Metabolism is a word that is often kicked around in day-to-day conversation as it relates to oneís fitness. How many times have you said or heard, ìIím not what I used to be, my metabolism must have slowed down?î The true definition of the word is the sum of the physical and chemical processes in an organism by which its substance is produced, maintained and destroyed and by which energy is made available. In short, your body takes the food you eat and converts it to energy you can use through a process called metabolism. Each personís metabolic rate is different and can be influenced by how much food you consume, your age, your fitness level, your stress level and hereditary factors. Although it is true that your metabolism slows with age you can take measures to combat your bodyís physiological changes. Try the two-step approach discussed below to jumpstart your metabolism and start receiving the many benefits of a healthy, strong body at any age.
The first step you should take to immediately improve your metabolism is to eat light and often ñ starting with breakfast. Breakfast is just what it says ñ it is meant to break the fast from the night before and give you the energy your brain and muscles need to sustain all your daily activities. Your body is programmed to convert the foods you eat and drink into glucose to provide energy to every cell in your body. Your cells require energy 24 hours a day regardless of how often you eat to provide this fuel. When you skip breakfast or other meals, your body does not have glucose readily available so it starts to look toward your stored energy (glycogen) for fuel. Essentially your body goes into ìstarvation modeî where your glycogen stores become depleted and the body starts to look for its energy from other sources– first protein (lean muscle tissue) and secondly your fat stores. Once this process starts you begin to experience the immediate tell tale signs of a slowed metabolism: fatigue, decreased performance, mood swings, and a drop in strength. In order to combat this drop in energy you start to binge on the high fat, high calorie foods you crave in order to break this ìstarvationî ñ sound familiar? Unfortunately this cycle plays out many times throughout our fast paced lifestyle leaving us tired, uptight, miserable and out of shape. Over time a slowed metabolism can lead to weight gain and predispose you to other health risk factors.
Beginning with breakfast and ending with dinner you should make time to have small meals and snacks spaced every three to four hours throughout the day. A steady influx of nutrients will ensure that you ìstokeî the fire of your metabolic rate. Good old fashioned slow burning carbohydrates consisting of whole grains, oats, fruits and vegetables, along with lean protein sources such as chicken, fish, egg whites and tofu are always the best food choices for energy throughout the day.
The second step to jump staring your metabolism involves incorporating exercise into your daily life. A full-body strength training regimen is a sure fire way to improve your metabolic rate by increasing your lean muscle tissue. Lean muscle is more metabolically active and therefore burns more calories throughout the day – even at rest. By adding just one pound of muscle to your frame you will be burning 30 ñ 50 more calories per day.
It is also helpful to ramp up your cardiovascular training and that might not be as hard as you think. Recent studies suggest you can receive many of the same benefits of cardiovascular conditioning with an interval training session. A sample treadmill interval workout starts with a few minutes of warm-up. Once your muscle tissue is warm and you start to break a light sweat, complete a 15-second sprint followed by a 45-second rest period. Repeat this cycle for a total of 15 minutes.
Other studies suggest that the shorter duration, higher intensity cardio sessions have a similar if not greater effect on cardiovascular improvements. This is good news for all of you with busy schedules. Now you can get the benefits of the traditional long, slow steady state cardio session completed in half the time! If time is of the essence you may even break-up what might be an hour-long workout into two half hour workouts throughout the day. Plan to incorporate cardio or interval training as well as strength training and be sure to allow at least a few hours in between workouts to recover properly. After settling into an exercise regimen, strive to keep the intensity level high and the exercises varied. If you continue to stress your body beyond your comfort level you will become stronger, feel more ìtonedî and ultimately increase your metabolism.
By making smart incremental choices throughout your day you can reap the rewards of a noticeable change in your metabolism. Eat breakfast and continue to eat light, frequent meals throughout the day, and add 30-60 minutes of exercise on most days of the week. You will soon be on your way to a faster metabolism and the positive results that come along with it: more energy, improved strength and a better-looking physique.
Matthew Alegre, CSCS Master Trainer
With over 10 years of experience in the health and fitness industry, Matthew has trained clients from a variety of fitness backgrounds. His expertise extends from those with special needs and disabilities to Olympic level athletes. For more information about Empower Personal Training please call (919) 401-8024.