It's good to be young.
When you're young, you look better, feel better, work better and recover better. An important reason for this is what's under the hood -- a high-performance engine in the form of a fast metabolism.
A fast metabolism confers many benefits. It helps us utilize consumed nutrients faster and more efficiently (that is, burn calories faster), which in turn results in enhanced overall energy and greater muscle mass. A faster metabolism is also linked to better hormonal balance, improved circulation, and faster removal of toxins, all of which are key markers of general wellness and youthful vitality.
While we're on the subject, let's dispel a couple of myths about metabolism. A faster metabolism will not necessarily help you lose weight or even excess fat. There is only one way to do that, and it's by adhering to a daily caloric deficit. You need to take in less calories than you burn, on a consistent basis.
Similarly, it is not possible to "reset" your metabolism, as so many fad diets and exercise regimens promise to do. There is no exotic berry or stringent detox protocol that acts as a magic button to default you to your original metabolic factory setting.
Your metabolism will tend to slow as you get older, but whether that decline is gradual or an alarming plummet off a cliff is up to you. You can, in fact, support metabolism just as you would cardiovascular, hormonal or mental health. Let's take a look at a few simple, natural lifestyle changes that will support metabolic activity and even tune it up a bit.
Eating one or two huge meals a day is a little like yo-yo dieting in microcosm. The result is a kind of binging and starving that plays havoc with your metabolism, causing it to alternately rev way up and then sputter out.
A better approach is to keep your metabolism whirring along productively, hour after hour, by consuming smaller targeted meals throughout the day. Don't wait until you're ravenous to eat something; that will just tempt you to overeat. Shoot for three main meals consisting of appropriate measured portions, interspersed with healthy snacks -- a piece of fruit, a handful of nuts, a high-quality protein bar. And don't skip breakfast!
This is kind of a chicken-or-the-egg situation, in that each makes the other possible. A faster metabolism will more efficiently deliver nutrients to stressed muscle tissue, helping it recover and grow. Increased muscle mass, on the other hand, raises metabolism potential because it requires (and burns) calories by just existing. Certainly more so than body fat.
Weight training, then -- especially the kind of high-volume compound movements most closely linked to muscle mass gain -- kicks off a kind of virtuous cycle in which the exercise itself raises caloric demand and metabolic rate, while increased muscle mass is in itself metabolically expensive to retain. Numerous studies have shown that people middle-aged and older can increase quality of life -- whether functional strength, heart health or even cognitive ability -- by engaging in weight training. A lot of that increased wellness may be due to manifesting greater metabolic efficiency compared to that of their more sedentary peers.
Dietary protein's effect on metabolism is twofold. Protein is the perfect thermogenic food in that it requires more calories than carbs or fats to digest, absorb and process. At the same time, that ingested protein provides the amino acids that muscle tissue requires to recover and grow. Decreased muscle mass, as we've seen, is a marker of declining metabolism. This is true of older people and also people on calorie-restricted diets, who experience slowdowns in metabolic rate as they shed muscle mass.
Make an effort to add protein to every meal, whether it's oats and/or eggs at breakfast, chicken or fish added to salads or pasta at lunch, and cuts of lean meat at dinner. Protein snacking or supplementation, in the form of high-quality protein bars or protein powders, is well indicated too for keeping your basal metabolic rate clipping along at a high gear throughout the day.
Challenging your body with intense physical exercise increases blood flow to the limbs and muscles, while ramping up demand for energy in the form of stored glycogen. So you literally increase your metabolic rate every time you workout. You'll accomplish this when you do the weight training cited above, and also with cardio training.
Now we're not talking steady-state plodding along, which your body quickly acclimates to, reducing metabolic benefit. We're talking high-intensity interval training, sprints, even a competitive game of pick-up basketball. These exercises involve quick and intense bursts of activity which will boost metabolic rate both during and after the exercise interval, as your body recovers. Remember: sedentary behaviors are the enemy of a high-functioning metabolism.
Every biochemical transaction in your body takes place in a watery environment. This includes the conversion of fuel to energy. Staying properly hydrated has long been linked to more efficient calorie burning, whereas mild dehydration can slow your metabolism.
The common recommendation is to drink eight 8-oz glasses of water a day. This increases during intense exercise, especially in any kind of heat, during which you should shoot for about a liter of water per hour. You may also want to drink a little bit more if you're consuming naturally dehydrating substances such as the one cited next.
Before there were ultra-sophisticated pre-workout formulas, there was a popular pre-workout performance optimizer called a cup of strong black coffee. You don't have to be an elite athlete to know that strong stimulants affect energy expenditure.
In the case of coffee, the caffeine in it will increase metabolism (along with heart rate), while also triggering the body to release neurotransmitters like norepinephrine, which helps regulate the way your body processes fat.
Stimulant sensitive? Try green tea instead. The EGCGs (epigallocatechin gallate) in green tea may inhibit the breakdown of fat-burning norepinephrine, supporting fat utilization for energy. Green tea also contains a small amount of caffeine (which may work synergistically with EGCGs) and may also have positive effects on your gut microbiome, which would also support nutrient uptake.
B vitamins generally (and B-12 or cobalamin particularly) are known as the energy vitamin. This is because the Bs play vital roles in biochemical reactions at the mitochondrial cellular level that turn food into fuel.
Vitamin B12 -- which is found most commonly in animal products like meat, dairy products and eggs -- helps cells turn fatty acids into energy. Vitamin B1 (thiamine) and B2 (riboflavin) also help cells metabolize carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Each also helps to support healthy brain and nervous system function. Interestingly, a deficiency in one B vitamin can negatively impact absorption of other B vitamins.
The ever-lengthening amount of time we spend sitting every day is literally killing us. Prolonged sitting or other sedentary behavior has been linked to increased risk of diabetes, poor heart health, weight gain, depression, dementia, and multiple cancers. It's bad for your metabolism, too, as it inhibits blood circulation, leads to decreased muscle mass, and lowers resting caloric burn rate.
One of the best things you can do for your health is to simply get out of your chair. If you must spend extended time at your desk working, set your laptop on some kind of elevated surface and work standing up. Make a point of walking somewhere, anywhere, even if it's to another office, every 30 minutes or so. Use stairs as opposed to an elevator whenever possible. Get a bicycle and try to use it in place of short car trips. Turn off the TV and go for a walk. Simply standing up and stretching periodically can have a significant impact on your overall health -- and your metabolism.
Proper rest, as we always say, is the foundation for peak wellness. It is during sleep that your body repairs and rebuilds muscle, performs cellular clean-up, removes metabolic wastes and toxins, and repairs the cellular mitochondria that are responsible for creating the energy that muscles require during exercise.
Lost sleep is associated with elevated levels of cortisol during the afternoon and the evening, which can impair insulin release, resulting in reduced nutrient uptake. Not getting enough sleep also reduces leptin levels, the hormone that makes us feel full, while increasing ghrelin, the hunger hormone. So get your eight hours and try to keep your sleep schedule as regular as possible.
The articles featured herein are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Specific medical advice should only be obtained from a licensed health care professional. No liability is assumed by ProSource for any information herein.