When we talk about the metabolism, we are talking about the sum of all the chemical changes occurring within your body to keep you alive and healthy.
This is both the breaking down of calories to create chemical energy, and the construction of new molecules as your cells renew themselves. When we talk about boosting the metabolism, we are referring to accelerating the metabolic rate, or the rate at which your body burns calories.
We have already covered some of the facts of fat and protein metabolism in previous posts, but it is important to understand how central and important the efficiency of this process is to our bodies’ health. Boosting the metabolic rate is one of the main reasons we exercise. In addition to burning fat and building muscle, this causes the body to adapt to higher energy demands. This enables us to be active for longer the more we exercise, contributing to greater systemic health.
It should come as no surprise that the main recommendation for boosting the metabolic rate is EXERCISE! The best exercise regimen for the improving the metabolism is known as high-intensity intermittent exercise (or HIIE). HIIE is strenuous anaerobic physical activity performed for short periods of time, in alternation with less strenuous periods of ‘cool-down’ exercise.
If HIIE is not an option, a routine of aerobic activities, such as jogging or walking for more sustained periods, will also boost the metabolism, although fat may be burned at a slower rate. Strength training, also known as resistance training, can be very helpful as well because muscle uses more energy than fat; in other words, the more muscle mass you have, the higher your basal metabolic rate, even at rest. That’s right— training your muscles can make you burn fat at a higher rate even when you aren’t exercising.
There are other things you can do to supplement a metabolism-boosting exercise routine. Eating a protein-rich diet can be very helpful because the digestion of protein requires more energy than that of other nutrient types. The metabolic, energy-burning effect of food digestion is known as diet-induced thermogenesis (or DIT) and has been shown to be higher in subjects on a high-protein diet. Believe it or not, this effect is also attainable by drinking water! Cold water is especially useful for boosting the metabolic rate. Your body expends energy heating cold water up to body temperature. Drinking a lot of water is a good idea for dieters for another reason, anyway: it reduces appetite by making you feel more full.
Another simple strategy for keeping that basal metabolic rate up is to stand more, as we’ve covered on this blog in the past. Spending even a part of the day at work standing instead of sitting at one’s desk can have a significant impact on the body’s energy consumption over time. One study found that 185 minutes of working standing up after lunch burned 174 calories more than in the test group, who spent the same period seated. None of these techniques should be seen as a replacement for exercise, however. Physical activity really is the best way to keep your body working hard.
Boschmann, M., Steiniger, J., et al. ‘Water-induced thermogenesis.’ National Center for Biotechnology Information, Dec. 2003. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14671205
Boutcher, S.H. ‘High-intensity intermittent exercise and fat loss.’ National Center for Biotechnology Information, Nov. 2010. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21113312
Buckley, J.P., Mellor, D.D., et al. ‘Standing-based office work shows encouraging signs of attenuating post-prandial glycaemic excursion.’ National Center for Biotechnology Information, Feb. 2014. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24297826
Vermorel, M., Lazzer, S., et al. ‘Contributing factors and variability of energy expenditure in non-obese, obese, and post-obese adolescents.’ National Center for Biotechnology Information, Mar.-Apr. 2005. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21113312
Whitehead, J.M., McNeill, G., et al. ‘The effect of protein intake on 24-h energy expenditure during energy restriction.’ National Center for Biotechnology Information, Aug. 1996. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8856395
Zuhl, M. and Kravitz, L. ‘HIIT vs. Continuous Endurance Training: Battle of the Aerobic Titans.’ University of New Mexico, Jan. 2012. https://www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article%20folder/HIITvsCardio.html