For many people, the concept of metabolism is something of a mystery. They might realize it’s related to weight status and temperature control. They might understand that it speeds up or slows down based on how much exercise they do – and what type. They might even think what they eat can take it up a notch. But beyond that, it’s just this nebulous figure that people are constantly trying to manipulate.
“Your resting metabolism is the amount of energy your body needs to perform basic functions like breathing and digesting food,” explains Kelly Nohl, a registered dietitian with Henry Ford Health.
While it’s true that genetics affect your metabolic rate, there are also things you can do to kick it up a notch, if you so choose.
- Don’t skip breakfast. Eat a healthy breakfast within an hour of waking. Choose a balanced meal that contains a mix of protein, complex carbohydrates and fat (eggs and whole grain toast, slow-cooked oatmeal with nuts and berries or plain Greek yogurt with fruit are all good examples).
- Eat frequently. “Many people think the key to increasing their metabolism is to eat less,” Nohl says. In reality, it’s quite the opposite: Not eating signals your body to hang on to every calorie in preparation for starvation – and your metabolism slows down as a sort of survival mechanism. A better approach is to eat something every three to five hours. That way your body always has something to use for fuel and your metabolism keeps humming.
- Build muscle. Muscle burns more calories than fat – so the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn, even at rest. Strength training, resistance work, even muscle-building activities like squats, lunges and push-ups can kick your metabolism up a notch. Since muscle mass naturally declines with age, these activities become even more important when you reach age 40 and beyond.
- Keep stress levels in check. Stress has far-reaching effects on both body and mind, churning out hormones that can depress everything from your mood to your metabolism. To help minimize these effects, try stress-busting techniques like meditation, massage and exercise.
- Get some sleep. To hit the recommended seven to nine hours each night, establish a regular sleep/wake pattern where you go to bed and awake at the same time each day. Turn off all screens one hour before bedtime. And engage in a soothing 10-minute routine before lights out – things like reading, meditating or writing in a journal.
Your metabolic rate isn’t set. It changes throughout your life cycle – and during times of stress, growth and development (pregnancy, menopause and times of illness are all metabolic game changers). And while plenty of headlines suggest that sipping on green tea, eating spicy foods and subsisting exclusively on grapefruit will kick up your metabolism, according to Nohl, there are no magic foods that boost metabolism enough to make a noticeable difference.
Looking for more info and want to make an appointment with a registered dietitian? Call 1-855-434-5483 or visit Nutrition Services on henryford.com.
Kelly Nohl is a registered dietitian nutritionist for the Henry Ford Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention.