By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
A fast metabolism — how quickly your body burns through calories — seems the Holy Grail for weight maintenance. Instead of carefully watching every spoonful, some people seem to eat what they want and not gain an ounce. Local experts say there isn’t really one way to “hack your metabolism” despite what social media and advertisements claim.
But you can make a few changes that can improve your metabolism. Try these expert tips from local experts:
Tips from Kathleen Bump, registered dietitian nutritionist, Nutrition Team leader, Cornell Cooperative Extension Onondaga County:
• “Many factors affect a person’s metabolism/metabolic rate such as age, gender, height, weight, body composition, health status, hormones and genetic makeup. Individuals with more lean muscle mass will typically have a faster metabolism and will require more fuel/energy than people with a higher percentage of body fat. As we age our muscle mass decreases.
• “Metabolism is like a furnace that needs constant and consistent fuel to function properly. Providing your body with meals at regular intervals throughout the day is important to keep the furnace burning and functioning properly. Nutrient-dense foods keep you fueled for longer to keep the furnace burning.
• “Unfortunately, there is little evidence to support that any particular food will jumpstart or slow our metabolism. A balanced diet comprised of lean protein, fruits, vegetables, low fat dairy and whole grains will keep our bodies satisfied. Eating energy dense foods like refined carbohydrates and processed foods will have the opposite effect. Energy dense foods are often loaded with added sugar, salt and saturated fat. These types of foods are digested faster causing a person to always feel hungry and never satisfied which can lead to mindless eating and therefore additional calories resulting in weight gain.
• “When we skip meals or restrict our diets, our bodies will adapt to the calorie restriction/deficit and will automatically use fewer calories to perform routine tasks. The body will hold on to those calories because it thinks it is going into starvation or famine mode and will need to do more with fewer calories. This is often the case when people go on very low-calorie diets that are too restrictive in calories. Restrictive diets will promote rapid weight loss; however, it is very difficult to sustain the weight that was lost.”
Tips from Jill Murphy, certified personal trainer and co-owner Mission Fitness Corp., East Syracuse:
• “Try a cardiovascular workout called HIIT: high intensity interval training. That’s where we often have clients do it on the elliptical machine. There’s not a lot of impact on joints. You work as hard as you can 30 seconds, then allow the heart and lungs to recover 90 seconds, then do it again. Do eight intervals — 30 seconds, plus a rest is one interval — with a warm up and cool down. Because the intensity is high, don’t do it every day, but least one time week.
• “The number one thing that would increase metabolism is weight training because the more muscle someone has, the more calories they burn at rest. Women don’t have the testosterone as men have to get big and bulky. It’s about getting in the gym once or twice a week and pushing to failure at each resistance exercise with a short rest. Do five to 10 reps for the upper body and eight to 15 reps for the lower body. The key is you go very slow at a controlled pace. You keep momentum out of the equation so you don’t jar the joints. It stimulates the muscle. As your body repairs itself is how you can increase your metabolism. After 25, our bodies begin to lose muscle.”
Tips from physician Leila Kirdani, board-certified in both metabolic medicine and family practice and owner of Quality of Life Medicine in New Hartford and Rochester
• “The biggest thing with this is exercise. It’s a sad, hard truth for people who don’t like to exercise. When you build muscle, you build microchondria. It has a higher metabolic rate than other cells. Walking is wonderful, but if you’re really trying to speed up your metabolism, it requires a more aerobic exercise and weight training.
• “High intensity interval training has been shown to increase metabolism more quickly than conventional exercise. It’s not as good at reducing obesity and helping cholesterol levels, but if the goal is to increase metabolism, it’s fabulous.
• “Things that help microchondria health include supplementing with alpha lipoic acid. This is an enzyme helper where the body makes molecules of energy. It can help increase the metabolism, keep cholesterol panels good and is a powerful antioxidant.
• “Supplement with D-ribose, a sugar that doesn’t raise your blood sugar but makes up part of the molecule of energy. If you take it before a workout, your body will able to burn more energy.”
Tips from Laura Kirkpatrick, nutrition and health coach with Metro Fitness and physical therapist with Onondaga Physical Therapy
• “Green tea and spices help with satiety, increased metabolism and therefore help with weight loss or maintaining a healthy weight. Also, increase satiety and boost the metabolism with oatmeal (preferably steel cut or organic oats), eggs (up to two, three times a week), almonds, beans, lentils, peas, Greek yogurt, healthful fats, berries, and up to two cups of coffee daily.
• “Foods that negatively impact the metabolism include high sugar foods and drinks, highly processed foods and convenience foods and foods high in saturated fat and trans fat.
• “Try not to eat too close to going to bed. Plan to have consumed most calories at least three hours prior to going to bed.
• “Try to eat majority of (preferably complex) carbohydrates during the first part of the day and fill the dinner plate mainly with lean protein, healthy fats and non-starchy vegetables. Include a cup of tea after dinner or prior to bed.”