What is metabolism? Basically, Metabolism is the process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy. Typically, when people want to increase their metabolism, they are looking to do either one of two things (or both): 1) Optimize weight loss, and/or 2) Convert more of what they are eating to energy, and not fat. Metabolism, also known as your basal metabolic rate (BMR)—the calories you burn just to live—is driven by a host of factors, including your sex, genetics, age, hormones, exercise, etc.
While there is no simple answer to shifting metabolism, there are definitely approaches that can work! But just to note, this is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, which is why I would highly recommend having a health coach/physician help you in this journey.
So what do we begin to look at to start increasing metabolism? As you would expect, diet and exercise are a large part of how metabolism shifts, but there are other health areas that need to be checked and corrected if needed.
Optimize testosterone Levels
Approximately one in four men over the age of 30 has low testosterone, and many are completely unaware of it. If your libido has tanked and the scale continues to rise, low testosterone may be the culprit. Testosterone also plays a role in fat distribution and how much muscle mass you’re able to build and maintain. A lack of testosterone makes it difficult for men to build and maintain muscle mass. The amount of muscle you have plays a role in regulating your weight. Muscle requires more energy to maintain and therefore requires more calories. It helps keep the energy balance between how much you eat and how much you burn for fuel. The more muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn.
When your testosterone levels fall below normal, your muscle mass declines, causing your metabolism to slow down. This domino effect paves the way for weight gain and stubborn fat that doesn’t seem to budge despite your best efforts at eating right and working out.
Fat cells, once thought of as dormant storage spots, are now known to act like other organs, secreting chemicals, sending signals, and influencing other parts of your body. For instance, fat cells produce an enzyme called aromatase that converts testosterone to estrogen, and an imbalance in your testosterone and estrogen levels increases body fat. It also influences where you store fat. Low testosterone increases stomach fat, and too much abdominal fat is not only aesthetically displeasing, it also raises your risk for heart disease.
Bottom line: Have your free and total testosterone levels checked. (And if you really want to dig deep, your DHT and ultrasensitive estradiol) If you have low testosterone levels, do you absolutely need prescription testosterone? Possibly not. Testosterone levels can normalize with a significant improvement in diet, exercise and stress reduction. Learn more about testosterone here.
Build muscle mass
When you increase your muscle mass, you boost your resting metabolism — and that makes your body burn more calories. Muscle tissue will burn seven to 10 calories daily per pound. So how does that play out in the real world? Well, if, for example, a man adds 10 pounds of muscle and loses 10 pounds of fat, he’ll burn 70-100 extra calories per day. One hundred calories a day isn’t nearly as significant as a dietary change could be, but for people who are looking to lose weight, it can still make a difference over the long term. And of course the difference will increase the more muscle you gain.
After a strength-training session, your metabolism stays elevated through a process called excess postexercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). EPOC is more commonly known as the afterburn effect. It refers to all of the oxygen (and energy, in the form of calories) that your body takes in and uses after exercise to help repair your muscles and recover.
Research shows that strength training is especially effective at raising EPOC. That’s because, generally speaking, strength-training sessions cause more physiological stress to the body compared to cardiovascular exercise, even higher-intensity cardio intervals. However, it’s worth noting that overall exercise intensity is what makes the biggest impact on EPOC. So squats, deadlifts, and bench presses with heavy weights are going to be much more effective at raising EPOC compared to bicep curls and triceps extensions with light weights.
The best way to build muscle mass and get the biggest metabolic boost: Perform compound movements and lift heavy. If you want to train to build muscle mass, focus on integrating at least three strength-training workouts into your weekly exercise routine and prioritizing large, compound movements which require multiple muscle groups to work at once—over small isolation exercises.
Dietary Approaches for Boosting Metabolism
- Eat Plenty of Protein at Every Meal —Eating food can increase your metabolism for a few hours. This is called the thermic effect of food (TEF). It’s caused by the extra calories required to digest, absorb and process the nutrients in your meal.
Protein causes the largest rise in TEF. It increases your metabolic rate by 15–30%, compared to 5–10% for carbs and 0–3% for fats. Eating protein has also been shown to help you feel more full and prevent you from overeating. One small study found that people were likely to eat around 441 fewer calories per day when protein made up 30% of their diet. Eating more protein can also reduce the drop in metabolism often associated with losing fat. This is because it reduces muscle loss, which is a common side effect of dieting.
- Drink Cold Water— Drinking cold water makes her body spend energy to heat up the water, thus burning calories.
- Intermittent Fasting — Consider a simple form of intermittent fasting. Limit the hours of the day when you eat, and for best effect, make it earlier in the day (between 7 am to 3 pm, or even 10 am to 6 pm, but definitely not in the evening before bed). But why does simply changing the timing of our meals to allow for fasting make a difference in our body? A study recently published in New England Journal of Medicine sheds some light. Fasting is evolutionarily embedded within our physiology, triggering several essential cellular functions. Flipping the switch from a fed to fasting state does more than help us burn calories and lose weight. The researchers combed through dozens of animal and human studies to explain how simple fasting improves metabolism, lowering blood sugar; lessens inflammation, which improves a range of health issues from arthritic pain to asthma; and even helps clear out toxins and damaged cells, which lowers risk for cancer and enhances brain function.
- Avoid sugars and refined grains. Instead, eat fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats (a sensible, plant-based, Mediterranean-style diet).
- Let your body burn fat between meals. Don’t snack. Be active throughout your day.
- Avoid snacking or eating at nighttime, especially after 7:30pm.
Speed up your metabolism with these nutrients
- B-vitamins. B-vitamins help the cells produce more energy, which in turn can help the cells be more metabolically productive. Have your levels measured (I recommend getting your homocysteine levels), in addition to the B-vitamin mutations, such as MTHFR, which would increase your requirement over the average person.
- Vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is a powerhouse nutrient. Not only does it boost your immune system significantly, newer studies show Vitamin D3 will also optimize your metabolism. A 2011 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed overweight adults who took Vitamin D3 and Calcium lost more fat from their abdomens than those who didn’t.
- Capsaicin. Found in spicy chili peppers like jalapenos, it has been found to stimulate metabolism with regular use. In one study, It was observed that consumption of capsaicinoids increases energy expenditure by approximately 50 calories per day. It was also observed that regular consumption significantly reduced abdominal adipose tissue levels, reduced appetite and energy intake.
- Green tea/Coffee. Caffeine has been found to boost metabolic rate. Hands down. Many studies have shown that caffeine will increase fat metabolism as well.
Make sure your other metabolic markers look good too. This is your thyroid, adrenals , growth hormone and sleep hormones. I have linked our talks on this for your review for a deeper dive to learn more about thyroid, adrenals, growth hormone, and sleep hormones.
We would love to create a personalized plan for you for your health and wellness journey! Please reach out if you have questions!
In love, health and light,
Dr. Angila Jaeggli, ND
Phone: (425) 835-0359
Sage Integrative Medicine Clinic, PLLC
110 James Street, Suite 103
Edmonds, WA 98020
Youtube: Sage Health TV