What is Metabolism?
Briefly, the metabolism is a collective term given to the chemical processes which occur constantly within the body. This includes breaking down food and converting it into energy and absorbing the nutrients necessary for survival. Our body is continually burning off calories, even when we’re sleeping. Involuntary actions such as breathing, digesting food and the heart pumping all require energy.
Everyone’s metabolism is unique. The amount of energy your body needs each day is called the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). So whatever your BMR is, will be roughly the number of calories you need to eat each day to maintain your weight, just while sitting down or resting. Body fat monitors can quickly display your BMR reading.
Some people naturally have a faster metabolism. This can be down to many factors such as height, weight, muscle mass and activity levels. But generally, the heavier you are, the more you can eat to maintain your weight. This is why it’s easier losing weight at the beginning of a diet when you weigh more. However, there a many ways to speed up metabolism to help keep your weight loss on track.
Here are 8 ways you can help improve your metabolism:
1. Exercise more
Exercise is by far the most useful way of speeding up your metabolism. It uses up more calories, increases your heart rate and the effects remain several hours after you’ve finished. Structured exercise such as going to a gym, cycling, swimming, dancing and jogging are all good for raising the metabolism.
2. Increase your muscle mass
The more muscles you have, the faster your metabolism will be. Greater muscle mass helps you burn off more calories when exercising as well as when you're sitting down or sleeping. This is because muscles need energy to move and function whereas fat doesn't. Ideal exercises to gain muscle mass while losing weight include dancing, running and swimming as these raise your heart rate, thereby increasing metabolism.
3. Become more fidgety
It may be annoying to others around you, but fidgeting is actually a good way to burn off extra calories while sitting down. Just swinging your legs, tapping your fingers or nodding your head will all contribute towards speeding up your metabolism, something which won't happen when sitting motionless in a chair.
4. Drink tea and coffee
The caffeine found in tea and coffee helps speed up metabolism by around 3-11 percent depending on the amount consumed. The effects also last for over 2 hours after drinking. Why metabolism speeds up isn’t clear but it’s thought that because caffeine is a stimulant, it may increase nervous activity causing us to move more.
5. Turn down the heating
Although it’s not pleasant feeling cold, it can be a way to increase metabolism. Around 30 percent of us have a type of fat called ‘brown fat’ which is used as an energy source to warm us up. Those with this type of fat can speed up their metabolism simply by cooling down. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to find out if you’re one of the lucky ones with brown fat.
6. Eat spicy foods
Eating spicy foods such as curries and particularly chillies can help to increase your metabolism to a certain extent. Some studies have found that eating chillies can speed up your metabolism by up to 50 percent and the effects can last for around 3 hours. This may be because certain hot spicy foods speed up your heart rate.
7. Eat food which burns more calories
The food you eat can have an effect on your metabolism. For example, food such as protein and whole grains take longer and need more energy to process than simple carbohydrates like chocolate and biscuits. This is one of the principles of the new Weight Watchers ProPoints system which has proved to be highly successful.
8. Eat more carbohydrates
Many of the latest diets recommend restricting your carbohydrate intake. However, eating more carbs can help improve your metabolism. This is because the body is better equipped at using up any excess carbohydrates for energy, whereas eating too much fat is more likely to be laid down and stored.
Remember, as you lose weight your overall metabolic rate slows down as you need less energy to maintain your new lower weight. To carry on losing weight, you’ll either have to reduce your food intake, not the ideal choice for most of us, or find ways of speeding up your metabolism again.
Fortunately, there are natural ways of giving your metabolism a boost, some of which are more effective than others. Generally, exercising and increasing muscle mass are the most reliable and guaranteed methods for speeding up metabolism and burning off calories. But incorporating some of the other tips described here can all play a part, even if it means just burning off an extra 50 extra calories a day. Over time, they all add up and sometimes it’s just the little changes that can have a big impact on keeping your weight in control.
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