By Allyson Mitidieri, JCC Nutritionist
You have heard it before: A slow metabolism leads to weight gain and poor health. You’ve seen the advertisements for metabolism-boosting supplements, teas, juices, and diets. You may have even tried them all, but you still have not shed those last five pounds. What gives?
Metabolism encompasses all of the chemical processes in the body needed to sustain our lives. Although it powers your physical and mental activity, it also helps your body, repair cells, keep blood flowing, regulate hormones and more. Your digestive systems play a huge role in metabolism, as do certain hormones like ghrelin (that signals your brain that you are hungry), leptin (that signals your brain that you are full), and insulin (that allows sugar from the food you eat to enter your cells to be used as fuel).
Calories are a unit of energy, and your body needs a certain number of calories each day to have enough energy to function properly on a basic level. When you consume more calories than your body needs, the excess is stored as fat. If you continue to consume more food than necessary, your metabolism slows because it does not have to work as hard to find energy. This leads to weight gain. When you consume less than you need, your body can use stored fat for energy. Be careful though – there is such a thing as not enough calories!
Consider animals going into hibernation for the winter. Food is limited, so they consume considerable amounts to build fat stores. During hibernation, a period of little movement and rest, metabolism slows so that those fat stores are burned little by little, allowing them to survive through the winter. Humans are similar. When you gain weight, your body has more than enough energy stored to power through a day full of sitting and resting. When you cut calories too much, your metabolism slows even further to save that energy.
So you may now think that no matter what you do- consume more energy than you need or consume less than you need- your metabolism is going to slow. These scenarios are extremes that can be easily avoided, but unfortunately are the norm for many people in the United States. If you diet and cut calories to the point where your body is going into “starvation mode” you will likely not lose weight. You may even gain weight! If you consume too much, you will definitely gain weight. The key is balance.
Here are some ways to speed up your metabolism:
#1: Pay attention to your hunger cues
This may be the hardest of all of the steps you could take to boost your metabolism, but it is really the overall goal. Try not to go too long without eating, and try not to eat more than you need. Slow down during meals so that you know when you are feeling full, and pay more attention to stomach hunger than eye hunger!
#2: Try to eat a balanced meal every 3-4 hours
To keep your metabolism going, try not to let your digestive system slow down by having your stomach empty for too long. A well-balanced meal with fruits, vegetables, protein and healthy fats will keep your stomach full longer than a meal full of sugar.
#3: Build muscle
Muscles need a lot of energy to maintain mass; therefore, the more muscle you have, the more total energy your body needs to sustain itself. Your metabolism will still work even when you are immobile, so having more muscle mass can help combat that down time. Building muscle mass is the best way to speed up metabolism!
With sleep deprivation, you impair your body’s ability to produce hormones that regulate appetite and blood sugar levels. For your metabolism to work to its full potential, these hormones are necessary. Try to get a solid 7-9 hours of sleep every night.
Make your metabolism work for you! For help with your personal nutrition plan, contact me at [email protected] or call (856) 424-4444 x 1236 to inquire about nutrition packages. For help building muscle, set up a program with one of the many great personal trainers here at the JCC. Contact Gene Bonetti, Fitness Director, at [email protected] or call (856) 424-4444 x1141.