The Do’s & Don’ts Of Metabolism

Everyone dreams of having a fast metabolism - you don’t need me to explain why – burn more calories every day by simply existing? Yes, please!

Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is a measure of exactly how much energy (i.e., calories) your body requires in a day to accomplish basic functions like keeping your heart beating and your gut digesting. But don’t be too quick to blame your slow metabolism for your weight gain. Better food choices and exercise can have the biggest impact on losing weight.

The more you can get your body working overtime for you, the less you will need to work overtime FOR IT..meaning more cheesecake with less negative impact.

Depending on your age and lifestyle, your BMR accounts for around 50 to 70 percent of all the calories you use in an average day. And, yes, there are some people who naturally have a great/quick metabolism who don’t even workout and can burn more calories than another person with a low metabolism who spends 2 hours at the gym per day.  It hardly seems fair, does it?

One thing that can help boost your metabolism – guy or girl - is for you to build some lean muscle mass. Having muscle burns calories, period. Fat does not. So, your muscle mass can have a HUGE impact on how well your metabolism works.

Your muscle mass is determined partially by genetics and hormones but is something you can definitely work on and, sorry ladies, but since men naturally have more lean mass, they usually have a higher BMR (a.k.a. ‘faster’ metabolism.) Again, not fair.

After about age 40 everyone’s BMR naturally decreases which results in lost muscle and weight/fat gain which is why you see more “beer bellies” and weight carried around the middle for both men and women. Women’s can often be related to menopause but the decrease in their BMR is a factor for sure.

That said, there are a number of things you CAN do—and avoid doing—to keep your metabolism running optimally.

DON’T Swear OFF Carbs – They're not the Enemy

Low-carb diets are everywhere nowadays but recklessly cutting out carbs will not boost your metabolism—and might actually worsen it. Carbs are our muscles’ main source of energy so when we eat carbs, our body stores them as glycogen, which is a fuel we use throughout the day, especially when we exercise. Once our glycogen store is used up our muscles begin to struggle to access energy and this often spikes our cortisol (stress hormone) levels, which is a big negative for metabolism and long-term weight maintenance.

Carbs also play a fairly major role in protein synthesis, the process where our muscles rebuild and grow so ample carb intake is necessary for maintaining and building muscle optimally. (Sorry keto lovers)

The average person needs at least 100 grams of carbs daily. If you’re working out / training hard, you may need quite a bit more, especially before and after your workouts.

Pay attention to your mental sharpness and energy, especially during your workouts. If you feel sluggish, you probably need to fuel up with more of the RIGHT carbs.

Whole-food sources are preferred 90% of the time (other than immediately after a workout). Aim for things like oatmeal, brown rice, potatoes, fruits, veggies, and beans.

DO Take Your Sleep Quality/Quantity Seriously

When you are sleeping is the only time many body functions and cells rejuvenate properly. The proper kind of nightly rest is 100% crucial in order to function at your peak capacity. When your cells are tired, it takes a lot more for them to keep up with basic human functions.

While it might seem like staying awake longer should burn more calories, in reality, your body actually burns calories less efficiently.

Plus, a lack of sleep (or a bad sleep) also throws your hunger hormones - leptin and ghrelin - for a loop making you less aware of your true hunger and fullness cues. This causes you to overeat and seek calorie-dense foods.

Make it a serious goal to aim for seven to nine hours of sleep every night! Forget the “sleep when you’re dead” mentality. In the Apex program I lay out ideal evening routines so you can have a great snooze.

DON'T Eat Like A Bird

You might think you’re doing great to hit your ‘macros’ on a diet but still completely miss the MICRONUTRIENTS you need. When this happens your body essentially thinks it’s starving and that causes your metabolism to slow down to compensate for the lower caloric intake in order to save what energy it can. Your body will do anything it can to survive and feels threatened when it feels “starved”.

So, if you’ve been cutting back on calories in an attempt to lose weight and are feeling exhausted or lethargic and barely seeing any loss in weight, chances are your body is in a negative pattern and your hormones are working overtime because you are NOT eating enough.

Almost NO ONE (unless you’re under 4’10) should be on a weight-loss diet that’s less than 1,200 calories per day. And you shouldn’t maintain a constant caloric intake - never stay stagnant at a set amount - long enough for your body to adapt because it will always adapt and create a new set-point which will derail your efforts. Try increasing your daily caloric intake by 200 calories, monitoring how you feel (and look) and then decrease your calories a few days later so your body doesn’t get used to your intake.

If you still feel drained and don’t see any change after a couple of weeks, you may need to check in with a dietitian or your doctor to have a blood panel done to check for deficiencies or other issues.

DO Lift Weights

While research does show that cardio burns fat and helps with recovery and weight loss, ONLY doing cardio won’t boost your metabolism. Weight training, on the other hand, will. Your body uses more calories to maintain muscle than it does to maintain fat so, as mentioned earlier, the more muscle you have, the higher your baseline metabolic rate will be.

Make sure to do at least two or three strength-training sessions during your weekly workout routine.

DON’T Overtrain!

If you’re doing hardcore workouts every day, you could be setting yourself up for “adrenal fatigue". When you do vigorous exercise, your levels of the stress hormone cortisol (made by your adrenal gland) rise. While these levels return to normal after you’ve finished and recovered, if your body doesn’t get enough recovery between workouts, it remains in a constant state of stress which keeps your cortisol levels high all of the time. These high cortisol levels can derail your metabolism, leaving you feeling fatigued and grumpy—without seeing the results you want from your workouts.

If you’re feeling exhausted before you even get to the gym you need to scale back the intensity or schedule in more frequent rest days.

To get maximum results from your workouts requires balance. That means alternating your workouts so you have a few days of high-intensity workouts and a few days of more relaxing exercise, like yoga, bike riding, or walking. That gives your body the all-important time to recover which, in turn, will make it respond better to your more challenging workout days.

DON'T Fall For The 'Low Fat' Myth

The low-fat diet trend seems to finally be over- thank God - but for many people, the perception that eating fat makes you fat is a tough one to shake. Fat (good fat) is actually crucial for your body to function at its best because it gives you energy, helps your body absorb certain vitamins (A, D, E, and K), and offers your body essential fatty acids (EFAs) that you need for brain development, blood clotting, and to control inflammation. If you don’t get enough healthy fat in your diet, your body may slow your metabolism to conserve the energy and nutrients it is getting.

Experts recommend getting about 30 percent of your daily calories from healthy fats. Go mostly for plant-based monounsaturated fats like avocados, nuts, seeds and olive oil, which provide essential fatty acids and help to lower blood cholesterol and decrease inflammation. Some whole eggs and full-fat dairy are okay, too so something like avocado toast with an egg for breakfast, some nut butter with an apple as a snack, and veggies tossed in olive oil and roasted, for supper.

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