This article appears in the Health Living fall 2017 magazine.
People who struggle with their weight may complain that their metabolism is too slow and look for ways to speed it up. But just what is metabolism, and can you do anything to speed it up?
“Metabolism is basically your body’s process of converting anything you eat or drink into usable energy. Many things affect metabolism including age, body size and composition, as well as your gender,” said Abby Sauer, a registered dietitian specializing in adult nutrition for Abbott, maker of such products as Ensure and Similac.
Your thyroid glands play a major role in regulating your metabolism as well as regulating your energy. Everyone’s metabolizes at a slightly different rate.
Here are some tips and tricks to kick-start your metabolism:
Healthy breakfast helps
“No matter your age, you should eat breakfast every morning. Eating a meal in the morning jump-starts your metabolism for the day, and eating a protein-rich breakfast food like eggs will keep you feeling full throughout the day,” Sauer said.
However, the Bath Breakfast Project study in the UK found that eating breakfast has a small impact of three to 10 calories on your resting metabolism. If you wake up, are not hungry and will be sitting at a desk all morning, researchers questioned the benefit of eating unnecessary calories, especially sugary cereals or other poor choices.
The study found that eating breakfast did not make obese individuals lose weight but did result in more physical activity in the morning and reduced food intake later in the day.
“If weight loss is the key there is little to suggest that just having breakfast or skipping it will matter. However, based on other markers of a healthy lifestyle, like being more active or controlling blood sugar levels, then there’s evidence that breakfast may help,” said lead author Dr. James Betts.
Size it right
Eating several smaller meals throughout the day instead of three large meals can also help increase metabolism.
“This helps to keep your metabolism and energy levels consistent and is a better choice than trying to skip meals to save calories — and likely getting so hungry that you find yourself binge-eating later in the day,” Sauer said. “Be sure those ‘small’ meals really are small and sensible, or else you risk eating five to six regular-sized meals and the calories that follow.”
Your body needs help to convert carbohydrates, protein and fats from food into energy.
“Eating foods high in B vitamins facilitates this process. Foods rich in vitamin B include beans, lentils, whole grains and most deeply-colored produce,” Sauer said.
A new study from Tufts University suggests that substituting whole grains for refined grains increases calorie loss by speeding up metabolism.
Get up and get moving
“Any type of aerobic exercise — even done in small increments — can keep the fire of metabolism going and can also work to decrease your body fat and increase lean muscle mass, to further keep your metabolism running. Make sure you add weight resistance to support your muscle health,” Sauer said.
Too good to be true
“Be wary of supplements that promise shortcuts. It’s always best to eat a healthy diet and exercise to keep a healthy metabolism. Always ask a health-care professional before starting any supplement that claims to boost your metabolism,” Sauer said.