By Bryan Krahn Men’s Fitness
Metabolism is a fancy word for how your body regulates energy consumption. Someone with a higher metabolism burns more calories even at rest than someone with a lower metabolism, and can therefore get away with eating more food—even junk food. But a high metabolism isn’t a privilege reserved for a select few who were lucky enough to be born with it. You can raise yours and reap the benefits. Here are the 8 best things you can do.
1. Pump iron
Strength training tears down muscle tissue, which “costs” calories as the body recovers and rebuilds in the hours following a resistance-training workout. Better still, hitting the iron hard elevates powerful anabolic hormones in your body that stimulate both recovery and fat burning.
2. Move around more
As good as strength training is for ramping up the metabolism, most folks are only in the gym 3–5 hours per week. That leaves a lot of time for sitting around, unless you do something about it.
If you have a desk job, take the stairs and park at the end of the parking lot. Get up from your desk and move around the office every 15 minutes. Go for walk breaks instead of coffee runs. Even stretching and fidgeting can help burn more calories and coax your metabolism along.
3. Eat a variety of foods
Natural foods contain an assortment of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that when consumed act as metabolic spark plugs, giving you the energy to get up and move around.
Studies show that the average North American eats a mere 20 different foods, whereas more active, longer-living populations like the Okinawans eat more than 400 different foods on a regular basis. Learn some new recipes and add a little color to your plate.
4. Don’t go too low in calories or carbohydrates
Diets lower in carbohydrates or total calories may be helpful in losing body fat, but they come at a metabolic cost.
Over time, the body can become wise to the fact that you’re restricting energy and decrease production of thyroid hormone, which causes you to burn fewer calories. It’s part of your body’s survival instinct—it doesn’t want you to waste away. The problem becomes a double whammy when you eventually return to normal eating, as your metabolism will still be suppressed, making rebound weight gain an even greater concern.
Lower your carbs and calories gradually over time, making time for cheat meals once a week and re-feed days where you eat above maintenance levels.
Bodybuilders have known for years that strategically placed cheat meals can help prevent the metabolic slowdown mentioned above. One meal every 5–7 days that contains as many carbs and calories as desired can work. Leaner people can cheat even more frequently and not gain weight.
6. Take a break
If intermittent cheat meals fail to give the metabolism a boost, it’s usually a sign that it’s time for a diet break. A 1–2 week phase of eating your normal intake—however many calories you were taking in before you began dieting—is often enough to allow a suppressed metabolism to recover.
Do note that “normal” eating means about an extra 500 calories a day, or one additional healthy meal—not a daily trip to the drive thru.
7. Don’t over cardio
Too much steady-state aerobic exercise like jogging or cycling can lead to a depressed metabolism, especially when combined with a calorie-restricted diet.
Along with focusing on strength training, switching from steady-state cardio to more high-intensity work like sprinting, strongman circuits, or martial arts training can burn considerable body fat while stimulating the metabolism.
8. Drink Up!
Chronic dehydration has been associated with a suppressed metabolic rate. Up your water intake to at least eight 8-ounce glasses a day of fresh water. The water you consume in coffee or tea counts too, but make sure you get in the eight glasses of the plain stuff. You’ll also enjoy clearer skin and more energy.