By Dan Trink, CSCS Men’s Fitness
Sure, you know that a solid weight training session, an afternoon bike ride or an hour of jiujitsu practice will get your metabolism cranking. But what are the absolute, sure-fire ways to not only fire up your metabolism, but keep in the red all day long?
Simply put, metabolism refers to the chemical processes by which your cells produce the substances and energy needed to sustain life. The tips below are designed to ramp up your metabolism in an effort to develop and maintain better body composition.
Put on Some Muscle
Without a doubt, the most effective way to jack up your metabolism is to put on and maintain slabs of lean muscle mass. Muscle is made up of what is called metabolically active tissue which means that it requires energy to be built, used and maintained. Compare this to fat tissue which pretty much sits there like a blob not burning up any calories at all. The best way to develop muscle mass is by, you guessed it, weight training. Which means even if fat loss is your main goal you should always keep weight training as part of your plan.
Utilize HIIT Training
A leisurely run through your neighborhood may be a great way to de-stress on a Sunday afternoon, but, unfortunately, it is not the optimal way to stoke your metabolism. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) which combines repeated near all-out efforts with periods of recovery burns a similar amount of calories to long, slow, distance cardio sessions that last twice as long. But this efficiency is not the big reason to include HIIT into your training. Once you step off the treadmill from your steady-state cardio session, the calorie burn also comes to an end. However with HIIT you’ll continue to burn calories for 36 hours after you take your running sneakers off. Start HIIT by running, rowing or biking almost all out (think an 8 out of 10 on the effort scale) for 30 seconds followed by a recovery period (a 3 out of 10) of 90 seconds. Repeat these 2 minute intervals nine more times (for a total of 10). In just 20 minutes you’ll have stoked your metabolism for the next day and a half.
Eat Protein, Especially At Breakfast
Don’t let a cartoon toucan or the guy who runs the corner donut shop fool you. Eating cereals, donuts, waffles and other sugary, carb-laden foods at breakfast is a great way to spike and crash your blood sugar and bring your metabolism to a screeching halt. Instead, try a protein-rich breakfast that includes eggs, lean steak or greek yogurt. Protein (whether eaten at breakfast or at other times) requires a lot of energy to break down and digest. So just the act of eating protein can crank up your metabolism. Plus, people who eat protein at breakfast tend to ingest less calories throughout the remainder of the day. So not only are you burning more calories by eating protein, your likely to take less in as well.
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Choose Whole Foods
As mentioned above, the act of breaking down nutrients requires energy and burns calories. This is something that is referred to as the Thermic Effect of Food (TEF). But not all foods are created equal. Some take more energy to break down than others. By choosing unprocessed whole foods like lean meats, fish, vegetables and fruits you are driving up TEF and utilizing more calories for digestion. This is why almost all smart nutrition plans recommend avoiding liquid calories. Calorie-heavy drinks (even smoothies) and over processed foods require little effort to digest, driving up blood sugar and your waistline.
Many compounds, whether found naturally in food or concentrated into supplements and energy drinks, have a thermogenic effect. All that really means is that they drive up heat in the body which, in turn, drives up your metabolism. Caffeine, taurine and ephedrine are all potent and popular thermogenics. However, of course, there is a downside to stimulating your metabolism in this way. These supplements can also overtax your adrenal glands and drive up stress responses in the body. So proceed with caution and be sure not to overdo it when adding in these stimulants.
Water is a key player in your digestive process. Essentially, without it, you can not efficiently and completely extract all the nutrients from the food you take in. Think of water in your body as if it were oil in a car. Without it, your metabolism will not run smoothly and will grind to a halt. Shoot for a minimum of 2 to 3 liters of water on non-training days and increase those amounts depending on your level of activity.
Don’t Major In the Minor
Small changes such as drinking cold water and eating spicy foods (drives up thermogenesis), turning down your thermostat (forces your body to use more calories to generate body heat) and not over-chewing your food (again, reducing the amount of energy used in digestion) are all little things you can do to increase your metabolism. However these pale in comparison to some of the other suggestions mentioned above. Focus your energy on developing lean muscle, getting more whole foods and protein into your diet and knocking out a few HIIT sessions each week and you’ll be on your way to having a metabolism that’s hotter than Mila Kunis wearing a bikini on the equator in the middle of August.