For most people, losing a few pounds is consistently on your mind throughout the year, but never more than in January where advertisements for “New Year, New You!” are plastered everywhere.
At the start of a new year, it seems fitting to self reflect and want to improve for the year ahead.
The problem is, with so much accessible information at your fingertips, it’s easy to be misled and buy into the latest diet pill or trend that promises results (but trashes your body and metabolism in the process).
Don’t fall for it.
In this article, we will cover four key ways that you might be unknowingly trashing your metabolism (making fat loss much more difficult). We’ll also share three primary ways that you can improve your metabolism, making your body more efficient at using fuel (food), and getting you to your fitness goals faster.
Four ways to slow down your metabolism:
1. Not eating enough food. If you aren’t eating enough calories, your body will turn down your Basal Metabolic Rate (ie. the calories you need at rest, simply for normal bodily functions) and it will turn down your Total Daily Energy Expenditure. This means that you will be more tired throughout the day and move less, burning less calories. Also, severe calorie restriction will leave you with less energy for our workouts, making them less effective (5).
2. Lack of quality sleep. Lack of sleep can affect obesity and our metabolism on multiple levels. When we aren’t getting enough deep and REM sleep, it can ruin our blood sugar control, cause insulin resistance. It can also dysregulate our hunger hormones, ghrelin and leptin. These two hormones out of balance will cause us to eat more AND decrease our energy expenditure (6, 7).
3. Stress, stress, stress. Cortisol, known as the stress hormone, has been shown to increase our appetite. Additionally, elevated cortisol levels can cause cravings for sweet, fatty and salty foods (8). One interesting 2015 study found that participants who reported experiencing a stressful event within the 24 hours prior actually burned 104 fewer calories than their non-stressed counterpart (9).
4. Eating the wrong foods. If we are eating foods that don’t agree with our body, as well as highly processed or “fake foods”, it can muck up the whole system. There are endless food sensitivities, and we all need to work by ourselves through trial and error, or together with a professional to learn our own body and what foods we best tolerate. A food journal is a wonderful place to start tracking your symptoms and noticing how you feel when you eat certain foods. Some symptoms of sensitivities could include acid reflux, too much/little stomach acid, bloating, constipation, gas, inflammation. Also headaches, lethargy, blood sugar spikes, irritability, an overproduction of mucus, etc.. (10). There are an endless amount of (natural and unnatural) chemicals that comprise our food, and each and every body responds differently to them.
Examine the list above, and take stock of where you might be unknowingly slowing your metabolism, and identify a few small, simple action steps to take such as ways to manage your stress level, track your nutrition intake for a while, or work on better sleep hygiene.
Three ways to boost (or restore) your metabolism:
1. Increase your activity level throughout the day and in your workouts. Upping the intensity, heart rate, and/or weights in the gym is a great way to increase your caloric output, but what is more important is getting more “NEAT”. This stands for Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis and refers to the energy expended for everything else we do that is not sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise.
Fidgeting, doing the dishes, stretching and walking are my favorite forms of NEAT and this can account for up to 500 EXTRA calories burned each day (1), or approximately 20% of your daily caloric intake.
2. Increase lean tissue/muscle mass on your frame. How many calories you burn is directly correlated to how much metabolically active muscle is on your body. Not only does this increase your Basal Metabolic Rate (how many calories you burn at rest), but having more muscle mass also significantly improves blood sugar control and carb tolerance.
Muscle is the largest blood glucose sink in the body. We turn excess blood sugar into muscle glycogen and store it inside our muscle for energy (2). If you don’t have any more room in your muscles for glycogen, it WILL be stored as fat. Therefore, someone with more muscle mass can eat MORE carbs and not gain as much weight as someone with less muscle.
If you aren’t sure where to start in the gym, but you know you need more strength training, consider hiring a personal trainer to show you the ropes and help you get into a routine. If you live in the Phoenix area, be sure to check us out!
3. Eat more protein. There are three main reasons to eat more protein. First, if we want more lean tissue on our bodies, we need to eat more protein. This will ensure we have the proper building blocks for muscle, bone, and connective tissue.
Second, a high protein diet has been shown to increase the release of satiety hormones, causing us to feel fuller faster and possibly eat less calories over time (3).
The last reason to eat adequate protein is the “thermic effect of protein”. When we are digesting our food, every macronutrient (fat, carbs, protein) will lose some of its energy (calories) in the form of heat. So in reality we don’t actually absorb all of the calories we eat. In order from the least to highest thermal effect of the macronutrients we have fat (0-3%) carbs (5-10%) and protein (20-30%) (4).
You can work with a nutrition coach to help you determine the appropriate amount of protein for your body. In general, .8 -1.5grams of protein per pound of lean body mass is a good benchmark.
If you have any questions or want to know more about working with our team at TriFIT Wellness, drop us a line!