Have you ever felt envious over someone who makes a deposit in the porcelain bank regularly?
Slow metabolism is a real pain and not just because it can hinder your weight loss progress. Not passing your timber in a timely manner will obviously create some discomfort in your tummy, so it's essential to figure out why your metabolism seems to be a bit lazy. And even more importantly – what you can do to speed up your metabolism.
How metabolism works
We all know something about metabolism. Mostly, slow metabolism is getting all the blame when the scales don't seem to be in your favor.
And, of course, many of us have met naturally lean people who say they owe their physique to their metabolism which seems to be quicker than Flash.
But how metabolism actually works and is it really true that slow metabolism means your chances to lose weight are slim?
Metabolism is your body's internal system that has one crucial role: it converts food into energy, so your body could keep running.
It's literally responsible for every single process in your body since it provides the energy needed for everything else to work – your heart is beating and your body is warm because you have metabolism that turns everything you eat into energy. Metabolism works 24/7, even when you're sleeping.
When it comes to weight and metabolism, then the basic principle is simple:
- slow metabolism = fewer calories burned, so more gets stored as fat;
- fast metabolism = calories are burned off quicker, so your body won't store much.
The sad part is though that the speed of your metabolism is mostly determined by your genes.
Every person has a base metabolic rate which is made up of three components: your age, gender, and genetics. As you get older, your metabolism will get slower. And women have naturally a bit slower metabolism than men.
The base rate makes for about 70% of your metabolism and that's the portion you can't control with your lifestyle.
But the other 30% can be controlled by you. Experts say that about 20-25% of your metabolism comes from physical activity and the rest is related to your eating habits.
And there's good news when it comes to weight loss, too. Dr. Chih-Hao Lee from Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health says that metabolism actually plays a minor role in weight loss – diet and exercise are still the main factors.
This means that even if you have a slow metabolism, it won't stop you from reaching your ideal weight.
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How to speed up a slow metabolism
According to Dr. Lee, you might not have to do big changes in your life in order to speed up your metabolism. Essentially, you need to burn off calories faster and simply making some small changes to your diet and exercise might be enough.
Here are a few things that might help out in your quest towards a faster metabolism.
Strength training might not be your cup of tea but there's a good reason why you should consider adding it to your weekly schedule.
The reason why men usually have a faster metabolism is the fact they have more muscle mass than women. Muscle takes more energy to maintain than fat, so the higher your muscle mass, the faster your metabolism.
Just burning fat is not enough because you won't actually gain muscle mass during aerobic exercises. So, just a little bit of strength training could be the one thing that turns your metabolism quicker. If you don't want to join a gym, you can even consider training at home with a resistance band.
High-intensity interval training
In addition to strength training, you also need to burn energy and there's no better way for that than high-intensity interval training, also known as HIIT.
The basic idea of HIIT is simple: whenever you are exercising, have a short period of increased intensity which is followed by your regular pace. For example, when you are jogging on a treadmill, turn the speed higher for about 30 to 60 seconds and then go back to your regular speed. Repeat that pattern several times to gain the best effect (for about 10 to 30 minutes).
Some studies have shown that HIIT can burn about 25-30% more calories than some other physical activities. Since HIIT sessions are so short, it's also suitable in case you have a busy lifestyle (or in case you just really hate exercising – 10-30 minutes goes by so fast you won't even realize you exercised).
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Small frequent meals
Imagine your metabolism is like an automated manufacturing line. Whenever you put some food on that line, it gets burned for energy. If you keep putting food on that line frequently, that line will keep working constantly. However, if you add things on the production line rarely, the machine will go into hibernation for a while, until it needs to work again.
That's essentially how your metabolism works. When you eat, your body experiences something called the thermic effect of food (TEF) and that's known to speed up your metabolism. In order to keep your TEF at a steady pace, you should try to eat every 3 to 4 hours.
Tea and coffee
You've probably heard this one. There's not actually much research confirming the effects of tea and coffee on metabolism but the current findings are still pretty impressive. Compounds like catechins and caffeine which are found in tea and coffee have been found to increase the calorie burn quite significantly.
One research pointed out that about 3 cups of green tea might boost metabolism so much that you might burn an extra 100 calories a day.
However, Lawrence Cheskin, MD, founder, and director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center has said that this effect is short-lived and not long-term.
If your body is even a little bit dehydrated, your metabolism might get slower. Some studies have shown that those who drank more water burned off more calories.
In addition to pure water, make sure you get plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables which have naturally high water content, so they'll help to keep you hydrated as well. If you don't like the taste of regular water, try adding some lemon to it.
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Avoid fasting and yo-yo dieting
Fasting is undeniably popular these days. But when it comes to fixing slow metabolism, you are shooting yourself in the foot by fasting.
Whenever you are skipping food, you will miss out on the TEF. As mentioned above, your “production line” will essentially hibernate as long as you don't put anything on it. You might lose weight by fasting, but it won't help your metabolism at all.
The same goes for yo-yo dieting and cheat days which usually mean excessive eating, followed by fasting. Irregular eating habits will mess up your metabolism (but luckily, it will bounce back when your habits are regular again).
The secret recipe for a fast metabolism is an active lifestyle and a balanced diet. Forget about cheat days, skipping meals, or avoiding strength training. Instead, live a happy balanced life and your metabolism will follow, at least to some degree.