When people talk about eating multiple meals a day “stoking the metabolic fire” – which, by the way, isn’t true – I sort of understand. We all hear the stories about how our metabolism dwindles with age, and hearing that something as simple as eating more frequently can make a difference sounds like an easy fix, right?
Except, when it comes to fitness and health, we should know by now…there are no quick fixes.
Look at it like this: metabolism is, quite literally, the system of energy being burned in order for all the living cells in your body to be able to do their jobs. That’s why we talk about metabolic rate when it comes to estimating daily caloric burn – a high metabolism means that there are lots of cells putting in all kinds of work inside your body. This should also partly explain why metabolism is high in teens, and tapers off as they age – most of our growing happens in our teens and early twenties, just long enough for us to be able to develop habits that can eventually work against us as our metabolism dwindles.
Speaking of dwindling metabolism, what does that mean? Naturally, it means that there aren’t as many processes happening in the body, which means the body naturally requires less energy. Unnaturally, it means that you’ve possibly ingested something that has gunked up or slowed down your internal systems, and that needs to be addressed.
Can you positively affect your metabolism? Absolutely! It’s not as simple as “three days of eating 6 times a day,” but it is an investment of time and energy that has amazing payoffs in the end. Here, I’ll share two super-simple tips you can take advantage of to boost your metabolism so that you can continue to live healthier, more vibrant lives!
1) Change how you eat. Much of what your body needs the most isn’t found in the foods that are most prevalent in society. Vitamins, minerals, gut flora, anti-oxidants, fiber, quality protein, omega-3s are all necessary for your body to not only run optimally, but also for it to undo any damage that might be slowing it down. When you feel lethargic, you’re not burning energy (read: calories) the way you could or should, and that makes a difference.
Increasing the amount of veggies on your plate can make a massive difference in how your body burns energy – not just because of the fact that you’re, by extension, eating less processed food – simply because you’re flooding your body with so much of what it needs, almost to the point of rejuvenating your insides and how effectively your organs function. People who instantly feel healthier upon the inclusion of juices into their diet? They’re almost experiencing the full benefits of increased veggie consumption – they’re only missing fiber.
Diversifying your diet also makes a huge difference. Dine on quality, wild-raised fish once a week. Use lots of bright colored veggies in your meals. Switch it up with lots of herbs and spices. All kinds of amazing things are hiding in the foods we should be eating. We’ve just got to go digging for them.
2) Strength training! When you lift weights, do calisthenics, or challenge your muscles in any effective way, you’re not just building a fit physique – you’re encouraging your body to build stronger bones, you’re creating a system that naturally burns carbs and fat more efficiently even when you’re not working out, and you’re making a body that can withstand the test of aging and the weight gain that accommodates it.
Muscle is more metabolically active than fat – whereas fat just sits on the body, hogging up hormones and impedes their ability to travel through your system, muscle is constantly tearing, rebuilding, and feeding off of nutrients (in a healthy way!) to make that process happen. In other words, muscle burns more calories than fat, thereby making it more valuable to anyone looking to fight a slowing metabolism.
Changing how you eat and adding a little lifting to the plan can make a world of difference. Not only will you feel better, but you’ll find yourself stronger with a zooming metabolism! Put down the laptop and pick up those weights – your body will thank you for it!
Erika Nicole Kendall is a trainer certified in women’s fitness, fitness nutrition and weight loss coaching who also chronicles her own 160lb weight loss journey on the award winning blog, A Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss.