In the simplest of terms, a person’s metabolism is the rate at which calories are used up in order to sustain their bodily functions and, more broadly, life.
And so, to heavily butcher a famous Abraham Lincoln quote: “It is the eternal struggle between these two principles – metabolism and your waist line – throughout the world. They are the two principles that have stood face to face from the beginning of time; and will ever continue to struggle.”
This is to say, for those with a lightning fast metabolism – those lucky blighters that can inhale hot dogs, ice cream and mountains of cheesy nachos at will, yet nary gain an ounce – this chemical process is the stuff of smug gratification. For everyone else – who need only gaze at a glazed doughnut for their belt buckle to strain under the weight of their rampaging gut – a snail-paced metabolism is evil incarnate.
But a fact this latter group may not be aware of is that, although this metabolic lottery is somewhat genetic, it is not 100 per cent baked in. Yes, you truly can speed up your metabolism and, upon reading and heeding the first-class knowledge of our assembled experts – if you’re in the camp of doughnut gazers – we have a sneaky suspicion you will.
Caffeine at the ready, cayenne pepper steady, and go!
1. Pump Iron, Feel The (After)burn
Folk with a fast metabolism burn stacks of calories both in and out of the gym, and may require a hefty diet merely to maintain their weight; the poor lambs. The reverse is true for people with a slow-coach metabolism – less calories are burned, and thus consuming too many will see them gain weight. How to break the cycle? Make the weights room your very best friend, as gym gains can bring about a course-correction.
“The most effective way of speeding up your metabolism is increasing your muscle mass,” says Harry Aitken, master trainer at fitness specialists Auster. “Muscles require energy to function, and bigger muscles will burn more calories. Not only this, big weight training sessions put the body in a state of heightened calorie burn post-workout, often referred to as the ‘afterburn effect’.”
So, rather than gaining pounds from low-fat dressing as you would normally, benching 150lbs in your gym session instead will soon see you torching calories from the comfort of your sofa, as your muscles diligently repair themselves.
2. Eat Breakfast, Then Eat Regularly
The fact that breakfast boosts one’s metabolism is a much-vaunted fact, and yet many still persist with the notion that they’re better off going without. Wrong!
“If breakfast is skipped, our bodies are likely to want to hold on to calories in order to preserve energy,” says Abbas Kanani, pharmacist at Chemist Click. “Eating in the morning sends signals to the brain that there will be a constant supply of energy, and your body is less likely to want to hold on to calories in order to preserve energy.”
But don’t stop there. Eating breakfast and then holding fire till tea is equally unwise. According to Kanani, “When the body is not getting a constant supply of energy, the brain is fooled into thinking we are in starvation mode. It therefore tries to hold on to fat supplies as an energy reserve, using muscle supplies as a source of energy before fat supplies.”
Don’t wave goodbye to all that muscular progress from the gym like a nutritional klutz – eat your breakfast. And your lunch. And your dinner.
3. Move To The Arctic!
Hannah Braye, nutritional therapist at Lepicol Lighter, recommends a simple measure in order to spook your metabolism into putting in a shift: braving the cold.
“Basal metabolic rate is the minimum energy required by the body to keep it functioning at rest – it essentially dictates the rate that a person burns calories,” says Braye. “A great tip for increasing BMR is to turn off the central heating every now and again, to expose ourselves to drops in temperature.
“Our bodies naturally burn more energy in colder climates in order to keep us warm.”
British company CryoAction list Everton, Leicester City and Arsenal as among the many clients who’ve benefited from their services – and by ‘benefited from’, we mean spending three-to-five minutes in a cryotherapy chamber, where the temperature can be rapidly dropped to as low as -135 degrees C.
4. Drink Water, Eat Spicy Food
“Staying well hydrated is recommended,” reports Braye, “as evidence suggests that drinking water may temporarily speed up resting metabolism by 10 to 30 per cent.” In terms of solids, Aitken’s advice prescription is very simple: “Get spicy.”
He elaborates: “Some evidence suggests that chilli, cinnamon, ginger, cayenne and black pepper can elevate your metabolism slightly. While the scientific evidence on this may not be completely proven – and if it has been then the effects will only be minor – it can’t hurt to try.”
5. Don’t Neglect Cardio Training
Yes, clanging some heavy metal can have an incredibly positive impact on your metabolism and waistline, but the smart man pairs this with some running or bike work.
“Do cardio,” Kanani orders. “Not only does cardio burn calories, it also elevates body temperature, which is linked to metabolism. By increasing your body temperature, you are speeding up your metabolism as more energy is released.” Although any cardio can be beneficial, some high intensity interval training (otherwise known as the gym bro’s most beloved acronym, HIIT) will do you metabolic favours that outlast your time spent on a treadmill – burning calories for hours after the fact.
6. Eat A Metric Tonne Of Protein
Protein – aside from being a key component of most amazing foodstuffs – requires more of your precious energy in order to digest. In essence, this means you will zap extra calories from a high-protein meal, something that’s known as the “thermic effect of food.”
Aitken says: “Proteins are the most energy taxing to digest, taking around 20 to 35 per cent of the energy within them – 100 calories of a third of a chicken breast will take 20 to 35 calories to digest, for example, whereas carbohydrates only take five to 15 per cent of the energy consumed to digest. So, keep protein intake high, as not only will it fuel your muscle recovery, it will also take extra calories to burn.”
Kanani points out that this longer digestion period will leave you “full for a longer period of time”, which in turn means you’re less likely to snack, or consume empty, “unnecessary calories” to sate an angry stomach.
7. Stay Away From Sugar
For far too long, fat was demonised as the big, bad wolf of modern diets. We were all wrong, as it turns out, as not only can certain fats be tremendously beneficial to a balanced diet, this allowed the real villain – tasty, deadly sugar – to hide in plain sight (and clog up the ingredients list of ‘low fat’ meals). So, now you know, keep your intake low.
“Not only does sugar turn to fat when it’s not used up as an energy supply,” says Kanani, “it also spikes insulin levels in order to bring blood sugar levels back to normal. High insulin levels promote fat storage and can slow down your metabolism.”
8. Fuel Your Metabolism With (Lots Of) Caffeine
Aside from the obvious energising benefits that are delivered with a double espresso, it turns out that caffeine also has a surprising impact on your ability to burn calories.
“Caffeine is an effective way of temporarily spiking your metabolism,” says Aitken. “Larger doses have an increased effect, as much as a 13% increase.” This is why, Aitken claims, most off the shelf fat burner tablets are effectively just Tic Tac sized coffee capsules, dressed up as something more extravagant with snazzy additions like bitter orange.
However, “The effects of these are not scientifically proven to make significant differences,” says Aitken, “So stick to your regular coffee or green tea in order to spike your metabolism before your session.”