Not all vegans are skinny. Some manage to be overweight, even a few obese, and many have plenty of muscle, but the skinny stereotype still exists. This is for good reason. Vegans do tend to have a lower body mass than typical Americans, which puts them on average squarely in the healthy range in the Body Mass Index. There have been several studies that show vegans tend to burn calories at an accelerated rate, yet people still argue that a vegan diet does not speed metabolism.
Diets in General
Most diets don’t work because food restriction actually slows metabolism. The body thinks it’s being starved, goes into a crisis mode, and starts storing everything it can while also using resources more sparingly. This hibernation method doesn’t help the body lose weight very well. Regular exercise and modest calorie restriction help force the body to expend more resources without thinking it’s starving, but our modern diet still clogs the metabolic pathways with excess fats, chemicals, and toxins, even when we get the right mix of calories and exercise.
It helps if you eat foods the body must work harder to use. This thermic effect burns more calories. Protein is one of the hardest things for the body to break down, absorb, and use. Unfortunately, fat is one of the easiest to use. The processed sugars and carbohydrates in modern food also create very little thermic effect. Animal protein may burn calories, but it is also loaded with fats and cholesterol which do not. Vegetables are nearly as difficult to use, thanks to the fiber content, and many vegetables are rich in protein too. This means vegans naturally eat foods that increase the amount of calories they burn.
The fiber in vegetables slows down the absorption rate, encouraging the body to use the glucose and protein as it comes. Your body may store less, but it also isn’t starving itself into those hibernation-like reflexes. Fiber helps remove toxins from our digestive system too. Toxins are a hindrance to healthy weight loss as the body responds to hazardous material that floods the system by trapping it in fat where it can’t do any damage. Vegans are also more likely to eat organic and non-processed foods that contain less of these toxins.
Less Fat and Less Stress
A recent study showed that the high-fat modern diet combined with stress slows metabolism by clogging the metabolic pathways that glucose and protein use. The fat literally blocks the channels used by cells to let the nutrients they need in. This slows down the rate they’re used, increasing storage and waste, and interferes with insulin levels. As less fat is consumed, cellular metabolism speeds up with the more efficient, unclogged pathways. A vegan diet is normally much lower in fat.
Do What You Can
If you aren’t ready to go vegan, there are still plenty of ways you can speed up your metabolism. Adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet while cutting back on processed foods and animal fat is a good place to start. Try a meatless day once a week and see how you feel. Exercise is also important. Even walking is a start in the right direction.
Get Up and Out
Get up and stay active. The longer you sit, the slower your metabolism goes. Get up every hour or so and walk around. Pace while you talk on the phone. Stand and do some jumping jacks to get the blood flowing and the lymphatic system primed. The lymphatic system relies on your muscle movements to remove waste, toxins, excess fluid, and unwanted fat. If you don’t move, the body is forced to store this junk to keep it from causing problems.
Spice it Up
Add some spice to your food. Chili peppers, whole or in powder, speed up metabolism by up to 25% and this boost can last for up to 3 hours. Garlic, mustard seeds, pepper, onion, ginger, and turmeric all speed up metabolism to some extent while improving circulation, carrying antioxidants, and making meals taste amazing.
Vitamins and Minerals
Get plenty of vitamin D, iron, and calcium. These all contribute to healthy metabolic function. Vitamin D comes to us from exposure to sunlight. Try to get a moderate dose each day, just twenty minutes does wonders. Iron and calcium are both plentiful in leafy greens like kale, spinach, broccoli, and asparagus.
Drink plenty of clean, pure water. Water is required by every living cell of the body and a part of every function, including digestion, oxygen transportation, and cellular metabolism. It helps transport nutrients and flush out toxins. Cold water burns more calories than warm water, not by a huge amount, but every bit counts when you’re trying to lose unwanted, unnecessary weight.
Avoid the Yo-Yo
Eat whole grains and avoid the processed grains like white flour and white rice. Whole grains supply the body with a steady flow of complex carbohydrates. This slow release keeps the body chugging along. Sugar spikes, which you get from sodas, juices, and processed snacks, encourage the storage of glucose and fats when the body sees too much in the blood stream. This also results in a yo-yo effect as the readily available supply of energy is sucked up and depleted, inducing overeating with more spikes as the cycle repeats.
Apples and pears seem to be two fruits that give the body an energy and calorie burning boost. Citrus fruits are another to add into your diet. The vitamin C in them helps reduce insulin spikes. Eat these often in place of the sugary treats, but don’t overindulge. Fruits are delicious, rich in antioxidants, and very good for you while the fiber and water content slow down the absorption of sugars, but a ton of this good thing can still send your blood sugar up too high.
Get plenty of omega 3s. These healthy fats can be found in seeds, nuts, whole grains, and avocados. Chia and hemp seed are two excellent sources. Omega 3s reduce leptin, a hormone that lowers metabolism.
Rest and Again Less Stress
Last of all, get plenty of sleep and reduce stress. Stress puts strain on the body’s ability to create certain hormones, builds up toxic materials, and inhibits many of our regular functions, including digestion. Sleep is a time to repair damage and let the body catch up with all the built-up waste from the day’s activities. Make sure you get eight hours or more each night. To reduce stress, look into exercise, breathing techniques, yoga, tai chi, massage, acupressure, and meditation.