I recently saw a very chubby guy wearing a t-shirt that said, “I’m not fat, I’m just big boned.” Big boned may be more politically correct than fat, but I know there’s no stomach bone and, I’m sorry, but bones also don’t jiggle. I saw another person, a woman, wearing a shirt that said, “I don’t want to brag, but I can still fit into the same earrings that I wore in high school.” Now that’s using humor for a potentially uncomfortable situation.
In Chiropractic School, a couple of my courses required human dissection. On the first day of class we had to choose the cadaver we were going to work with that semester. One of my classmates selected the largest one available, thinking that the organs and skeleton would be larger by the same ratio. As we got into dissecting, he was really disappointed to discover that in reality he had to spend a lot more time and work getting through the layers of fat tissue to get to the normal-sized internals. There were no big bones there at all.
When it comes to weight, it’s not our bones that are the problem. If this were true, we couldn’t do anything about it. The reality is the problem lies in our metabolism, and we can do something about that. So let’s take a look at what we can do with our metabolism.
Metabolism refers to the amount of calories our body burns each day to maintain life. How easily we gain or lose weight is a very individual process and it is influenced by heredity, but there are some common factors that have a major impact on our metabolism. There are a number of things, besides genetics, that can make your metabolism more sluggish. Since I don’t know anyone that wants to slow down their metabolism, I won’t give these factors much detail:
- Age. Things start slowing down after age forty.
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Scrimping on calories and skipping meals can cause the body to go into a starvation mode which slows down metabolism to conserve fuel. One study found that people who skipped breakfast were five times more likely to be obese.
- Deficiency of calcium or iron
- Underactive thyroid
- Sleep deprivation
Even with hereditary issues, there are steps you can take to boost and speed up your metabolism.
- Exercise. Aerobic exercise increases metabolism in the short term, while strength training boosts it long term by up to 50%. Muscles burn over 15 times more calories per day than fat. The more intense the workout, the more it resets your thermostat, and the longer it lasts. Thirty to forty-five minutes, two to three times per week should be sufficient.
- Eating smaller meals more often helps avoid insulin spikes, cravings, and overeating. Eating a nutrient-rich breakfast jump starts your metabolism and keeps it going. Four out of five people who lose weight and keep it off eat breakfast.
- Eat plenty of high quality protein. It digests slowly and requires up to 25% more energy to digest, creating a thermic effect that burns calories for hours after eating. Protein also helps build muscle, which burns even more calories.
- Drink plenty of water. A University of Utah study found that a dehydrated person burns 2% fewer calories. At a minimum drink one glass of water before each meal.
- Consume plenty of high quality omega 3s which are important in balancing blood sugar and regulating metabolism.
- And as a surprise bonus recommendation: People who have close friends who are high energy and practice metabolism boosting habits “inherit” these qualities. Of course the reverse is also true. So watch who you hang-out with, it’s contagious.
So if you want to rev up your metabolism, you need to hydrate, consume plenty of low calorie and high protein foods, build muscle, and keep moving.