True or false: you can burn calories while you sleep.
The human body is funny…one minute, you’re eating cookies all the time and thinking it’s great if you actually managed to get in four hours of sleep – and still can fit all your clothes. The next minute, umm…not so much.
What Does My Metabolism Have To Do With It?
The metabolism sounds like a mysterious and complicated thing, but it’s actually just the amount of energy (translation: calories) that your body need on a daily bodies need daily.
“About 70 percent of those calories are used for basic functions, such as breathing and blood circulation,” says Rochelle Goldsmith, PhD, director of the Exercise Physiology Lab at Columbia University Medical Center. “Another 20 percent is fuel for physical activity, including working out, fidgeting, walking, and even holding our bodies upright while standing. The remaining 10 percent helps us digest what we eat.”
The trouble begins when you consume more calories than your body needs to do these things: this is when those extra pounds start showing up.
Why Does My Metabolism Slow Down?
• Genetics. You can partly thank your parents for the speed of your metabolism. Genes contribute to the levels of appetite-control hormones we have floating around in our bodies, Goldsmith explains.
“Some people are genetically programmed to be active; they’re naturally restless and use more energy,” she says. Those are the lucky high-metabolism types.
• Gender. We know, we know, it’s not fair, but women and men do tend to have different metabolism speeds.
”The average man’s metabolism is about 10 to 15 percent higher than a woman’s,” Goldsmith notes. That’s mainly because men have more muscle mass than women do, which means they burn more calories, since muscle does the work to help you move, while fat just sits there.
Not only that, but women’s bodies are designed to hold on to body fat in case of pregnancy.
Isn’t There Anything I Can Do To Keep My Metabolism Going Faster?
Experts say that, yes, despite genetics and gender, there are a few things you need to do more in order to boost your metabolism
1. Exercise More. Working out is the number-one way to keep your furnace cranking. The more lean muscle you have, the more calories you burn all day. That’s because muscle uses energy – even when you’re resting.
“Do three days of aerobic activity and two days of weight lifting,” advises Shawn Talbott, PhD, an exercise physiologist, nutritional biochemist, and the executive producer of Killer at Large, a documentary about the U.S. obesity epidemic.
2. Do More Cardio. Aerobic intervals will help you maximize your burn and double the calories you burn. Intervals also keep your metabolic rate higher than a steady-pace routine does for as long as an hour after you stop exercising, according to Michele Olson, PhD, a FITNESS advisory board member and professor of exercise science at Auburn University at Montgomery in Alabama. So start easy, go hard for a few minutes, then alternate between the two for your entire workout.
3. Build More Muscle. A head-to-toe strength routine will turbocharge your calorie-blasting quotient. Add five pounds of muscle to your body and you can zap as many as 600 calories an hour during your workout, Olson says. Be sure to choose a weight-lifting routine that targets your core, legs, arms, chest, and shoulders; challenging numerous muscles will help your body function like a calorie-burning machine, according to Goldsmith.
4. Eat More Often. We know you’re superbusy, but make sure you grab lunch. “Simply chewing, digesting and absorbing food kicks your metabolism into gear,” says Jim White, RD, a national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.
“The more frequently you eat, the more often it revs up, while skipping meals slows down your metabolism, says White. “Your body switches into starvation mode and your system slows down to conserve energy, so have three healthy meals of 300 to 400 calories and two snacks of 200 to 300 calories every day.”
5. Eat More Filling Foods. Start by serving yourself protein at every sitting, such as low-far yogurt, chicken and salmon, says Darwin Deen, MD, medical professor in the department of community health and social medicine at City College of New York and a coauthor of Nutrition for Life. All three of the above foods contain omega-3 fatty acids, which help promote weight loss by increasing your feelings of fullness.
In addition, eat more foods that slowly release the sugar you need for sustained energy, like high-fiber fruits and veggies and whole-grain breads and pastas. Also, munching on a food high in fiber three hours before your workout can help you burn extra fat, according to a recent study. Even coffee can help, since caffeine stimulates the production of adrenaline, which speeds up the metabolism. Just limit yourself to no more than two cups a day!
6. Be More Active. Sitting too much (at your computer or in front of the TV), slows your metabolism, even if you’re exercising regularly. An easy fix is to stretch, stand at your desk for a few minutes, stroll, and even fidget throughout the day. That’s what scientists call NEAT, or nonexercise activity thermogenesis, and it can boost your burn and help you drop weight, says James Levine, MD, PhD, professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and author of Move a Little, Lose a Lot.
7. Sleep More. Deprive yourself of sleep and your body starts to respond as if it were under siege. “When you get two hours less shut-eye than you normally do, your system becomes stressed and produces about 50 percent more cortisol,” Talbott says. “That in turn triggers your appetite.”
At the same time, lack of zzz’s throws the body’s hunger hormones leptin and ghrelin out of whack, making you more likely to overeat. Skimp on pillow time for too long and you could be facing a serious weight problem, says Michael Breus, PhD, author of Good Night: The Sleep Doctor’s 4-Week Program to Better Sleep and Better Health. In a 16-year study of sleep-deprived women published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers found that those who slept seven to eight hours a night had the lowest risk for major weight gain, while women who got six hours a night were 12 percent more likely to pile on a significant number of pounds, and those who logged five hours or less were 32 percent more likely to gain weight.
8. Monitor Your Meds More. Some of the most dramatic metabolic dips occur when women start taking birth control pills and widely prescribed antidepressants known as serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs.
“These drugs commonly slow the metabolism because they affect the functioning of the thyroid gland, which regulates how our bodies use energy,” says Kent Holtorf, MD, a thyroidologist and the founder of the National Academy of Hypothyroidism.
If you’ve recently started taking any new medication and the scale is inching upward, ask your doc if there’s an alternative treatment that is less likely to cause weight gain.