That was my biggest question when I first started out three years ago. My metabolism seemed to be stalled or that of the speed of a turtle. I had been eating pizza, and practically anything I wanted without minding portions or physical activity, so I had absolutely no idea where to start. So:
“How do I improve my slow metabolism?”
Like I said in The Final Straw and 5 Weight Loss Myths You Need to Toss, I was on weight watchers and still had poor habits. I was working with my trainer, and unless I began taking a look at other factors, there was no way I was going to make any progress.
What changed it all was when I took a look at how to manage my caloric intake per meal and output per gym session (my friend is currently testing this theory and data with a burger a day lol). Once I started eating six meals and drinking over 100 ounces of water a day is when I truly began to notice a difference for my body.
So how does one rev up their metabolism? I’ve compiled a list of things that worked for me, someone with no known thyroid issues, below:
1) Eat 5-6 Small Meals a day, including breakfast no later than an hour after you wake up
Now the thing here is that there have been studies done where the number of meals you eat per day doesn't really matter. IN FACT, the study showed that people who ate this many meals a day actually ate MORE than what they should have. The key point is to watch caloric values and intake per meal, regardless of the amount of meals you eat per day. The upside to this number? The longer you wait between meals, the hungrier you get. ““After about 3 hours without food, blood sugar begins to fall. And after 4 hours, your body has already digested whatever you sent down earlier,” says Cleveland dietitian Amy Jamieson-Petonic, RD. “Once you’ve crossed the 5-hour mark, your blood sugar begins to plummet, and you grab whatever you can to refuel.” She says that’s why we need to eat breakfast – after about eight hours of sleep and without food, we need that boost to get us going.
2) Make sure there’s plenty of protein in your meal
Ensuring you’re eating enough protein doesn’t ONLY make sure you have a balanced meal, it helps your muscles recover from your workouts and maximize the body’s muscle production. “People who ate [up to] 30 grams of protein at breakfast lunch and dinner saw more muscle protein synthesis—or the building up of muscles—than those who ate less at breakfast and loaded up on the nutrient at dinner, according to a study last year in The Journal of Nutrition.” My advice is just to make sure it fits within your daily/meal intake of calories and protein grams especially if you’re tracking your macros.
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3) Drink half your body weight in ounces of water a day and NO Booze!
When you sweat, you lose tons of electrolytes and other elements (potassium, chloride, and sodium, to name a couple). They say when you start to feel thirsty, your body is already feeling the effects of too little water and mild dehydration. Health USA’s Yuri Elkaim says “The first thing you need to do is calculate how much water your body needs at rest. That's working at a desk, puttering around the house, reading and doing all of the other things you do throughout the day. This is your bare minimum water requirement – what your body needs to function. The basic equation for determining this is by dividing your body weight in half.” He goes on to explain that if you’re active, you need to drink an additional 30 ounces, and maybe add a teaspoon of sea salt for electrolyte replacement. Yuck, just get something with electrolytes added, like my favorite hydration tool, Nuun.
As far as alcohol, it’s empty calories with zero nutritional value. It slows your metabolism (for long long LONG term drinkers) and impairs the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. They say in certain studies that one glass of red wine is ‘good for you’ but so is dark chocolate… in moderation. You can’t expect to reach your goals seriously if you drink like a college sorority girl (which, I’ve been)! It will do nothing but help you reach your goals *faster* if you pass on the cocktails since most are loaded with sugar and disrupt your sleep – two factors that are important to your journey.
4) Eat *Healthy* Fats
Anyone that ever told you Low-Fat anything was better than the full-fat version of it was WRONG (see the explanation here). *Many* foods low or void of fats are mainly high in sugars, refined carbohydrates, and calories. If you look at the last 25 years and read myths regarding the Low-Fat Diet fad, you’ll find that obesity doubled in America since it began. You NEED healthy fats, aka fats that are unsaturated (mono and poly), like extra virgin olive oil, nuts, and avocados in your diet to help you manage your mood, mental balance, fight fatigue AND – whoa! – control your weight. Our brains are 60% fat, so it’s *vital* to our body’s physical function to have and absorb healthy fats. The answers aren’t to CUT the fat out – it’s to make the best choices for your body.
5) Spinach, Cinnamon, and Cayenne are the secret ingredients
Spinach has a lot of fiber, iron, and calcium to support muscle performance. They say three servings a day increase fat burning by 30%, maximizing the benefit. Cinnamon controls your insulin levels and has the ability to alter your carbohydrate metabolism. The sheer consumption of cinnamon causes a metabolic reaction, similar to that of hot peppers, that requires more work and energy to burn more calories. Cayenne, a favorite spice, and pepper, causes your body temperature to rise and kick starts your internal AC, burning calories as it cools you down. Even if it’s just a pinch, it’ll do the trick.
6) LIFT HEAVY SHIT
This one I cannot stress enough. The more weights you lift, the more muscle you’ll have. The more muscle you have, the easier it is to burn fat – EVEN AT REST. Yes, I said at rest. MyProtein says: “Often when people want to lose weight, they increase cardio and slack on their weight training. This is a big mistake, as maintaining your muscle mass will keep your metabolism strong, even if you are in a calorie deficit which you will be in when dieting.” Even Women’s Health online says that you’ll lose weight either way, but those who lift will convert six pounds of fat into muscle, thus displacing fat and fitting into their clothes better. I’ve never experience a whole body change like I did when I started lifting weights – I weighed the same, but could fit into my high school cheer leading uniform again. So, your answer to “Do you even lift, bruh?” should be “HELL YES”!
The thing that’s hard for me to really get behind (because I LOVE French bread and Cabernet) is that for women, 80% of this whole journey is in the kitchen and only 20% in the gym. You cannot out-exercise a bad diet, no matter what you do. That’s why I didn’t lose anything on weight watchers –I wasn’t eating right and was hitting a wall with the gym, mostly due to not lifting and spending 45 minutes on cardio a day.
Okay, so the takeaway here should be to watch your macros, eat protein at each meal, and lift. That’s what has worked for me. Every body is different, but if you find what works for you, stick with it.