The metabolism, everyone has heard it discussed. “I wish I had your fast metabolism”, or “exercise and proper diet can raise the metabolism”. In most cases, we all want a faster burning metabolism. The only exceptions to this would be individuals with a hyperactive Thyroid gland.
The tough truth is, not everyone is born with a fast metabolism; however, those out there with average or slower than average metabolic rates aren’t simply destined to be overweight. There are many methods of boosting this complex system, from specific foods, supplements, and activities. But first, one must understand the basics of their metabolism’s functions.
One’s metabolism is simply the rate at which their body burns calories for energy. This system is continually speeding up and slowing down, depending on a myriad of variables.
When food is consumed, the metabolic rate is consequently increased to process said food. Also, drinking cold water can cause a positive change in one’s metabolism, as the body must convert the temperature of the water to an absorbable level.
Now, luckily one’s God given metabolic rate is rarely public enemy number one as many would like to think when it comes to gaining unwanted body weight. One’s body size and composition, their sex, their age, and finally, the food they eat play the leading roles in metabolic regulation. The good news here is that some of the variables involved in one’s metabolic rate are changeable.
One’s Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is classified as: how many calories the body burns while at rest. In other words, what it takes to keep the individual alive, not accounting for food consumption or activity. Sleep lowers the BMR roughly 10%, due to the lack of movement. One factor regulating one’s BMR that is not up to the individual is hormone levels.
The thyroid gland secretes a substance called thyroxin; subsequently speeding up the metabolism. However, when the thyroid is underactive (Hypothyroidism), the BMR can drop 30%-50%, a crushing blow to anyone looking to lose weight. As defeating as it may sound, Hypothyroidism is rare, and medication is available to combat it.
Later, the outline of factors up to one’s control. With the proper information, one’s metabolism is a tool, not an anchor.
There could be an entire separate paper written extolling the benefits of an elevated metabolic rate; however, this will be a concise overview of benefits relevant to every individual.
First and most likely foremost in reader’s minds is, body composition - the ratio of fat to lean muscle tissue in the body. Being the proud owner of an efficient metabolism will make achieving a healthy, well shaped body a much easier task. Nutrient partitioning becomes more effective, allowing one’s body to shuttle these nutrients to the proper places.
Simply put, the body will effectively absorb a higher amount of nutrients from the food one eats; and isn’t that the point of eating? Further, an elevated BMR will make it more difficult for toxins to take hold in various tissues, most commonly, fat cells. When fat is being oxidized more efficiently, toxins are emptied from the body via the excretory system, and also the immune system through sweat. Think of the digestive system as a sponge that needs to be wrung out through adequate water consumption and exercise.
Next, one can achieve faster circulation of the blood and lymph. Both equally important, efficient circulation keeps every bodily system functioning at its peak, as the lymphatic system staves off foreign pathogens and disease. Also, increased blood flow will lend one to having more energy and increased strength and reflexes.
The culmination of improving these systems gives way to people experiencing better moods. The balance brought to the sympathetic and autonomic nervous systems has a positive correlation with an improved mental state. Feeling healthy, and looking healthy are essentially the most important aspects of wellness; therefore, one should invest in the betterment of their metabolism.
It’s common knowledge that the metabolism can be elevated in different ways, most people simply don’t know the specifics. Starting with food, this is the most natural way to increase the body’s calorie expenditure. The consumption of anything will technically raise the metabolism; however, not all foods are equal in this regard. Choices that are stand outs in this field are: spicy foods like peppers, almonds, blueberries, lean meats, eggs, whole grains, and many different vegetables.
What makes peppers so hot? The culprit behind the spiciness is also the reason spicy foods boost the metabolism - Capsaicin. This chemical is found in an oily substance surrounding the seeds of peppers; therefore, when trying to quell the heat of a pepper, simply do away with the seeds. In this instance though, one would do well in consuming a bit of capsaicin. The primary effect the chemical has on the body is an increase in thermogenesis, the scientific term for turning calories into energy.
Vegetables and whole grains gain a spot on the list due to their fiber content. Fiber is difficult for the body to break down and acts a “mover” in the gut, keeping contents from staying to long and also absorbing harmful toxins along the way. Another aspect of fiber is its ability to keep the feeling of fullness longer. This substance is bulky in the stomach, taking up space but not supplying many calories, especially when delivered from vegetables. Finally, fiber can aid in the lowering of bad cholesterol (LDL).
Enter protein, a very important component in the equation of reaching the body’s full potential. Protein is pivotal with individuals involved in strenuous exercise (which should be everyone), and like fiber, significantly contributes to satiety. Studies have shown that eating an elevated amount of protein can rev the metabolism and cause the body to burn roughly 150-200 more calories daily. This macronutrient is of course, pivotal in building muscle, one of the most important aspects of raising one’s BMR that will be discussed later.
On the other side of the table, beverages can also be useful in the quest for metabolic mastery. Research has been conducted on what hydrates one’s body the fastest, warm or cold water. The conclusion may seem odd to those not involved in biology; however, warm water is in fact the best option for immediate hydration. The reason being, it is already closer to processable temperature in the body; consequently, ice cold water requires energy for one’s body to actively cool it. The moral of this story is: drinking ice water is proven to significantly raise the metabolism, with the added benefit of it being water. Everyone could use more water in their lives.
Finally, coffee and green tea are potent metabolism raisers due to their caffeine content. Caffeine is a quite commonly used supplement for weight loss, acting both as an appetite suppressant and a metabolism booster. Overall, one’s food and drink choices have a direct impact on their energy, mood, body composition, toxicity, and strength.
Education on helpful food and drink is in the books, now it’s time to tackle supplementation. Employing supplements to resurrect the metabolism is a much more straightforward game than with food, due to the fact products will plainly state: fat burner, or energy booster. However, as many know, supplement manufacturers are not always the most truthful; therefore, education on the most effective and worthwhile supplements is essential.
Starting the list with the most common - caffeine. As was previously mentioned, this ubiquitous substance has many uses: appetite suppressant, metabolism booster, energy supplier, and focus enhancer. Caffeine has seen good and bad reviews, and remained a staple of society despite it all, and for good reason. Caffeine lives up to the claims, and if used in correct doses, can make losing body fat or staying alert an easier task.
The solitary roadblock that garners all of the bad press is when it is abused. Abuse of caffeine comes simply with overconsumption. The FDA has set a “safe” level of daily caffeine intake at roughly 400 milligrams. This can be exceeded without harmful effect with most individuals; however, this should not be done frequently.
When supplementing with caffeine, one should be aware of all daily sources of it; whether it be soda, coffee, tea, or the supplement itself. Ingesting too much at one time can cause shakiness or nausea; however, to achieve that state of being, one would have to consume 350-400 milligrams at once. Supplementing with caffeine before exercise elicits a boost in performance and increased fat burning. One should begin with small doses of 50-100 milligrams, then slowly increase, dependent on body weight and other factors.
Next, ginseng and B vitamins act as encouragement for one’s metabolic rate. Both of these substances aid in energy production, which in turn raises the metabolism. One’s metabolism is highly dependent on musculature; therefore, supplements such as these that aid in muscle function will secondarily boost calories burned. Also, a deficiency in B vitamins can have the opposite effect on an individual’s metabolic rate. In light of this, those looking to maintain a high level of energy or lose body fat should consume lean meats for the B vitamin content, or obtain it through supplementation.
Lastly, when obtaining key metabolism boosting nutrients from foods becomes too difficult or time consuming, specific ingredients can be found in pill form. Green coffee bean extract, green tea extract, cayenne, CLA, and fish oil. It would be wise to take these supplements with at least 12 ounces of ice water, due to cold waters calorie burning effects, and that staying hydrated is more difficult than one would think.
With this newfound understanding of the body’s energy regulation, it’s simply a matter of bringing it all together; however, one essential factor remains: exercise. Aside from diet, exercise will be the most powerful determinant of how quickly one’s body melts through calories. There are a myriad of differing exercise modalities and programs available, but one thing is certain - the combination of resistance training and cardio will yield the best results. Not weight training alone, and certainly not cardio alone. These two work in tandem to enhance muscle tissue, while simultaneously challenging the cardiac system and burning more calories.
The reason that weight training is so important for raising the metabolism is due to the musculatures effect on the BMR. The more lean muscle tissue an individual has, the more calories they burn at rest, simply maintaining homeostasis. This is exactly the reason why well muscled, large people eat more than average. Calories, and more specifically, protein is needed to maintain this heavy tissue; therefore, giving these individuals high metabolic rates.
In summation, the metabolism was defined, food choices recommended, supplements clarified, and key components of exercise suggested. The benefits of sporting a fast metabolism far outweigh any extra work it might incur on one’s daily routines. Sure, taking the easy way out and not giving a second thought about these factors would be comfortable; however, it would deliver a poor quality of life that we as humans were never meant to experience.
Next, selecting foods deliberately and eating with purpose will be a primary contributor to a better body composition, and energy levels. Supplements play their part as well; however, simply as an addition to a well crafted diet. Caffeine before exercise and perhaps a protein supplement following it is a plan used by many successful individuals in the field of fitness.
Lastly, training hard with free weights, machines, and being sure to make time for cardio is the second most powerful tool for health, close behind nutrition. Training at a high intensity, at least three times a week is a great place to start.
Whichever methods one uses to keep their metabolism healthy, they should be mindful of what they’re eating, drinking, and roughly how many calories they are actually burning. Maintaining an elevated metabolic rate is not as daunting as it seems, one simply needs the proper information.