Spring is the time of year when many of us assess the weight gain damage that occurred over the winter months and often, it’s not pretty.
But, there is a way to increase the energy of our own bodies to correspond with the energy of spring and the desire to shed the winter weight. And that means boosting our metabolism!
What is metabolism?
Your metabolism is established by a complex interaction of multiple systems of your body, including your endocrine system, your nervous system, your digestive system and others.
According to Robert Yanagisawa, MD and director of the Medically Supervised Weight Management Program at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, a person’s metabolism establishes the rate at which he burns calories which ultimately determines how quickly he can lose weight.
Although heredity is one component that establishes metabolic rate, there is a saying that illustrates the relationship of genetics to what actually occurs: “genetics loads the gun and environment pulls the trigger.” What this means is that you can influence your genetics by what you do or don’t do in everyday behaviors. Simply put, what you do on a daily basis can influence your genetic predisposition and change it for the better if you continue the behavior throughout your lifetime..
Exercise as a metabolic boost
I think it is safe to say that it is no secret that if you exercise you burn more calories each day than if you don’t. The average person burns less than 1 calorie per minute when sitting and working at a computer and can burn up to and beyond 20 calories per minute when exercising!
What many people don’t know is that there are two ways you can use exercise to boost the calories you burn. You will not only burn more calories while exercising, but it will influence your metabolism, resulting in burned calories when you’re not exercising.
First, you have to understand the concept of EPOC, which is an acronym that stands for Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption. Science has determined that it takes three calories to burn a liter of oxygen in our bodies. The more oxygen through your body equals more calories burned, which is why we burn more calories during exercise.
If you exercise in a way that causes a really high oxygen rate through your body, you actually will have a metabolic boost that stays up even after you are done exercising. This is EPOC and it can last anywhere from a few minutes to up to 48 hours!
There are several ways to increase your EPOC. First, you can need to do cardiovascular exercise like jogging, swimming, walking, elliptical, etc. When doing these forms of exercise, the higher the intensity you can achieve, the longer it will take your body to come back to its normal resting metabolic rate post-exercise. If you do an hour workout and throw in as many intervals as you can at a rate that makes your face turn red and has you are practically gasping for air, then DON”T STOP. Instead, return to your steady state rate until you can breathe again and repeat as many times as you can. This will actually boost your metabolism during and after your workout.
Second, the longer you can sustain a moderate level of cardio output, the longer you boost your metabolism after you are done. If your average cardio workout lasts 45 minutes, you can boost your metabolism by adding 15 minutes to one of your workouts each week without changing the intensity.
If you really want to boost your metabolism, then increase the length of time AND throw in intervals of higher intensity: your metabolism will be higher for even longer!
Third, when you lift weights, the heavier the weight you use the higher you will get your EPOC and the longer it will continue to stay elevated after your workout. This isn’t the same as the metabolic boost you get from having more lean muscle on your body. If you lift heavy you get the benefit of a higher metabolism post-workout AND your general metabolism ends up being higher because the more muscle on a body, the more calories needed to keep it alive and functioning before, during and after exercise. This translates into a double metabolic boost from heavy weight training.
Eating as a metabolic boost
There are also a few things you can do from the intake side of the equation to boost your metabolism. My clients are constantly asking me if there is a supplement that they can take that actually works to help increase metabolism and there is one: caffeine.
Despite the bad rap caffeine gets, current research is linking 450mg a day to reduced risk of dementia and Alzheimers. And caffeine is the only legal ergonomic aid allowable within certain levels in the elite sports world. An ergonomic aid is something that has been shown to help boost performance and reduce perception of the effort. So caffeine is legal, but steroids are not (just to clarify!)
What caffeine does is stimulate the central nervous system. The nervous system is one of the larger systems that influences metabolic rate. Caffeine helps a person do more work with the perception of less effort. Taking 150-250mg of caffeine within an hour of a workout can help you to achieve the higher intensities that boost how many calories you burn in the workout and how many you burn through EPOC afterwards.
Caffeine can also boost your metabolic rate while it is in your system even when you are not exercising. So as long as you check and make sure it will not have negative interactions with any medications or medical condition you may have, caffeine from a cup of Ol Joe (8 ounces is about 150mg of drip-made coffee) and herbs such as guarana and supplements like HCA are generally safe metabolic boosters.
Another way you can boost your metabolism through eating is by including protein in every meal. It takes more energy for the body to break down and assimilate protein then it does for carbohydrates. Including protein in your meals not only helps satisfy you longer then if you just eat carbs, but it makes your body work harder and burn more calories to process it, which results in a higher metabolic rate.
Finally, if you eat 1,500 calories a day in five small meals, you will burn more calories digesting it then if you eat the same 1,500 calories in two-three meals per day. Why? Because it takes energy to rev up your digestive system. If you rev it up five times a day then you will actually burn more calories through digestion then if you only rev it up two times. Although eating smaller meals more frequently is a metabolic booster, you have to be careful that you’re not eating more calories in the five meals then you would in two, otherwise you will negate the weight loss effects that would result from the metabolic boost.
So, if you are looking to naturally increase your energy and metabolism to correspond with the higher energy of spring this season, increase the intensity and the length of time of your exercise workouts, have up to 4 cups of coffee a day (if safe for your medical conditions), eat five times a day and include protein in each meal. These tips won’t cause you to win the highest weight loss for the week in your Biggest Loser Club, but it will help you to boost your metabolic rate and result in weight loss and make maintenance that much easier over time. Happy spring everyone!