Metabolism affects how our body breaks down foods and uses the nutrients for energy. It helps regulate blood sugar, hormones, determines the rate at which calories are burned and effects whether we burn fat or store it. There are a number of factors that affect our metabolism and whilst some like age, gender and genetics we have no control over, we can have an impact on our metabolism in other ways.
Ultimately the food we eat, the type of exercise we do, body composition and our lifestyle can support a healthy functioning metabolism when we make the best choices. As with everything health related there are no magic pills or tricks, its consistency over time that gains results.
Here are my top 5 tips to boost and keep your metabolism in check:
1. Eat balanced meals regularly
Eating regularly fuels your body and regulates blood sugar levels which in turn keeps your metabolism fired. Everybody is different here and it depends on the size of your meals. As a general average guide aim for 3 meals and 1-2 snacks. A well balanced meal should keep you feeling full for 3-5 hours.
Each meal should contain a palm sized portion of protein (animal or plant-based), ½ plate full of non-starch colourful vegetables, a small serve of healthy fats (e.g. 1/2 avocado, 1 tbls olive oil or grass fed butter) and ¼ plate size of low GI complex carbs when needed (e.g. quinoa, sweet potato, brown rice, buckwheat, oats, etc.).
2. Exercise regularly & with intensity
Regular exercise boosts your metabolism, but more importantly it’s the type of exercise that has an impact. Strength training, circuits and HIIT (high-intensity interval training) increases EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) which increases the amount of energy you burn at rest for up to 48 hours post workout. It works by helping you consume more oxygen and makes your cell powerhouses (the mitochondria) work harder to burn energy. Not to mention muscle mass is far more metabolically active than fat, so the more muscle you have the more calories you burn at rest!
3. Think thyroid
Your thyroid is your metabolic control centre which regulates everything from metabolism, appetite, body temperature, muscle strength, growth, and the health of your major organs and endocrine (reproductive) system. Your thyroid needs iodine, zinc, selenium, iron, vitamin D and B vitamins to keep it functioning optimally. Insufficient iodine levels also inhibit thyroid function.
Keep your thyroid healthy by: eating at least 3 serves of seafood weekly for iodine and zinc; snack on homemade nori wraps filled with veggies (sea vegetables like nori, kelp and wakame are high in iodine); eat 1-2 brazil nuts a day for selenium; avoid or limit soy intake which can inhibit thyroid hormone production.
(If you have a diagnosed thyroid problem, please follow the advice of your healthcare practitioner, particularly in relation to iodine intake).
4. Quit strict “dieting”
One of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to burn fat and lose weight is not eating enough. When you don’t eat enough or eat less calories than your resting/basal metabolic rate (BMR) your body stops burning fat and starts storing it to conserve energy as a starvation mechanism. Keep this up for a period of time and your body and organ functions start to slow to use less energy, and metabolism slows. Remember that your BMR is the absolute MINIMUM energy your body requires just to function at complete rest (so not even taking into account incidental exercise), so don’t eat less than that.
5. Get a good nights’ sleep
Sleep is rest and repair time for the brain and body. Our sympathetic nervous system activity decreases and parasympathetic nervous system switches on to aid digestion, repair cells and release important hormones from the pituitary gland (including growth hormone to aid muscle repair and growth). Lack of sleep not only inhibits insulin secretion during the day (affecting carbohydrate metabolism and blood glucose levels as well as causing food cravings), but lowers the amount of appetite suppressing leptin released. A good nights’ sleep will ensure your metabolism is functioning optimally.
Aim for 7-9 hours’ sleep per night in a dark room without any light distraction to rest and restore your body, and ensure you sleep between the hours of 11pm and 4am to keep your circadian rhythm in check.
Try these metabolism boosting foods and spices:
Chilli, cayenne pepper, cumin, mustard & ginger – all contain capsaicin which revs up your metabolism and increases body temperature having a thermogenic effect. Whilst the effects may only be small and short lived, they sure add a flavoursome kick to your meals.
Written by Tristen Van Der Kley
Balanced Body Nutrition
IG: @balanced.body.nutrition https://www.instagram.com/balanced.body.nutrition/
E: [email protected]
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