Before you head to the grocery store to fill your cart with foods that will boost your metabolic rate, you have to first understand what metabolism is and does. Laurie Hedlund, L.P.N., of the Consumer Affairs website, explains that metabolism is the series of physical and chemical processes that takes place within the body to convert food to energy. Three factors determine metabolic rate–basal metabolic rate, metabolic rate during physical activity and metabolic rate during food digestion.
Basal metabolic rate refers to the number of calories your body burns during normal body processes, such as sleeping and breathing. Not surprisingly, you burn most calories during physical exercise. But what you might not know is that your body burns calories during digestion, and certain foods actually force your body to work harder to convert them to energy.
During digestion, your body breaks down food into its three main components: carbohydrates, fats and protein. The body immediately uses carbohydrates in the form of glucose for energy and stores any excess carbohydrates as fat. Since your body easily converts dietary fat to fat, you need to burn more calories to lose it. Dietary protein converts to protein, which helps keep cells healthy and functioning at optimal level.
To speed up metabolic rate, Lisa C. Cohn, R.D., president of Park Avenue Nutrition Spa, touts the importance of making healthy food choices. Stay hydrated by drinking at least 8 glasses of water. Eating a hearty breakfast jumpstarts a slow metabolism, so don’t skip this essential meal. Start with a whole grain cereal, such as oatmeal, and top it with fresh berries and low-fat milk. The complex carbohydrates in whole-grain cereal and fiber-rich fruit require more energy to digest. Snack on nuts, which are full of protein, good-for-you fats and will leave you feeling full. For lunch, eat a spinach and tomato salad paired with an orange or cup of balled watermelon. Eat a light dinner consisting of a lean meat, such as pork or chicken, with a side of asparagus. Salmon and tuna also increase metabolism. For a gourmet treat, eat 1 oz. of dark chocolate infused with hot cayenne pepper.
Foods that raise your metabolic rate are naturally good for you because they are generally low in calories and fat. The higher your metabolic rate, the more calories your body burns while at rest. In turn, this leads to weight loss and increased energy.
Skipping meals actually lowers metabolism because it teaches your body to survive on fewer calories. In turn, withholding food makes your body conserve energy and store more carbohydrates as fat. Since metabolism slows naturally as the day progresses, eat a bigger breakfast. Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D., of the Mayo Clinic, explains that eating breakfast puts you in the mindset of making healthy food choices for the rest of the day by reducing your urge to overeat later on. Also, be consistent with the frequency and size of meals. If you gorge on ice cream late at night when your body doesn’t need the energy, it will store the treat as fat.
- fresh spinach salad in a brown wooden bowl image by David Smith from Fotolia.com