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Real Life Fitness Questions Answered

Kelly Marshall
Fitness Consultant

Posted 01 Aug 08

How can I improve my metabolism?

Hi,

This may be a very simple question but I haven't ever heard a simple answer to it. I've always had a poor metabolism so I would like to know if there is a solid way of improving it which is sustainable.

Thanks,

Nick

Our expert says...

Hi Nick,

The topic of metabolism is relatively straight forward but can easily be answered with an over-complex approach; therefore I will attempt the simplest answer I can manage for you:

Metabolism is solidly affected by nutrition, (due to the thermal affect of food), which means that as we break down food the process releases heat and our metabolic rate increases). This is why small, regular meals are generally recommended because of the benefit to maintaining a relatively high and constant metabolic rate.

Hydration also affects metabolism, though to a smaller degree then nutrition. In order to encourage the liver to focus on firing the metabolism rather than water retention, it is advised that you stay well hydrated and consume around 2 litres of water a day (plus more if exercising).

The real solution to your metabolic rate in the long-term, is weight training and maintaining lean muscle mass on your body. Muscle burns more calories than fat (73 more calories per kilogram per day, to be exact), so the more muscle you build, the higher your resting metabolic rate (RMR). Every bit of muscle that you gain is like a little factory that burns calories for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This is the only way to increase RMR, which accounts for 60 to 70 percent of the calories you burn daily, (www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/jump-start-your-metabolism).

There are ways to temporarily increase your metabolic rate and obviously these are just short-term but still worth knowing and utilsing:

- Different aerobic activities burn different quantities of calories, but the important thing is to raise your heart rate and sustain the activity for approximately 30 minutes, this supports a metabolic boost.

- Believe it or not, spices like chilli are thought to raise metabolism by up to 50 percent for up to three hours after eating, due to increasing your heart rate. But before putting the local Indian takeaway on speed dial, work out which curries have the lowest calorie and fat content.

- Swap you daily cuppa for green tea - there's evidence that it contains antioxidants that speed up metabolism.

- Chill out - research shows that being very cold can increase metabolism by up to 20 percent.

- Have a sauna - being very hot is also thought to boost metabolism by about 20 percent (but check you don't have any underlying medical problems that mean you shouldn't go in saunas or steam rooms).

I hope this highlights, in a relatively straight-forward way, the real way of long-term metabolic elevation (weight training!) as well as the more short-term (but still useful) options.

Kelly

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