Metabolism refers to the process of how your body converts what you eat and drink into chemical energy. It is basically the number of calories you burn each day. During this complex biochemical process, the calories in food and drink are combined with oxygen to release the energy your body needs to function. The number of calories that your body uses to carry out these basic functions is known as your basal metabolic rate. Human metabolism can either increase or decrease depending on a variety of factors such as the intensity of an exercise session, nutrition and among other things the aging process.
According to WebMD, “metabolism is the process of breaking down proteins, carbohydrates, and fats to yield the energy your body needs to maintain itself. The rate of your metabolism depends on the interaction between the number of calories you consume, the number of calories you burn while eating and exercising, and the calories you burn based on your individual genetic makeup.”
Here are three ways you can speed up your metabolism helping you burn more calories each day.
1. Water Thermogenesis: There are countless research studies that demonstrate drinking water increases metabolism. One research study showed drinking 500 ml of water (17 oz) increased metabolism by 30% within 10 minutes of drinking and had a maximum effect at 40 minutes. Try drinking a 17 oz. glass when you first wake up and again before each meal (Journal Clin Endocrinol Metab. (2003) 88(12):6015-9).
2. Thermic Effect of Food: It takes energy in the form of calories to break down the food you eat. The thermic effect of food accounts for about 10% of your total energy expenditure. Calories are needed for chewing, processing and metabolizing the food you consume each day. In terms of the percentage of calories needed to break down specific foods, fats use only 5%, carbohydrates 10-13% and protein requires 30%. This means if you eat a 100 calories of protein, your body uses 30 calories right off the top to metabolize it, leaving a net of 70 calories. Try to eat 20 grams of protein with each meal. (Metabolism. (1985) 34(3):285-93).
3. Thermic Effect of Activity: This is the area where you can really make an impact in terms of increasing the total calories expended on a daily basis. Look to burn more calories with everyday activities like standing, walking and stair-climbing. Do more of this and less sitting throughout the day. This is also called NEAT, non-exercise activity thermogenesis, the additional calories expended outside of exercise.
In addition, you also have thermic effect of exercise. This number is typically 25% of your daily total energy expenditure but be aware that it can range from 10-50%. Inactive individuals may expend only a few hundred calories from activity while endurance athletes can expend thousands of calories. It comes down to one word: intensity. When you exercise at a high intensity you will expend more total calories and a higher percentage of those calories will come from stored fat calories. With high intensity exercise (like HIIT and Tabata type workouts) you could potentially expend hundreds of additional calories post workout, known as after-burn or EPOC (excess-post oxygen consumption). Try adding 1-2 high intensity interval sessions to your weekly workout schedule. Remember to build up slowly. (Med Sci Sports Exerc. (1989) 21(5):515-25).