Ever wonder why your best friend can go through a pint of Häagen-Dazs without gaining a pound while just one spoonful goes straight to your hips? The answer lies in your metabolism, that little engine in your body that burns calories all day, every day. Because of genetics, some women burn fat faster than others. But age, weight, diet, and exercise habits also play a role.
The good news is, you can make your metabolism faster, experts say, despite genetics and gender. These are some of the simple secrets to boosting it big-time.
Do not Rely only on ‘Fat Burning’ Food
Certain foods, including ginger, pepper, grapefruit, coffee and green tea, have been linked to speeding up our metabolism. However it’s unlikely eating these foods alone will affect weight.
Include protein-rich foods – lean meat, fish, poultry, eggs, tofu. Studies show protein-rich foods cause a 20-30 per cent rise in metabolic rate compared with just a 5-10 per cent increase for carbs and less than three per cent for fat.
Increase Grain Intake
Wholegrain provide good amounts of fiber and are associated with a number of other health benefits, including a reduced risk of bowel cancer.
So choose brown rice or pasta, whole meal bread, wholegrain cereals and oats – if they boost our metabolism, even better.
An Apple a day, keeps fat away
Apples are high in pectin, which binds with water and limits the amount of fat your cells can absorb. Apples are also high in fiber, which makes you feel full; numerous studies have found that eating an apple a half hour to an hour before a meal has the result of cutting the calories of the meal.
It may not be what we eat but how we eat it that has an impact on how many calories we burn.
Eat each meal slowly and give it your full attention – that means no television, smartphones, computer screens or other distractions. Take your time chewing and put your cutlery down between mouthfuls.
Avoid Crash Diets
Crash dieting and extreme calorie reductions slow metabolism as our body thinks food is in short supply and so responds by conserving energy – exactly the opposite to what we want to achieve when we’re trying to lose weight. In times of starvation (which is effectively what happens with a crash diet), the body starts to break down muscle as well as fat to provide it with the calories it needs to function.
This is bad news for our metabolism because the less muscle we have, the slower our metabolic rate and the fewer calories we burn. Then, when we go back to eating normally, a slower metabolism means we don’t need as many calories as before, so we pile weight on more quickly.
Instead, follow a healthy eating plan, which reduces calories slightly, and exercise regularly to burn calories and strengthen muscle.
Build Lean Muscle
The benefits of exercise are two-fold. First, aerobic activities such as running, cycling and brisk walking increase the amount of calories we burn. Plus, aerobic exercise can lead to the after burn effect, where the body continues to burn calories faster for many hours. Strength training also helps to build lean muscle. Muscular activity is a very good way of burning calories and enhancing metabolic rate. The more muscle we have, the higher our BMR. Exercising regularly is even more important as we age.