Wouldn’t we all love a faster metabolism?
A fast metabolism means you burn more calories, can eat more, and your body is much less likely to hold on to unnecessary fat. The problem is, our metabolism can often slow even more than normal when we’re dieting because we’re cutting down our calories and giving it a little less work to do.
So, is there any way to boost the metabolism when you’re trying to eat in a calorific deficit? Read on for our top tips.
How to Boost Your Metabolism While Dieting
Protect Your Muscle Mass
There’s one big reason why men (in general) have a higher metabolic rate than women, and it’s down to muscle mass. The more muscle mass we have, the more calories we need to burn to maintain that muscle mass. That’s why you may have seen bodybuilders and top athletes eating over 4000 calories a day, just to maintain their physique.
But what about us?
As women dieting, our primary focus needs to be on protecting our muscle mass and gaining more lean muscle where possible. Somewhat ironically, women tend to have a lot of resistance around resistance training and don’t want to do it because they don’t want to look like a female bodybuilder. However, keep in mind that they train hard, and women with a lot of muscle are nearly always taking steroids.
In other words – you will not get bulky by working out with weights or even just your body weight!
When we diet, especially extreme diets, our bodies enter a catabolic state, which means not only will it turn to fat for food, but also to our muscles. In this state, our body will break down muscle mass to feed itself, thus lowering our overall muscle mass and slowing the metabolism.
While this may sound extreme, muscle loss while dieting is common – you can lose around 50% of your muscle mass while losing weight, depending on your body and circumstances. The best way to protect this muscle is to eat enough protein. The recommended daily intake is around 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight (0.8 grams per kilogram), so that gives you a good point to aim for. If you don’t naturally eat a lot of protein, consider using a healthy protein powder in your food to boost your protein intake.
We need the amino acids in that protein to continue to grow and repair our muscles, so if you’re working out but not eating enough protein, you’re likely not going to see the results you’re looking for because your body won’t have the building blocks to repair your muscles after a workout and grow new muscle.
Improve Insulin Function
The hormone insulin is one of the most important factors in how healthy your metabolic rate is. We want our bodies to be fairly sensitive to insulin and avoid insulin resistance, which is what causes type 2 diabetes. Supplements like inositol, green tea extract, alpha-lipoic acid, chromium, vanadium can improve insulin function. These supplements help to treat insulin resistance leading to lower insulin levels and improved metabolism. I have 2 supplements that help improve and support your metabolism, check out Curb & Burn, and my Metabolic Multi.
Get Enough Sleep
When we sleep, our body goes into repair mode. It’s a little like driving your car into the shop to have work done, only we do that for our bodies every night. It will repair muscles and do its best to ensure you’re healthy. When we diet, our body is in a “stressed” state, so it’s more important than ever to make sure you give it some time to use the energy it needs to repair the body.
Look After Your Mental Health
You’d be surprised how closely connected physical and mental health are – all too often, we think of them as separate systems, and even forget that our mental health is affected by what we eat and the hormonal changes going on in the rest of the body. While your thoughts are intrinsically “you”, don’t forget that your brain is the epicenter for the body, and so will be affected by everything going on there.
Mental stress affects the body in several ways, one of which is an increased production of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol helps regulate appetite and certain weight concerns like disordered eating may lead to unhealthy eating habits, which can disrupt the metabolism.
To protect and boost the metabolism, do your best to unwind and destress before you go to bed each night, so you can get restful sleep. Also consider seriously if you need to make some changes in your life that will help you live a longer, healthier life. There will be periods in life we just have to endure stress, such as while a loved one is sick, but if you’re constantly on edge for work or a living situation, consider if you should change it to avoid future major health problems and improve your overall wellbeing now.
Eat Metabolism-Boosting Foods
When looking at weight loss, it’s worth learning about the thermic effect of food (TEF). This process is caused by the extra calories our bodies need to digest, absorb and process the nutrients in our food. The body burns far more calories digesting protein than it does with carbs or fat, and protein causes the largest rise in TEF. It increases our bodies’ metabolic rate by 15–30%, compared to 5-10% for carbs and as little as 3% for fats.
Protein is also the most satiating element in food, helping us to stay fuller for longer and avoid seeking out unhealthy snacks later in the day. One clinical trial discovered that people eat around 441 fewer calories per day when protein makes up around 30% of their diet.
Healthy and protein-rich foods include:
- Tofu and other soy products
- Nuts (almonds, pistachios, peanuts)
- Lean, White Meat
Check out more in my blog, 6 Best Foods for Boosting Your Metabolism.
We all know that it’s important to drink enough water during the day, but do we know why? Our bodies need water to process the calories we eat every day. If we’re even mildly dehydrated, our metabolism may start to slow down. As a general rule, aim to drink a glass of water before or with each meal and snack. If you’re not a fan of plain old water, try adding some fruit or drinking other low-sugar beverages.
Contact a Specialist
If you're concerned about your weight or you think your metabolism is too slow, always contact a doctor. At my clinic we can help you understand the factors that contribute to a slow metabolism and make appropriate changes. Learn more by going to my website mdnancy.com.
There are plenty of “hacks” people try when attempting to lose weight in a short period. However, in the long run, it’s more effective to exercise and eat a balanced diet than to try the odd metabolism-boosting trick. As long as you’re maintaining a calorie deficit, eating right, and staying active, you will reach your weight loss goals.
Dr. Nancy Rahnama, MD, ABOM, ABIM, is a medical doctor board certified by both the American Board of Obesity Medicine and the American Board of Internal Medicine. Her specialty is Clinical Nutrition, that is, the use of nutrition by a medical doctor to diagnose and treat disease. Dr. Rahnama has helped thousands of people achieve their goals of weight loss, gut health, improved mood and sleep, and managing chronic disease.