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How to Improve Metabolic Health?

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How often have you heard a skinny person say, “I have really good metabolism”? If you struggle to maintain a healthy body weight, this phrase can be frustrating and annoying. But metabolism is much more than burning off calories and fats that you consume. Your metabolic health affects every part of your body. And good metabolic health is all about balance. 

Please continue reading to learn more about metabolic health, including what you should eat to burn fat and how you can increase your resting metabolic rate.

What’s the difference between metabolism and metabolic health?

The terms metabolism and metabolic health are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same. 

Metabolism refers to any chemical process in the body that is required to maintain life. This includes processes that convert food and drink into energy. It’s true that metabolism is linked to weight. But contrary to popular belief, a slow metabolism is rarely the cause of weight gain. What ultimately determines your weight is your body’s energy needs, your calorie intake, and your physical activity.

Metabolic health is what’s going on internally in your body. A person may look outwardly healthy, but a closer look inside their body may tell a completely different story. The prevalence of good metabolic health among Americans is, in fact, alarmingly low, even among people with normal body weight. Only 1 in 8 Americans is metabolically healthy. 

Maybe you, like most people, want a fast metabolism because it will help with weight loss. But there’s much more to improving your metabolic health. 

What is good metabolic health? Does blood pressure play a role?

Good metabolic health is the absence of metabolic syndrome. This is a cluster of 5 conditions which together increase the risk of serious diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. The 5 conditions that define metabolic syndrome are high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high triglyceride level, low high-density lipoprotein level (good cholesterol), and a high waist circumference (excess belly fat). 

Having only one of these conditions does not mean you have metabolic syndrome, but it increases your risk of serious health problems. Having 3 out of the 5 conditions means you have metabolic syndrome. Up to one-third of Americans have metabolic syndrome, which is closely linked to obesity and inactivity. 

Aggressive lifestyle changes and weight loss can delay or prevent the development of serious health complications from metabolic syndrome. For optimal metabolic health, you should have:

  • Blood pressure below 120/80 mmHg
  • Blood sugar below 100 mg/dL
  • Triglycerides below 150 mg/dL
  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL or good cholesterol) above 50 mg/dL in women and 40 mg/dL in men
  • Waist circumference below 34.5 inches (88 cm) in women and 40 inches (102 cm) in men

How do I increase my resting metabolic rate?

Even at rest, our bodies need energy to perform the basic functions of living, such as breathing, circulation, controlling body temperature, and performing cell repair. The calories your body needs to carry out these basic functions is your basal metabolic rate, or what is commonly known as metabolism. 

Boosting your basal metabolic rate or metabolism can help you lose weight. However, your metabolism is not 100% in your control. Factors such as gender, age, and genetics make your metabolism what it is, but some healthy habits can rev up your metabolic rate and crank up your body’s fat-burning power.

Eat a minimum number of calories

When you go on a strict diet, your body slides into starvation mode and slows down your metabolic rate to conserve energy. Eating too little can therefore actually hamper your weight loss goals. To keep your metabolism going, ensure that the number of calories you eat matches your basal metabolic rate. In general, a person needs at least 1,200 calories per day to stay healthy. Factors such as your age, gender, and activity level will determine the right number of calories for you.

Eat and drink at regular intervals

Eating smaller meals throughout the day can keep your metabolism charged up and help you burn calories. Smaller meals of under 500 calories eaten 4-6 times throughout the day can keep your blood sugar levels normal and prevent insulin hormone spikes that can lead to weight gain. Also, smaller meals help you feel full and reduce snacking. 

Try intermittent fasting

Research suggests that shaving off a few hours from your daily eating window can reduce belly fat, aid in weight loss, and improve your metabolic health. Restricting eating to 8, 10, or 12 hours a day is one method of intermittent fasting. The 5:2 method involves eating normally for 5 days of the week and limiting calorie intake on 2 days. It is believed that intermittent fasting works by preventing “grazing,” an eating pattern that can lead to the intake of excess calories. 

Work out harder

The body takes several hours to recover from high-intensity exercise. During this time, your resting metabolic rate is higher, meaning you burn more calories than normal even after you’ve stopped exercising. 

Shake up your workout routine

As you become regular with your exercise routine, your body becomes more efficient in conserving energy. It’s important to keep challenging it by shaking up your workouts. For instance, if you’ve only been running, add strength training to build lean muscle mass. Combine core work, agility training, and stretching to your weekly routine to lose weight faster, tone up, and shrink problem spots like your waist circumference.

Which foods increase metabolism and burn fat? Is green tea good for weight loss?

  • Protein: Eating food boosts the metabolic rate for a few hours because extra calories are needed to digest the food. Of all the food groups, protein has the best effect on metabolism. Protein boosts fat oxidation and the breaking down of fatty acids and fat cells. Eating protein can also make you feel full for longer and therefore eat fewer calories. 
  • Green tea: Drinking green tea has been shown to increase metabolism. It is believed green tea converts stored fat into free fatty acids and increases the amount of fat the body burns. 
  • Coffee: Like green tea, coffee also has positive effects on fat burning and metabolism. Drinking coffee can be one of the ways to boost fat loss. However, keep in mind that caffeine can cause a temporary spike in blood pressure. 
  • Spicy foods: Studies have shown that capsaicin, a substance found in peppers, can help boost metabolism. 
  • Water: Water contains zero calories. Replacing drinks with water automatically reduces how many calories you consume. Also, drinking water before meals fills you up, causing you to eat less and lose weight. One study showed people who drank a liter of water before eating lost 44% more weight compared to those who didn’t. 

What else can I do for metabolic health?

Health experts have dubbed sitting as the new smoking. Sitting for long periods or the greater part of your day is bad for your metabolic health. Adding some physical activity to your routine is recommended. It will not only help you burn calories and lose weight but also may help you feel better (sitting is bad for mental health). 

Getting enough sleep is also vital to maintain good metabolism. Sleep deprivation can increase hunger hormones and decrease fullness hormones, leading to increased calorie intake. Lack of sleep has been linked to insulin resistance and increased blood glucose, which is one of the components of metabolic syndrome.

Controlling mental stress is another important thing you can do for good metabolic health. The body goes through several metabolic changes in response to stress, some of which can derail your weight loss efforts. Also, some people tend to eat more when they are stressed.

In conclusion, there is no magic pill for improved metabolic health. However, eating a balanced diet and maintaining fitness with regular physical activity are two simple things with many health benefits that will put you on the right path. Remember to always seek medical advice before starting an exercise or diet program. 
 

References:

  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/metabolism/art-20046508
  2. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/11/181128115045.htm
  3. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/metabolic-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20351916
  4. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352154616300183