Can You Rev-up Your Metabolism?
It’s not unusual to blame your shrink-resistant waistline on a slow metabolism. But that’s not usually the culprit keeping you from reaching your ideal weight.
What is Metabolism?
Metabolism is your body’s method of converting calories, from the food you eat, into energy needed to power all the physiological processes that keep you alive and kicking 24/7. The minimum amount of energy your body needs to keep you going is called Base Metabolic Rate (BMR).
Calories in food – protein, fat and carbohydrates – fuel your BMR. Each of us requires a unique daily number of calories to maintain BMR so we can breathe, grow, think, sleep, digest food, and filter waste. Age and lifestyle are significant factors in calculating BMR. If you sit more than you move each day, your BMR is lower and your daily calorie needs are lower, too.
Losing or gaining weight is about energy balance (calories taken in – calories burned off). Take in more calories than your body needs for maintaining BMR (or take in more calories than you use for physical activity) and you will gain weight.
It’s in My Genes!
Your genes (and hormones) play a role in metabolism because they can influence the potential you have to grow muscles (how dense and how big) and how your body stores fat. However, genetic and hormonal mechanisms in metabolism are extremely complex. There are no definitive theories. Yet, many people have lost and maintained a tremendous amount of weight despite their family history. Many health experts agree, “Your genes are not your fate.”
Chances are your ‘slow metabolism’ has more to do with your diet and the type of exercise you are (or are not) doing on a regular basis.
If your exercise routine builds lean muscle, that helps rev-up your metabolism. Muscle tissue requires more energy to maintain than fat tissue. This is why people with leaner bodies (a higher muscle to fat ratio) have a higher BMR. (Those are the folks who eat carrot cake that doesn’t ‘go right to their hips.’)
Build a 24-Hour Fat Burning Body
The first key to revving-up metabolism is eating a whole foods diet: lean protein, high quality grains, plant-based fats and oils, fresh fruits and veggies, and drinking lots of water.
To really turn-up the heat on your metabolism, and your waistline, you’ll want to try the muscle-building, never boring workouts listed below. These workouts help your body generate a ‘post-exercise burn’ that can rev up your metabolism for 2 – 24 hours after you finish a workout. Factors that determine the afterburn effect include your current fitness level and body composition, the intensity and duration of exercise, and type of exercise performed.
Just remember: Our bodies are designed to adapt; beginners to elite athletes both have to change-up their routine every few weeks to continue to see progress.
Circuit Training: Exercises all the major muscle groups in one workout (30-45 minutes) and may include body-weight movements, machines, dumbbells, and exercise bands. Exercises are performed for 8-12 reps, 1-3 sets of each.
High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). These workouts alternate bouts of maximal physical effort with a rest (or lower intensity) period for set times (e.g., 40 seconds max, 15 seconds lower effort). HIIT principles can be integrated into a variety of exercise routines including walk/run, swim, weight training, and group classes. Research shows an increase in calorie burn for up to 24-hours post exercise.
Metabolic Conditioning routines are highly intense and designed to engage different physiological “energy” pathways in the body. These workouts typically use a “suspension exercise system” (e.g., TRX) but can be integrated into other fitness activities. It’s best to have a metabolic exercise routine designed and supervised by an experienced exercise specialist who can appropriately alter the intensity, reps, sets and rest intervals.
CrossFit often done as a group activity, this involves a variety of functional movements that engage the whole body at a relatively high intensity. The routines involve running, rowing, squatting and other exercises that support the way your body moves on a daily basis. The aim is to generate maximal power in as little time as possible to get stronger and fitter.
Calculate your BMR here.
Can Red Hot Chili Peppers Help You Lose Weight?
Bite into a hot pepper, or chilis, and you’ll instantly feel the ‘flame effect.’ But can these fiery fruits actually boost your metabolism and promote weight loss?
To a degree, the scientific answer is yes.
Chilies get their heat from an oily chemical compound called capsaicin, which is concentrated in the membrane surrounding the seeds of the Capsicum plant. In studies, Capsaicin boosts thermogenesis – the process by which the body turns calories into heat to use for fuel. However, the effect on weight loss is modest, at best. Here’s why:
Given the pungency of peppers, it’s difficult for anyone, even a person with a great tolerance for spicy foods, to eat hot peppers often enough and in a sufficient enough serving to lose weight via the ‘chili pepper effect.’
Even though we can’t eat enough hot peppers to result in weight loss, including chilies in your diet promotes good health in other ways. Chilies are rich in vitamins A, E and K and potassium. Additionally, in scientific studies capsaicin (in capsule form) has been shown to help reduce pain and inflammation, boost immunity, lower the risk for Type 2 Diabetes, and clear congestion associated with colds.
Caution: Biting into a raw or cooked chili pepper creates an intense heat inside the mouth (the flame effect). If that happens to you, drink milk or eat cottage cheese or plain yogurt to tame the heat. Also, if you’re not accustomed to eating chilis your throat may swell and your body may react to the peppers and cause you to vomit.
The Hottest of the Hot
The Scoville scale measures the heat of chili peppers. The following list shows chilis in the order of their Scoville Heat Units, from high heat to modest heat:
- Habaneros and Scotch bonnets
- Cayenne pepper
- Tabasco pepper
- Thai chili pepper
- Jalapeno and Serrano chili peppers
Hot Tip: If you can’t remember which are the hottest of the hot peppers, look at the thickness of the stem. The thinner the stem, the hotter the pepper (and higher the capsaicin). Red peppers are hotter than green.
L-Carnitine and Energy for Exercise
Carnitine is a biochemical found in nearly every cell in the human body. There are several forms of carnitine (e.g., L-Carnitine, Acetyl L-carnitine), which have been studied for their effects on the heart and brain, the aging process, energy metabolism in the cells, diabetes, infertility and other medical conditions. Our focus is on the role L-Carnitine plays in energy production and metabolism for healthy individuals.
The “power” generator of the cells in your body is the mitochondria. Carnitine has a critical role in the mitochondria’s ability to produce energy. It acts like a key that unlocks the door so long-chain fatty acids can pass into the cell and be “burned” for energy. Carnitine also removes waste products out of the cells to prevent their accumulation. It is highly concentrated in skeletal muscle tissue and the heart, both of which utilize fatty acids as fuel. For these reasons, L-Carnitine has received a lot of research attention as a supplement to help improve athletic/fitness performance, oxygen use during exercise, recovery time and also for weight loss.
In theory, a carnitine supplement should boost physical performance by enhancing the body’s ability to use oxygen or boost metabolism during exercise. However, 20 years of studies on athletic performance have not produced consistent evidence to support L-carnitine supplements can enhance athletic performance, improve body composition, or facilitate significant weight loss.
Exercise scientists also have examined the effect of L-Carnitine on recovery and muscle repair after intense sport conditioning in healthy adults (including vegans, vegetarians) and youth athletes. Overall, studies indicate 1-4 g/day of L-Carnitine enhances recovery, particularly muscle repair, from intense weight-training, sport conditioning, and endurance exercise in healthy individuals. Because of the wide variety of studies, it’s important to talk with your health practitioner to see if L-Carnitine may be a beneficial supplement for you.
The body produces sufficient carnitine for the needs of most healthy people. If your diet includes lean cuts of meat, fish, poultry, and milk, you are getting adequate Carnitine. Vegans may want to check with their health practitioner if they are concerned that their diet is not providing sufficient carnitine.
Cayenne (Capsicum annuum)
A popular ingredient for giving a kick to salsa and other dishes, Cayenne has numerous health benefits including reducing blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, reducing pain and inflammation, providing relief for heartburn, moderating blood sugar level, and helping to break down carbohydrates during digestion. All of that is due to a potent chemical, capsaicin, found in the thin skin surrounding the seeds.
Cayenne (capsaicin) supplements have been studied for their ability to curb appetite, increase resting metabolic rate (turn-up your metabolism), and stimulate the breakdown of fats for energy. Short-term studies (12 weeks or less) with athletes, individuals who are of average weight, and those who are obese have shown cayenne does raise metabolism by about an extra 50 calories burned per day. In one to two years, if you did nothing else special with your diet and exercise routine, you’d lose a little weight.
Other studies have looked at different amounts of capsaicin taken and how it is prescribed (ex., taken before, during or after a meal) plus a person’s general health status. Capsaicin has an affect on how full a person feels (satiety) before, during, and after a meal as well as food choices people make. (The latter, scientists think, has to do with how cayenne supplements are digested). The amount of capsaicin taken, to a certain point, also affects the amount of change in metabolism and the effect on appetite. A holistic health practitioner can best determine the amount of capsaicin that will help you with your weight loss or other health goals.
A capsaicin supplement is a great way to support your metabolism when you are trying to lose weight but it’s not a “miracle diet pill.” You still need to follow an overall healthy diet and consistently participate in an exercise program.