One study suggests that if you sleep fewer than seven-and-a-half hours a day not only makes weight loss difficult, but it can increase your body mass index.
Remember when you were a teenager and could eat anything you wanted? Not only could you eat fatty, sugary foods around the clock, but your body actually needed all that energy.
Many years later, those cravings still remain, but your body’s nutritional requirements have changed. With each passing decade, metabolic rates slow down — as does your ability to shed unwanted pounds.
This slowing of your body’s metabolism is an inevitable part of aging. But don’t despair. In the tips below we’ll cover a broad range of healthy and natural ways to boost your body’s metabolic rate and keep weight gain to a minimum. Done correctly, you might even need to buy a slimmer wardrobe.
1. Metabolism Starts with Sleep
Most metabolism-related advice focuses on diet and exercise (and we’ll get to those in a second). But for now, let’s start with one of the most important (but neglected) strategies for boosting the metabolism — getting a full night of sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get between seven to nine hours a night.
The link between proper sleep and metabolism is well documented. Sleep deprivation disrupts the release of ghrelin and leptin — two naturally occurring hormones that regulate both energy levels and appetite. In fact, according to one Stanford University study, sleeping fewer than seven-and-a-half hours a day not only makes weight loss difficult, but it can actually increase your body mass index (BMI).
2. Limited (but Intense) Aerobic Exercise
Cardiovascular workouts and proper weight management go hand in hand (no big surprise there). What you may not know, however, is that shorter, intense workouts offer more metabolic advantages than longer, steadier exercise routines do.
In one landmark study, a control group rode stationary bicycles for 40 minutes (at a steady pace), while the test group did 20-minute intervals of relaxed bicycling mixed with intermittent bursts of heavy pedaling. After just 15 weeks, the test group had lost three times as much body fat as the control group had.
When it comes to boosting the metabolism, slow and steady does not win the race.
3. Caffeine Is Your Friend
Water is the best liquid you could possibly drink. But believe it or not, caffeine can be a safe and natural way to speed up your body’s metabolism. Obviously, you want to drink beverages like coffee in moderation. And absolutely avoid the temptation of flavoring that morning cup of Joe with cream or sugar.
If you’re not already a coffee drinker, you can still get caffeine from other terrific sources like oolong or green tea, both of which contain catechins — naturally occurring compounds that boost your body’s metabolism. In fact, drinking these popular teas can help your body burn up to 17 percent more calories than normal.
4. Booze Is Your Enemy
We’re all familiar with the infamous “beer belly.” But really, all alcohols follow the same general principle. Overindulging (i.e. two drinks or more) can reduce your body’s fat-burning ability by nearly 75 percent. Once your liver converts alcohol into acetate, this new compound temporarily becomes the body’s primary energy source — instead of your fat reserves.
5. Avoid Dieting — at All Costs
Your body is much smarter than you are. When it senses temporary food shortages (from diets or famine), it automatically goes into crisis mode and conserves as much energy as possible.
Over time, this natural defense mechanism only gets worse, which explains why the first diet often succeeds, but subsequent diets invariably fail.
Another reason to avoid diets is because they are not sustainable. True weight management requires lifestyle changes — not temporary hacks that leave both your cravings and body worse off.
And just to be clear, we’re not simply talking about “crash” dieting. In one recent study, volunteers who skipped breakfast faced a much greater risk of obesity than control groups who regularly ate that first morning meal.
6. Healthy (and Spicy) Eating
There are no real surprises here. You already know the importance of:
* Fresh, organic fruits and vegetables
* Lean proteins (e.g. fish, chicken and low-fat dairy)
* Whole grains and non-processed carbohydrates
Unlike sugary or fatty snacks, these healthy food groups make it much easier for your body to maintain consistent glucose levels throughout the day. This is especially true if you eat smaller, more frequent meals as opposed to the more traditional three large meals.
You read that correctly. You can eat more and still lose weight.
Bonus Tip 1: Spicy foods (e.g. chili peppers) have been shown to further boost metabolic rates — sometimes by as much as 23 percent. They also keep you “regular.”
Bonus Tip 2: Iron is another metabolic miracle. The element carries oxygen to your muscles, thus giving you more energy for aerobic exercise (see Strategy #2). Red meat is an obvious source of iron, but it’s not usually lean. Instead, stick with broccoli, spinach, bok choy, beans and fortified cereals.
Live Longer, Feel Better and Be Slimmer
Making the transition from burgers to bok choy may not sound appealing at first. And trading late night television for restful sleep might initially be off-putting. But healthy living is a self-reinforcing cycle that continues to deliver increasingly large dividends with time:
* The better you eat, the more energy you’ll have for exercise routines that were once unthinkable.
* The better you sleep, the more conscientious you’ll become about how you spend your time and what you put into your body.
Start slowly and weave in the above strategies over time. By adopting a healthier lifestyle built around sustainable habits, you’ll become a slimmer and happier person.
About the Author:
Suzanne Coblentz works at Nava Health & Vitality Center as the Director of Offline and Social Media. Suzanne’s goal is to introduce a new side of total body wellness to all of her clients.