Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Hey fit fam! 4th post of October! Whoo-hoo! I'm on a roll now! Lol! :) I have to give myself a small pat on the back because as you long time Confessions of a Fit Girl readers know, I'm not one of those bloggers who writes a blog everyday, or even every week for that matter, so this is an accomplishment.

So the topic of this post? METABOLISM. Question: Can you really boost it? Answer: In one word, YES. I was in a conversation the other day with two other people who were talking about about their metabolism changing since they hit 30, and how there's just nothing you can do about it. (One person just turned 30 this year and the other is in they're late 30s-almost 40.) I remained silent, not really wanting to give my opinion on the matter. But it did get me to thinking... are they wrong? Well... yes and no. Once you hit around the age of 30, on average, our metabolisms do tend to slow down. That's a fact that can't be disputed. But the rate of how much it slows down and/or how long it takes to slow down is completely up to you! I just turned 30 this year and my metabolism is faster now than it's ever been and if I continue on the current path that I'm on, it will only get faster! I predict I can keep the slowing metabolism monster for quite awhile, I'd say until around age 50 or 60. How you ask? Keep reading!

What is "Metabolism"? 

So before we begin, let's start out with a definition of what exactly "metabolism" is. Metabolism is the amount of energy (calories) your body burns to maintain itself. Whether you are eating, drinking, sleeping, cleaning, ... etc., your body is constantly burning calories to keep you going.

After you chew and swallow food, it goes to the stomach. Digestion and
Absorption occur. After the nutrients are absorbed into the blood stream
and travel to all cells of the body METABOLISM occurs.

Metabolism is affected by your body composition. By body composition, I mean the amount of muscle you have versus the amount of fat. Muscle uses more calories to maintain itself than fat. People who are more muscular (and have a lower percentage of body fat) are said to have a higher metabolism than others that are less muscular. For example, let's say you have two people who are the exact same height and weight. One exercises on a regular basis with weights, in addition to aerobic exercise, and has a low percentage of body fat. The other never exercises and has a higher percentage of body fat. The first person who exercises will have a higher metabolism than the second person. What this basically means is that person #1's body will use more calories to sustain itself than person #2.

Genetics also plays a roll. Everyone has a different bone structure and body type. It's not realistic to think that everyone can look like the Baywatch beauties or like Arnold Schwartzenagger. However, given your body type and genetic make-up, you can exercise (with weights and aerobically) to look the best that YOU can.

After the age of 30, your body gradually begins to lose it's muscle. If your activity level stays the same and the amount of calories you eat stay the same, you will gain weight because your metabolism has slowed down (you don't have as much muscle as you did in your 20's). If you exercise with weights and do some type of aerobic activity on a regular basis, you probably won't notice much of a change in your metabolism as you age at all! That's right I said it - AT ALL!

So the big question is...

How Do I Increase My Metabolism?

I answered the question of whether boosting your metabolism was possible earlier and of course the answer is yes, but HOW? It's simple: EXERCISE and STOP DIETING!

You can increase your muscle mass by doing some type of resistance work (i.e. - lifting weights, using exercise tubes, stretch bands, hand weights, kettlebells... etc.). You can also decrease your level of body fat by doing some type of aerobic exercise at least 3 days a week for longer than 20 minutes. By aerobic exercise, I mean an activity, such as walking, jogging, step aerobics, hi/low aerobics, biking, swimming... etc., that will increase your heart rate into its' target zone and keep it there for the duration of the exercise session.

You need to eat! Don't diet! I always recommend counting your calories and maintaining proper portion control, but other than that, just watch the types of foods you eat. Try to eat a diet that is lower in fat (check the labels on the foods that you buy). I have followed my own advice and done the same this year, with a cleaner diet and more weight training than ever before and have gotten some amazing results! A clean diet of healthy, low-fat foods, aerobics & weight training, and I swear you'll be looking in the mirror in around 6 months not even recognizing the person staring back at you! (And for all those who don't like to weight train or have their doubts, I know this is especially true for a lot of the ladies, check out my last blog where I talked about the benefits of weight training, "Weight Training: Yay or Nay? And Why.")

6 Ways To Rev Up Your Metabolism

1. Exercise is No. 1!
As I said before, EXERCISE! Working out builds muscle. Muscle speeds metabolism. As the body works more efficiently, it processes food faster and your appetite increases, so don't be surprised when you start feeling the need to eat something every 3 - 4 hours. This is totally normal. And don't worry, like I said before, don't diet! Feel free to grab a light snack whenever you truly feel the need. Working out and especially weight training, burns A LOT of calories! Calories are your body's energy and you need to replace it build a strong, healthy you. Men, being the more muscular sex, generally burn more calories than a woman of the same weight. Lucky them! (Unfair, I know, lol.)

2. Don't skip meals Like I said, you're probably going to feel the need to eat every 3-4 hours, maybe even every 2 hours if you had a really heavy (weight) lift day. Generally try to space meals 3-4 hours apart. That way you have enough energy throughout the day and you'll be free of the headaches, hunger pangs or mood swings you get when you're famished. Eating erratically signals the body to burn slower and conserve fat. The way to lose more fat than muscle is to follow a balanced nutrition and exercise plan which promotes an average weight loss rate of 1-2 pounds per week.

3. Food affects mood What you eat influences your metabolism and mood, making you either sluggish or energetic. Foods high in sugar, saturated fats, artificial sweeteners and low in water and fiber will slow digestion, can cause weight gain and leave you feeling like a couch potato.
Whole grains, vegetables, fruits, beans and legumes, fresh herbs and spices provide the proteins, carbohydrates and fats that give you energy and even blood sugar levels. Healthy fats (olive oil, avocado, fish-oils, seeds, nuts, soybeans) promote longer-lasting, stable energy levels. Lean proteins (fish, soy foods, white meat poultry, lean meats and low-fat dairy) offer essential proteins for better digestion and muscle building. By drinking 8 glasses of water each day, you will have better digestion (better emptying of the stomach and intestines, less gas, bloating, constipation... etc.), and staying hydrated also reduces headaches and fights fatigue. 

You should also get pleasure from eating. Even if adding a piece of dark chocolate is your wish, go for it, one square at a time, as it aids in happy brain chemistry and adds a natural bitter which aids digestion. Improving digestion this way also strengthens the liver, kidneys and lungs, all which facilitate a healthier metabolism.
As your metabolism increases, you'll feel more energetic, lighter — and hungrier. But don't worry. As digestion improves, the stomach empties more regularly and you feel thinner in the waistline and less full in the chest. People who have a faster metabolism have fewer food cravings and feel more in control of their eating.

4. Stay cool
Colder weather increases metabolism in order to keep the body warm. By keeping indoor temperatures cooler and exercising outdoors, you can also burn more calories. Now I'm not usually one for outdoor exercising, especially in the winter, but you can always keep your house a little cooler in the winter months as you exercise indoors. Helps with the metabolism and also lightens the heat bill! ;)

5. Don't get stuck in a rut
Some dieters get stuck at a certain weight. To keep your weight from plateauing, you must make small changes to keep your body from adapting to a routine of eating the same amount of calories. 
If you can't lose those last five pounds, try adding  a couple hundred calories more a day for two weeks and then return to a lesser amount. Sounds kinda' crazy, I know, to say to a dieter, eat more, but this has been show to work! Over time this strategy will allow you to increase the amount of calories you can eat and continue to lose weight. (Pretty sweet, huh?)
6. Be patient The key is to be persistent, have confidence and be PATIENT. It may take you some time to increase your metabolism — three months is a reasonable timeframe to expect to see changes. It took around that time for me, and as you continue to progress, your metabolism will follow suit, so hang in there! If you are having a hard time losing weight, you might consider having your metabolism tested by a professional nutritionist.

Soon you will feel healthier and stronger, and in time you will see the results of a toned, healthier body. Best of all, you will have a clearer understanding of what makes your body feel and work better, so you will be able to more effectively control your weight for years to come.

Sources: www.msnbc.msn.com and "What is Metabolism and Why Is It Important?" by Lisa Balbach

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