What is Metabolism?
This word “metabolism” is thrown around a lot these days.
You know that if yours is too slow you might gain weight. But what exactly does this all mean?
Well technically “metabolism” is the word to describe all of the biochemical reactions in your body. It’s how you take in nutrients and oxygen and use them to fuel everything you do.
Your body has an incredible ability to grow, heal, and generally stay alive. And without this amazing biochemistry you would not be possible.
Metabolism includes how the cells in your body:
- Allow activities you can control (e.g. physical activity etc.).
- Allow activities you can’t control (e.g. heart beat, wound healing, processing of nutrients & toxins, etc.).
- Allow storage of excess energy for later.
So when you put all of these processes together into your metabolism you can imagine that these processes can work too quickly, too slowly, or just right.
Which brings us to the “metabolic rate”.
This is how fast your metabolism works and is measured in calories (yup, those calories!).
The calories you eat can go to one of three places:
- Work (i.e. exercise and other activity).
- Heat (i.e. from all those biochemical reactions).
- Storage (i.e. extra leftover “unburned” calories stored as fat).
As you can imagine the more calories you burn as work or creating heat the easier it is to lose weight and keep it off because there will be fewer “leftover” calories to store for later.
There are a couple of different ways to measure metabolic rate. One is the “resting metabolic rate” (RMR) which is how much energy your body uses when you’re not being physically active.
The other is the “total daily energy expenditure” (TDEE) which measures both the resting metabolic rate as well as the energy used for “work” (e.g. exercise) throughout a 24-hour period.
What affects your metabolic rate?
In a nutshell: a lot!
The first thing you may think of is your thyroid. This gland at the front of your throat releases hormones to tell your body to “speed up” your metabolism. Of course, the more thyroid hormone there is the faster things will work and the more calories you’ll burn.
But that’s not the only thing that affects your metabolic rate.
How big you are counts too!
Larger people have higher metabolic rates; but your body composition is crucial!
As you can imagine muscles that actively move and do work need more energy than fat does. So the more lean muscle mass you have the more energy your body will burn and the higher your metabolic rate will be. Even when you’re not working out.
This is exactly why weight training is often recommended as a part of a weight loss program. Because you want muscles to be burning those calories for you.
The thing is, when people lose weight their metabolic rate often slows down which you don’t want to happen. So you definitely want to offset that with more muscle mass.
Aerobic exercise also temporarily increases your metabolic rate. Your muscles are burning fuel to move so they’re doing “work”.
The type of food you eat also affects your metabolic rate!
Your body actually burns calories to absorb, digest, and metabolize your food. This is called the “thermic effect of food” (TEF).
You can use it to your advantage when you understand how your body metabolizes foods differently.
Fats, for example increase your TEF by 0-3%; carbs increase it by 5-10%, and protein increases it by 15-30%. By trading some of your fat or carbs for lean protein you can slightly increase your metabolic rate.
Another bonus of protein is that your muscles need it to grow. By working them out and feeding them what they need they will help you to lose weight and keep it off.
And don’t forget the mind-body connection. There is plenty of research that shows the influence that things like stress and sleep have on the metabolic rate.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to metabolism and how so many different things can work to increase (or decrease) your metabolic rate.
The best kind of fat loss is steady fat loss. And while a slow-and-steady approach to weight loss will ensure that you keep the weight off for good, I have a few tricks to help you burn fat as fast as possible.
So if you’re ready to speed up your fat loss (and are willing to do the work necessary!) keep reading…
Rapid Fat Loss Habit #1: Bottoms Up! It’s not always easy to get to the water cooler or the sink. But if you’re going to shred pounds, you’re going to have to keep a tall glass of water nearby. There are many perks to drinking down plenty of water. Doing this helps you feel fuller, which keeps you from overeating or thinking you’re hungry when you’re actually thirsty.
Drinking water instead of other drinks also keeps you from ingesting additional, unnecessary, and worthless calories. And finally, if your body is going to perform at its peak, it needs to be well hydrated. Drinking plenty of water helps all your bodily functions operate well, which prevents you from holding onto water weight and suffering avoid constipation, while also giving you what you need to push through the final stages of a difficult workout.
Rapid Fat Loss Habit #2: Be a Planner
Like flying by the seat of your pants? Then you’re going to struggle to shave off pounds in a fast or even slow manner. Burning fat fast requires you to be disciplined.
The beginning of discipline is a good plan. Know when you’re going to the gym, how many calories you’re going to eat and what foods the calories will come from, and how you are going to avoid giving in to that tempting piece of chocolate cake. Once you have your plan, you’ve got to do the hard part: stick with it. If you’re willing to do this, your fat stores will burn away in no time.
Rapid Fat Loss Habit #3: Get Intense with Your Routine
Maintaining a steady pace on the treadmill will help you improve your overall health, but it isn’t the best tool for burning fat quickly. To speed up your fat-burning process, you’ll want to add some HIIT into your exercise regimen. During a HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workout, you mingle bursts of intense exercise with lighter exercise.
This could involve running, cycling, swimming, or other aerobic exercises. Whatever exercise you choose to do, do it hard for 30 seconds, take it easy for 60 to 90 seconds, and then go full force again for 30 seconds, repeating the cycle for 30 minutes. You’ll be exhausted when it’s all said and done, a sure sign that you’re burning fat!
Rapid Fat Loss Habit #4: Lift Weights
Think you can burn fat fast by doing nothing but aerobic exercises? You can. But you can do it faster and better by mixing in some weight-lifting sessions. In fact, if you don’t add weight lifting into your regular routine, you may begin to lose muscle. The scale may go down, but if you’re dropping muscle mass, you’re setting yourself up for disaster.
When shooting to burn off fat, nothing helps more than extra muscle. Added muscle helps you feel better and perform tasks of daily living with greater ease, while improving your metabolism and ultimately helping you burn more of that pesky fat!
Rapid Fat Loss Habit #5: Eat Right
You know that what you put in your mouth is either going to fuel you to get through the day or simply add some pudgy inches to your waistline. So choose wisely! Fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats all give you the upper hand on burning fat.
But it’s not just the foods you eat. It’s how you eat them. Chew slowly, use a smaller plate, and leave the food dishes in the kitchen. When you’re finished with your plate of food, relax and give your brain time to figure out that your stomach is full. Then take the cue and stop eating. These small steps may seem significant, but they will boost your fat-burning potential exponentially.
You may think the 30 minutes you spend every other day in the gym is enough to keep you trim and healthy, but it’s not. If you want overall good health, you need to eat well and find windows of exercising opportunity every day—not just during your scheduled workouts.
How can you squeeze in a little exercise when most of your hours are spent sitting at a desk, meeting in the conference room, and preparing for big presentations? Read on to find out when you can squeeze in exercise and how to do it.
1. On the Way to Work. To start your day with a smidgen of calorie-burning exercise, you may need to wake up a few minutes earlier than usual. Not to get in a workout before tossing on your power suit, but rather so you’ll have time to torch a few calories on the way to work. To shed some calories before clocking in, you have a number of options depending on your situation. You can bike or walk to work, perform seated calf raises on the bus or train, or park your car at the far end of the parking lot so you get to walk farther to reach your office. And of course, once you get to your building, take the stairs.
2. When Doing Mindless Tasks. Admit it: everything you do at work doesn’t require an amazing amount of brainpower. Take advantage of the easy tasks by multitasking with some exercise. The easiest option is to flex and squeeze your body. From your glutes and your abs to your pecs and thighs, you can get rid of a few calories by simply flexing them as you work. As you grow accustomed to the flexing, you may find it to be a great way to work your way through a long, difficult meeting.
3. Every Time You Finish a Task. When you first get to work, make a to-do list. This will help keep you on track and will also set you up for exercise rewards. Each time you cross a task off your list, give yourself an exercise reward. This could be walking a couple laps around the office, standing up and doing a couple quick stretches, or closing your office door and knocking out a dozen push-ups. Know what your reward of the day will be and go for it.
4. When You Need to Communicate. Helpful as email may be, there is a way to communicate with your colleagues that actually keeps your body moving. That way? Getting out of your seat and walking to your coworker’s office to talk things through. Have to make a few phone calls? Stand up as you talk or better yet, pace back and forth during the conversation.
5. At the Top of the Hour. A great way to sneak a little calorie burning into your routine is to get up every hour. And your exercising doesn’t need to be super intense. All you need to do is stand up. Do this for five minutes, eight times a day, and you will drop 100 calories a day. That’s right—all you have to do to stand up for your health is stand up!
Have you ever been frustrated over a lack of results from your workout routine? If so, you are in good company. Even the most seasoned athletes experience times when their results plateau.
When you continue to put in the same effort day after day with little or no results it is safe to say that you’ve hit your own fitness plateau.
Your body adapts quickly to any repetitive routine. The definition of ‘insanity’ is to do the same thing over and over while expecting different results. This holds true for your workouts. When your results stop then it’s time to do something new.
I have good news—the following 4 tactics are guaranteed to crank your workouts up to the next level and to deliver the fast results you want.
#1: Focus on Negatives
Each time that you do a weight lifting repetition you are utilizing three types of strength. These are:
- Positive strength: the motion of lifting the weight.
- Static strength: holding weight in a contracted position.
- Negative strength: the motion of lowering the weight.
Most people completely miss the benefit of the negative in each repetition by allowing the weight to drop quickly with little control. It is understood that the negative portion of a repetition is just as important as the positive portion, and possibly more important.
Focus on the negative portion of each repetition by lowering the weight very slowly. Concentrate on the negative contraction, and make each repetition count.
If you are advanced, then use a training partner to assist you in moving heavier-than-normal weight into a contracted position, then lower it very slowly.
Another way to utilize negative repetitions on a machine is to lift the weight using two limbs but then lower it with just one. For example, use both legs to lift the weight on a leg extension machine, but then lower it back down slowly using only one leg.
#2: Do a Drop Set
Drop sets have long been used to fight off exercise plateaus. This technique is great for adding muscle strength, endurance and for increasing the cardiovascular benefit of your workout – resulting in more fat burn.
Here, in a nutshell, is how to do a drop set: When you perform an exercise to exhaustion, don’t stop there. Drop the weight by 80% and do another set.
You could take it a step further by dropping the weight twice, making it a double drop. Or drop the weight three times for a descending drop set.
Use this technique only once or twice per workout, on the final set of the exercise.
#3: Modify the Exercise
There are certain exercises that are considered ‘staples’ in the gym. The squat. The lunge. The chest press. The shoulder press. The bicep curl. You get the idea…
While you shouldn’t throw these exercises out the window, find creative ways to modify the familiar motion in order to challenge your muscles. Try these exercise modifications:
- Squat on a Bosu ball or balance board.
- Place a weighted bar across your shoulders and do walking lunges.
- Use an exercise ball for chest presses instead of the bench.
- Do a full squat between each repetition of shoulder presses.
- Do a shoulder press between each repetition of bicep curls.
#4: Use Active Rest to turn each workout into High Intensity Interval Training
Every minute of your workout is an opportunity to increase intensity and to burn more fat. Don’t waste precious minutes with long rest periods between exercises.
While it is important to catch your breath if you feel winded, most of the time you would benefit more from an active rest than a passive one. Perform one of the following activities for 30 seconds between exercises and turn your regular workout into High Intensity Interval Training.
- High Knees with Alternating Punches: Alternately bring each knee high to your chest in a quick jumping movement while alternating forward punches at shoulder level.
- Burpees: Start in a sanding position and bend at the waist. Once your hands hit the floor, push your entire body back, extending your legs until they’re straight and you’re in the push-up position. Go down for a push-up, and when you push yourself up, jump slightly to bring your feet back near your hands. Finally, jump in the air with your arms fully extended over your head.
- Side-to-Side Jumps on Bench: Stand on one side of an exercise bench. Place the foot closest up onto the bench, jump up and switch feet, then land on the opposite side of the bench.
- Mountain Climbers: Place your hands wider than shoulder-width apart on the ground in a push-up position. Bring one knee to your chest and then back to the starting position, alternate each leg quickly.
- Side-to-Side Ab Twists: With feet close together, jump and twist your legs left to right – holding your abs tight. Keep a bend in your knees and swing your upper arms with each twist.
- Jump Lunges with Pop Squat: Start in a lunge position, lunge down then quickly jump up, switching your leg position in midair, land in an opposite leg lunge. Once you’ve done both legs, jump straight into a squat.
- Medicine Ball Squat Jumps: With feet wider than shoulder-width apart hold a medicine ball at chest level. Squat down until your knees are at a 90 degree angle. Explosively jump up, raising the medicine ball straight over your head.
If you’d like a sure-fire way to break through your fitness plateau and to melt away unwanted fat, then contact me for a fitness consultation.
Write down everything you eat from the moment you get up to the moment you get to bed, including snacks in between meals and after dinner. Also include water, tea, juices, sodas, alcohol, etc. The only way you will see where you need to make changes is by keeping a log of what you eat. Having a food journal has been proven time and time again to help people reach success. Maybe you’ll see that you had a bag of chips or a donut. These are empty calories that do not belong on your daily menu, especially if you’re looking to lose weight. The best way to give certain food items far from you is to begin cutting back. I’m not telling you to cut back cold-turkey. If you’re into donuts eat half of a donut. If you’re into chips pour some out into a small bowl. Replace sugary drinks with water. Cut back on the sugar you use in your coffee. And always read labels. Things that read “sugar free”, “fat-free”, etc. are not good for you. They are loaded with artificial ingredients and thickeners. Whenever possible go for the real deal. Have real butter instead of margarine. If you can’t believe it’s not butter that’s because it’s not! These items have to taste good one way or another at the expense of your body.
Accountability! Find someone to make yourself accountable to. Work out with a buddy. Go for a long walk and walk like you have somewhere to go! This is not a leisure walk because you’re on a mission to burn some serious calories which will in turn aid you in reducing inches and losing weight. Walking is something you can do if you’re out of shape. You can walk slow and then pick up the pace and then walk at your normal pace and then walk like you’re going to miss the your favorite show on tv because DVR hasn’t been invented! Alternate two minutes at a time. You’ll see that by doing this you’ll tax your cardiovascular system. You’ll feel amazing and best of all, if you do it with a buddy you will have both helped each other.
Exercise at least 30 minutes per day even if it’s in 5 or 10 minute intervals. If you’re out of shape this is the best way to get used to being active. Try to break a sweat and get yourself a resistance band and a set of light weights. Performing weight-bearing exercises increases your calorie burn to the max. You’ll burn calories even while you sleep! Did you know that your biggest muscles groups are in your legs? Squats, lunges, running, calve raises… the bigger the muscle, the more energy is required to repair them. This is how you maximize your workouts.
Hire a personal trainer to help you get started with the best exercises for your current fitness level. A trainer’s job is to make sure you exercise in the most safe and effective way possible. Your trainer will give you homework, some simple tips on better nutrition and will also show you how to use the machines at the gym. Your posture during the exercises is very important. In order to avoid injury you must be careful not to over-exert yourself or move in a way that can cause injury.
This morning I woke up with a terrible headache probably due to the weather and a muscle spasm that flares up every so often in an attempt to keep me from doing what I want. Or what I need to do. In this case it was teaching a Zumba Toning class. This is something that probably doesn’t cross the participants’ minds. They get in their car and drive to the gym to workout with me. Probably dealing with their own issues. So, I get there knowing that I have to give a great class, engage participants, motivate and inspire because that’s the type of instructor I am and that is what they have grown to expect. But honestly I was dragging my feet, my head was pounding and I was there because I had to be there.
I’m writing this post because I want you to know that we, fitness instructors also have issues. And although often times we are the ones who motivate and inspire you to the point that you will rearrange your work schedule and set up doctor appointments around your favorite class please know that we draw our inspiration from YOU.
Yes, I was dragging, it was raining, it was cold. But once I stepped on the platform and turned on the music I was in a much better place. I shared this with the class because it’s important to know that we are all on the same page. We are not special just because we lead the class. We are just like you, sometimes with more issues!
My point: Just do it! Get in the car, drive and get over the yucky feeling you may have woken up with. Fitting in that workout will boost your confidence and make you feel better. No more grumpiness!
After class everyone agreed that even though it was a dreary day and a bit of a hassle to get there we all left feeling much, much better.