I have said it hundreds of times before and I'll say it again now: I am a pro- metabolism trainer. After having been in this industry for fourteen years, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that increasing metabolism is the key to seeing all results in fitness. But before I go any further, I should answer the question that some of you out there may be asking right now: "OK, that's great, but what exactly is metabolism?" I will give you my answer, although other trainers and health professionals may have their own answers as well. In my professional opinion, metabolism is the rate at which your body burns through food (and yes, that includes fat!)
It goes without saying then that a higher metabolic rate will equal greater caloric expenditure. Sadly, increasing our metabolic rate is no simple task. There are many factors to take into consideration. I will talk about a few of them in detail below.
Eat to increase your metabolism. Whenever I meet with someone to discuss nutrition, I am often witness to a very shocked expression when I discuss how often meals should be consumed. One of the most important keys to increasing metabolism is to eat often throughout the day, five to six meals if possible. When I use the word "meal", I am not talking about a huge portion meal. I recommend people have a palm sized portion of a lean protein, a fibrous carbohydrate (fruits and vegetables), as well as a complex starchy carbohydrate (brown rice, sweet potato, whole grains to name a few). Still, I receive many concerns that this is too much food. When weight loss is the goal, many people fear too many calories. What is important to realize is that by spreading out our meals throughout the day, energy is being expended all day long. This allows us to burn significantly greater calories throughout the entire day as well as when we are sleeping at night. When we eat too much at one setting, the excess calories of that meal will convert to fat and weight gain is the result. This is a killer of metabolism. But by focusing on healthy sources of food (low fat, low sugar, high nutrient), we can and should eat often throughout the day. It may sound like a lot, but this kind of eating plan is what fitness enthusiasts have been using for decades and the results speak for themselves.
Perform weight training to increase your metabolism. I have already discussed that metabolism is the rate at which your body burns through food, but where exactly does this "burning" take place? The answer is simple: in your muscle tissue! The muscles are the fat burning machines of the body. Therefore, it is easy to see that the more muscle tissue someone has, the greater their metabolism will be. To significantly increase metabolism, I highly recommend full body weight training. A common mistake that I have seen people make over the years is too much emphasis on upper body strengthening and not enough for the lower body. Many people believe that because they perform aerobic exercise such as biking or running on a regular basis, that they do not need to focus as much on weight training for the lower body. It is important to realize however, that aerobic exercise will not build muscle, and it will therefore also not build strength. Of course it will significantly increase aerobic endurance which will also be a strong aid in increasing metabolic rate, but to increase your metabolism to its highest potential, lower body strength training must be incorporated. It is hard work, but the payoff is well worth it!
Sleep to increase metabolism. Another killer of metabolism is inadequate rest and recovery. Seven to eight hours of restful sleep each night is recommended. Lack of sleep can lead to an increase of the hormone cortisol which can have a catabolic effect on the body. "Catabolic" essentially means an eating away of muscle tissue. Since muscle tissue is where food is burned, you can see how this process would not be ideal. Bouts of intense stress can also increase the hormone cortisol. For this reason, I always recommend that my clients allow themselves time to participate in activities that they enjoy doing. Fun is the killer of stress.
By incorporating these tools into your daily life, your metabolism is sure to soar! A soaring metabolism will not just help those people who are looking to lose weight. It is also the same tool people to use to build muscle, increase strength, and improve aerobic endurance. Results in fitness simply cannot be seen without a high metabolism. I understand that these tools may be difficult for some people to employ into their daily lives. My recommendation is to take baby steps at first. Simply take it one day at a time, and as long as adherence is followed, each day you will be well on your way to new and improved healthy lifestyle!
I would also like to take a moment to invite everyone to join me at my upcoming cabaret show. I will be performing with Brian Felder of Gay Chicago TV at the 3160 Piano & Cabaret Bar on August 11 & 25 from 9pm – 11:15pm. The show is called "Happily Ever After: An Evening of Song" and it is sure to be a blast. I hope to see you there! (Event Details)
Michael Elder has been working as a fitness professional in Chicago for the last thirteen years. He comes from a background in gymnastics and is certified as a personal trainer through the American Council on Exercise (ACE). He can be contacted directly through his website, www.MichaelElder.com.