Your metabolism is all of the chemical reactions that take place in your body every day to keep it alive, as it turns calories you’ve consumed into usable energy. It’s determined by several factors, including your genetic makeup, body composition, gender, hormonal health, level of activity, and age. Some of these factors are in your control, like muscle mass and hormonal health, and some factors are not, like genetics and age. The focus should be on actively engaging in nutrition and lifestyle metabolism boosters that can enhance the factors within your control to protect your body from disease and slow the signs of aging.
While a fast, properly-functioning metabolism is important for preventing weight gain, it has many other benefits for maintaining general health. These benefits include enhancing immune function, lowering rates of infectious and degenerative diseases, supporting fertility, helping to maintain a healthy sex drive, enhancing lean muscle mass, promoting adequate energy, supporting brain functionality and longevity, and more.
Your metabolism is the process of your body creating energy, and every system in the body is dependent on the rate of energy production at the cellular level. In general, the metabolism begins to slow naturally after age 40. To improve its function, you can proactively add metabolism enhancers into your daily life.
Don’t restrict calories. As counterintuitive as it may seem, eating too little can actually slow down your metabolism. Weight loss potential decreases when your body believes it’s starving. Depriving your body of calories reduces the production of metabolic hormones, which means that you’ll hold on to every precious calorie you eat in order to ensure survival. This increases fat storage. In addition, lower calorie intake means that your body will begin to break down muscle mass for energy. Lowered muscle mass means the body will be able to burn fewer calories naturally.
Increase protein consumption. You need protein to build muscles, and this is important because muscles are the metabolic powerhouses of your body. Increased muscle mass enhances your metabolism. Every pound of muscle burns six calories a day (just by simply existing), while a pound of fat burns only two calories. Aim to consume approximately 0.6-1.0 grams of protein daily for each pound you weigh (more for athletes). Be careful of excess, however, as excess protein is stored as fat.
Always eat breakfast. Eating a proper breakfast is an important aspect of keeping your metabolism fueled and supported. A good breakfast contains a combination of healthy fats and protein - like an egg omelette with spinach and avocado or a fruit-based smoothie with protein powder and coconut or MCT oil.
Focus on nutrient-dense foods, not calories. Always choose quality over quantity. Consume plant-based whole foods like leafy green vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and fresh fruits, all of which have plenty of vitamins and minerals to boost your metabolism. These foods also provide a balance of proteins, carbs, fats, and fiber to let your body know when you've had enough. Processed foods high in sugar and sodium, on the other hand, contain chemicals that trigger you to want to consume more and can spur mindless eating.
Include healthy snacks. Your mid-day snack should be similar to your breakfast, containing a protein and a healthy source of fat. Protein in particular stimulates the body to burn more energy in order to process it - more so than it does while processing carbs or fats. Healthy fats help you burn fat and provide fuel for your body and brain. If you don’t give your body too many carbohydrates (which are broken down into sugar for energy), the body will begin to burn fat as its primary energy source. That means less fat storage and more sustained energy levels.
Eat healthy fats. Healthy fats like avocados, nuts, and seeds ease cravings, provide satiety, regulate blood sugar levels, and help keep metabolism fueled. Other good sources of fats include coconut products (coconut oil, butter, flesh, etc.), ghee, extra virgin olive oil, organic grass-fed butter, fatty fish like salmon, and limited amounts of saturated fats from organic, grass-fed animals (meat, eggs, etc.). Include a source of healthy fat with every single meal and snack.
Get enough folate-rich foods. These will reverse and prevent the effects of obesity-causing foods and substances like BPA (often found in food and drink storage containers, such as plastic water bottles). Folate can protect you from the damaging effects of estrogenic-like chemicals that have been linked to various cancers, most notably breast and prostate cancers. Cruciferous vegetables are packed with folate. Pick from Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, Swiss chard, broccoli, and bok choy. The more you consume, the better your chances of reducing your risk for developing obesity, cardiovascular disease, dementia, cognitive impairment, and depression.
Avoid inflammation-producing foods. The body recognizes processed and inflammatory foods as toxins, so consuming them triggers your immune system’s fight or flight response. This response increases stress hormone production and slows down metabolic functioning. Inflammatory foods include sugary drinks, processed foods made with grains (bread, pasta, cereal, crackers, muffins, desserts, flours, chips, granola bars, and so on), refined vegetable oils, artificial sweeteners, and most dairy products.
Fall in love with green tea. It’s a natural metabolism-booster thanks to special antioxidant compounds, in addition to low levels of caffeine.
Add apple cider vinegar to your daily diet. ACV improves overall digestive health and helps to balance blood sugar levels. You can use it by mixing a tablespoon or two into a small amount of water and drinking it before meals. You can also incorporate it in salad dressings and sauces.
Garlic. Acting as a thermogenic in the body, garlic revs up the heat-producing effects of the metabolism. It’s also tied to lower blood sugar levels and less fat accumulation thanks to a compound it contains called allicin.
Ginger. Ginger also improves the body’s internal heat. This makes the body work harder to cool itself down, burning through more calories to do so. At the same time, ginger is great for flushing toxins out of the body and for bettering overall health.
Cayenne pepper. Similarly to ginger, the capsaicin in cayenne increases body heat, demanding more energy to cool it down. It also helps in shrinking fat tissue, lowering blood fat levels, and fighting fat build-up by triggering beneficial protein changes in the body.
Ginseng. This powerhouse herb has the ability to increase energy levels and speed up the metabolism. Panax ginseng, in particular, has been linked to weight loss because it improves insulin sensitivity.
Cinnamon. This delicious spice increases metabolism and helps to regulate blood sugar levels. It also reduces triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol levels in people with Type 2 diabetes.
Cardamom. This is another thermogenic herb that helps boost metabolism and may also boost the body's ability to burn fat.
Meditation. The simple act of daily meditation can help you lose weight by reducing stress and emotional eating, lowering cortisol levels, and improving sleep (as a lack of quality sleep is known to cause weight gain).
Combine cardio, HIIT, and resistance training. Cardio allows you to burn calories while working out, and because your metabolic rate stays elevated post-exercise, you’ll continue to burn extra calories afterwards - even while just sitting on the couch. For maximal benefits, aim to do cardio workouts 5 times a week for 20-45 minutes a time. To stay in the fat-burning zone, you should be able to hold a conversation (but, not easily) while working out. HIIT (high-intensity interval training) burns high amounts of calories in a short amount of time. It also produces the “after-burn” effect cardio does. Lifting weights, using resistance bands, and doing body-resistance exercises all work to help build calorie-burning muscle. To gain the benefits, the exercises should be difficult enough that you struggle to finish your last rep. A good weight-training program should include strength-training activities that work all your major muscle groups, in which each exercise includes two to three sets with 8 to 12 repetitions per set.
Get quality sleep. To do this, make sure your room is completely dark, which includes keeping all electronics out of the bedroom, and that it is cool and quiet. Lack of good sleep increases the production of ghrelin, a hormone that signals hunger and decreases leptin, the hormone that signals you’re full. Aim to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night to balance these hormones and increase weight loss.
Reduce stress. Easier said than done, we know! Stress increases cortisol levels, which then causes your body to release glucose into the bloodstream as it thinks it’s in “fight or flight” mode. This then triggers an insulin response. Insulin prevents fat burning, which is exactly what you’re trying to avoid. To make lowering stress easier, choose an activity you enjoy and are good at. This can be a gentle exercise, going for walks in nature, listening to calming music, pouring yourself a cup of tea and enjoying it in a peaceful environment, reading a book before bedtime, self-love practices like meditating and positive thought work, soaking in a bath with candles, spirituality practices, or doing yoga. Take some time every day to do at least one of these stress-reducing activities.
Making Peace With Your Body
In today’s social media-driven world, we tend to concentrate more on what others think of us than on what truly matters to us. We sometimes even forget how to really feel into our own hearts, how to make choices that are best for us, and how to live for ourselves rather than for others. It might be because we don’t take the time to notice our people-pleasing actions and thoughts. There are simple steps to become realigned with your true self:
Address the real issue. Body fat is not what is keeping you from being confident and happy. The issue lies deeper. And you are the solution. Take time to figure out what the real problem is. Why do you feel trapped or why do you turn to food to silence your emotions? Have a real talk with yourself to find out why you’re blaming your physical appearance. This could take a few months or even years, but the more time spent searching, the greater your chances of finding and working toward a solution.
Connect with yourself. When battling with your body image, there’s a disconnect between you and your true self. Attempts to get thin and feel wanted usually lie in trying to connect with yourself. You don’t need calorie restrictions or resolutions or better abs and a tight butt - you just need you. To better connect with yourself, start by looking in the mirror and really observing yourself. Go through every detail of your body. Simply observe and feel. Then repeat for a second and third time. Meditate on the experience. Do this until you are able to accept and surrender yourself to who you really are.
Write a letter to your body. As you begin to create a strong, non-judgmental relationship with your body and mind, you might find it beneficial to write a letter to your body. If you feel uncomfortable with this, you can think it instead. This might get emotional. Be sincere and allow yourself to apologize, compliment yourself, and give yourself unconditional love.
Practice mindfulness. This involves a heightened focus and awareness of your every move and step. The most important part is that you do so without judgement. Throughout each day, periodically focus on your breath and tune into your thoughts. Let these thoughts go and be still. This will help bring you back into the present moment and possibly create positive emotions toward yourself.
Understanding the underlying mechanisms of how metabolism works is key. By using a holistic approach that incorporates dietary changes, supplements, herbs, lifestyle, and emotional/spiritual components, you can take charge of your metabolism and boost it naturally. More importantly, you can make peace with your body, releasing the pressure and stress of revving up your metabolism. It’s often when we let go and surrender that true change is able to come about naturally.