How to Speed up Your Metabolism Naturally
You know, a couple of years ago, I found that I could no longer fit into my pants, jeans and shorts that I was able to wear comfortably in my 30s and 40s.
They weren’t just tight; I couldn’t even zip up and button at the waist.
Well, I’m sure you’ve guessed it by now that I had the middle age spread as most of you folks reading this blogpost.
You don’t need your doctor or scientists to let you know that your metabolism slows with age. It starts as early as your 30s and by the time you hit your 50s and 60s, heck – all hell breaks loose, and I mean literally.
The average person gains about one and a half to two pounds (0.68 to 0.9 kilos) a year during his or her adult life – and that’s enough to pack on over 40 pounds or 18 kilos by his or her 50s. And that’s not forgetting hormonal changes like andropause for guys, menopause for ladies, sarcopenia or age related muscle loss, and other mid-life crises stresses that slow down metabolism.
But you can stop and even reverse that middle age spread to the point where you can fit into your clothes that you wore when you were slim back in your 20s: by eating foods that boost your metabolic rate, exercising and working out correctly. The end result will be that you’ll be able to sleep better, increase your energy, and most important of all, your clothes will get looser in just 4 to 8 weeks.
Here are 8 great ways to speed up your metabolism naturally and burn the fat fast!
1. Reduce Your Carbohydrate Intake
I’ve written extensively on the merits of carb reduction diets in controlling high blood sugar and diabetes, lowering triglycerides and other chronic conditions.
But did you know that carb reduction is also one of the best ways to lose fat?
In fact, quite a while back I wrote a blogpost on how to avoid the Biggest Loser phenomenon by reducing your intake of carbs. You can read my blogpost HERE.
Why is carb reduction so effective in fat loss especially in the initial stages?
Studies such as this one show that when you start reducing your carbs especially if it’s a drastic amount, the effect lowers insulin levels which in turn lead to the kidneys getting rid of excess sodium; this results in rapid weight loss within the first 2 to 3 weeks.
This initial weight loss is mainly water weight because carbs store energy in the form of glycogen which binds water in the liver and muscles. So when the amount of carbs that are consumed goes down, the level of glycogen is reduced and the water is flushed out of the body.
Is this a good thing?
Well if you’re overweight, it definitely is because you’ll look bloated most of the time. So when the initial weight comes off, although it’s mainly water, you’ll look and feel much less bloated
Also some studies such as this and this have shown that reduced carb diets have a distinct advantage over low fat diets in the overall amount of fat being lost especially the belly or abdominal fat which has been linked to heart disease and other chronic health conditions.
But that doesn’t mean you can increase fat intake either because at the end of the day, calories still do matter if you want to burn the fat off.
2. Increase Your Protein Intake
Did you know that when you eat the right foods, you can increase your metabolism?
Yup, you read that correctly.
When you have a meal, your metabolism goes up for a few hours – this is called the thermic effect of food or TEF for short. This happens because your body burns extra calories in the digestion and nutrients absorption process.
Foods high in protein increases your TEF by as much as 15% to 30% compared to carbs which raises your TEF by 5% to 10% and fat where the TEF is only 0% to 3%.
In fact, one study showed that a group having increased protein intake burned 260 calories more than another group that had a lower protein intake.
Another advantage of eating protein rich meals is that studies such as this one show that this macro nutrient keeps you full and prevents you from overeating.
Also when folks decide to lose fat they go on a diet, which very often decreases metabolism when weight i.e. both fat and muscle mass is lost. Increasing protein intake can reverse this.
3. Do Resistance or Strength Training
If you’ve been reading and following my blog, you’d have notice that lately my blogposts have been on resistance or strength training for seniors.
But that being said, everyone should do some form of resistance training regardless of age.
Studies show that muscles are more metabolically active than fat so increasing lean muscle mass will increase your metabolic rate.
Resistance or strength training will build both lean muscle mass and strength even for seniors. And when you have an increase in muscle mass and strength, no matter how small, your metabolism automatically goes up because muscles burn more calories even at rest as this study shows.
Also in most weight loss diets and programs metabolism tends to slow down because of the decrease in calories resulting in both muscle and fat loss. Doing strength or resistance training during weight loss will retain lean muscle mass and will increase metabolism as shown in many studies such as this one. The end result will not be weight loss but fat loss which means you may only see a slight decrease in the weighing scales but the inches will go pretty fast at the right places.
In one of my earlier blogposts on resistance training, I mentioned that I lost 5 inches off my waist in 3.5 months even though I was eating more and gained lean muscle mass at the same time. And I only lost a couple of pounds because I burned fat and regained lean muscle mass. That’s how effective resistance training is in boosting metabolism and increasing lean muscle mass, even for seniors.
If you’re a newbie to resistance training and don’t have a clue on how to start you can read my series of blogposts for strength training for beginners:
4. Do some High Intensity Cardio Work or HIIT
High intensity interval training or HIIT for short is another excellent exercise choice if you want to rev your metabolism up in a hurry.
But what exactly is high intensity interval training? To put in very simply, it’s alternating short bouts of high intensity exercise with much lower intensity periods.
Let’s take cycling on a stationary bike for example. After cycling easily for 10 minutes as warmup, you set the resistance where you’ll be breathing pretty hard. Then you cycle using that higher resistance for say 30 secs at the end of which you’re breathing extremely hard then you cycle slowly to catch your breath back for 60 secs (i.e. the rest period). You repeat these bouts of high and low intensity cycling till you’re tired. For newbies it can be as little as just 5 minutes and that’s it. For folks who are conditioned, it can be for 15 or even 20 minutes.
Why is HIIT so effective in increasing the metabolism?
Revving up your metabolism is like lighting a fire in your fireplace. With the traditional long, slow, distance cardio, the flames are small and they die off as soon as you complete your cardio session. In other words, you only burn calories when you’re exercising.
On the other hand, HIIT is like pouring some oil or gasoline on the flames; the fire gets larger then will only slowly die out over the next day or so. In other words, your metabolism is still up and burning off those extra calories long after you’ve completed your workout. In fact, studies have shown that intensive exercise can increase your metabolism for up to 38 hours so you burn the fat even when you’re on the couch watching the news or when you’re sleeping. Traditional cardio cannot accomplish this.
In fact, this study shows that HIIT burns 25% to 30% more calories than other types of exercises. The HIIT protocol used was 20 seconds of maximum effort followed by 40 seconds of rest or much lower intensity.
This process is called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC. After a workout, the consumption of oxygen remains high and because of this your body burns more calories even at rest because your muscle cells are working hard to restore your body back to its normal metabolic function.
If you’ve been giving yourself the excuse that you can’t spare the time to work out because it takes too much time then HIIT is for you.
Instead of the usual 30 minutes of brisk walking, jogging or other traditional cardio work, you only need about 15 minutes of HIIT every alternate day to increase your metabolism, burn fat and get into shape in a hurry.
Now another good thing about HIIT is that you can use almost any movement you like, be it with weights or just bodyweight movements. Let me give you some ideas: cycling on a stationary bike, rope skipping, rowing on the rowing machine, running on the spot, jumping jacks, burpees, goblet squats and kettlebell swings etc.
A note of caution: if you’ve presently sedentary or you’re a senior like me please consult your doctor before you begin any exercise program. Also start slowly to get yourself into condition. Depending on your age, fitness level and any other health issues, it may take you several weeks to get yourself into condition for doing HIIT.
5. Drink Coffee
Yup, you read that right. Your morning cup of java can increase your metabolism.
In fact these 2 studies – one from the University of London and the other from Wageningen Agricultural University in The Netherlands – have found that caffeine can increase the resting metabolic rate by 3% to 11% and higher doses of caffeine apparently increase it even more.
So what does this mean?
Simple – you burn fat when you drink coffee as this study by the Nestlé Research Center in Switzerland shows.
Now this doesn’t mean that if you’re sedentary, overweight and out of shape, drinking coffee regularly will transform your physique, if you’re a guy or figure, if you’re a lady; far from it.
What this essentially means is that if you’re incorporating the previous 4 methods in increasing your metabolism, drinking coffee will give you that extra edge.
Now here’s some good and bad news. Apparently if you’re already lean, drinking coffee will increase fat burning by as much as 29% but if you’re obese the fat burning effect will only be 10% as this study by the University of Lausanne in Switzerland shows.
So that gives you another good reason to start on the other 4 methods of revving up your metabolism so that you can torch the extra blubber off your body fast.
Another piece of both good and bad news is that if you’re a senior like me, the fat burning effect is much less pronounced. On the other hand, if you’re younger the fat burning effect of caffeine in coffee is much more pronounced as this study from the University of Maryland in the US shows.
Now having said all that, coffee is safe for most folks when taking in low to moderate amounts i.e. anything between 2 to 4 cups per day.
Anything above that and you’ll risk some unpleasant adverse effects from the caffeine in the coffee.
Coffee drinkers know that a cup of good java in the morning heightens their alertness. However at higher doses, it can bring on feelings of anxiety and nervousness.
In fact, at high doses of 1,000 mg or more per day can cause nervousness, jitteriness and insomnia as this study show. Another study done at the Cardiff University in the UK, shows that such adverse effects can manifest themselves even at moderate amounts in caffeine sensitive individuals.
6. Drink Tea
Some studies have shown that drinking tea, especially oolong and green tea, can increase metabolism by 4% to as much as 10% because of both the caffeine and antioxidants called catechins (ECGC and polyphenols) that are found in tea has positive effects on revving up metabolism. What this means is that just by drinking tea you can be burning up to 100 calories more a day.
Now there’s more good news for oolong and green tea lovers: drinking green and oolong tea can boost your body’s ability to use the stored fat as energy more effectively. These 2 studies, one from the Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center in the US and the other from the University of Birmingham in the UK have shown that these 2 types of tea can increase the fat burning ability of your body by as much as 12% to 17%.
Again, please don’t take this as the gospel truth because, like coffee, the effects green and oolong tea have on metabolism and fat burning varies from person to person.
7. Eat Spicy Food
This may come as a surprise for most of you reading this but eating spicy food can help to elevate your metabolism so that you burn more calories.
How is this so?
Well apparently the chili peppers contain a chemical called capsaicin, the stuff that makes the chili peppers taste hot and spicy. And capsaicin apparently may increase metabolism helping you to burn the fat and those extra calories.
This report by the Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK indicated that 20 studies involving 563 participants were scrutinized and they found that capsaicin can help burn off an average of 50 calories a day.
Another study from Purdue University in the US observed the metabolism enhancing effects of capsaicin upon the ingestion of 135 to 150 mg of capsaicin per day.
However 2 other studies – the first one from McMaster University in Canada and the second one from the University of California, Los Angeles in the US suggest that even low dosages of capsaicin – 9 to 10 mg per day – was enough to elicit effects in increasing metabolism.
Another UK study found that taking a minimum dose of 2 mg capsaicin before meal seem to reduce the numbers of calories consumed, especially from carbohydrates.
8. Eat More Legumes and Pulses
We discussed earlier on in this article that eating foods high in protein will increase our metabolisms so that we burn more calories.
Legumes and pulses such as chickpeas, lentils and beans are high in protein compared to other plant foods and because of that our bodies require a larger amount of calories to digest them as compared to foods that are low in protein as this study from the University of Lausanne in Switzerland shows.
Another study from the University of Navarra in Spain concluded that those consuming a legume-rich diet for eight weeks experienced beneficial changes in metabolism and lost 1.5 times more weight than the control group.
The amino acid arginine helps the human body burn more fat and carbs for energy and legumes are good sources of arginine. This study from the Texas A & M University concludes that, “L-arginine holds great promise as a safe and cost-effective nutrient to reduce adiposity, increase muscle mass, and improve the metabolic profile”.
Also, lentils, fata beans and peas contain high amounts of the amino acid glutamine which can help increase the number calories burned during digestion as this study from the Iowa State University in the US shows.
Wrapping Everything Together
Getting your metabolism up and burning those extra inches isn’t really hard to do; just do the right kind of exercises and revamping your diet will go a long way in being able to fit into the clothes you wore when you were younger (and slimmer!)
In this blogpost I’ve listed down 8 ways you can rev up your metabolism and torch the fat away. You don’t have to do all these 8 things – just by only 3 of them: reducing carbs, increasing protein intake and doing resistance training or HIIT, you’ll be able to see measurable results in a couple of months or weeks.
In my next blogpost I’m going to show you the best exercises to burn the fat off!
Till then, take care!