Boost Your Metabolism

So you started training with Jeff on his first day in the LEAN Hill Center studio. Now, he’s encouraging you to eat five or six times a day, even though you’re still trying to force down more than a cup of coffee for breakfast. You’ve done enough lunges to get to Cool Springs and back, but you’ve still got five pounds hanging on your waist line. What can you do to get your body into that little black dress? The key: boost your metabolism. Metabolism is defined as the process of breaking down proteins, carbohydrates and fats in order to yield the energy your body needs to maintain itself. Your metabolism depends on how much and what kind of physical activity you engage in, the number and quality of calories you consume and, to a small degree, your genetics. The best way to rev up your metabolism is to increase your body’s need for energy through exercise and high-quality food.

One of the easiest ways to raise your metabolism is to build muscle. Your body burns an additional 50 calories per day for every pound of muscle you gain through working out. The benefits don’t end there: A study in The International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism reported that weight-training test subjects were burning 62 percent more fat than the sedentary control subjects even after a mere 16 hours of strength-training sessions. It’s important to note, also, that intensity played a role in these results; a program of 10 to 15 repetition supersets with minimal rest yielded the most significant exercise afterburn.

Just restricting calories would seem a logical way to lose weight, but invariably this has the opposite effect. A common example is skipping breakfast due to lack of time or appetite in the morning, which has three negative results: First, your metabolism remains sluggish until you eat because the body does not have to burn calories digesting food. Secondly, when you finally do eat you are much more likely to overeat. Finally, a long wait between meals sends your body into starvation mode, reducing your metabolism even further. The end result is that your body burns less fat all day and stores more fat when you do eat.

This is why we urge, prod and plead with our clients to eat frequent small meals. Eating frequently feeds your muscles and fights fat because a steady flow of small meals assures your body will use the fuel to build muscle rather than fat around your waist. Research from Georgia State University shows that people who eat every two to three hours have less body fat and faster metabolism than those who eat only two or three times a day. In short, you’ll have more energy, you’ll never be hungry, and you will be thinner.

Of course, spacing Twinkies and soda throughout the day is not going to do the trick. Sugar is readily stored as fat because it is easily digested and usually comes in high-fat foods lacking in nutrition. Your best bet for boosting your metabolism and feeding your muscles is through protein found in chicken, fish, lean beef, legumes and nuts. Complex carbohydrates like those found in fruits, vegetables and whole, unrefined grains (no white stuff!) also require your body to expend more energy for digestion because of the fiber content.

Exercise is essential to building a faster metabolism but its only part of the answer. Eating frequent, small meals keeps your body burning more calories all day long and will help you reach your goal of a leaner, healthier body.