Metabolism is a complex biological system in the human body that is often exploited by the diet and weight-loss industries. In fact, it’s a billion-dollar business that’s growing each year, as people look for ways to rev up their body’s natural ability to burn fat.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a proven metabolism booster on the market that will do what so many people are seeking. There are, however, ways to maximize metabolism naturally and without a lot of extra time, money or effort. It’s the sum of small things that creates an efficient and healthy body that burns more calories and fat.
First, it’s important to understand what makes up your body’s metabolism and what elements of that process is within your control. Simply put, metabolism is the process of how your body takes what you consume (food and drink) and converts it into energy for all the activities of your life.
Much of a person’s metabolic rate is hardwired and cannot be changed, such as age, sex, height, chronic health conditions and genetics. For example, a 25-year-old male who is 6-feet tall and has no underlying medical conditions likely has a faster metabolism than a 50-year-old woman who is 5-feet tall and has hypothyroidism. Neither of these people can change these biological factors that impact their metabolism. However, there are things they can do that will help improve their metabolic rate while also positively impacting their overall health.
Now that we know what makes up an individual’s metabolism, it’s important to understand how your body burns calories. There are three main ways:
- Staying alive. Your basal metabolic rate is the calories needed to keep your heart pumping, lungs inflating and all your body’s systems functioning. For most people, this accounts for 60-75% of calories burned daily.
- Thermic effect of feeding. Digesting food and drink requires energy and approximately 10% of calories burned every day is from what you eat and digest.
- Activity. This is the energy burned from exercise and movement. It accounts for 15-30% of your daily caloric burn, depending, of course, on how active you are throughout the day.
Of these ways to burn calories, you have the most control over your activity, so movement is critical to maintaining a healthy metabolism. For most healthy adults, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, or an equivalent combination of both, plus at least two resistance-training sessions per week. To boost the burn during these workouts, consider adding high-intensity interval training (HIIT) to the cardio rotation and gradually increase the weight during muscle strengthening activities. Both can rev up the number of calories you burn during a workout.
There are also various lifestyle behaviors that can be optimized to improve your body’s metabolic efficiency, including:
- Food and drinks consumed: Eating a balanced diet of whole foods that includes enough protein for your body size helps promote a healthy metabolism. Experts recommend the average healthy person consume approximately 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (to convert pounds to kilograms divide pounds by 2.2). Protein provides energy, helps maintain muscle mass (which burns more calories than fat mass) and keeps you satiated so you are less likely to overeat. When it comes to hydration, the Institute of Medicine recommends that men drink approximately 13 cups of fluid per day and women drink about 9 cups each day; those amounts should be increased during exercise or if working in a high heat environment. Like protein, water can help keep you feeling full to avoid overeating and it also helps with digestion and other bodily systems that help facilitate metabolism.
- NEAT movement: Exercise is important, but it is the other movement throughout the day—termed non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or NEAT—that can help burn more calories and keep the metabolism firing. NEAT movement includes activities such as walking the dog, cleaning the house or playing with your kids.
- Stop stressing; start sleeping: Chronic stress and lack of sleep can interfere with many of the body’s systems including metabolism. When your body is stressed and sleep deprived, it releases the hormone cortisol, which can contribute to a slower metabolism. In addition, when in a state of stress or exhaustion, you may lack the energy or interest for exercising, which lessens the calories burned each day. To manage stress and sleep, be sure to make time for rest and self-care, use breathing and meditation to fight stress, and create a better bedtime routine to ensure you get at least seven to eight hours of sound sleep.
While metabolism is a complex function in the body and unique to every person, there are simple habits and behaviors that can promote a better caloric burn and help you live healthier and happier. Try implementing one or more of the lifestyle behaviors above to get a safe and natural metabolism booster.