Metabolism is one of those highly abused words that not many people really know the definition of. It's thrown around as sort of a blanket explanation for why some of us are ‘lean’ or ‘skinny’ and others of us are heavier with a tendency to store fat. And so, deliberately or inadvertently, we use it as an excuse for our shortcomings, or worse, an insurmountable obstacle between us and our success.
The good and the bad news? Its really not so simple. Metabolism is the term used to describe the hundreds of thousands of chemical processes and pathways used to make our body work, particularly when it comes to energy. It can be encouraged to work to a higher or lower efficiency, it is not a constant, it isn’t fixed, and it isn’t going to stop you getting what you want from your health and fitness goals so long as you know how to work with it. Here are some easy lifestyle changes you can adopt to help boost your metabolism and gain the results you want:
High Intensity Interval Training can be sprints, boxing drills, or anything with a series of short bursts of intense exercise, punctuated by rest intervals. During HIIT your body consumes more oxygen, and can trigger something called the Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption Effect, where you continue to compensate for the additional oxygen expenditure between 1 and 24 hours after you’ve finished exercising. The overall result is that you burn more calories (energy), and your body adapts to become more efficient at obtaining energy too, which is the basis of what metabolism is. Even better, you get to cut your workout time in half (just remember to put in your max effort!).
Manage Your Pre & Post Workout Meals
Metabolism can be split into two categories: catabolism (the breakdown of complex molecules, like nutrients, to use as energy), and anabolism (what your body does with that energy: the molecule-building process that creates strong muscles and healthy tissues). Both are important parts of the process, but catabolism often refers to the state your body enters when it continues to break down not just fat but also lean muscle tissue after you exercise. When this happens it's because the appropriate nutrients are not available from food, and results in your metabolism actively slowing down.
Fuel your body with complex carbohydrates like whole grains, sweet potatoes, and bananas and/or healthy fats like nut butters, avocado, and raw olive oil 30m-2hr prior training (ensuring you have enough time for the digestion process to tap into all the energetic goodness inside).
Post training you will need a to replace used-up carbohydrate stores and provide your body with the nutrients needed to heal. Opt for something that contains simple sugars and fast digesting proteins with a small amount of healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. An easy go-to is blending up a quick protein shake packed with fruit, nut butter and lots of greens as these contain large amounts of the micronutrients needed for your tissues to heal.
Becoming dehydrated is a sure-fire way to trigger catabolic processes, set off cravings, and to slow your metabolism down. When you reach even a mild state of dehydration your body will send off signals that are often confused with hunger, causing you to consume extra calories you aren’t going to need and throwing your metabolism way off balance. When cravings are not rooted by real hunger you’re even more likely to end up reaching for less desirable options: highly processed, high sugar and high fat junk food. Water, on the other hand, is needed to support all of your body’s natural processes and will stimulate your metabolism to function as it should, and will keep you feeling full when you’re not hungry. You may not notice yourself becoming less hydrated, so make a point of sipping water regularly throughout the day, even if you are not yet thirsty. A great hack is to mark hours down the outside of a 2L water bottle; as you drink the water line goes down, so you can keep track of your progress in manageable stages.
Drink Green Tea & Matcha
Green tea contains only slightly less caffeine than a cup of coffee but is extremely alkalising and contains Theanine, a substance that counterbalances your body’s stress response. Swapping from coffee to Green Tea/Matcha is an easy change to make; trading in your flat white for a green tea or matcha latte (made with non-dairy milk) not only can limit damage but can actively contribute to the healthy functioning of your metabolism but actively promotes anabolic processes that lead to strength gains and weight loss alike.
Last but not least: factor in your downtime. People underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep. Sleep is an important component of healthy functioning metabolism, and vital if you want to see results. As we’ve discussed, the stress response has by far the most catabolic effect on your body of any. Like most things, stress accumulates and reinforces itself over time, and chronic stress and anxiety leads to fat storage and hugely diminishes the effect of your workouts. Whatever you find to be most relaxing, be it yoga, massage, meditation, or reading, watching movies, even downtime with your kids, ensure that it is factored in as part of your regular routine, and given the same priority as you would a workout, or a work meeting. Also be careful not to over-exercise, ensuring that within your fitness regime you factor in time to recovery, because this is where your body’s anabolic processes kick in and you can make gains.
This blog was written by Phoebe Wynn-Jones. In 2011, hit by a moderately-sized truck travelling at a less-than-moderate speed, Phoebe was told she would never walk again. Using holistic nutrition, yoga and boxing as a means of recovery, she went on to complete her education in Biochemistry and became a qualified nutritionist in 2012.
Phoebe has since consulted on, opened and developed multiple locations within the food and fitness industry in Los Angeles, London, New Jersey and New York. She is now working out of her fight gym MBOX and other venues across East London as a nutrition coach and industry consultant, specialising in nutrition for combat sports competitors and endurance athletes.Find her on the web at impressedhealth.co.uk or on instagram @phoebej_nutrition