We have all wished for a faster metabolism to burn kilojoules more efficiently at some point in our lives. Though our basal metabolic rate (the energy that our body expends while resting) is generally determined by our genetics, all hope is not lost. Here are a few clever ways to get that much-desired boost.
Kick-start your day, and your metabolism, with breakfast. After a night’s rest your body has been fasting for around 10 to 12 hours, and is “starving” for fuel, so eating a healthy breakfast literally wakes up your metabolism.
Choose a breakfast high in fibre and protein (like muesli with nuts and yoghurt or scrambled egg on whole-wheat toast), and steer away from sugar and fats. It’s also wise to eat foods high in Vitamin D and calcium which, according to new research, may increase fat oxidation rates and energy burning during the course of the day. People who eat breakfast are less likely to overeat later in the day and tend to have fewer weight problems.
Go for Omega-3s
According to research, the regular consumption of omega-3 fatty acids reduces the risk of becoming obese and stimulates the secretion of leptin, a hormone that helps regulate metabolism. Omega-3’s also reduce hunger pangs and improve blood sugar and insulin levels. Get your daily dose of omega-3’s by eating lots of fish like tuna, salmon, mackerel, trout, sardines and herring. If you don’t like fish, try flaxseed oil, canola oil, walnuts or eggs fortified with omega-3s. You can also take a daily omega-3 fatty acid supplement.
Drink green tea
Green tea is not only rich in immune-boosting antioxidants, it also aids digestion and controls blood sugar. Green tea contains caffeine and catechins (a powerful antioxidant) which speed up the metabolism for hours after drinking it. Research has shown that green tea drinkers lose more weight than those who don’t - if you drink two to four cups of green tea per day, you can burn an extra 200 to 300 kilojoules per day.
Whether you like it or not, you can’t go without exercise! Rev up your metabolism by performing physical activity for at least 30 minutes most days of the week. Aerobic exercise such as jogging, brisk walking and swimming can increase the number of kilojoules you burn and help to prevent weight gain.
The great thing about exercise is that your metabolism continues to burn energy hours after your workout. It’s a good idea to go for high-intensity exercise as it delivers a bigger and longer increase in resting metabolic rate than low-or moderate workouts. You could do that by trying out a more intense class at the gym or by increasing your intensity in short 30-second bursts (like sprinting instead of running, or running instead of walking) before returning to your normal speed.
Build some muscle
Strength training is a great way to jump start a sluggish metabolism. After a training session, muscles are activated all over the body, thus increasing the average daily metabolic rate. Our bodies are burning kilojoules, even when at rest. As muscles burn more kilojoules than fat, it makes sense to increase your lean muscle tissue. You can do this in a variety of ways. Use free weights or weight machines two to four times a week for 20 minutes, or if you’re up for a new challenge, why not try CrossFit?
Many studies have proven that people who have less than six hours sleep a night store more fat. Your body needs a minimum of eight hours sleep per night for your metabolism to work normally, experts say. A lack of sleep causes the body to release cortisol which increases hunger. It also increases blood sugar levels and interferes with the body’s ability to metabolise carbs. This leads to higher insulin levels and more fat storage.
Snack throughout the day
Your body needs a regular supply of food to function efficiently. The moment you cut kilojoules from your diet, your body thinks there are lean times ahead. It prepares for a potential period of starvation by slowing down the fat-burning process to conserve its stores of fat and carbs. This not only slows down your metabolism, it also prevents weight loss, if needed. Enjoy healthy snacks in-between meals or divide your daily food intake into five or six smaller meals throughout the day, to keep your blood sugar levels stable and your metabolism running in top gear.
Add spices to your foods. Spices such as red or green chilli peppers contain a chemical compound called capsaicin which temporarily boosts your resting metabolism rate. Your body is stimulated to release more stress hormones, such as adrenaline, thus speeding up your metabolism and increasing your ability to burn kilojoules, experts say.
Power up with protein
Your body burns up to twice as many kilojoules digesting protein as it uses for fat or carbohydrates. It also takes longer to digest protein, than fat or carbs, so you feel full longer. Though it’s always advised to stick to a balanced diet with sufficient protein, carbs and fat, you can boost your metabolism at mealtime by replacing some of the carbs with lean, protein-rich foods like lean beef, pork, fish, white meat chicken, nuts, beans, tofu, eggs and low-fat dairy products.
Water is important for a good metabolism, as your body needs water to process kilojoules. If you are even mildly dehydrated, your metabolism may slow down. Studies have shown that adults who drink eight or more glasses of water a day burned more kilojoules that those who only drank four. The next time you feel hungry, drink a glass of water first – it may find that you were not hungry after all - just dehydrated.