reserves causing the metabolism to slow down. However, eating every two to three hours keeps the energy furnaces burning. But instead of opting for that sneaky packet of crisps, use this opportunity to graze on nutrient-dense snacks to give your body a healthy dose of vitamins and minerals. Fruit, nuts, raw vegetables or even low-fat cottage cheese are all perfect examples of mid-morning and afternoon tit-bits to keep your body from going into ‘preservation’ mode.
DITCH THE DIETS
It’s easy to become seduced by the latest must-try diets that promise to give us the body of our dreams, but restricting our calorie intake can actually be detrimental to our health goal and give us the reverse results. “The body adapts to the lower level of calories consumed by reducing the BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate). This is why yoyo dieters hit plateaus and usually end up heavier than when they started,” Libby tells us. Instead of dramatically dropping your calorie intake, stick to the recommended amount but make healthy substitutions.
START THE DAY RIGHT
There’s a reason that breakfast is coined the most important meal of the day and when it comes to your BMR, there couldn’t be a more vital time to give your body the fuel it needs. “Some research suggests a relationship between eating breakfast and lowering your BMI, which may happen in part by kick-starting your metabolic rate,” says Libby. “You haven’t eaten for hours so make sure your breakfast is nutritionally balanced including protein, complex carbohydrates, antioxidants, healthy fats and fibre. My favourite go-to breakfast is poached eggs with spinach or avocado seeded rye toast to tick all those boxes.”
PUMP SOME IRON
Eating a diet rich in protein, wholegrains and iron is essential when it comes to increasing our fat-burning tools as the body has to put in that extra bit of energy to break it down. “Consuming wholegrain foods instead of refined products can help you burn up to 50 percent more calories naturally,” Julie tells us. “Iron is also an important component when it comes to your metabolism. Foods that are high in iron include lentils, dark green leafy vegetables, beans and certain fruits such as raisins. All the cells in our bodies need iron and it is essential for energy production and the movement of oxygen around the body.”
We may not need an excuse to catch some more Zs, but maintaining healthy sleeping habits will also ensure that the metabolism functions to maximum effect. Poor sleep also causes an increase in the hormone ghrelin which signals to the body that it needs more food than necessary. Early night tonight?
SPICE UP YOUR MEALS
They may set your mouth on fire, but did you know that chilli will also set your metabolism alight? “Thanks to capsaicin (the chemical in chilli) eating a spicy meal is thought to temporarily increase your metabolic rate and can also suppress your appetite afterwards. Add to that chilli peppers are a good source of vitamin C and you’re onto an all round winner for your body,” Julie explains.
It may be tempting to max out that thermostat in the colder months, but this may be slowing your metabolic functions. Spending time in a colder climate will boost your brown fat (a type of body fat that creates heat) and torch the calorie-loaded fats called lipids. “The colder the outside temperature the more energy is needed to maintain the internal body temperature, the more brown fat you create,” Libby tells us.
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