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Any time you munch on a tasty snack or drink a glass of fruit juice, your body gets to work processing the nutrients you have just consumed. This process is called metabolism. Through metabolism, your body converts food into the energy it needs to live and thrive. In this article, we’ll look at some ways in which you can speed up your metabolism and make it more efficient.
What Is Metabolism?
Every time you read an article on diet or nutrition, the author mentions your metabolism. But, do you really know what your metabolism is or how it works? Let’s start out by pointing out that “metabolism” isn’t a noun. It’s actually a verb that describes a process that takes place in your body. Metabolism is a series of chemical reactions that take place in your body’s cells to transform or convert the nutrients in food into the energy you need for living – not only when you’re in motion, but also when you’re at rest. We all need energy for functions like breathing, digestion, building muscle mass, blood circulation, thinking, etc. Whatever energy is left over after we have used what we need is stored in our bodies as fat.
Your basal metabolism is the minimal amount of energy that your body needs to consume when it is at rest. This minimal amount varies from person to person. Those variations in the basal metabolism are the reason that people with the same diet and activity levels may not weigh the same.
Your metabolic rate is the speed with which your body converts what you eat or drink into energy. During this biochemical process, calories in food and beverages are combined with oxygen to release the energy you need to function (and it burns calories). As a rule, the more muscle and less fat you have, the faster your metabolic rate. Men usually have a higher metabolic rate than women, since the female body has more fat and less muscle mass than the male body. But gender is not the only factor that determines your metabolic rate. Your genetic makeup is also very important: (people who have inherited a fast metabolism don’t get fatter even though if they eat a lot, while those who have inherited a slow metabolism have trouble losing weight). Your lifestyle also matters; especially your diet and physical activity level. And, age is a factor. After 40, your metabolic rate tends to slow down, because you lose muscle mass with age.
The gland that regulates your metabolism is the thyroid. It produces hormones that influence almost every aspect of your body’s performance: how fast or slowly it burns calories, protein building, fat storage, etc. That’s why thyroid disorders can cause problems with your metabolism.
When your metabolism is fast, fat tends not to build up in the body and you don’t gain weight. When it is slow, fat is stored and you gain weight.
8 Ways to Rev Up Your Metabolism
Now that you know what your metabolism is, let’s look at what you can do to speed it up:
- Exercise. Remember what we said about the importance of muscle mass? Muscle burns more calories than fat, even at rest. In other words, the higher your muscle mass, the faster your metabolism. So work out to build muscle. Weight-bearing or resistance exercises are especially effective at muscle building, so make sure to include them in your routine.
- Drink water. Your body needs water to burn calories. If you are dehydrated, your metabolism slows down. Make sure you get enough water every day.
- Eat small, frequent meals throughout the day instead of large, less frequent meals. But be sure you do eat at least 1,200 calories a day. Below that, you’ll start losing muscle and your metabolic rate will actually slow down.
- Spice up your meals. Use a tablespoon of chopped red or green chili pepper, for example; it temporarily boosts your metabolic rate.
- Eat protein-rich foods (lean red meat, fish, turkey, white meat chicken, tofu, nuts, beans, eggs, and low-fat dairy products.) Your body burns more calories digesting proteins than digesting fats or carbohydrates.
- Drink coffee. It speeds up your metabolic rate. A cup of coffee in the morning is like a shot that increases your energy and concentration. But don’t overdo it, and recognize that the boost only lasts a short while.
- Green tea also increases your metabolic rate for a couple of hours. Drinking two to four cups makes your body burn 17% more calories than usual.
- Avoid crash diets. These are diets with fewer than 1,200 calories a day. These diets will help you lose weight – at the expense of good nutrition – but the weight you lose comes from muscle mass. aAnd remember that the lower your muscle mass, the slower your metabolism. So, in the long run, these diets will actually make you gain weight when you resume your usual eating habits.
Although it is true that your genes, gender and age are important in determining your metabolic rate – and that it’s not possible to change them – the fact is that you can make a significant difference by following these 8 tips. Above all, exercise! If you spend eight hours sitting at a computer at work, eight hours sleeping and three hours watching TV, it’s difficult for your metabolism to change. So, get a move on! Walk, run, dance, go to the park and play with the kids… any activity that makes you move will help build muscle mass and transform your body into a calorie-burning machine. And that speeds up your metabolism, for sure!
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