Metabolism is a word that we throw around with distaste, blame, jealousy, and sometimes even pride. It is the mystery mechanism that allows some people to eat pizza and ice cream and be lean-mean-machines and others to be stuck in mega corpulent fat-zone while nibbling on kale and sweet potatoes. But what do we really mean when we are talking about metabolism and is it actually possible to get a better one?
In a casual sense, when we are referring to metabolism we are describing how well the body can use the food we are providing it, break it down, and put it to use within the body. Scientifically speaking, what we are referring to is the ongoing biochemical processes and hormonal reactions inside the body that allow this to happen. Everyone wants a “faster” metabolism, meaning we want our body and hormones to be more proficient at using every type of food we put into our mouth (including chocolate) for energy rather then storage.
Well, I have some amazing news for you and some not so great news for you. The amazing news is that you CAN control your metabolism and you CAN optimize these biochemical reactions occurring inside your body, allowing your metabolism to work smoother and faster. The not so great news is that this does not entail drinking green tea, eating spicy foods, and taking magical pills that allow you to wake up skinny. It will take a little more work then your health magazines are telling you. While these extras may have a micro effect on the enhancement of your internal functions, there are actual REAL, SCIENTIFIC, RESEARCH PROVEN ways to increase your metabolic rate that you should be spending your time reading about. In this post, I will explain five metabolic shifting strategies that you can implement into your daily routine.
Eat for your UNIQUE METABOLIC TYPE: You know all of the diets out there, Weight Watchers, Atkins, The Raw Food Diet, Paleo? Have you ever wondered why they work perfectly for some but others fail at them so easily? Maybe you have tried one yourself and gotten frustrated that no matter how hard you attempted to stay on it, you just couldn’t fight off those cravings. You might have even gotten down on yourself and thought it was just a lack of willpower on your part. Well, if you don’t learn anything else from this post please consider this–There is no single diet that works well for every person. Why? Because you cannot fight, nor control the physiology of your own body. Your inimitable cells and hormones, require specific energy sources to function properly. If you begin to understand what sources of fuel your specific body requires, and stop feeding it the wrong ones, your cells will produce the optimal amount of energy from what you are eating and have the ability to function faster and more efficiently. So what am I talking about when I say the “right” foods and how do you know how much to eat? It is probably not a surprise that I am going to say vegetables, proteins, healthy fats, fruits, and whole grain carbohydrates are the ‘right’ foods. If you have not switched from processed foods that come in a box/package to these real foods yet, than that alone is the first step in rapidly revamping your metabolic rate. But I am talking about SPECIFIC FOODS within this group and a SPECIFIC RATIO of foods that is right for your own metabolic system. Maybe you function best when eating a high protein and high fat diet. Maybe you’re body requires more carbohydrates and less fats for you to feel and look your best. Maybe you burn more rapidly when you are eating an equal mix of all three groups. These are all different metabolic types. Have you ever eaten a huge meal but still been hungry, or perhaps fought off your craving with everything semi-healthy food in the fridge, filled your belly to the max, and yet still gave in to the craving? This happens not from a lack of willpower, but from your physiology demanding the right fuel source to produce energy for you to function.
So how do you know which metabolic type you are and which foods you require? I highly recommend reading the book The Metabolic Typing Diet by William Wolcott. You will be able to map out the exact foods that your body needs. If you are not interested in reading the book to find what is right for your metabolic type read my next tip below. This self-discovering process can lead you to the right answers.
Play DETECTIVE On Your Body: I realize that most of you are not nutrition nerds like me and will not read a whole book about metabolism. So, another EASY way that you can optimize your fat burning hormones and metabolic rate is to play detective on your own body. Believe it or not, your body is constantly feeding back to you in the form of sensations; Hunger, energy, cravings, vitality, mood, digestion, sleep, workout recovery, etc. All of these tell you how your metabolism, and the hormones that power it are functioning. Observe your energy, satiety and appearance after eating every single food that you consume. Tiredness, bloating, constipation, heartburn, acne, lack of focus, mood swings, are not normal! When you learn to recognize these symptoms you can start to weed out certain foods that are causing the dis-function in your digestive tract and affecting your metabolism.
Jade Teta (MD and founder of the Metabolic Effect) preaches, “if your hunger, energy, and cravings are in check after a meal then that means you got the right amount of each macronutrient group (carbs, protein, fat) and your hormones and cells are going to take that energy and use it rather then store it.” If not, it is time to try something different. Listen to what your physiology is telling you and suddenly when you stop feeding your body the wrong foods and providing it with the right ones, you will start having more energy, allowing your body to function like it is SUPPOSED to function. Your moods will be better, you will be able to concentrate all day long, you will no longer crave sweets, and BOOM you may just get healthier and skinnier.
TIME Your Food: Everyone has heard that eating small frequent meals throughout the day is the way to go about weight loss and increasing your metabolism, yet people still don’t understand the importance of this concept. Let me explain. Are you that person that wakes up and has a tiny little breakfast, still not too hungry so you have a tiny little lunch, and when dinner comes around your stress hormones have lowered and your body is dying for food so you eat everything that is in sight until you go to bed? This is the common method for those trying to diet and it is a dangerous place to put your body in. Eating small frequent meals filled with protein and fiber (the amount depending on what your metabolic needs are) will do you wonders. When you don’t provide your body with fuel and try to go long periods in the day without eating, it starts to send your hormones a little out of whack. Over time, slowly but surely your body learns to raise the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. The body does this because these hormones raise blood sugar and when you are truly hungry you will have low blood sugar. So if you do not give the body sugar these stress hormones are going to make it—How? They will rob your muscles of protein and convert these amino acids into fuel. This is what causes the flabby look rather then toned and tight. On top of this, ghrelin (the main hunger hormone) up-regulates your fat STORING enzymes that signal to your body to store the food once you do finally consume it. So do yourself a favor and eat small balanced meals throughout the day to keep your hormones working for you rather then against you.
Night Time FASTING: Just like your body wants to be fueled throughout the day for energy and optimal functioning, it also needs its time for rest, burning, healing and self-detoxification at night. A technique I practice is a twelve hour nightly fast. So this means that if my last meal is at 8pm I cannot have my first bite of breakfast until 8am. I started training my mind and body to get used to this and now it is truly easy.
Challenge yourself by taking small steps. Maybe start at eight hours if you are a night eater and allow thirty-minute increments until you can reach twelve to sixteen hours of fasting. This along with small frequent meals during your prime functioning hours of the day will really optimize your metabolic rate.
Train SMARTER: This is probably something you have heard before, but a lot us seem to continue to make a disconnect between what is “known” about exercise, what you do in the gym, and then how surprised you are at how your body changes (or does not change). Quickly I will remind you that during exercise, your body uses different metabolic processes depending on what demand you are placing on it. The two main types are aerobic and anaerobic. Aerobic exercise can be classified as long endurance or ‘fat burning’ type of activities. These can last anywhere from thirty-five minutes to ninety minutes at a low to medium intensity. Anaerobic exercise or ‘HIIT training’ lasts anywhere from one minute to one hundred and twenty seconds and is done with higher intensity and shorter-duration muscular effort. Numerous studies, including The National Institute Of Health Study have convincingly proved that aerobic centered exercise provides little advantage in creating real body change. So why does shorter duration exercise burn more calories and create more of a physique transformation? Well, it causes an optimal hormonal shift within the body that raises cortisol, human growth hormone, and testosterone providing an optimal hormonal environment for fat burning 24 to 60 hours after the exercise session. In another blog I will get into how effectively it targets fat cells, but for now just know that it is the smarter way to train. Lose the hour on the elliptical and replace it with weight training and small bursts of high intensity exercise like sprints!
So there you have it; five different ways to optimize your metabolic rate just by simply changing and recognizing a few of your current habits. Remember, blindly following a diet protocol from a textbook will usually reek havoc on your hormonal system if you are ignoring your biological feedback. Learn to listen to your body. Find and create a healthy lifestyle that you can love, live with and own. One that delivers strength, vitality and sustained weight loss without occupying every waking moment of your life. This is the key to a happy life and an efficient, strong working metabolism; )