How to Boost Your Metabolism
It’s no secret that one of the keys to losing weight and keeping it off long-term—and staying lean with each passing year—is to keep your metabolism revved up. When I searched the term ‘metabolism’ on Google, 55 million results came up—a testament to how hot this topic is.
For those who want credible answers to their questions about metabolism and burning calories, a comprehensive new book fits the bill. In Boosting Your Metabolism for Dummies®, registered dietitian Rachel Berman, Director of Nutrition for CalorieCount.com, puts the science-based principles of boosting metabolism into practice. This readable and accessible book offers practical eating and lifestyle tips and recipes sure to help anyone interested in long-term weight management.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Berman to pick her brain about how we can best boost our metabolism in a safe, sensible and realistic way. Here are the highlights of our conversation.
EZ: What are some key dietary strategies people can use to boost their metabolism?
RB: Your metabolism is the engine that powers everything your body does, like helping your heartbeat at rest and during intense workouts. Your metabolism runs on fuel in the form of calories and nutrients from food. Even if you’re not very active, your body needs to convert fuel to energy to help your metabolism work optimally. Eating food close to that found in nature (picture it living, growing on a tree, or in the ground) provides the best fuel to fire up your metabolism. Spreading out calories throughout the day—for example, every four hours or so—can help your body and mind stay fueled. Ditching deprivation is also key to keep your metabolism revved. Eating too little or blindly following a restrictive diet can slow your metabolism by up to 20 percent. Your body won’t literally function as well if it doesn’t have the proper calories to keep it moving, just as your car may peter out when low on gas. Eating too little can also make you lose precious muscle mass—not fat mass.
EZ: Do certain foods really boost your metabolism?
RB: Your metabolism relies on carbohydrates for energy. High fiber carbohydrate-rich foods help stabilize blood sugar throughout the day. That’s because after a meal, the hormone insulin can handle the slower influx of glucose into the bloodstream and ushers it to your cells to use for energy. Quinoa is a high fiber carbohydrate-rich food that also provides protein to help boost your metabolic rate and keep you fuller longer. Colorful fruits and vegetables are healthful options that provide antioxidants that help ward off diseases like cancer and have been shown to boost fat metabolism in your body. Nuts like almonds are rich in healthy fats, vitamin E—a powerful antioxidant that protects heart health—and magnesium, a mineral that’s important for your metabolism. The fiber content and unique texture of almonds improve satiety and, in 2012, the USDA discovered that almonds may provide 20 percent fewer calories than scientists previously believed. Almonds give you a lot of nutritional bang for your caloric buck! Finally, salmon is a great option. It’s rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids. We need protein to build and maintain tissues including lean muscle in our bodies. Lean muscle burns more calories at rest than fat mass. And research shows that omega-3 fatty acids can help you feel more satisfied by increasing your body’s sensitivity to leptin, the hormone that tells you you’re full. A study published in Appetite found that people who were overweight and fed more omega-3fatty acids felt less hunger while losing weight.
EZ: In the book, you say that certain food combinations can help our engines run faster and stronger. Can you explain this and provide a few examples?
RB: Your metabolism requires vitamins and minerals to work the best it can. Therefore, when you pair certain foods, you can optimize absorption of certain nutrients and their metabolism-boosting power. For example, studies suggest that pairing foods rich in heart-healthy fats (like avocado) with tomatoes and dark leafy green vegetables can help you absorb antioxidants found in those foods–for example, lycopene (protects against cancer) and lutein (protects your eyes). Also, simply eating tomatoes and spinach or broccoli together helps boost lycopene’s power.
Some other foods that work well together are beans and greens. The non-heme iron found in beans is better absorbed when paired with vitamin C-rich foods like kale, spinach, or broccoli. You can also make a smoothie with nuts or seeds (like walnuts or flaxseeds) and skim milk. The fat in the nuts and seeds helps you absorb the vitamin D and vitamin A found in the milk.
EZ: Any final tips to help people boost their metabolism in a healthful way?
RB: It’s important to get enough sleep, manage stress, and exercise regularly since all interconnect when it comes to your metabolism and how your hormones work to convert fuel to energy. Getting less than seven hours of sleep and feeling excessively stressed can make your hormones get out-of-whack, so it’s key to make sleep a priority. Learn to cope with stress effectively by taking 10 minutes per hour while you’re awake each day to do something that’s calming like deep breathing. Fit exercise into your day by taking a brisk walk after lunch or dinner, or having a dance party with your family in the evening. However, to optimize your metabolism and build muscle mass, be sure to include resistance exercise using your own body weight or weights at least twice a week.
Full disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of Boosting Your Metabolism for Dummies® from the publisher. I also write a monthly blog for CalorieCount.com.