Nutritionist Louise Pyne reveals how to unlock the secrets to fire up your body’s fat burning furnace
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a magic pill that boosted your fat-burning potential? Well, here’s some interesting news – increasing your body’s metabolic activity could be the secret trick to fighting fat. Just as our bodies are all different shapes and sizes, our metabolic rates run at different speeds, too. Defined as the amount of energy your body needs to maintain itself throughout everyday activities, from digestion to breathing, your metabolism (or basal metabolic rate), is affected by a number of factors. These range from body composition and fitness level to the foods we pile onto our plates – and if it’s working optimally, you’re more likely to be slimmer and healthier. Want to know more? Read our top tips to help ignite your body’s biggest weight loss weapon.
Making some simple everyday tweaks to your regular routine could massively help to power up your metabolic potential, and this starts with being more active. A greater muscle mass equals a higher metabolism, so try to schedule in frequent fitness sessions at least three times a week. Cardio is important, but because your muscle cells do a lot more work than your fat cells, they need more energy to maintain – this is where strength-training comes out on top, because the more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn at rest. It really is that simple! Research also shows that exercise positively changes your DNA to increase metabolic activity immediately after your sweat session finishes, so no matter how tempting it is to snuggle up at home in the warm, don’t let the cold winter weather put you off hitting the gym.
Nutrition is equally as important as staying on the fitness wagon for improving your metabolism. Crash dieting is a big no-no – instead, prioritising meals is a must, and this starts with eating breakfast every day. After a long night of fasting, rising levels of the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin need to be quelled with fuel, so ensure you eat a good brekkie, combining complex carbohydrates and protein such as oats with seeds, or scrambled eggs with wholemeal toast. Start as you mean to go on, making sure you eat around the clock to reset your metabolic rate. Six small meals a day should do the trick, as eating too much in one sitting will overload your digestive system, meaning that it won’t have the energy required to focus on other chemical tasks. And remember to eat slowly – the more time you spend over meals, the less work there is for your digestive system to take on.
While diet and exercise are super-important if you want to fight fat and keep your metabolism working at its peak, the number of hours you spend in slumberland is also a big factor in how fast your metabolic rate runs. Poor sleep is associated with slower fat burning because it activates your HPA axis (these are signals that your brain sends out to your adrenal glands). This spikes levels of the stress hormone cortisol which brings on hunger and affects your blood sugar levels, so it’s worth trying to reset your nightly bedtime to reap positive metabolic benefits. Set aside an hour of wind down time before bed – try having a hot bath and a cup of herbal tea, rather than watching TV or browsing the internet as this will help you rest better. In addition, always try to go to sleep at roughly the same time each night and rise at the same time each morning (yes, even at weekends) to regulate your body’s internal rhythm.