Get your motor running. Those were the opening lyrics of a 1960's hit song by Steppenwolf and the message is just as relevant today. It's especially true when it comes to burning calories and fat if you want to lose weight. The motor is your metabolism, and the goal is to take the right actions and consume the right foods and drinks to keep your metabolism humming at peak efficiency.
Metabolism = Energy ProductionMetabolism refers to all the chemical reactions in your body that are involved in maintaining a viable state of being. Metabolism can be broken down into two categories, per news-medical.net: catabolism, referring to the breakdown of molecules to acquire energy, and anabolism, which refers to the synthesis of all compounds needed by our cells. Energy formation is foundational to metabolism, which, as you might have guessed, is closely linked to nutrition and the availability of nutrients. Essential nutrients supply energy, or calories, as well as the requisite chemicals your body can't synthesize on its own. Increasing your metabolism is described by webmd.com as the holy grail of weight watchers everywhere, but how well your body burns calories is subject to several factors. One is that some people simply have a faster metabolism than others—they were born with it. Also, men tend to burn more calories than women, and, as is the case for everyone, metabolism tends to gear down after we hit 40. Another important thing to note about weight loss and optimizing our metabolism: it isn't about eating less by drastically cutting calories – essentially semi-starving ourselves. Such crash diets might mean dropping a few pounds, but it comes at the expense of good nutrition and can backfire if you lose muscle, which in turn will slow the metabolism. The result: you end up burning fewer calories AND eventually gain weight faster than you did prior to the diet.
Metabolism Boosting StrategiesIf you want to eat and exercise properly to get that metabolic boost, here are several strategies to follow (then we'll talk about what to eat and drink):
- Crank up the exercise. A good cardio workout, such as aerobics or running, not only revs up the metabolism during the workout but keeps it going for hours afterward. The trick is to push yourself; higher-intensity exercise produces a bigger, longer rise in resting metabolic rate, per webmd.com. If walking is your preferred workout, add in a few short jogging stints during your regular walk.
- Build muscle. This can be done through strength training, albeit with proper instruction from an expert on what apparatuses to use and how to use them. Research has shown that every pound of muscle uses six calories a day just to sustain itself, compared to two calories a day per pound of fat.
- Drink plenty of water. You've heard this a hundred times, but it bears repeating. Sip from your large bottle throughout the day. Your body needs water to process calories. Snacking on fresh fruits, which also contain water, can help, too. Some experts suggest dividing your body weight (in pounds) in half and that's the number of ounces to drink daily. If you weigh 180 pounds, figure on 90 ounces of water. It's not a chore if spread out over a 12-hour day.
- Don't skip breakfast. Eating breakfast jump-starts metabolism, per prevention.com, and keeps energy high all day. Women who skip breakfast are 4.5 times more likely to become obese. Even a yogurt or a small bowl of oatmeal topped with fat-free milk and a few nuts can fill the bill.
- Eat organic. OK, it's a bit more expensive, but healthier. Toxins, such as pesticides, found in non-organic foods may interfere with the energy-burning process, thus triggering weight gain.
Metabolism Boosting Foods and DrinksAs far as what you should eat or drink to add zip to your metabolism; here are nine suggestions:
- Fatty Fish. Mayo Clinic research has shown that a diet high in omega-3 is a great way to boost metabolism and energy levels. Salmon and mackerel are good in this regard.
- Apples. A State University of Rio de Janeiro study, per activebeat.co, found that women eating three small apples (or pears) a day shed significantly more weight than women who didn't eat fruit.
- Vitamin D. Plays a key role in preserving muscle tissue known to rev metabolism. Good sources include tuna, shrimp, fortified milk and cereal, and eggs.
- Protein. The body must use extra energy to digest protein, and that's a good thing. Meat, fish, eggs, legumes, nuts and seeds are on this list. Check packaging labels for other foods that fit this category.
- Chili peppers. Hot and spicy are good for your metabolism. The chemical capsaicin found in chili peppers gets the credit here.
- Coffee/tea. The key is the caffeine, with the catechins in tea also helping out.
- Coconut Oil.. Its abundance of medium-chain triglycerides makes them less likely to be stored as fat. Instead, they go to the liver to be converted into energy.
- Seaweed. Seaweed!!?? Absolutely. It's a great source of iodine, which helps with the proper function of the thyroid gland, whose hormones help regulate the metabolic rate. Down the hatch!
- Dark chocolate. Sub it for the seaweed, if you must. Dark chocolate is rich in cacao, which is a terrific food source of magnesium and a great metabolic booster.