How to Boost Your Metabolism

metabolism, boost your metabolism, lose weight, improve metabolism, increase metabolism

How to Boost Your Metabolism

Did you know our bodies are constantly burning calories, even when we’re at rest? Life sustaining activities like breaking down food, keeping your heart beating and breathing all cost calories.  The sum of these calorie expenses is your metabolism, and while the rate at which we burn calories is mostly out of our control, determined by age, sex (lucky guys!) and genetics, there is still wiggle room for improvement.  Boosting your metabolism can be a huge aid for loosing weight, if you use more calories than you consume you’ll lose weight, if you consume more than you use, you’ll gain weight. Simple.  But back to the important part, by changing a few things you can increase your metabolism so you burn far more calories a day – this means you can lose weight without increasing exercise or decreasing the amount of calories you consume.  Boosting your metabolism is as close to a magic diet pill as you can get.

Start your day off right by eating breakfast

Eating a nutrient-rich breakfast gets your engine going so it can keep going all day. The National Weight Control Registry has found that 78% of people who have lost a significant amount of weight eat a substantial breakfast everyday.  If you don’t eat when you wake up your body has no sustenance, and your metabolism will start the day off at a snails pace.  A study in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that volunteers who ate breakfast gained only 1.7 pounds on average over four years, those who didn’t eat it gained nearly three pounds!

Eat… more???

You know that gnawing feeling in the pit of your stomach when you’re hungry? That’s bad.  It means your body is in ‘starvation’ mode and your metabolism has slowed right down.  Nibbling throughout the day rather than gorging at meals, and then going hours without food, is the best way to keep your metabolism at its optimum rate.  It will also help balance blood sugar levels, which will prevent the insulin spikes that can cause weight gain.  Additionally, if you graze throughout the day you’ll consume much less at mealtime, resulting in consuming fewer calories each day. So snack, snack, snack!! Here are some great low calorie snack foods.

A good way to make sure you’re eating enough to keep you metabolism at its peak is to consume enough calories to match your resting metabolic rate (or basal metabolic rate, BMR).  Your resting metabolic rate is the amount of calories your body needs to sustain normal life processes, such as keeping your heart beating, at rest.  Your BMR is determined by a number of factors including, height, weight, age and sex.  You can calculate yours here.   Divide your BMR by 6 and try to consume this many calories every 3-5 hours. 

Caffeine

Caffeine increases the amount of energy your body uses by stimulating the central nervous system, this increases your heart rate and breathing, resulting in an increased metabolism.   A study in the journal, Physiology & Behavior, showed that drinking caffeinated coffee increased metabolic rate by 16% compared to decaf coffee.  Energy drinks may have an even better effect on metabolism than coffee because they sometimes contain Taurine, an amino acid which can help burn fat and further boost metabolism.

Ice Water

Your body needs water to process calories, so when you’re dehydrated you can’t process them and your metabolism decreases.  If you ever feel thirsty it means you’re already dehydrated and your metabolism has already slowed down, drinking 8 glasses of water a day will guarantee this doesn’t happen.  In general, I’m a huge supporter of drinking plenty of ice-cold water every day, especially when you’re trying to lose weight.  A study at the University of Utah found that people who drank eight glasses of water a day had a higher metabolic rate than those who only drank 4.

Enjoy your post exercise boost

Intense aerobic exercise has a hangover effect on your metabolism, it can remain elevated even hours after the workout.  You really have to push yourself to achieve this though.  Engage in high-intensity exercise, the kind where you can barely think let alone talk while you’re doing it.  This sort of exercise will result in excess post exercise oxygen consumption, which will keep your metabolism at an elevated level for several hours.  Stepping up the intensity of your workout also means you’ll burn the same number of calories in less time.

Interval training is the easiest way to increase the intensity of a workout. Interval training also means you will use more oxygen and your mitochondria (the power plant of your cells) will have to work harder.  In response your body will produce more mitochondria, which will burn more calories throughout the day.  So how do you do interval training?  This can be done with any cardio workout – running, swimming, biking, and elliptical.  Start at your normal pace, after 5 minutes go flat out for 60 seconds, then go back to normal for 120 seconds and repeat.  You will not be able to workout for as long but your time will be much better spent.  As well as increasing the intensity of your workout, the bust of speed may stimulate a fat-burning response.

Try more protein

More protein = more lean muscle mass.  A pound of muscle at rest will burn around 35 calories a day.  A pound of fat will burn about 3.  Increasing the percentage of your body weight made up of muscle will increase your resting metabolic rate.   What’s a good amount of protein? Try 30 grams, about the amount in a small chicken breast, 2-3 times a day. Protein also costs more calories to digest than fat or carbs, so eating a high protein diet means you expend more calories consuming your food, increasing metabolism.  Great sources of protein include beef, turkey, fish, chicken, tofu, nuts, beans, eggs, and dairy products.

Slow Strength Training

Start lifting weights so you can convert all of that protein you’re eating into muscle weigh!  If you lift slowly (count to 3 for each exercise) you will increase the breakdown of your muscle.  Repairing this muscle costs energy so it will boost your metabolism for up to 72 hours! Lifting weights for 30 minutes twice a week can increase your metabolism by 100 calories a day (though it’ll take 4-6 months to get to this point). Weight training is a great weight to prevent your metabolism from slowing down as you age due to muscle atrophy.

Miraculous Green Tea

Green tea contains ECGC, a compound that promotes fat burning.  One study found that drinking 3-5 cups a day for 12 weeks reduced body weight by an average of 4.6 percent.  Green tea also contains catechin, which may boost metabolism by improving fat oxidation and increasing the amount of energy you use to digest your food.  A study suggests that 2-4 cups of tea a day may result in a 17% increase in calories burned during exercise.

Calcium

Calcium increases your ability to metabolize fats efficiently by increasing how much fat you excrete – yeh, that kind of excretion.  Having a calcium rich snack may help compensate for a fat filled binge earlier in the day.

Choose organic produce

Organochlorieds, chemicals found in pesticides, can accumulate in fat cells and disrupt your mitochondria and thyroid.  Your thyroid is incredibly important because it acts as a thermostat by determining how fast your body runs.  Disrupting your thyroid and mitochondria will inevitably lead to an inability to function correctly and slow down your metabolism.  Eating organic foods without the pesticides will circumvent this issue.

Spice it up

Capsaicin is the active component in chili peppers that gives them their spicy quality.  When you consume chili peppers the capsaicin activates your sympathetic nervous system, which increases heart rate, breathing and blood flow to your skeletal muscles.  All this activity costs calories, so eating spicy foods containing capsaicin can boost your metabolism by up to 23% percent.

Iron

Iron helps your red blood cells deliver oxygen around the body, keeping you energized and your metabolism running smoothly.  An iron deficiency can result in fatigue and a lack of energy, read: slow metabolism.  So if you’re someone who struggles with anemia, or a woman (you’ll lose iron for about a week every month…) eating beans, dark leafy greens and cereals containing iron will help keep your metabolism in tip top shape.

Fish Oil

A study in the journal, Obesity Research, found that when rats ingested fish oil while exercising they lost weight.  The Omega-3 fatty acids in the fish oil help balance blood sugar levels and reduce inflammation, which helps to regulate metabolism. They may also play a role in resistance to a hormone called leptin that has been linked to obesity.  A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that participants who took six grams of fish oil every day, and worked out 3 times a week, lost an average of 3.4 pounds in 12 weeks.  Participants who exercised but did not take the fish oil, did not lose any weight.  Look for daily omega-3 fatty acid supplements containing 1000 to 2000 milligrams.

Skip the trans fat

Trans fats have a unique shape that results in them binding to fat and liver cells which slows down your metabolism.  Consuming trans fats can also increase resistance to insulin and inflammations, which decreases metabolism and causes weight gain.  As if you needed another reason to avoid these guys…

Avoid Crash or Fad Diets

Many crash or fad diets involve consuming less than 1000 calories a day so you drop weight fast.  Most of the pounds you lose, though, are from muscle, which as we mentioned before burns far more calories than fat.  Reducing the percent of your body weight that is muscle will slow down your metabolism.  Additionally, eating so few calories will transition your body to starvation mode and you will hang onto every calorie you eat.

Transform yourself into a fat burning machine by drinking water and green tea, consuming caffeine, snacking sensibly, interval training, weight lifting, eating more protein, calcium, organic food, iron containing food, spicy food and fish oil, and finally, not participating in crash diets or eating trans fats … is that all?

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Do any diet/weight loss pills actually work?

I’ve always been curious about diet supplements that claim to dramatically increase weight loss – sometimes they’ll even claim you can lose weight without dieting or exercising.  Seems way to good to be true.  I finally caved and decided to try one and carefully monitor its effect on my body and write a full product review.  I bought a 30-day trial of Tru Body Wellness ULTRA LEAN by Tru Body Wellness – if you’re like me you’ll be happy to know they offer a 30 Money Day Money Back Guarantee.  The tag line for this product is 4 Ultimate Weight Loss Supplement Products ALL in 1 pill.  So taking this one pill allowed me to investigate the claims behind 4 popular diet fads.  I took two pills a day for 30 days without making any changes to my diet or exercise.  I did not gain or lose any weight, nor did I experience any side effects.

Alright, let’s start by breaking down what’s actually in these pills; Green Coffee Bean 400mg, Raspberry Ketone 200mg, African Mango 150mg and Green Tea 50mg.

Lets go through them individually:

1. Green Coffee Bean.  In a small study these beans were shown to increase weight loss compared to placebo.  In 22 weeks, 16 overweight men lost an average of 17 pounds without changing diet of exercise.  One theory as to how green coffee bean may increase weight loss is because it contains Chlorogenic acid, a plant compound, which may have some effect on keeping down glucose absorption.  A larger study is currently underway.

2. Raspberry Ketone.  This is the compound in red raspberries that is responsible for their smell.  There is definitely an aroma associated with these pills because of the raspberry ketone component.  Because there are only small amounts of them available in nature, raspberry ketone supplements are generally biosynthesized.  There is currently no clinical evidence that they are responsible for weight loss in humans.  The myth that raspberry ketone helps with weight loss comes from the idea that it enhances the activity of a hormone adiponectin, which plays a role in weight regulation and blood glucose levels.  There have also been two studies, one in mice and one in rats, that showed that raspberry ketones might help prevent rodent’s from becoming obese.  Not overly compelling…

3. African Mango.  African mango is a nickname for the fruit produced in Central and West Africa by a tree called Irvingia gabonensis.  Its been suggested that the high soluble fiber in the seed can “melt away belly fat”, by reducing appetite, lowering blood cholesterol levels, reducing fat cell growth, breaking down fats and improving blood sugar control.  That’s quite a claim!  A few studies have backed these claims up but were sponsored by manufacturers of the supplement.  More research needs to be done but it does seem like this might really aid in weight loss.  At the very least it is high in fiber so will help you feel more full. 

4. Green Tea.  Green tea contains a substance called EGCG, an antioxidant that is thought to have a calorie burning effect.  A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that consuming 90mg of EGCG and 50mg of caffeine at mealtime increased energy expenditure by 4%.  This sounds promising but the study only had a sample size of 10, and 4% increased energy expenditure probably wouldn’t have a worthwhile effect on weight loss anyway.

Right on the bottle you’ll find this product claim: Tru ULTRA LEAN combines Green Coffee Extract, Raspberry Ketone, African Mango and Green Tea into one capsule.  This powerful combination assists in increasing metabolism, energizing, suppressing your appetite and cravings, while turning your body into a fat burning machine.  Use in combination with a sensible diet and exercise plan.  These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.

So lets break down these claims one by one:

1. Will this supplement increase your metabolism?  First let’s talk about what your metabolism really is.  Your metabolism is all of the chemical reactions in your cells that are necessary for life.  Including how we convert our food into fuel and then how efficiently we use that fuel – this translates into how quickly we burn calories and how easy it is for us to gain or lose weight.  There are several factors that can affect your metabolism; age, sex (darn you men!) and how much muscle mass you have.  However, a lot of it just comes down to genes, some people just have a faster metabolism than others.  The good news is you can increase your metabolism! Exercising, for example, particularly weight training, will increase your muscle mass.  Muscles cost more calories to sustain even while at rest so just having greater muscle mass will increase your resting metabolic rate!  A pound of muscle burns about 35 calories a day compared to the pathetic 2 calories a pound of fat burns.  Another way you can increase your metabolism is to change your eating habits.  When you wait a long time in between meals your metabolism starts to slow down because your body wants to preserve calories, essentially you’re in starvation mode.  Eating little snacks in between meals (see my previous post on low calorie snacks!) will help keep your metabolism up.  So back to the point, it’s really impossible for me to evaluate whether or not this product increased my metabolism just from taking the supplement for 30 days.  I will say, however, that I did not gain or lose and weight while taking this supplement so… it doesn’t appear to have had any effect.  However, maybe in combination with dramatic changes to diet, exercise and lifestyle it may aid in revving up your metabolism.  Although, even if these supplements do have an effect, it seems unlikely that they would increase metabolism enough to have any significant effect on weight loss by themselves. It also probably depends on the person; I have a very high metabolism to begin with, so perhaps it would have more effect on someone with a more sluggish metabolism – who knows.  To conclude, I’m going to go out on a limb and say no, this supplement does not increase metabolism, at least not in a substantial enough way to aid your weight loss.

2.  Does this supplement boost your energy?  This is an interesting one.  I would take one pill in the morning when I woke up and then one mid afternoon.  I really do think I noticed some sort of energy boost from my morning pill, but maybe it was just me waking up in the morning.  I didn’t notice any difference with the afternoon pill but I’m normally pretty sleepy then anyway!  The energy boosting effect was negligible at best, non-existent at worst.

3. Here’s the best one, does this have an effect on your appetite? My vote is yes! I really felt less hungry after I took the pill and I think it helps you make sensible diet choices throughout the day.  Perhaps the African Mango really does suppress apetite!

4. Turns your body into a fat burning machine?  This claim is just plain ridiculous marketing sensationalism.

5. This ones not listed on the bottle, but lets take a minute to think about the placebo effect.  If you’ve hit a plateau with your diet and you start taking a supplement that you believe is going to help, maybe it will give you some added motivation that really will lead to weight loss!  Additionally I think if you invest money into buying a supplement you’re more likely to stick to your diet and exercise regiment.

The bottom line, if you are looking for something to supplement your diet and exercise this may be for you, but its certainly not going to turn you into a “fat burning machine” all by itself.  From my experience this supplement could definitely make it easier to avoid cravings  and exercise better portion control, but that’s really about it.

 

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