Recently, I’ve had quite a few clients ask me “what can I eat to boost my metabolism”? Good question! Read on to learn what supports (and what could be slowing down) your metabolic rate.
One of the services we offer at Nourish is metabolic testing. It is a non-invasive test called indirect calorimetry that takes 5-10 minutes of you sitting quietly and breathing into a handheld machine called the BodyGem. This accurately measures your RMR–your Resting Metabolic Rate–the energy (calories) it takes your body to sustain life at rest. Calories are used in every process of our bodies, including respiration, digestion, temperature regulation, regenerating cells….pretty much any bodily function you can imagine. Your RMR does not include your activity level or other factors, and only accounts for about 75% of your daily calorie needs. A Nourish dietitian can determine your TEE (Total Energy Expenditure) based on your health and lifestyle.
Metabolic testing not only determines your individualized energy requirements (as opposed to estimating your calorie needs based on a math equation that is not specific to you), but it also determines how speedy or sluggish your metabolism is running. There are a multitude of factors that affect your metabolism: genetics, age, lean body mass, body weight and size, meal frequency, hormones, and external factors such as temperature and sleep. Metabolic testing is a good resource for athletes who may require close caloric monitoring to reach their fitness goals, as well as clients who have difficulty managing their weight.
Lets take a look at what you can start doing today to support your metabolism:
Even a modest increase in protein-rich foods can boost your metabolism. Our bodies use calories to break down food to use for energy, which is referred to as the thermic effect of food (TEF). Protein has a significantly higher TEF when compared to carbohydrates or fats. Ultimately, a high-protein diet (25-30% of calories) increases thermogenesis and boosts metabolism throughout the day. Even better, studies show that filling up on protein promotes satiety on less food, and reduces hunger hormones . This is great news if you are trying to lose weight, as hunger is often the factor that derails your efforts.
Tip: Aim for at least 10-20 grams of protein for breakfast. Popular options like bagels with cream cheese, cereal with almond milk, or instant oatmeal made with water offer zero to little protein. Consider eggs, dairy, or adding plant-based sources like nuts and nut butters.
Restricting calories or frequently eating below your RMR slows it down even more. You should not eat fewer calories than your RMR because your body will scream “Um, hello? My basic, life-sustaining needs are not being met!”. Lets say your RMR is 1500, but you have been on a 1000 calorie diet. You may initially lose some pounds, but your body will have to adjust and slow down your metabolism to adapt, thus reducing the amount of food you can eat over time. Not to mention you are likely to be missing out on important nutrients. Eating below your RMR is a lose lose situation.
Pay attention tohat your body is asking for. Ignoring true hunger or eating past the point of fullness does not support your metabolism. For many people, it is possible to manage your weight by eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full. Sounds simple enough, but easier said than done! Years of dieting, false information, and mistrust in ourselves and the abilities of our amazing bodies have interrupted our ability to eat intuitively. Talk to your Nourish dietitian if you have trouble identifying hunger and fullness cues, or if you want to learn how to eat more mindfully.
When it comes to metabolism, muscle matters! Your RMR is greatly influenced by your body composition. Muscle is metabolically active, whereas body fat is not as significant. This means that the more muscle you have, the more calories your body requires. In order to build muscle, you must exercise.
You may have heard of Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC), which is informally named “afterburn”. After exercise, the body is restoring itself to its pre-exercise state, and thus energy continues to be expended at an elevated rate by regulating temperature and replenishing energy stores. Much evidence suggests that resistance training and high-intensity intervals has a more pronounced effect on EPOC than steady carido routines .
Whats more, if you are losing weight, the unfortunate side effect is that you will lose not only fat, but lean tissue and muscle as well. Studies show that resistance training helps to preserve muscle mass with weight loss
That being said, weight lifting is a great way to incorporate resistance training. If you don’t have a gym membership, no problem: you can buy small dumbbells and use at home. Start with 5-10 lb weights and increase as necessary. Not into weights? Try resistance bands. Not into resistance bands? Use your own body weight: planks, push ups, pull ups, wall squats, etc. There are plenty of resistance exercise routines online for free. Always check with your doctor or physical therapist to make sure you are healthy enough for regular exercise, or if you have an existing injury.
If you have any questions or would like to learn more about metabolism testing, contact a Nourish dietitian.