8 Ways to Naturally Boost Your Metabolism
If there’s one question I get more than any other being on the road as a travel blogger, it’s how do I stay healthy while traveling (and indulging) so much. There’s a few tips that I’ve picked up from friends in the nutrition industry that I definitely wanted to share with you guys. Everybody (and every body) is so different, but this is what the experts have to say. So I tapped my friend Shelby Hicks, a nutrition expert and Duke exercise specialist, to get her take on what we can all be doing to naturally boost our metabolisms.
This post is not intended as medical advice, just things that have personally worked for us.
“Metabolism” can sound complicated, but when it comes down to it, all metabolism really is is the rate our bodies use energy. And unfortunately, we’ve gotten a lot wrong over the years when it comes to keeping our metabolism in check, and thus our overall health and fitness where we want it to be. Eating less and less and doing more cardio until we drop is NOT the answer! Instead of wearing yourself thin trying to drop those few pounds from the holidays the wrong way, here a few simple changes you can make to speed up your metabolism (that might actually involve eating more, yay!!) and working out less (you don’t believe me do you?). Here are 8 ways to naturally boost your metabolism.
Stop Calorie Restricting, and Start Time Restricting Instead
I’m sure you guys have heard a lot of hype around intermittent fasting lately. Well, it’s not just hype – IF can be a really good way to boost your metabolism. Here’s why : The fewer calories you eat, the slower your metabolism gets over time, which makes sense because your body realizes you need to start conserving energy and adjusting to the new norm of what you’re feeding it!
Harvard Med says, “Intermittent Fasting makes intuitive sense. The food we eat is broken down by enzymes in our gut and eventually ends up as molecules in our bloodstream. Carbohydrates, particularly sugars and refined grains (think white flours and rice), are quickly broken down into sugar, which our cells use for energy. If our cells don’t use it all, we store it in our fat cells as, well, fat. But sugar can only enter our cells with insulin, a hormone made in the pancreas. Insulin brings sugar into the fat cells and keeps it there. Between meals, as long as we don’t snack, our insulin levels will go down and our fat cells can then release their stored sugar, to be used as energy. We lose weight if we let our insulin levels go down. The entire idea of IF is to allow the insulin levels to go down far enough and for long enough that we burn off our fat.”
So, instead of depriving yourself of fuel and nutrients, try restricting your feeding window instead. Aim to consume calories in a 7-10 hour window instead of a 12-16 hour window (the typical feeding window for most Americans). Meaning, instead of eating from 7am in the morning to 9pm at night, try to eat from 9am-7pm. If you know you’re gonna have a late dinner with friends, followed by a couple glasses of wine (as you should!), try to push breakfast a little later. Studies have shown that eating the same number of calories in a shortened window, along with no other changes in diet or lifestyle, leads to weight loss, aka a faster metabolism!
Trade in Cardio for Resistance Training
Have you ever heard that muscle burns more calories than fat? It’s true – the more lean muscle you have on your body, the more calories you burn throughout the day (and even while you sleep!). Once you have more lean muscle mass, those muscle fibers will start to use the surrounding fat as their fuel source and you’ll begin to notice how your clothes fit a little differently. Plus, who doesn’t like being more toned? The only way to gain lean muscle is to stop the chronic cardio (sure cardio is great but definitely not as your only means of exercise) and to start picking up some weights instead!
Get 8 Hours of Sleep
There are many reasons why a lack of sleep leads to a slower metabolism and is also linked to obesity, but they all relate back to STRESS. A lack of sleep puts the body into a state of high stress, and, when this happens, hunger hormones are secreted (before modern society if our bodies were stressed that meant we were probably in danger and therefore needed extra energy for “fight or flight”). This stressed state of being conserves our energy and increases appetite, ultimately lowering our metabolism and leading to weight gain. So aim for a good 8 hours per night, always. If you don’t know whether you’re getting enough sleep, try tracking it with something like the app WHOOP, that will show you if you’re getting enough REM and Deep Sleep!
Travel hack: I always travel with my silk sleep mask and these travel supplements to help me sleep on the plane & fight jet lag.
Drink Green Tea
Green tea is probably one of the most studied teas in the world for its generous health benefits. Not only does it have antioxidants and a boost of caffeine for that afternoon lull, but it has been shown to convert stored fat into free fatty acids. (!!!) Aka, it actually helps burn more fat! You don’t have to tell me twice. Ordering that matcha latte as we speak.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
Studies have shown that just increasing your water intake throughout the day leads to a faster metabolism and general weight loss. Often, we misread our thirst for hunger and end up reaching for another snack when actually our body is just craving hydration. Cold water turns out to be even better for us, because our body has to burn more calories to heat it up to core temperature. Just be careful on those travel days when a bathroom isn’t always handy! When you’re buying bottled water, try to get spring water (preferably in a glass bottle) because it has several naturally occurring electrolytes and none of the toxins like BPA from sitting in plastic for who-knows-how-long.
Try HIIT Training
High Intensity Interval Training sounds intimidating, but it’s actually pretty simple and you don’t need to go to an Orangetheory or a Barry’s Bootcamp to take advantage of its fat-burning and metabolism-boosting effects. HIIT training is based on periods of intense work, followed by periods of rest, which allows you to spike your heart rate higher than if you were just going for a long, slow run. These periods in the high heart rate zones actually help you burn MORE fat (boosting your metabolism) post-exercise. You can do this by biking, running, swimming or with bodyweight exercises like jump squats or burpees. Go hard/fast for 30 seconds at a time, then walk/recover for 30 seconds -1 minute. Repeat for 15-25 minutes and get the same fat burning effects as a 1 hour steady state workout!! The best part about this style of training is that you can do it anywhere! Jogging in a new city or biking at the hotel gym while traveling is one of my favorite ways to work out.
Eat MORE Fat
Unfortunately we’ve been under the false impression for the past two decades that fats are bad for us, but it is only now coming to light how must damage that thinking has caused. Obesity and diabetes are at an all time high due to fat being taken out of products, and sugar being added in its place. (Think “low fat” yogurts or cereals that have obscene amounts of added sugars…)
The body needs fat for many essential processes, like absorbing fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, K and E), creating hormones, and keeping our cell membranes functioning properly! What we are finally uncovering is that eating more healthy fat can actually help to speed up our metabolisms.
Fats also cause the body to release the hormone ghrelin, which suppresses appetite. Start adding in some of these anti-inflammatory healthy options into your diet: wild-caught salmon, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado (aka GUACAMOLE!!), ghee, pasture raised eggs, chia seeds, and nuts! Almond butter is my healthy fat of choice these days, I literally travel with small packets!
Not all fats are created equal however, avoid inflammatory trans fats like hydrogenated oils vegetable oils, soybean oil, canola oil, and palm oil.
Eat Enough Prebiotic Foods
Research is revealing how important the health of the microbiome is! If our gut bacteria are happy, we are happy. One of the most important roles the gut-bugs play is making the fatty acid Butyrate. Butyrate is directly linked to metabolism and no-so coincidentally to our levels of inflammation. Think, the more butyrate, the better. So give those gut bugs the foods they crave that are high in soluble fiber. Add in more chia seeds, raw onion, asparagus, garlic, slightly green bananas, and apples (with skins on) to your diet!