Take control of your metabolism. Photo: Sappington Todd
Having a self-assessed "slow metabolism" is frequently cited as the reason some of us find it hard to lose weight, tone up or change the shape of our body. The ironic thing about this claim is that the bigger people are, the higher their metabolic rate, or the number of calories we require to perform basic physiological functions such as breathing and pumping blood around the body.
While up to 75 per cent of our metabolic rate is heavily influenced by our genes, that still leaves most of us with at least 25 per cent control over how many calories we are able to burn on a daily basis. So, if you are over 30, spend much of the day sitting and know that your weight has been creeping up over the past few years, it may be time to consider what steps you can take to give your metabolic rate a serious boost.
Change something, change everything
The body gets used to the same habits and routines very quickly and becomes more and more efficient at doing them, burning fewer calories over time as a result. For this reason, constantly changing the way you exercise and eat helps to keep the metabolism working hard. So, if you always eat the same breakfast or do the same routine at the gym – change it. Go to the gym before breakfast or after dinner rather than after breakfast, or make lunch your biggest meal of the day, leaving dinner as a light snack, and keep changing these regimes regularly.
Time to lift, baby
If you are serious about getting your metabolism going you need to lift weights at least a couple of times each week. Weight training does not mean lifting like a body builder, but it does mean lifting progressively heavier weights using all your key muscle groups to encourage the cells to grow. The more muscle cells you have, the more calories you will burn and the more efficient your metabolism will get. If you are not familiar with weights, see a trainer to help write you a program or look for gym classes that incorporate weights.
When it comes to training, efficiency is the key. It is much better metabolically to train harder for shorter periods of time than it is to train with less intensity for longer. It is also much better to use as many of your different muscles as you can, which is why running is such a good workout compared to sitting down and riding an exercise bike. Jumping, running, push-ups, any activity that uses several large muscle groups is going to be of the most benefit for those wanting to target their metabolic rate.
Eat less more often
The larger your meals are, the greater the amount of both calories and carbohydrates you are likely to consume. The more carbohydrate you consume, the more insulin is needed to process this carbohydrate. High levels of insulin over time is related to weight gain. While eating more frequently than every two hours is not ideal, aiming to consume small meals and snacks every three to four hours is a great way to increase the amount of energy being burnt to digest food and build a small but significant increase in metabolic rate over time.
Include more protein
As a nutrient, protein requires slightly more calories to digest than carbohydrate or fat. Adding a rich protein source such as low-fat dairy, lean meat or fish, nuts, soy or eggs to each of your meals or snacks will help burn extra calories throughout the day.