We've all heard the saying about having a natural body weight and some of us are perfectly happy with our current weight while others aren't so positive about it and it doesn't seem to matter how many diets or exercise programs we get into, shifting those kilos is just too hard.
Well I started asking some questions about this natural body weight and it seems to have a lot to do with our metabolic rate - the rate our body converts food (calories) into energy and fat. A low metabolic rate uses up only a few calories (energy) while a high metabolic rate uses up many more calories.
Sadly the older we get the slower our metabolic rate naturally becomes. The good news is we can do simple things to increase our metabolic rate so our bodies use up those calories faster for us.
If you want to lose weight it is far more effective to focus on increasing your metabolic rate than switch from diet to diet; just think of the success the Biggest Loser candidates have with their approach of eating wisely combined with strength training and aerobic exercise and you'll get the picture.
Most of us don't have the time to give three months over to a dedicated program with a personal trainer but we can see real differences in 3 months by paying attention to increasing our resting metabolic rate (RMR) as it increases the amount of fat we burn every minute of the day - awake or asleep. So you can lose weight even without exercising. Most people benefit from increasing their metabolic rate even before they change their diet or exercise routine.
How to Increase Your Metabolic Rate and Lose Weight
Here are 10 practical tips for increasing your metabolic rate to lose weight and maintain a healthy body:
1. Build Muscle Mass - muscles burn fat even when you're resting. Muscles need energy so they burn more fat and calories 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Fat cells store fat rather than burn it so are the opposite to muscle cells. You don't need to sign up for an expensive gym membership that dips into your bank account every week, whether you go to the gym or not, to build muscles You can start strength training simply at home or in the park with push ups, sit ups, biceps curls with 2 kg weights (or even cans of tinned tomatoes from the panty) and trace pulls. Results come with repetition so doing these exercises three to four times a week in three sets of 5 -10 repeats will bring positive change and create body muscle mass within a month.
Strength training to build muscle mass increases your metabolic rate as well as improves your physique and you'll notice the difference with your clothes and the compliments you receive. Muscle mass is also great for keeping mobile as the years go by.
2. Antioxidants - antioxidants as great for a whole bundle of reasons but are also great for boosting the metabolic rate. So foods rich in antioxidants like blueberries are ideal for snacks and sweet treats. Green tea is also a very easy way to increase the amount of antioxidants in your daily diet intake. Personally I love having honey in my green tea so double up on the benefits of this age old drink. Antioxidants help your body's organs work better - a liver that can more effectively processes the fats we consume reduces the about of stored fat. Another great benefit of antioxidents is that they're great for creating healthy vibrant skin and hair.
3. Low GI foods - blood sugar levels are key to how we feel each day. High GI foods are absorbed quickly and directly increase the levels of blood sugar/glucose levels causing an insulin reaction - think of little kids madness after eating red lollies and then the temper-tantrum crash that follows as the blood glucose levels crash and you'll get the picture. Low GI foods are broken down more slowly and absorbed over time and provide a more steady intake of energy for the blood sugars so they keep our energy (and also emotional) levels more stable. By keeping your blood sugar levels stable your body can consistently get on with the daily activities of processing goods and burning energy rather than struggling to deal with wild fluctuations.
4. Evening Walks - walking each day for at least 30 minutes is great for maintaining weight while walking 45 minutes or more a day will help help lose weight. Evening walks are ideal before dinner as for many of us our metabolic rate slows at the end of the day. Just 30 - 45 minutes of aerobic activity before dinner will increase the metabolic rate and let your body more quickly process the dinner calories so they are burned up rather than develop into fat stores. Walking also builds muscle mass - another bonus!
5. Regular Eating -skipping meals or drastically reducing your calorie intake gives signals to your body that food is in short supply so it slows your metabolism rate to conserve energy and stores more fat. As for as your body is concerned if there's less food about then it needs to protect you with fat so you can get through the lean times. With a slower resting metabolic rate (RMR) even when you do start eating regularly again it takes longer for your body to recognise the consistency of the change and it will be slower to use the calories, the energy coming in so keeping hold of the fat it's storing. So if you're going to reduce your calorie intake keep it to less than a cut of 500 calories per day and stay above 1200 calories per day intake. Having 6 meals per day that evenly divides your calories will benefit your RMR as your body learns it will have regular food it can rely on.
This is a key reason why radical dieting fails - because it tells the body the wrong message while compounding the problems by losing protein and water from the muscle cells - reducing the metabolic rate of the muscles that help you lose weight. It's like shooting yourself in the foot and wanting to run a marathon.
6. Power of Protein - protein is needed for muscle development and maintenance as well as the stabilisation of insulin levels so it vital for increasing metabolic rates. Most people need between 70 - 150 grams of protein each day. Sources of protein include meat, nuts, eggs, low-fat yogurt, milk, tofu, cheese and fish.
7. Getting the Heart Going with Aerobic Workouts - increase the heart rate and you increase blood circulation that improves the oxidization of the muscle cells. Aerobic training fits hand in glove with strength training and ranges from brisk walking (where it's not easy to maintain a conversation) to running to cycling to an aerobic class to interval training to skipping - anything that increases your heart rate. At least 30 - 60 minutes, three times a week will see weight loss and increase the metabolic rate.
8. Good Sleep - the body needs rest and without a good sleep it starts going into emergency mode - slowing down metabolism rates and increasing fat storage. Getting less than 4 hours sleep a night tells the body things are wrong. When you are well rested with 7 - 9 hours of sleep most nights then your body is getting the time out it needs to recover and prepare for an active day. Read more about the Value of a Good Sleep.
9. Increase Daily Activity - reading some of my grandmother's letters I realised how much walking she and her friends had as part of their daily lives - walking to the shops and back, walking to catch the tram to visit each other, bushwalking on the weekends and I started to understand why all these ladies were trim - they had a higher daily activity rate than we do with our cars and all the convenient options we take advantage of. By making some simple changes that seem quite minor but add up to make a difference - it's easy to increase the amount of activity we have each day so we can burn more calories and shift some kilograms. Try parking further away from the shop or work so you walk more, take the stairs rather than the lift, do some tidying or cleaning while on the phone so you're moving, walk with your friend rather than sit for a cuppa when catching up, walk to the local corner shop for the milk rather than drive to the shopping centre, walk the kids to school - there are a heap of ways to add just 20 minutes a day of more activity (exercise) and you'll notice the difference.
10. Drinking Water - keep our bodies hydrated with enough healthy liquids like water, green tea, natural juices keeps our muscles in good condition. Water is great at helping to flush the liver so it can process fats and toxins more easily. Muscles need water more than fat cells do so when we're dehydrated our muscles are negatively impacted. Want to learn more about the benefits of water?
Keeping Up Weight Loss Motivation
Most diets that show a rapid loss of weight in the first couple of weeks are about shedding water and proteins from muscles, thus slowing the metabolic rate and making it harder to burn fat in the coming weeks as well as long term. Only about 20% of this weight loss is actual fat being burned, the other 80% is about losing the good things needed for metabolic activity.
Personally I think this really harms motivation as you think you've lost weight quickly, you're doing all the right things and then it all stalls followed by putting more weight on. So rather than taking a sledge hammer to your motivation try first doing the little things to increase your metabolism rate and then step it up progressively as you're feeling better about the results.
The fad diets even fail as temporary fixes as they barely even deliver on a short term loss. Where as a review of your lifestyle eating and activity can bring about positive long term results that are shown within weeks.
An example is replacing that Cola drink with a green tea will have an immediate positive impact on blood sugar levels, increase antioxidants to fight free radicals, a healthier liver and less calories. This sort of change is about choosing a more sensible option that still satisfies the sweet tooth while letting us achieve our goals. If you don't think you could survive without your soft drink fix try replacing just one drink a day and improve from there.
Changes don't have to be radical to be the long term solution, they need to be consistent to bring about real positive change. You can slip up occasionally - it's called being human - it is the choice you make the next day and the next ones that matter.
Increasing your metabolic rate and keeping it at a level that lets you live the lifestyle that you want.