“The physical and chemical processes by which substances are produced or transformed (broken down) into energy or products for the uses of the body.”
In other words, your metabolism is the process where nutrients (food) are broken down into useable energy (for movement and heat).
Your metabolic rate is how fast this reaction happens (i.e. how quickly food is broken down into usable energy). A high metabolic rate means that food is ‘burnt’ more quickly. This is good, and why we all need to aim to increase our metabolic rate. By having a faster metabolic rate, or metabolism, we are able to burn calories more effectively, even at rest. Interestingly, it should also be noted that metabolism decreases with age… One of the many of a myriad of reasons why we change shape with age.
So, how can you increase your metabolism? It’s easy!
- Always eat a decent sized breakfast to kick start your metabolism, ideally within half an hour of waking. Low glycaemic index foods are best at this point of the day. Oats are ideal, or you may even prefer a savoury omelette.
- Eat five or six small meals throughout the day. You will need to plan ahead a bit more, and may even need to set an alarm to remember to have a morning snack. Nuts, seeds, oatcakes or an apple or banana are ideal snacks, and easy to pack for work. By eating more early in the day, you’ll be less likely to reach for on ‘junk’ later, as your blood sugar levels will remain steadier.Ideally eat half of your calories by the end of lunch. Taper your food intake over the course of the day, with bigger meals in the morning and smaller in the evening.
- Undertake cardiovascular exercise (i.e. running, fast walking, cycling, dancing, swimming) at least three times per week with your heart rate in the ‘training zone’ – ask me if you’re unsure.
- Build muscle mass. This does not mean you have to bulk up, but instead, convert fat to muscle. Muscle is a metabolically active tissue. It requires a certain number of calories each day to maintain itself. Therefore, the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn, even when you’re just sitting around. As your muscle mass drops, so does your daily calorie requirement. Exercises which will increase muscle mass are the strength exercises (i.e. press ups, squats, lunges).
- Drink plenty of water. A well hydrated system will assist the chemical reactions in your body that make up your metabolic processes.
Choose a wide variety of wholegrains and raw, unprocessed food to give you extra energy. Explore foods you’ve never tried and be aware that highly processed ‘junk’ food can actually upset your blood sugar balance. An easy rule of thumb is if your Grandparents wouldn’t have eaten it, then it’s probably not nutritious food.