Santorio Sanctorius was the first person addicted to stepping on the scale. He’d weigh himself continuously throughout the day—after he ate, after he drank, after he used the bathroom, after he had sex.
But Santorio wasn’t motivated by weight loss. He was studying what we today call metabolism. That was in 1614, and today, over 400 years later, we’re still working out the details of this complicated physical system.
Your metabolism has a lot of influence on your body weight. Thankfully, over the centuries, we have unlocked a few key habits that can improve and increase your metabolism for easier weight loss.
Before we dive into our three metabolism hacks, let’s get a handle on exactly what the metabolism is.
Your metabolism is your body’s way of converting what you eat and drink into energy. It’s a chemical reaction in your body’s cells that changes calories in food and beverages into the energy you need to function and stay alive.
Your metabolism runs 24/7 as you breathe, circulate blood, and repair cells even when you’re resting or sleeping. A slow metabolism burns fewer calories in a day to complete all these tasks. A faster metabolism demands more calories to keep things moving and grooving.
While our metabolism speed is highly influenced by our genes, our habits can push that number up or down. How you eat and exercise, how much you currently weigh, and your sleep all play a part in the speed of your metabolism. You can manipulate your metabolism and boost weight loss by making these three small changes:
Our bodies were built to walk. Walking is one of the most physically beneficial activities you can incorporate into your lifestyle. It has been proven to decrease your chance of contracting certain diseases and can add years to your life. Walking is as effective at diminishing depression as anti-depressants. And—bonus—it increases your metabolism.
Just one 30 minute session of walking per day burns up to 200 calories but also increases your resting calorie burn for a few hours after your workout is complete. This low impact form of exercise is very unlikely to cause injury, so you can enjoy it for years to come.
Step counters can be a really motivating tool to help you walk more. If you’re not ready to invest in a more expensive pedometer, like the Fitbit, the 3D FitBud’s Simple Step Counter is an easy to use, budget-friendly option.
Track how many steps you’re taking on a typical day and see if you can increase that number by a few thousand. 10,000 steps a day, which has been recommended recently, is approximately 5 miles. If you’d rather not use a pedometer, feel free to find a 1-3 mile loop around your neighborhood that you can walk each day to get closer to that 10,000 steps goal.
As beneficial as walking is for your metabolism, strength training leaves walking in the shadows. The workout movement of the ‘80s bent our thinking to be biased towards cardio for fat loss, but we understand a lot more about our physical bodies today than we did 45 years ago.
Cardio can burn more calories per minute during a workout. However, cardio does not increase your resting metabolism as much as strength training does. When you go for a jog, you’ll burn approximately 100 calories per 10 minutes. Once you finish your workout, leave the gym, and continue with your daily activities, your body will burn slightly more calories per hour in the following few hours than if you hadn’t worked out at all.
If, on the other hand, you complete a strength training workout in the same amount of time, you’d only burn about 50 calories per 10 minutes. But your body would burn significantly more calories in the following 24 hours than if you simply went for a run.
Strength training exercises will gradually increase the size of your muscles. Each pound of muscle tissue requires your body to burn more calories while at rest. This extra burning is not limited to the few hours following a workout session. As your muscle size increases, your body burns through your calorie reserves (fat storage) around the clock to meet your ongoing higher energy needs.
Every time you eat, your metabolism increases slightly to digest and store the food you’ve consumed. This process is called the “thermic effect of food.” Protein has a higher thermic effect than fats and carbs since it takes longer for our bodies to burn and absorb it.
Studies have found that combining adequate protein intake with your strength training exercises can boost your metabolism. If you want to tap into the metabolism-boosting benefits of strength training, it’s critical that you replenish your protein stores.
Protein promotes muscle synthesis and helps you preserve lean muscle mass, which we all lose as we age. Pairing your walking and strength training with adequate amounts of daily protein is crucial to helping your body build strength instead of lose it. This simple diet shift will prevent the decline in your metabolism and physical strength in the years to come.
Aim to consume at least 30 grams of protein per meal. Add a sliced chicken breast to your salad for lunch. Or, if you’re vegan, add a scoop or two of vegan protein powder to your morning smoothies.
It’s true—people with a fast metabolism burn calories at a quicker rate and can eat a lot more without gaining extra pounds. A faster metabolism makes weight loss easier. But is your metabolism the whole story?
No matter how sluggish your metabolism might seem, the best way to drop pounds is to eat right and exercise strategically. That’s why boosting your metabolism is just one of the strategies we use in the LEAN program.
If you’re ready to kick your weight loss into high gear, sign up for the next open LEAN session! For more practical tips and tricks to make healthy living and weight loss a lot easier, join my weekly newsletter here.