You want it cranking high and running hot, right? But how exactly do you do that? And what is metabolism, anyway?
I don’t want to get too deep into the complexity of metabolism in this post. Perhaps a dive into what metabolism is, and understanding it well, is something I will tackle in a future post. But for this post, let’s just go with the understanding that metabolism is all of the chemical processes that occur to keep you alive.
In other words, the sum of all the energy it takes to do whatever it is you do.
There is a funny inconsistency we have when we think about metabolism…we tend to think of it as a static or fixed thing. We say things like, “she has a fast metabolism” or, “my metabolism is slow”. But we also tend to think of it as something dynamic or flexible. “I know eating more often will increase my metabolism”, or “I think my metabolism is in starvation mode”. (Both of those are false statements by the way, but they represent how we see metabolism as flexible.)
So, which is it?
Your metabolism is very flexible. It is constantly adapting and adjusting to the activities, both voluntary and involuntary, you are doing all day long.
This is good news.
This means you are able to influence and control your metabolism. This means you can increase your metabolism, and burn more calories.
(It’s worth mentioning that increasing your metabolism also means in increase in your appetite. The body likes you to fuel it’s activities. So if you aren’t actively working on self-control and new habits with food, an increase in metabolism may be a shot to the foot.)
Let’s look at a few (or five) ways you can increase your metabolism and burn more calories throughout the day.
#1. Move more.
One of the biggest contributors to your body’s metabolism is simply how much you move during the day. In fact, non-exercise activity can make up close to 15% of your total calorie burned throughout the course of the day.
That’s a lot!
Simply being conscious of moving more throughout the day can go a long way. Play outside with your kids, clean the house, go for a leisurely bike ride, take the stairs instead of the elevator, just get off your butt a little more…these things can add up.
#2. Build muscle.
One way to increase your metabolism is to weigh more. The more you weigh, the more calories you need to maintain that tissue. You can increase your weight by putting on more fat tissue, more muscle tissue, or more of both. Of those two tissues, muscle requires more calories to maintain, pound for pound. So it would have the biggest impact on increasing your metabolism.
Gaining some muscle usually equates to increased strength, which is never a bad thing. It also gives you strong curves, and increased definition. If that’s something you’re into, adding some muscle to your frame might be a solid option for giving your metabolism a boost
#3. Stay hydrated.
If you’re dehydrated, things don’t work as well as they’re supposed to. You get headaches, feel sluggish, your body’s minerals are out of whack, and in general you feel like crap. Along with all of that fun stuff, your metabolism can get sluggish too. Staying hydrated can keep your metabolism running optimally.
#4. Get stronger.
No matter what your goals are, I think getting stronger is a good idea.
But when it comes to keeping your metabolism elevated, it’s really important. Using our definition of metabolism above, we know that metabolism is simply the energy required to do what we do.
The thing about working out is that your body adapts to stress, load and difficulty. Your body adapts by getting more efficient at things. If a body weight squat is really challenging for you, but you do them every day, they’re going to get easier. This adaptation is how you get stronger.
Unless you make things more difficult over time, your body will become very efficient at doing whatever exercises you do. This means that, over time, any given exercise that isn’t made more challenging, will require less energy to perform.
On the other hand, if you’re focusing on getting stronger by pushing for a few more reps, or increasing weight, you’re constantly pushing your body to do things it is inefficient at. Put another way, you’re keeping the amount of energy required very high. And since metabolism is the amount of energy needed to do what we do, this is a very good thing.
Shoot to get stronger. Doing so will keep the work load high and your metabolism running hot.
#5. Eat your protein.
Protein is good for a lot of things. It’s the body’s building block, used for building and repairing skin, bone, muscle, blood, and cartilage. Plus, I think it’s delicious. It can also be really beneficial when it comes to keeping your metabolism up.
There are three macronutrients (categories of food) – protein, carbohydrate, and fat. Each of these require a certain amount of energy to digest. This means that eating any food will elevate your metabolism, because it requires energy, and metabolism is the amount of energy required to do what we do…including digest food.
Fats require the least amount of energy to digest (roughly 3-7% of calories from fats ingested), followed by carbohydrates (roughly 5-15% of calories from carbohydrates ingested), and lastly proteins (20-30% of calories from proteins ingested). This is called the thermogenic effect of food. This is essentially a measurement of how much your metabolism has to increase to digest a given food. In this case, the greater the increase, the better.
Keeping a good amount of protein in your diet, can help your metabolism stay elevated, especially when trying to lose weight.
You might have noticed that none of these suggestions for keeping your metabolism running hot are anything you haven’t heard before. In fact, they are all pretty basic tenants to living a healthy life. That’s because doing the things you know to do to be a healthier person leads to a healthy metabolism. That’s the case with a lot of things…lower cholesterol, increased heart health, chronic pain…making healthier choices, and making them more often, tends to make everything work better.
Don’t over think this. Just do what you know to do. You might be surprised at how much some basic things, done consistently, can improve your life.