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Thursday
Mar192015

10 Simple Strategies to Boost Your Metabolism

Is your metabolism feeling a little sluggish lately? Could it use a boost?

Clients ask me all of the time, “How can I make my metabolism faster?” People often simplify metabolism by assuming it’s all about meeting a magic number of calories each day to maintain weight (that myth debunked here). 

In reality, your metabolism encompasses thousands of reactions and interactions that take place to help build, repair, energize, and detoxify your body.

Likewise, there are many hormones related to its functioning, including your sex hormones, thyroid hormones, and stress hormones that can either help or hamper your metabolism depending on their balance. Of course, a healthy diet and regular exercise are common recommendations to help support optimal metabolic functioning, but there are plenty of other simple ways to take advantage of all your metabolic opportunities!

1. Stand up and move - every 20 minutes. 

We’ve reference before the negative impact our sedentary lifestyles have on our health, specifically how we may be sitting ourselves to death. Newer studies, however, have shown that standing up and moving for a few minutes every 20 minutes can have a positive effect on our glucose and insulin levels – major hormone disruptors of our metabolism. So, get up and move (it’s just three times an hour), whether it’s to take a phone call standing by your desk or grabbing a coworker to do a quick loop in your office building. 

2. Get 7-8 hours of sleep. Take melatonin if you need to.

I can’t emphasize this enough. Sleep is crucial for your metabolism, and most people are surprised to hear how strongly sleep debt can negatively impact their weight and overall health (see Sleeping the Weight Off). For some people, getting more sleep might be as simple as sticking to a set bedtime every night. But if you aren’t staying asleep or getting into a deep sleep over those several hours, you might consider using melatonin on a temporary basis to help support your sleep quality. 

3. Take a sauna.

Do you take advantage of sauna bathing? When I recommend this to my clients, most have never heard of the therapeutic effect it can have on their body’s metabolism and overall detoxification process. The controlled deep sweating that occurs helps release heavy metals, chemicals, and other toxins via our largest organ — the skin.

Other (more immediately gratifying) benefits of deep sweating include the cleansing of bacteria from our pores, sloughing off dead skin cells, and the resulting invigoration of our skin tone (that post-sauna “glow”). If you’re new to the sauna, start slowly and work your way up to 10-15 minutes duration over a few trial sessions. For optimal detoxification, shoot for around 3 sessions per week. 

4. Eat a metabolic boosting food every day.

Nothing impacts our ability to shed weight the way our food choices do. We’ve talked about Seven Metabolism Boosting Foods (including whey protein, coffee, cinnamon, and grass-fed beef) that have been shown to influence metabolism in a variety of different ways. Try incorporating a serving or two of any of these metabolic boosting foods into your meal plan each day or even combining several together, such as adding cinnamon to your daily protein shake!

5. Lift heavy things. 

In general, lean tissue is more metabolically active than fat tissue. One of the best things you can do to maintain - or build! - that lean tissue is to strength train. Of course, there are plenty of heavy things to move at the gym, but if you’re in a pinch for time and working out at home, body-weight exercises (e.g. chair dips, squats, pushups and pull-ups) all serve a similar purpose. Your body, after all, is a heavy object. Try to strength train at least 2-3 times a week, and get creative if you need to. My coworker keeps a kettle bell in his cubical to squat with while taking phone calls. 

6. Get out in the sun.                                                  

The sun supports overall mood and happiness, but it also provides vitamin d, a fat-soluble vitamin (a.k.a. the “sunshine vitamin”) that is primarily produced in the skin by way of the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Vitamin d is involved in hundreds of metabolic processes in the body, including blood sugar and insulin balance as well as your immune system. If you’re deficient, your metabolism is at risk! The current recommendation is for 10-20 minutes of sun exposure to the face, arms and hands at least 3 days per week without sunscreen

7. Run like you stole something. Then rest. Then repeat.

Don’t get stuck doing steady state cardio all the time. Interval training is an exercise method that involves varying your levels of intensity, using short bursts of high intensity followed by brief periods of recovery. Studies show that interval training can support higher losses of body weight, body fat (and belly fat) and can improve insulin sensitivity when compared to low-intensity, steady-state cardio.

You don’t have to run right away if your fitness level doesn’t currently allow. Interval training can be done in various ways, such as walking on a treadmill at the same speed but with an increase in incline. Try to incorporate this style of training a couple times a week, and allow for plenty of recovery.

8. Drink more water.

Sounds easy, right? Remember that your body is at least 80% water. You should be taking in more water than any other nutrient. In fact, most adults are far from the recommended intake. Staying hydrated influences our metabolism insofar as it helps us excrete toxins, get rid of extra body fat, and support energy. Start tracking your water intake now and work towards the general average of 64 ounces per day. If that becomes habit, and you are after optimal health and wellness, I suggest you shoot for about half your body weight in ounces. Drink up!

9. Meditate.      

We can all use a little quiet time. The quieting effects of meditation have been shown to improve sleep, mood, pain, and anxiety. Meditation also reduces cortisol, your primary stress hormone. Take time each day to meditate and center yourself. 

If you’ve never meditated before, try a yoga class that incorporates a beginning or ending meditation or even download an introduction app on your phone. Make a point of practicing the introduction or other centering method on a daily basis. I suggest you start with 2-4 minutes of meditation each day and slowly build to a 20-minute daily practice for the most benefit. If sleep is one of your difficulties, try meditating right before bedtime.

10. Hold the alcohol.

When the temperatures start increasing outdoors, so do the frequency of scheduled happy hours! Alcohol can disrupt your glucose and insulin regulation, sleep quality, sex hormones and your appetite – not good for supporting a healthy metabolism.  If you want to optimize your metabolism, it's important to understand the negative effects alcohol can have on it. Try cutting back (or opting out completely) on a regular basis.  Reference "Healthy" Happy Hour Tips for more information.

Are you interested in more tips to boost your metabolic functioning? Talk with one of our dietitians today!

In health, Anika Christ – Senior Program Manager of Life Time Weight Loss

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader. 

 

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