Metabolism refers to the rate at which your body burns calories. Your metabolic rate is your personal “calories-per-hour” number. Your metabolism is lowest while you sleep and highest during and right after vigorous exercise. Here are a few tips for raising your metabolism:
1. DON’T SKIP BREAKFAST
The morning meal jump starts your metabolism and helps to prevent bingeing later in the day. A cup of coffee does not count – the caffeine and added sugar may give you a bit of energy and suppress your appetite for a little while, but generally backfires causing severe hunger and overeating later in the day. Breakfast should include complex carbohydrates like whole grain (granola or oatmeal), along with some protein and fat (low-fat yogurt or milk) to keep your energy levels even and hunger in check.
2. EAT MORE OFTEN
Get into the habit of eating every three to four hours or at least four times a day. Eating frequently stabilizes blood sugar. When blood sugar drops too low you want to eat…a lot. By keeping your blood sugar stable you can control your appetite and keep you metabolic rate high. When you go many hours without eating your body will compensate by slowing down your metabolism to conserve energy.
3. EAT PROTEIN AT EVERY MEAL
Protein takes more energy and time to digest, and will leave you feeling full longer than eating carbohydrates alone. Research shows that eating more protein can help you lose weight without cutting calories. Try these protein possibilities: turkey on whole wheat; hummus and pita; vegetarian chili; fruit and nuts; or protein snack bars that contain 12 or more grams of protein.
4. HOLD OFF ON SNACKING
Many of us grab a snack for quick energy when we are feeling tired, but do not confuse true hunger with fatigue. If you are feeling tired go for a 15-20 minute brisk walk. This will raise your heart rate and give you a boost of energy. Follow it up with a large glass of cool water. If you are truly hungry have a protein- and complex carbohydrate-rich snack like whole wheat crackers and peanut butter or cheese.
5. CONSUME ENOUGH FOR YOUR BODY’S NEEDS
Eating too little slows your body’s metabolism the same way eating too infrequently does. If you want to lose weight, do not slash your calories too drastically. Instead, cut out some of the extras in your diet – things like soda, juice, packaged goods or candy. Processed foods tend to be high in fat and calories and low in vitamins, minerals and fiber.
It's important to understand that your metabolic rate is controlled by many factors. You can exert a fair amount of control over many of these factors. This article has emphasized how your diet affects your metabolism, but clearly movement is the other major factor. We'll talk about that soon!