There are a lot of myths surrounding the infamous metabolism, but what is true and what's not? We take a look at whether you can really speed up your metabolism and how to utilise the metabolism in weight loss.
Can you change the speed of your metabolism?
The metabolism is the chemical reaction in the body that keeps us alive. The metabolism is controlled by hormones and the nervous system and this process breaks down the food you eat and turns it into energy. Your metabolism is measured as BMR, basal metabolic rate. Your BMR is the amount of calories (energy) your body burns just by being alive.
You inherit your metabolism and so your BMR is mostly controlled by your genetics, however there are external factors such as physical activity and diet which can speed up the metabolism.
How do you increase your metabolism?
There are different lifestyle factors which affect your metabolism and it gradually decreases as we age. If you want to increase your metabolism, try some of the following tricks.
Eat regular, small meals throughout the day
Your blood sugar peaks and troughs naturally throughout the day, but too many spikes and dips can lead to mood swings, irritability, and cravings. By eating small meals regularly throughout the day, you will help to keep your blood sugar levels more stable and therefore keep your metabolism ticking over too.
Eat more, don't be restrictive
A very common motto in the fitness industry these days it that you need to eat more to lose weight. Gone are the days of magazines recommending we eat less than 1,000 calories per day and people mindlessly following fad diets like the baby food diet. We have now realised that to boost the metabolism and stay healthy, we actually need to eat plenty of food to fuel ourselves, so long as it's whole, unprocessed food and that we are also following a good exercise regime.
By doing high intensity interval training like a Tabata workout, we create what is called the EPOC effect. The EPOC effect means your body continues to burn calories even once you've finished the workout. Tabata training is also proven to increase the BMR, which means your body will burn more calories at rest.
Do strength training to build muscle
It has been proven that the more muscle you have, the more fat your body burns. Having a high lean muscle mass will increase your metabolism and so you will burn more calories at rest.
Metabolism boosting foods and drinks
As well as the physical activity you do, there are ways to speed up your metabolism through your diet. The following foods and drinks are proven to increase your metabolism.
Studies have shown that spicy foods can (temporarily) increase your metabolism by up to 8 percent. By adding chilli and other spices to your food, you will be speeding up your metabolism, but only slightly.
Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, and as we've already seen, it's the central nervous system that controls the metabolism. By drinking coffee, you will be boosting your energy levels and stimulating your BMR. But remember, caffeine can be addictive and can potentially have negative affects on your sleep.
Eating plenty of protein is good for you as it builds muscle and helps to maintain healthy body and tissue function. Protein is also proven to make you feel fuller for longer, so you will end up eating less in the long run.
Green tea contains antioxidants called catechins which are proven to boost your metabolism. If you're not a huge fan of drinking green tea, try adding matcha green tea powder to smoothies, which is ten times more powerful than a regular cup of green tea.
Having your world turned upside down can affect your mental and physical wellbeing in a number of ways. Follow these 5 daily habits to make sure you stay healthy both mentally and physically during these testing times.
1. Stick to a routine
Humans are creatures of habit and there is nothing we love more than a daily routine. Now that we're not going into work every day or taking the kids to school, it can be hard to know what to do. By creating a new daily routine and sticking to it, you will soon find your brain has time to calm down and settle, which will take a lot of pressure off other areas.
When we follow a daily routine, it allows us to do things on autopilot which eases the workload for our brains. Once your new routine is in place, you will find it easier to focus on other tasks and chores. By doing things at the same time each day such as getting up, eating meals, doing certain activities, and exercising, you will ease a lot of stress and brain power.
2. Get up early (and go to bed early)
For a lot of people, not having to get up early to go to work or school is a dream come true and the temptation will be to snooze until midday then lounge around until bed time. This is not a healthy habit and after doing this for a few days you will soon find yourself feeling lethargic both mentally and physically.
Give your day purpose by getting up early and doing something productive, whether this be household chores or your daily exercise. Enjoy some downtime in the afternoon and go to bed at a sensible time (before 10pm if possible!)
3. Eat healthily
A lot of people are finding that by spending all day indoors, it's far too easy to snack constantly as the kitchen is always open. Feasting on a diet of sugar will inevitably lead to mood swings and fatigue, so stick to a healthy diet to make sure you feel at your best. Plan your meals in advance to take the guess work out of it and to prevent mindless snacking. You could even get the kids involved in planning a weekly menu to make things more fun.
Avoid keeping unhealthy snacks in the house and instead stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables during your shopping trips. This will mean you can snack on fruit instead of junk food which will help you to feel healthier and keep your mind clearer.
4. Exercise daily
The government have identified that being able to go outside for fresh air and exercise is imperative for both our mental and physical wellbeing, which is a huge benefit for everyone. Make the most of your exercise allowance by going for a walk, cycle or jog outdoors. Don't push yourself too hard as you want to keep your immune system fighting fit, but a one-hour walk, jog, or cycle will do wonders for both your mental and physical wellbeing.
Allow your mind to focus on other things while you are exercising and enjoy the stress-relieving benefits of the endorphins and runner's high. If you're someone who usually has to squeeze a workout in after work in the dark, make the most of the day light and Vitamin D from the sun by going at lunchtime instead.
5. Keep your mind active
Staying at home all day will inveitably lead to boredom for a lot of people and inside the same four walls there can be a lack of stimuli for our brains. Keep your mind active by doing crosswords, puzzles, quizzes, and stay connected with friends and family.
Thanks to modern technology, you could even organise a nightly 'pub quiz' with friends and family via video chat or play games together. Just be wary of getting out that dusty game of Monopoly as we all know how that often ends!
As a first time author, this month was supposed to be a very exciting one. My book, "5 Simple Steps to Releasing the Real You", was published on March 24th and a book launch by my publisher had been scheduled for that evening in Central London. A more local book launch was planned for Monday 30th in North London. And then boom, Coronavirus hit the UK hard. Events got cancelled right, left and centre. What should have been a very exciting time was suddenly totally in limbo.
My publisher cancelled the central London event, while I decided to still host mine, but move it online. Many people learned how to use video conferencing tools they never used before. The reason why I decided to push on with my book launch, in its new format, is that if we learned anything from this pandemic, being healthy is a lifesaver.
So far, on top of the elderly and those with an autoimmune disease, those suffering from high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes are as much at risk as the elderly. Except for type-1 diabetes, the other ones are lifestyle related, hence totally in our hands. I myself struggled with my health and weight for many years while working in the corporate world. I didn’t know how to juggle a healthy lifestyle and a very demanding job, while adding some social events in the little spare time I had.
I was always told that I just had to eat less and better and move more. Unfortunately, as much as I knew that was the answer, I had no idea of how to implement it for long term results. Yes, I always loved healthy food. And I’ve always been sporty. But when you are traveling a lot for work, entertain clients a lot, and come home too tired to cook and move, it’s not easy, or at least I didn’t find it easy, and I didn’t find anyone that understood my lifestyle and issues and could help me change. All I got was the all or nothing approach. And that didn’t work.
After tearing the ligaments in the knee and doing rehab, I found a personal trainer course that I could combine with work. Studying on the train and plane was ideal. Ten years ago, I made a massive career change and became a personal trainer. Somehow, I thought that if I got my clients to workout well, they’ll want to eat better as well. Even after adding nutrition to my qualifications, most clients were still not compliant with what I suggested. So I had to dig further, and realised that unless we also work on our mindset, our habits and behaviours, sleep enough and reduce stress levels, "eat less, move more" won’t work.
It’s only when you set up your environment both mental and physical to support your efforts that you will achieve long term results. By being stuck at home, and being forced to slow down, we now have an incredible opportunity to review both our mental and physical environment. Working through "5 Simple Steps to Releasing the Real You", the reader will be asked many questions that will help them recognise their downfalls and their barriers, while finding ways to surmount them and build a new and healthy plan around the 5 steps of Mindset, Habits & Behaviour, Nutrition, Exercise & Movement, Sleep & Stress.
Are you ready to make a change? Join the online book launch on Monday March 30th at 7pm UK time, and get a signed copy of the book. Buy your ticket on https://anneiarchy.com/book-launch
If you can’t make it, then buy your signed copy on my website https://anneiarchy.com/book or your kindle edition on Amazon.
The rise of millions of fitness accounts on social media has led to the exponential growth and spread of misinformation when it comes to health, exercise, and weight loss. We tackle some of the most common health myths and explain why they could be sabotaging your weight loss efforts.
1. Myth: Healthy food is expensive
You've probably seen the above image in one format or another, especially if you frequent fitness pages on social media. The truth is, it's a complete myth that eating healthy is more expensive than eating junk food.
Have you ever tallied up exactly how much money you spend on food in a month? It's probably a lot more than you realise. Raw fruit and vegetables from the supermarket can cost as little as 50p and healthy canned goods such as kidney beans, chopped tomatoes, and chickpeas can be even less, only 30p per can at some supermarkets.
The myth that healthy food is more expensive than junk food derives from the fact that many prepared salads and fruit boxes are indeed expensive. However, this is because you are paying for the convenience, not the healthy food. If you cook all of your meals from scratch, you will save heaps of money and you will soon find that eating healthy is actually less expensive than junk food! A homemade salad could easily cost as little as £1 to make.
When have you ever only spent 99p at McDonald's? Yes, there are a couple of items on the menu that cost less than £1, but you'd be left feeling very hungry if that's all you ate. You have to be honest with yourself and really keep an eye on the money you are spending on food. It won't be what you expect.
2. Myth: You need to eat more to lose weight
One of the latest trends on social media is to tell women they are not losing weight because they are not eating enough. There's a heavy pressure on women to lift heavy weights and do zero cardio in order to 'tone up' and lose weight. Sadly, this is a myth. If you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain weight.
If you eat 2300 calories a day, have a BMR of 1500 calories (the calories your body burns just to stay alive), and burn zero calories through exercise because you're not doing any cardio and live a sedentary lifestyle, you will gain weight because you are in a 800 calorie-a-day surplus.
This myth is propagated by the theory that you need to eat a calorie surplus in order to build muscle. While this is true to an extent, most of the general public live a sedentary lifestyle, sitting at a desk all day, and only exercise maybe 1 hour each evening. The average lifestyle does not allow you to eat 2300 calories a day because you won't be burning them off. You would have to lift a lot of weights and live a much more active lifestyle in order for this calorie surplus to be used to build muscle instead of being stored as fat.
It's important to remember that these Instagram fitness gurus do not live a sedentary lifestyle and therefore what works for them will not work for you.
3. Myth: Your friend is losing more weight than you/is naturally slim because their metabolism is faster
If you've been beating yourself up because you can't lose weight while your friend is sailing through their weight loss journey, don't worry, it's not what it seems. While it is scientifically possible to have a slightly faster or slower metabolism than someone else, it would not be enough of a difference to mean you are 10lbs heavier than your friend even if you eat the same.
People who are 'naturally' slim are this way because they eat less and do more activity. If you were to pay very close attention to what your slim friend eats in a day, it is a guarantee that it will be less than what you eat, even if they claim they eat a lot.
Everyone has a BMR which is a Basal Metabolic Rate and this indicates how many calories your body burns just by being alive. This is affected by your age, your gender, and your current weight. Everyone also has a TDEE which is your Total Daily Energy Expenditure. This figure takes into account your daily activity, as someone who does a very manual job and moves a lot will burn more calories on a daily basis than someone who sits at a desk all day.
Everyone's BMR and TDEE will be different and therefore the amount of calories you need to eat will be completely different to that of your friend. It won't be because they have 'good genes' or are 'naturally slim', it'll be because their TDEE is higher than yours, meaning they burn more calories on a daily basis than you.
4. Myth: A juice cleanse/detox is a quick way to lose weight
You may have heard by now that doing a 'detox' is not really a thing, as your body naturally detoxifies itself daily anyway. If your body was full of toxins, you'd be incredibly ill and you'd certainly need more than a juice cleanse to help you.
The way juice cleanses or detoxes work is that your daily calories plummet and you lose water out of your muscles. You become very dehydrated and the number on the scale goes down. You may well lose some fat too as you are consuming so few calories, but it can't possibly last.
Not only this, fruit juice is full of sugar which could make you moody, spotty, and generally just a bit cranky. You won't be getting enough protein so you'll feel very tired and fatigued, and you'll be missing out on vital nutrients.
5. Myth: Everyone should lift heavy and eat more protein
You will have seen a lot of images on Instagram that propose lifting weights is superior to doing cardio and that everyone should be eating copious amounts of protein in the form of 'protein bread', 'protein oats', and now even 'protein yogurt'.
The truth is, it depends entirely on your personal goals and daily activity. If you are training for a marathon or triathlon, these are both entirely cardio-based activities. Of course you'll need to do cardio! Cycling is also a very cardio-heavy activity, but professional cyclists are far from skinny and unhealthy.
Most people do not need a sky-high amount of protein in their daily diet because they live a sedentary lifestyle and their body won't utilise it. Unless you live a truly active lifestyle and lift heavy weights or do strenuous sports 6 times a week, you don't need a ton of protein in your diet.
This new myth comes from a shift in attitudes towards body types and the new obsession with 'booty gains'. These days, being slim is seen as bad and everyone wants to look like the Instagram fitness gurus. However, there is absolutely nothing wrong with cardio, and you probably do it more than you think. In fact, doing regular cardiovascular activity is vital for keeping a healthy immune system, lung function, and heart health.
Metabolic Efficiency refers to the measure of how well the body utilises fat as an energy source. The human body is able to store around 1,200-2,000 calories in the form of carbohydrates (glycogen) split between the liver, muscles, and blood. These stores would allow us to exercise at a low to moderate intensity for around 2 or 3 hours.
However, there is another source of energy that the human body can store that could provide up to a staggering 80,000 calories: fat. What would happen if we were able to teach our body to use fat stores for energy instead of depleting our carbohydrate resources?
The benefits of Metabolic Efficiency Training
Metabolic Efficiency Training was a concept developed by Bob Seebohar in 2003 and refers to teaching our body to use fat as a primary energy source. This has a number of positive implications:
- If the body is able to use fat to produce energy, racing athletes can become less dependent on carbohydrates.
- Less carbs means a lower probability of GI distress (stomach cramps being a common issue among endurance athletes).
- More fat burnt means less body fat and a leaner frame, a positive impact on performance for endurance athletes.
It's key to understand when the body uses fats or carbohydrates as its primary energy source. Typically, short-duration exercises will use carbohydrates, while longer endurance exercise will cause the body to start burning fat. This happens during aerobic training when the intensity is close to the aerobic threshold or lactate threshold.
In order to be 100% accurate, Bob Seebohar described a lab test known as “crossover point”. This is the exact point during an aerobic session when the body stops using fat as an energy source and moves to burning carbs as its energy source.
How to achieve Metabolic Efficiency
As not everyone has access to a lab where this test can be performed, there is a way to teach the body to be more efficient. There are a few rules that everyone can follow. This is best performed at the beginning of the training season, when the athlete is building an aerobic base.
- Avoid high-calorie carbs such as pasta, rice or white bread. During this period, all carbs should come from vegetables and fruit. Also during this phase, more good fats (omega 3 or 6) and proteins should be consumed.
- Avoid sport supplements such as gels or bars which are high in carbs.
- Practise training in a fasted state, building up the duration of the training sessions slowly until you're able to complete up to 3 hours on only water. These session must be endurance-based and performed at a low intensity.
- After training, avoid recovery drinks and high glycemic index carbs. If the training session was easy, theoretically the body used fat as its primary fuel source and so carbohydrates won't need to be replenished.
By following the aforementioned rules, the body will become more efficient and better at using fats as an energy source.
Which foods to eat when training for Metabolic Efficiency:
- Protein: poultry, tuna, salmon, mackerel, eggs whites, whey protein or plant protein.
- Low glycemic carbs: spinach, tomatoes, kale, lettuce, cauliflower, carrot, beans, sprouts.
- High glycemic carbs: oats, quinoa, potatoes, whole wheat bread, rice, pasta.
- Fats: avocado, coconut oil, olive oil, egg yolk, nuts, peanut butter, almond butter.
About the author: Cesar Martinez is an Ironman athlete.