There are so many conflciting pieces of information when it comes to boosting your metabolism. Here we debunk those myths...
1. Fact or fallacy: There’s nothing you can do to speed up a slow metabolism
Fallacy. Whereas many may have a sluggish metabolism due to hormonal problems, many others tend to use this as an excuse for not losing weight. Either way, you can speed up your metabolism by following the “Facts” in this article.
2. Fact or fallacy: Drinking water can boost your metabolism
Fact. Yes, you’ve probably heard this one before, but drinking more of the translucent stuff is definitely worth your while. The reasons for this are two-fold. Firstly, water is essential for many of the metabolic processes that take place within the body, so it therefore makes sense that if you don’t drink enough, your metabolism cannot function optimally. Secondly, often one mistakes thirst for hunger, leading to one eating when actually your body is craving hydration. Therefore by drinking enough water you’re also preventing yourself from overeating. So try and drink at least 2 to 2.5l of water a day.
3. Fact or fallacy: Certain foods have “negative calories”
Fallacy. The concept of “negative calories” is based on the premise that certain foods (e.g. celery, cucumber and lettuce) are so low in calories that you burn more calories digesting them than the foods themselves contain. This would be great it were true, but unfortunately the idea of negative calories is indeed a myth. These foods are great, however, for providing fibre and they also have a high water content, but they won’t significantly boost your metabolism.
4. Fact or fallacy: Eating approximately 6 small meals a day has a metabolism-boosting effects
Fact. Keeping your meals small and frequent is essential for a revved metabolism. Many people skip meals as a weight-loss strategy, figuring the less food they eat, the more weight they’ll lose. This is, however, not the case. By skipping meals, it causes your body to go for long stretches without food. This is turn results in your body going into starvation mode. In other words, your body is not able to rely on a constant food source, and therefore it needs to conserve energy and store any food it does get. The result is a decrease in metabolism and an increase in fat storage. Therefore, by having small regular meals that are well-balanced in protein, slow-release carbohydrates, and small quantities of healthy fats, you can be assured that your metabolism will be constantly fuelled. Small regular meals will also keep your energy levels up throughout the day, which in turn will enable you to perform at your peak in your post-work workout.
5. Fact or fallacy: Increasing your physical activity can increase your metabolic rate
Fact. High physical activity levels are an invaluable component of getting your metabolism going. Even if you already diligently follow a formal exercise program, it is not good enough to sit at a desk the entire day, go to gym for an hour and then sit in front of the TV for the rest of the evening. Increasing physical activity means adding more movement to your entire day. For example, do calf raises while brushing your teeth, take the stairs not the lift, do bicep curls with 1.5l bottles of water while watching TV, tap your foot while at your desk, or bounce around to the radio during rush-hour traffic. Warning: observers may think you’re off your rocker, but at least you know you’re giving your metabolism a boost!
6. Fact or fallacy: You can boost your metabolism by increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables
Fact. You most likely are already aware that fruits and vegetables are the ideal low-calorie food – they’re virtually fat-free and high in fibre. Very importantly however, fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals, which your metabolism needs to function properly. It therefore goes without saying that if you don’t get enough of these nutrients, your metabolism will be affected. If you’re not a fruit and veggie fan, there are many easy ways to add them to your diet without you even noticing.
Fruit: Most fruit is quite portable and therefore makes the ideal snack. You can also chop up fruit and add it to your breakfast cereal, or throw some fruit and yogurt into the blender for a quick nutrient-rich smoothie.
Vegetables: In the cold winter months, there is nothing better than a warm, wholesome vegetable soup. Experiment with different vegetables to find the combinations of veggies you prefer. Stir-fries are a great, quick way to get in your vegetables. Also, try cut-up raw vegetables as crudités and some fat-free cottage cheese as a dip. Then of course there’s always the good ol’ faithful salads, which you can spice up by adding different vegetables and proteins. For example, try a grilled fresh tuna salad, or a chickpea and feta salad.
7. Fact or fallacy: Women shouldn't be afraid to build muscle to boost your metabolism
Fact. Many women shy away from weight-training as they are afraid of building big bulky muscles. However, women are not hormonally-wired to build muscle in this way. Testosterone is responsible for this kind of muscle development, and women do not have significant amounts of this hormone, which would precipitate excessive muscle development. Rather, weight-training will help to increase your muscle mass resulting in a more lean, toned, defined appearance. Also, muscle tissue is more metabolically active than fat tissue, so it burns more calories even at rest. Therefore, building muscle will in turn boost your metabolism.
8. Fact or Fallacy: Weight loss can boost your metabolism
Fallacy. Weight loss can actually lower your metabolic rate – especially if you resort to crash diets or other extreme measures in order to lose weight. This is due to the fact that crash diets cause one to lose muscle in addition to fat. As mentioned above, having a good muscle mass increases your metabolic rate, therefore losing muscle will decrease your metabolic rate. Therefore, it is important to avoid crash diets or any diets offering rapid weight loss and rather aim for eating plans offering safer and sustainable weight loss (i.e. a loss of 0.5 to 1 kg per week) while keeping up a regular exercise routine.
By following the above tips, you’ll find your metabolism is boosted, your energy levels are upped, leaving those with their “sluggish” metabolisms behind in your dust!
Lila Bruk is a registered dietician, nutritional consultant and freelance health journalist.
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