A. There are many answers to this question, depending on your individual make-up. The first thing is to distinguish between fat weight and overall weight. We want to reduce fat weight….so don’t become too stuck on that number on the scale! More to come on this in another Post, but in the meantime…remember:
YOU ARE NOT THE VICTIM OF YOUR METABOLISM…YOU ARE ITS CREATOR! Though it may seem like it, you did not become 10, 20 or however-many pounds heavier overnight. Yes, genetics plays a role, but poor nutrition, exercise, emotional and stress habits, however big or small, gradually add up and negatively alter the rate at which our body burns calories. Good news is…the reverse is also true – you can create new habits that can positively alter your calorie-burning rate!
Losing weight, in theory, comes down to using more calories (by increasing your metabolism) than you are taking in. Numerically, 3,500 calories equals 1 lb of fat…so, if I burned 3,500 calories over this next week, I should be 1 lb lighter. This caloric deficit can be achieved through reducing the amount of food I intake, increasing the amount of movement in my day so my body requires calories to be burned, or, ideally – both. Remember, whatever you take in that your body doesn’t need, you will store as fat.
Here are my Top Ten Tips (in no particular order) for eating consciously and exercising adequately to give that metabolism a boost.
NUTRITION (aka fueling your body)
1. EAT BREAKFAST and keep sugars (carbohydrates) low (watch cereal portions, instead of 2 pieces of toast, just have 1, etc) – and instead, include a lean protein source (bacon doesn’t count as lean!). Think egg whites, lean meats, low-fat cottage cheese, etc.
2. EAT EVERY 3-4 HOURS – not necessarily more calories throughout the day, just more frequency. Your metabolism is like a fire – you need to keep putting kindling on the fire, or it will die down. Never go long periods without eating.
3. THINK NUTRIENT DENSITY when choosing snacks or meals – which food will give me the most nutrients for the least number of calories?
4. HYDRATE! w/ water only.
5. FIBER = FEEL FULL. Eat foods with fiber – at least 3g/serving. Think fruits, veggies, whole grains.
6. JUST SAY NO TO SUGAR = LOOK AND FEEL SWEEEET (yup, pun intended) ;). You’ll feel (and look!!) better if you reduce or eliminate junk sugars (carbohydrates) – anything that doesn’t fall into the fruits, vegetables or whole grains (oats, beans, 100% whole grain products) category. Throw away and don’t keep buying the boxed and bagged goodies!
7. DON’T ASSOCIATE. Yes, eating and drinking is a feel-good thing and should be celebrated. But don’t give it more attention than it deserves. Associating munchies with TV watching, that glass of wine with relaxation, that sneaky handful of candy on the way to your desk, or that scone with your morning cup of java are ways those calories can creep in unconsciously.
8. TIMING – if food is fuel, eat when you are the most active (probably morning or mid-day) and least when you are least active. This means avoiding stuffing ourselves late at night when all we will be doing is snoozing – a time when your body turns its metabolism down!
9. HAVE 1 CHEAT DAY A WEEK. Or, in other words…have 6 non-cheat days. Being good to yourself means eating fresh and clean (consciously, nutritiously, adequately) and also allowing yourself to not be ruled by it. Who knows, after the cheat day, you may realize how much better you feel afterwards when you do eat more healthfully!
10. REPLENISH. Consume a moderate amount of lean Protein (10-20g for tissue repair) and Carbohydrates (20-30g depending on activity for fuel replacement) immediately after exercise. This is when your body is most likely to USE the nutrients, not store them as fat (see Post from 6/20). Plus, your cells will be refilled and, therefore, be ready for exercise for the next day.
EXERCISE (aka requiring your body to need fuel)
1. LIMIT YOUR SITTING TIME. Continuously being sedentary is the #1 way to decrease your metabolism. Seeing me to exercise, even 3 hrs/week is wonderful and commendable, but if the other 165 hours of your week are spent on your toosh, your metabolism won’t be making many significant changes. This is hard for all of us! If you must sit down for the majority of your day, try to get up and move every hour or two! Do things standing up as much as possible. The heart rate needs to work harder, and therefore, more calories are being burned to keep up with the increased demand from the body.
2. IT ALL ADDS UP. Look for ways to sneak activity into your day – walk to the video store, ride your bike to go pick up that prescription, take the long way around the shop, deliberately walk the stairs in your house ‘just because’, play outside with your kids, do a few push-ups during commercial breaks…the ways are endless!
3. BE OK WITH BEING UNCOMFORTABLE during exercise. Overloading (safely) our body is what makes it adapt and forces it to change.
4. SPICE IT UP – don’t let your body get bored! Plateaus happen when what we’re doing becomes the body’s norm. Add variety to your routine and force those lungs and muscles (including the heart muscle!) to have to wake up again.
5. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A FAT BURNING ZONE – burning calories comes down to how much work you’re getting done. Ideally, we’d all love to do more work in less time – If you have no health restrictions, don’t be afraid to crank up the intensity. You will burn more calories working at 70-80% of your maximum effort for 30 minutes than you will working at 40-50% of your maximum effort for 30 minutes. Weight loss is dependent on total calories burned, regardless of what the body is burning for fuel (carbohydrates vs. fat, etc).
6. AFTERBURN! Burning calories doesn’t stop once the exercise session is over! Your body becomes a calorie-burning machine long after higher-intensity workouts. Look for ways to rev up the intensity during your workout (circuit-style weight-lifting, reduce rest periods, add more speed, increase inclines) – this, in turn, will spike that metabolism and keep it elevated throughout the day.
7. CONSISTENCY IS KEY. ACSM recommendations are 30 minutes of moderate-intensity (you can talk, but not super-comfortably) cardiovascular exercise most days of the week for improved health. For those looking for weight loss, this should be increased to 40-60 minutes of cardiovascular exercise most days of the week Whoa! Don’t worry…this can be added up throughout the day. Increasing your daily “unstructured” activity can do a lot for a person and does, in fact, count as exercise…as long as that heart rate is elevated and major muscles are moving. Strength Training recommendations are 2-3 days per week.
8. SPEAKING OF STRENGTH TRAINING…This should be tops in your pursuit of a lean physique. Increasing muscle mass plays a HUGE HUGE HUGE factor in losing fat weight and achieving a shapely physique! Muscle tissue burns more calories, even at rest – lifting weights (heavy enough that the 10th repetition or so is difficult!) is a sure way to get that metabolism up and running!
9. CATCH SOME ZZZZs. – simply said, your body, including your metabolism, will not work properly unless you’re adequately rested.
10. LOVE YOURSELF and do the best with what you’ve got! Finding joy in the small things and knowing life is so much more than any number on the scale will keep those spirits up and brain chemicals working right. Hating your body does absolutely nothing for increasing your metabolism.
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