When you think of your metabolism I bet the first thing that comes to mind is whether you feel fat or thin, whether you seem to be able to eat anything you want and not gain weight or if just looking at a plate of pasta will make you blow up.
Well yes, that is partly true, your metabolism does affect how you maintain your weight but it is also much more than that.
Your metabolism is the combination of all the processes taking place in your body to create energy and keep you alive. We must create energy to keep our cells working, our immune system strong, our organs working, our energy up, our mind focused, and every other little activity requires energy. When we have excess energy sources, which we get from food, this can be stored as fat, if we take in less energy from food than our body is using we must tap into our stores we have packed away for when needed, like our fat cells.
But I am sure you know well by now, that it is not always as simple as calories in vs. calories out, and that not all calories are created equal. Our metabolism can be a bit more complicated than that. Although that energy balance may tell us a bit about our weight, it does not show us our health or body composition. Hormone balance, mood balance, lean mass size, disease prevention, overall vitality, these and so much more affect how you look and feel, not just calories.
I'm sorry to say its not just the math equation, it would be so simple right? But you can still work through this confusion, understand your body and yes, have it all, health, happiness, and a lean body.
So here are a few things to keep in mind to get back on track and keep your metabolism running strong:
1) Focus on the Foods - not just the calorie count
Calorie counting has been around for ages, "If it fits your macros" is a new trendy way to eat, but as I mentioned above it doesn't always work.
For one, it is actually quite hard to find the true caloric content in foods, food labels have been seen to be off by as much as 20-25 percent! That can sure add up when your supposedly 300 calorie shake is actually 375.
Some of these foods are also more difficult to break apart and absorb in your gut. Fiber, cell walls of plants, tougher portions of minimally processed foods do not always get fully absorbed which helps clean out your GI tract, and keep the bacteria happy. This also means you can eat much more volume! Think of how filling a giant plate of broccoli, roasted chicken and sweet potatoes would be compared to a bag of skittles and a bagel? With real foods you are absorbing less calories, burning energy to digest and staying full longer.
As opposed to processed carbs, like breads, pastries, sugary energy drinks, and fruit juices are like a jolt to your system. They are absorbed very quickly not only not activating that energy usage to digest but also likely initiating a strong insulin response and a spike in your blood sugar. This unfortunately, just causes more stress on your metabolic system in a negative way.
Just focusing on the calories does not even bring into account your micronutrient levels, all the important vitamins and minerals that are missing from these "low-calorie" and processed foods that are vital to a strong metabolic system. B vitamins, folate, iodine, manganese, these are all incredibly important micronutrients that are needed for your body to run efficiently and burn energy correctly. Simply counting calories will not ensure you are getting any of this.
2. Your Gut Health
Yup, it always comes back to the gut doesn't it? When it comes to your metabolism part of the calorie in vs. calorie out equation is what is actually being brought in!
Depending on the health of your gut and the bacteria that are living inside will determine the amount of calories and nutrients that are actually being absorbed. Your intestines are like an underground highway, nothing is really "inside" of you to be used until it is absorbed through the gut wall. Those cars of nutrients and energy can go on zooming out the other end if your digestion isn't right!
Having gut infections like yeast, bacteria and parasites (I see these everyday) can also place a large stress on your metabolic system. They initiate an inflammatory response, make it harder to take in those important vitamins and minerals, and can also cause horrible cravings that wreck havoc on any type of portion control or sweets moderation. Not to mention the bloating, ugh we all hate that don't we? Bloating can make you feel sluggish, fat, and uncomfortable, having gut infections are a common cause of this symptom and getting rid of those bad guys living in your body can help you feel leaner, have more energy and support your metabolism
3. High Intensity Interval Training
HIIT Training (high intensity interval training) has been shown to help your mitochondria, those little energy factories in your cells, work harder and burn more energy longer.
When you workout for short bursts of intense times (sprints), followed by short recovery periods, you are able to take in large amounts of oxygen and burn more fat than that long, steady cardio you do watching the tv screen while on the elliptical for an hour.
Many studies have been done on these types of workouts and have shown that it is one of the greatest metabolism boosters and get results quickly. One study compared how HIIT training and steady-state cardio impacted individuals body fat and muscle metabolism. They concluded that although the HIIT workouts burned less time during the actual workout, it resulted in greater fat loss than the steady-state exercisers. Another great benefit is that the HIIT workout helped build muscle, while the steady-state workout broke down muscle. This is incredibly important to remember as muscle is more metabolically active than fat and uses more energy and calories throughout the day.
If that doesn't convince you than the time investment should. A HIIT workout takes typically between 15-30 minutes to have all of those benefits. And you can do it anywhere, so not having the time is no longer an excuse.
You can perform HIIT workouts on machines such as a treadmill, bike, elliptical, or rower, or you can do them using plyometrics, jump rope, or kettlebells. You can also start from any fitness level, very beginner to ultra athlete.