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How to Help Boost Your Metabolism

By DR. CAROLINE CEDERQUIST

"Why is it so hard for me to lose weight?" That's the question I hear every day from patients at my weight-management medical practice. More often than not, my patients suffer from what I call the "MD factor," or metabolic dysfunction. It's incredibly common when:

* You have low energy levels and feel "foggy" or unnaturally tired after meals rich in carbohydrates.
* You've gained belly weight for any reason.
* You have hormonal changes.
* You grow older.

Rostislav_Sedlacek/iStock/Getty Images

Below are a few tips to help boost your metabolism for optimal health and weight:

DO eat the right macronutrients. A proper diet balanced in lean protein, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates can prevent as well as treat metabolic dysfunction.

[Read More: 8 Foods That Boost Energy]

I designed a weight-loss program that follows a specific approach for shedding excess weight. The program provides 1,100 to 1,400 calories a day with 40 to 50 percent of total caloric intake from lean protein, 20 to 25 percent from healthy fats and 30 to 35 percent from complex carbohydrates.

You can also reduce metabolic dysfunction triggers by cutting down on meals that are heavy in simple carbohydrates.

DO eat more. Yes, you read that correctly. However, we mean eating more frequently, not eating larger portions.

Eating two or three meals throughout the day gives your metabolism a chance to slow down to its resting rate during the periods between meals. If you think of your metabolism as a fire, eating only two to three meals a day will create periods of time when the fire is no longer raging, but instead smoldering until your next meal.

By contrast, adding small, healthy, protein-rich snacks between meals keeps your metabolism burning calories at a higher rate, even if you're not physically active during this time.

DO eat protein at every meal. Your body has to work harder to digest protein, which makes your metabolism burn more calories after a protein-packed meal.

[Read More: Tips for Smart Protein Consumption]

But your body can't store protein, so be sure to eat only 25 to 35 grams of protein per meal (and protein snacks throughout the day) so your body can use it before it is stored as fat.

DO drink more water. Simply put, your body needs water for the metabolic processes to work to burn calories. Without regularly drinking water, your metabolism will slow down.

DO exercise. Get your blood flowing — even something as simple as a leisurely stroll can boost your energy levels by about 20 percent. Light workouts fight fatigue even more, while at the same time boosting your mood, lowering stress levels and helping to prevent and reverse metabolic dysfunction.

If you currently don't exercise, try tracking how many steps you take in a day. Make an effort to increase your steps by 200 each day and aim for a daily total of 10,000 steps -- or roughly five miles.

DO build muscle. Exercise may only make up a small portion of your daily energy use, but the muscle you build from it will help you achieve a consistently higher resting metabolic rate (RMR), which leads to more calories burned while breathing, sleeping and sitting.

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Strength training builds muscle, which burns fat even when you're at rest. Consuming complete-protein foods is essential for building muscle. Such foods include eggs, lean meats like turkey and chicken and dairy products.

To keep your metabolism healthy, there are also things you should avoid because they will hinder your metabolism:

DON'T skip breakfast. You may have heard it before, but skipping breakfast will not help you lose weight. Eating a healthy breakfast signals your metabolism to wake up and start burning calories. Skipping breakfast is essentially wasting a morning of fat burning.

DON'T skimp on sleep. Your body needs to perform necessary functions that burn calories throughout the day, including during sleep. Research has even found that after sleeping (and burning calories) for eight or more hours, you're likely to have fewer cravings and eat fewer calories the next day.

DON'T crash diet. There is no "quick fix" for losing weight, including crash diets that focus on 1,000 calories or less per day. When your body doesn't have enough calories and energy to perform daily functions, your metabolism will instinctively go into starvation mode. At this stage, your body will begin to store every calorie it can as fat in order to survive.

Even if your weight is perfectly normal, you can still suffer from the effects of metabolic dysfunction, but the great news is that it is completely reversible and preventable. Maintaining a sound diet and healthy habits can benefit you in countless ways.

--Dr. Cederquist

Readers -- Do you suffer or have you ever suffered from metabolic dysfunction? What were the triggers? Have you tried any of the tips mentioned above? Did you find this article helpful? Leave a comment below and let us know.

Caroline Cederquist, M.D., has dedicated her professional career to healthy weight loss and management. She shares nearly two decades' worth of knowledge and treatment for weight loss, primarily focused on correcting metabolism dysfunction, in her new book, The MD Factor Diet, which breaks down the difficulties behind losing weight and reversing metabolic dysfunction.

If you need more guidance in losing weight, have any signs of metabolic dysfunction that were discussed or want a further breakdown of how to improve your metabolism, The MD Factor Diet is available for pre-order purchase on Amazon.com and will be available in stores in January 2015.

Connect with Dr. Cederquist at her website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter

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