If you’re starting your weight loss journey, you also want to focus on metabolism along with eating healthier food. There are a few things we can do to ramp up or reduce the slowing of metabolism that comes with weight loss.
This is important because when you lose weight, your body thinks it is entering starvation mode and your metabolism can slow up to a few hundred calories per day (Johannsen et al, 2012). This can contribute to the plateau in weight loss that occurs after the first 5-10kg. Sound familiar?
Here are some good tips to ramp up your metabolism and avoid or reduce that weight loss plateau.
Eat more protein at each meal and overall
Increased protein intake will reduce muscle loss that can often occur with weight loss. As discussed in the section above, increasing protein intake to 20-30% of your daily calorie intake, from 15%, can assist in protecting your muscle stores and fat free mass. This keeps your metabolism high, increases the thermic effect of food, and keeps hunger at bay to prevent cravings and bad snacking that can occur after the initial weight loss.
There are some studies which show that green tea can raise metabolism by up to 5% as it helps convert some of the fat stored in your body into free fatty acids, which can increase fat burning (Hursel 2009). Another study showed that 4 cups per day resulted in a significant reduction in weight, waist circumference and blood pressure amongst diabetics (Mousavi et al 2013). However other studies haven’t found similar results. That hasn’t stopped people including green tea in their diet to avoid the plateau that happens with a reduced metabolism after initial weight loss. Whether this is true or not for everyone, Green tea is also low in calories so it’s a good drink choice for weight maintenance as an alternative to water.
Studies claim that caffeine can stimulate the nervous system, which increases metabolism by up to 10% through increased resting metabolism and fat burning (Dulloo et al 1989; Koot & 1995). However, this seems to affect lean people more than overweight people (Bracco et al 1995), so it’s likely to help with weight maintenance, not weight loss.
Chilli peppers contain a substance called capsaicin which can boost your metabolism (Gregersen et al 2013). But we’re only talking around 10 calories per meal, and some people can’t tolerate these ‘standard’ levels of chilli intake. Spicy food can also aggravate irritiable bowel so cautious. Whilst the effect isn’t large with regards to metabolism, combined with other strategies it’s an interesting one to consider.
Do some resistance training
Resistance training is one of the best methods to build muscle (when coupled with the right diet including good protein intake!). Increased fat free mass (muscle) can contribute to a higher resting metabolism as muscle burns 3 x more calories at rest than fat (Wang et al 2001). This could result in 100 calories a day (approx. 400 KJ). Interesting fact – the brain actually burns 50 times more energy at rest than fat which is why you’re often hungry when you’re studying or working hard. And since the brain needs carbs for energy, this means a zero carb diet can really affect your brain power.
Do some high intensity training
Doing some high intensity workouts (bursts of intense exercise) can increase your metabolism and help you to burn more fat, for quite a while after your workout has ended (sometimes hours!) this is called the afterburn effect (Paoli et al 2014). This seems to be more true for HIIT (high-intensity interval running) than other types of intense exercise such as high aerobic exercise or resistance training (Wingfield et al 2015). So doing HIIT on non-workout days is a great way to help to keep your metabolism boosted. Ideas would be 1 minute sprints (or on a bike at full speed), followed by a minute rest, followed by another 1 minute sprint (10 sprints in total).
Walk more & stand often
When we sit our bodies burn less calories (Levine et al 2005). When we sit for long periods of time regularly, this can lead to weight gain. Standing to read, or take phone calls, or just watch your kids sport, can really help to burn extra calories – sometimes up to an extra 100-200 calories over an afternoon (Buckley et al 2014)
Walking is another way to burn calories, as often it’s incidental exercise that is lacking in our days. Even if we do a workout each morning, but then follow it with sitting down all day, our calories burned are a lot lower than ideal. Try and achieve a minimum of 10,000 steps a day for good health and weight management. Little things like walking an extra stop off the bus, walking the kids to school and back, walking in your lunch break, or walking for 30-45 minutes in the morning, can really rev up your metabolism.
Lack of sleep can negatively affect metabolism and can be a major cause of obesity (Markwald et al 2013). Sleep deprivation can also lead to increased blood sugar levels and insulin resistance (Sharma & Kavuru 2010). Lack of sleep can also boost the hunger hormone ghrelin and reduce the fullness hormone leptin (Spiegel et al 2004) which could explain why improved sleep has also been found to reduce the intake of carbs and fats compared to periods of sleep deprivation, leading to weight loss (Markwald).
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