Metabolism update: Burn more calories with our 4-week plan!
It’s easy to blame a slow metabolism for unwanted kilos — but you can burn fat faster and keep it off for good! HFG has the latest science — and a 4–week plan.
Fat-burning foods: Fact or fiction?
Will eating chilli or drinking green tea help you lose weight? All foods to some extent will increase your metabolism. It’s called the thermic effect of food— and it uses 5–10 per cent of your daily energy expenditure.
Some foods like chillies, ginger, grapefruit, coffee and green tea have all been linked to speeding up metabolism. However, it is unlikely consuming these on their own will affect your weight.
Are you one of those people who seem to eat very little, yet still find it difficult to manage your weight? Or maybe you’ve hit your 40s and are suddenly struggling to keep your waistline in check — whereas in your 20s you could eat anything and everything and still stay slim! Both are common issues, and the natural response for many of us is to blame it on a slow metabolism.
“It’s common for people to think there must be something wrong with their metabolism if they’re struggling with their weight,” says dietitian Juliette Kellow. “But while everyone’s metabolic rate varies and starts to drop as we get older, it’s important not to fall into the trap of automatically thinking it’s the main reason for piling on the kilos.“
However, just a few key changes can boost your metabolism, help you burn more calories, and make it easier to maintain a healthy weight. Here’s how …
Your body’s engine
Understanding how your metabolism works and what affects it are crucial if you want to boost it. Metabolism is the process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy. Your metabolism is your body’s engine, and it’s constantly burning fuel — or kilojoules — to keep it ticking over, even when you’re asleep.
In fact, your resting metabolic rate (RMR) — the amount of energy your body needs to stay alive and perform functions such as breathing, keeping your heart beating and regulating body temperature — accounts for 60–75 per cent of daily energy needs.
The reason for such a variation? A person’s RMR is affected by age, body size, genetics, lifestyle, the amount of muscle and fat, and climate. It includes any health problems people may have, such as fever or an injury. Some of these factors, like age, gender and genes, are beyond your control. For example, men have more natural muscle than women, so tend to have a faster metabolism.
On top of this, eating also burns calories — your body uses around another 10 per cent of energy needs to digest and absorb food. You burn the rest of your calories by planned and incidental exercise — over which you have plenty of control!
Eat more, lose weight!
If you’re trying to lose weight, you’ll know that hunger can send your cravings into overdrive. Luckily, some foods fight hunger by keeping you satisfied for longer.
Protein makes you feel fuller than carbs or fat, making a tub of high-protein yoghurt an ideal hunger-busting snack.
Vegies give maximum satisfaction for minimum kilojoules. Drizzle olive oil over salad, or serve veg sticks with hoummos to boost flavour and fullness.
It’s satisfying, low in kilojoules and quick to make. Whip up a big batch at the start of the week, and enjoy it for lunch and as a light pre-dinner snack.
Wholegrain popcorn is high in fibre and has a low-Glycaemic Index (GI). Other high-fibre grains include brown rice, wholegrain crackers and grainy bread.
Packed with protein, fibre and healthy fats, nuts satisfy hunger and reduce appetite.
5 ways to reboot your metabolism
Don’t skip meals
People who eat breakfast tend to be slimmer than those who don’t, according to a number of studies. Eating in the morning can help prevent weight gain, as researchers believe it moves your metabolism into gear for the rest of the day. When you wake up, your body may have gone 10 to 12 hours without food, depending on when you had your evening meal. So if you skip breakfast, it thinks you are denying it kilojoules — and may go into ‘starvation mode’.
Ditch the crash diets
Don’t severely reduce your food intake in the hope you’ll quickly become slim. You won’t. In fact, drastic dieting will probably have the reverse effect. In response to an inadequate number of kilojoules, your body simply starts to use muscle rather than fat to provide it with energy. “Going for long amounts of time without eating means your body thinks it’s about to be faced with a famine, so your metabolism slows down in preparation for this,” says Kellow.
This explains why you feel so hungry when you start a diet. When your body detects it’s losing weight, a whole range of hormones are released that trigger your appetite — so you go and seek food. Unfortunately, when you go back to eating normally, your metabolism will have become slower, so your weight will increase quickly, and then you’ll struggle to lose that regained weight.
Experts agree a gradual, steady loss of 500g–1kg per week is a healthy, safe amount to lose.
Let go of the idea that weight loss is all about cardio. Lifting weights, or doing body-weight exercises like lunges and squats, will increase your muscle mass. The more muscle you have, the more kilojoules your body burns — even when it’s doing nothing. (You can then burn kilojoules while reading a book!)
Fat cells, on the other hand, are a dead weight — they don’t burn many kilojoules. Muscle burns up to four times more kilojoules than fat tissue, so be sure you include strength training as well as aerobic exercise in your workout regimen.
Workouts don’t have to involve heavy weights and strenuous gym sessions; using your own body weight counts as resistance training. You could also try resistance bands, Pilates or aqua aerobics.
Eat more protein
Eating a higher-protein diet is instrumental in retaining kilojoule-burning muscle mass, especially as you age.
This doesn’t mean a boring diet of chicken breast, eggs and broccoli. Lean protein foods like fish, eggs, tofu, legumes, lean meat and nuts also keep you full and stop spikes in blood sugar levels that can lead to overeating.
Aim to have a lean protein source at every meal, such as poached eggs or yoghurt for breakfast, lean chicken breast or canned fish for lunch, and a piece of fish or lean red meat for dinner. Legumes, such as lentils, chickpeas and beans, are a great source of plant-based protein.
Move, stand, fidget!
The more you move, the better — and we’re not just talking about exercise here. Studies show that fidgeters burn more kilojoules than people who sit still for long periods of time. Fidgeting while sitting burns 54 kilojoules per minute compared to sitting still, which burns only 5 kilojoules. Standing burns 13 kilojoules.
So if you work in an office, crank up your total energy expenditure by moving regularly. Walk to a colleague’s desk rather than sending an email, take the stairs instead of the lift — or even take up an annoying foot-tapping habit while sitting at your desk!
Loosing weight after 40
Wondering why the strategies you used to lose weight in your 20s don’t work after 40? Here’s what to do…
Your metabolism slows down after 30
After about 30 we lose muscle, and this accelerates in our 40s, slowing our metabolism. An average 45-year-old burns 400 fewer kilojoules a day than a 25-year-old, so it’s important to make diet tweaks to suit your age and activity levels.
Lack of sleep can make you overeat
To work at their best, our bodies rely on sleep. When we don’t get enough, our hunger and stress hormones surge, making it easy to overeat. Being tired can also tempt you to make unhealthy food choices.
Changing your exercise routine can help
When your body follows the same habits day after day, it becomes more efficient at doing them, burning fewer kilojoules over time. So, instead of walking the same route at the same pace every day, mix it up — add short bursts of jogging, or find a route with more hills.
Walk it off! Your 4-week plan to a fast metabolism
The best way you can really rev up your metabolism and burn more calories is to move more — and walking is a brilliant way of doing it.
You’ll need to step out each day to get a substantial effect on your metabolism, plus do strength or resistance training at least twice a week. Keep in mind that exercises such as squats, lunges and push-ups count towards strength training.
Our four-week program (below) has a mix of long walks; short, steep walks; interval sessions; plus a few resistance sessions. This combo will give you the best metabolic improvements and beat boredom — so you’re more likely to stick to it!
Wear comfortable, supportive shoes and weather-appropriate loose-fitting clothing. It’s also a good idea to have a word with your doctor about any major new exercise program you’re planning before you launch yourself into it.
Choose a route with some slight hills. If you’re using a treadmill, use the elevation tool. As your fitness improves, gradually challenge yourself with steeper hills or more of an incline. This will help tone up your muscles too.
Always start with a five-minute warm-up at a speed that feels comfy. Once your muscles are warm, pick up the pace to a speed that leaves you a little breathless. In the last five minutes, slow down to an easy relaxed stride.
HFG tip! Dieting can actually slow your metabolism in the long run