Metabolism. We know metabolism has to do with maintaining weight, sometimes gaining and sometimes losing – but do we really understand what it is outside of the love pouch that may have magically appeared in adulthood and won’t disappear? It is true that being inactive, getting older and losing muscle mass may contribute to a slow metabolism – but don’t worry, there are many things you can do to give your good ol’ metabolism a boost.
SO WHAT IS METABOLISM ANYWAY?
Metabolism is essentially your body’s way of converting food and drink (calories) into the energy you need to do, well, everything. As we know all too well, a fast metabolism burns through food (fuel) more quickly and slow metabolism works quite the opposite. A slow metabolism doesn’t need as much food for fuel because essentially, the body isn’t using that much energy.
METABOLISM’S ROLE IN PRODUCING ENERGY, BUILDING AND REPAIRNG
To understand metabolism, it is important to know that it consists of two processes. The first process is called anabolism, a process that requires energy to grow and build. It consumes energy and builds molecules the body needs. An example of anabolism is tissue building and muscle gain. The second process is called catabolism and it happens when you digest food and it’s broken down for energy. An example of this is when you consume a piece of bread and your body breaks it down into simple nutrients it can use like glucose (blood sugar).
These processes work together to produce energy, repair cells and to essentially help the body sustain itself and keep you alive and well. Not only does metabolism physically power the body, it is the mechanism that provides our bodies with energy to live our daily lives.
SPEED OF METABOLISM
Next, when understanding metabolism we also need to know about oxidation. Oxidation is the rate that you burn nutrients within your food – otherwise referred to as the metabolism. Essentially, the rate at which your body ‘oxidizes’ will determine the speed of your metabolism and how slow or quickly it converts food into energy.
To break it down even further: there are varying types of ‘oxidizers’ – fast oxidizers and slow oxidizers. Fast oxidizers convert energy at a faster rate, like your ‘lean green bean’ friend who never seems to gain any weight. They need the extra protein and carbs to help them feel full and to give them energy throughout the day as well as to sustain blood sugar. Foods like fish, seafood, whole grains, leafy greens, beans, peas, lentils and nuts like almonds and walnuts are best for the fast oxidizer. It should be noted that a fast oxidizer really needs healthy fats (ie: coconut oil, nuts, seeds). If their diet is low in fat it can affect their metabolic needs for cholesterol and the endocrine system (aka hormones – fun times!).
On the other hand, slow oxidizers convert food into energy at a slower rate, meaning they burn through nutrients more slowly. They do better on complex carbohydrates like whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, sweet potatoes as well as lower to moderate plant fats in the diet. Slow oxidizers benefit from this mix of healthy complex carbohydrates and protein for energy and to help with the oxidation rate. While healthy fats for everyone are recommended, slow oxidizers don’t need as much fat in their diet. Their plate should consist of cooked vegetables, a moderate amount of animal protein, a small amount of complex carbohydrates and fat coming mostly from protein sources.
So in a nutshell, slow oxidizers may find it difficult at times to lose weight whereas fast oxidizers can seemingly eat as much as they want and never gain weight. Luck of the draw it seems, right? Well there’s still hope for your metabolism to step up its game.
EAT AND ENJOY
A common thought is that giving the body less food will help with weight loss and metabolism – but this thought couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, if we don’t fill up our ‘tank’ or don’t eat for several hours, we’re not giving the body the amount of food or ‘fuel’ it needs to fully function. If we give our bodies several small and healthy meals throughout the day we are actually activating our metabolism by keeping our digestive system up and running. Most of us wouldn’t run too long on an empty tank of gas in our cars since the car would eventually stall, so why would we let our bodies run on empty?
EAT PROTEIN LIKE A PRO
Incorporating protein is key to helping out our metabolism. Protein helps us feel full for longer and gives us the energy we need to get through the day. Having adequate amounts of protein can help stabilize our blood sugar by slowing digestion and preventing post meal blood sugar spikes. Protein is food for our muscles in that it helps us build and maintain muscle, and keep in mind that protein increases metabolism – so power up on protein!
GET THEM ZZZ’S
We all know getting more sleep is essential but did you know that getting regular amounts of sleep actually helps our endocrine system and therefore our metabolism? Poor sleep increases our cortisol levels which raises our blood sugar and can eventually lead to major health issues like Type 2 diabetes. Increased cortisol, also present during times of stress, leads to craving all those comfort foods and an increase in appetite in general. As well, a lack of sleep affects our ‘hunger hormones’, increasing ghrelin, the hormone which makes you feel hungry, and decreasing leptin, the hormone which makes you feel full. So diving into a deeper sleep will not only help you feel refreshed, it will also help control your hormones and keep your metabolism in check.
METABOLISM BOOSTING FOODS
There are many foods which can support your metabolism.
As a rule of thumb, high blood sugar levels can lead to increased storage of fat by the body. For this reason, foods like cinnamon help the metabolism by stabilizing blood sugar and preventing this increased storage of fat. Add cinnamon to your oatmeal or consider taking it in supplementation form for a higher concentration.
Healthy fats found in foods like avocados can help your metabolism as they promote satiety. Add some avocado to your salad or even your smoothies for a creamy texture and you’ll notice you will feel more full for longer. Avocados can also reduce metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that happen together, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.
Adding ginger to meals could increase body temperature and metabolic rate, and help control appetite, keeping you more full for an extended period of time. Ginger also promotes healthy digestion and has anti-inflammatory properties. Make a tea with ginger or an elixir with fresh ginger, lemon and honey for an immune and metabolism boost!
Are you feeling overwhelmed with where to start on eating foods to increase your metabolism? Contact us to help. We know life gets busy and it can be hard to plan and prep foods that will help your nutritional and health goals – but that’s exactly what we’re here for.
This blog post is meant to educate on the foods and practices for a healthy metabolism. If you are taking supplements for these nutrients or are having blood sugar issues, it is important to see your doctor so you get the correct dosage for you.
Written by Amber Bechard, student of IHN.
Amber Bechard is a sales enthusiast and blogger who loves to share knowledge through education and laughter