7 ways to speed up your metabolism

7 ways to speed up your metabolism

Thursday 5th December 2019
Alex Pedley

Calorie-restricted diets are hard to maintain and research tells us that they don't actually work. There are, however, ways you can speed up your metabolism, allowing you to burn more calories at rest and become a more efficient calorie-burning machine. Intrigued?

Put simply, your metabolism is the rate that your body converts food and drink into energy. The faster your metabolism, the more efficient you are at burning calories. A calorie is the amount of energy required to heat one litre of water at one degree centigrade. The speed of your metabolism is commonly known as your metabolic rate and can be divided into several categories:

Basal metabolic rate (BMR): This is the minimum number of calories you need to keep your major bodily functions operating, such as your heart, lungs and brain.

Resting metabolic rate (RMR): This is the number of calories you need at complete rest.

Thermic effect of exercise (TEE): This is how many calories your body uses during exercise.

Thermic effect of food (TEF): This is how many calories your body uses to digest food.

Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT): This is how many calories you use for such things as fidgeting, standing and walking.

Now we know this, let's look at how to increase your metabolic rate:

1. Don't restrict your calories

Restricting calorie intake is still one of the most commonly used types of dieting. There is, however, an abundance of studies that show that your metabolism will slow down to match your calorie intake. Conversely, your metabolism will also increase as you eat more calories.

Let's use the example of taking a pay cut: you are earning £100k per year and spend all of the money you make each month. Suddenly, your pay gets slashed to £25k per year, but you continue to spend at your previous rate. Before long, money would become pretty tight until you got to the point where you go bankrupt. The same can be said for the rate that your body expends energy (calories): if you reduce your calorie intake over an extended period of time, your body will gradually reduce the amount of calories it burns to match your intake. In fact, it will actually reduce the rate you burn calories to slightly lower than you are consuming to maintain a buffer.

The result? Your weight loss will slow until it stops altogether. You'll gradually start putting it back on until your body returns to homeostasis. You will also find that, as you cut your calories, your energy levels will decline, you will feel cold as your body temperature drops, you will become irritable and your hair and nails will start to become weaker. All in all, not result that you were hoping for.

2. Intermittent fasting

So, if calorie restricted diets slow your metabolism, what's the answer? Simple: improve your sensitivity to insulin.

Imagine a packed commuter train in Japan as more and more people try to push their way on. Essentially, this is what insulin is doing as it tries to pack more and more glucose into a packed cell, causing your body to produce more insulin (insulin resistance). When there is too much insulin in your blood, it becomes harder to then transfer the fat to usable energy, making it harder to lose weight.
When you become more sensitive to insulin, less is needed, reducing the crowding of your cells and allowing your body to better access the fat stores. Sound good?
Well, one of the best ways to do just that is to fast.
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that switches between periods of fasting and eating. One way to do this is to fast for a full 24 hours before eating normally the following day. This cycle can be repeated as often as you feel fit.

Intermittent fasting has many health benefits including:

• Increasing insulin sensitivity - lower levels of insulin makes stored fat more accessible and reduces insulin resistance, lowering blood sugar by 36% and fasting insulin to 20-31%.

• Human growth hormone - levels of growth hormone can go up five-fold, increasing fat loss and muscle gain.

• Cellular repair - increases autophagy, which is a process of killing off cells that are already dying, allowing your body to flush them out. Think of it as your body's natural recycling system.
It can take time to adapt to fasting: you may feel weak or your brain might feel groggy. Hunger is also obviously a major side effect. At Mvement we recommend that you first try this at the weekend so as not to affect your decision making at work. Before you start fasting it is important that you have a good base to work from. To find out how, go to the following link:

3. Evening fasts

If intermittent fasting doesn't seem right for you then you may be interested in this alternative.

The fasted state generally starts at around the 12-hour mark, meaning that you can use sleep as part of the fasting process. Abstaining from eating from say 7pm to 9am is an effective way to get the benefits of intermittent fasting. This will reduce your window to eat, so you will have to make sure you take in sufficient calories to keep your body functioning at its best. Remember tip 1 - restricting your calories for long periods will play havoc on your metabolism.

4. Increase lean muscle

Increasing your percentage of lean muscle is an efficient way to speed up your metabolism - the greater your muscle mass, the more calories you burn. Your body has to work extremely hard to maintain lean muscle, increasing the amount of energy expenditure and in turn boosting the rate in which you burn calories at rest (basal metabolic rate). More lean muscle is also shown to decrease resistance to insulin, a major contributor to fat storage.

Consistent resistance training is the best way to increase your lean muscle. As you increase the stress placed upon your body, it adapts to the demand by becoming bigger and stronger. You will continue to get stronger and increase lean muscle until your body adapts to the stimulus placed upon it, reducing the effectiveness of your workouts.

There are multiple ways that you can increase the intensity of your workouts including:

• Increase the load - progressively add weight
• Increase volume - adding reps or sets to your workouts
• Decrease rest period - reduce the amount of rest between sets
• Increase number of workouts in a week
• Increase the complexity of the workout - supersets, compound sets etc

Before starting any new type of resistance training I would strongly advise that you choose the right exercise for your movement capacity. In short, if you can't complete the movement with a full range of motion without weight, definitely don't attempt it with weight. For example - if you can't complete a squat without feeling pain or with good form, then please do not load the exercise by placing a barbell on your back. Find an alternative exercise that you can perform without pain and with control. Then, improve your mobility.

Also, if you are currently not doing any resistance training and have little history of exercising then start slowly. Your body will adapt to less stimulus than someone who is training regularly or has trained regularly in the past.

With those two in mind, start resistance training.


Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC), also known as oxygen debt, is the amount of oxygen required to restore your body to its normal resting level of metabolic function (homeostasis) after a hard workout.

Exercises that consume more oxygen burn more calories. Your body expends approximately five calories of energy to consume one litre of oxygen. Therefore, increasing the amount of oxygen consumed before and after a workout can increase net calorie expenditure. This elevated state of calorie burning can last up to 48 hours after a workout, increasing your resting metabolic rate.

There are three ways to achieve this:

• Resistance training using compound, multi-joint exercises or circuit training
• High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
• Shorter rest period between sets

It is important to remember that high intensity training isn't for everyone and, if you are new to training, I would advise against it. Also, if you are very stressed from a hard day at the office then adding more stress to your body is ill advised.

If you do decide to use this form of training, make sure you have adequate rest in-between to avoid going into a state of overtraining, which has many negative connotations.

If you would like to learn about an easier method of training, you can find out more here:

6. Sleep

Not getting enough sleep is not just bad for your health but it may slow down your metabolic rate and increase your risk of weight gain. A five-week study showed that our metabolic rate decreases by 8% when sleep is disturbed or we suffer from irregular sleeping patterns.

Sleep is essential on so many levels and prioritising it is a must.

7. Water

Water isn't just important, it's essential as the average human body is made up of roughly 60% water. At just 2% body loss, you will start to feel an increased sense of fatigue, you will have reduced endurance, you will see the beginnings of heat illness, have reduced concentration and declining motivation. Being dehydrated may also cause you to feel hungry as the thirst and hunger cues come from the same part of your brain. This can lead to overeating.

Water is shown to temporarily boost your metabolism. Drinking water, especially cold water, is shown to increase the number of calories burned, through water-induced thermogenesis.

Several studies show that drinking 1-1.5 litres of water daily leads to significant weight loss over time. Maximising the benefit by drinking water before meals will also fill you up and reduce your calorie intake.

There are easy ways to spot dehydration:

• Dry mouth and lips
• Dark urine: aim for it to be light yellow or completely clear
• Low energy levels
• Slight headache

Keep a bottle of water by you at all times and sip regularly throughout the day. This will give you a better idea of how much you are drinking each day. (If you find it hard to drink plain water, flavour it with a slice or two of cucumber or a sprig of mint: you'll be surprised how much you can then drink.)

There you have it: my tips to improve your metabolism.

Now I'd like to hear from you...

Which strategy from today's post are you ready to try first?

Are you going to use exercise to increase your metabolism by adding resistance training to your routine?

Or maybe you are going stop eating earlier in the day and push back your breakfast so that you can harness the benefits of intermittent fasting.

Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below.

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