I often tell clients to think of their bodies as they would the engine of a car. When you first get in your car and turn the ignition, fuel gets sent to the engine to get the car started. But a car also needs fuel to keep going so it doesn't stall on the freeway, and it needs oil to keep everything lubricated and running properly. Our bodies aren't much different. Over the years, I’ve learned a few tricks to help keep my metabolism revved, so try them and see if they can work for you!
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1. Strength Training Is Key.
Seriously. For women especially, our lower bodies tend to store more fat, and our glutes are the largest muscle in our bodies. The more lean muscle you have, the more your booty will always burn! Your body burns about six calories per day to maintain a pound of muscle, but expends only two calories per pound of fat. Increasing your muscle-to-fat ratio can directly increase your metabolism, even when you’re not in the gym.
2. Drink More Water.
The chronic mild dehydration that up to 75 percent of adults suffer from can slow your metabolism. Adequate daily water intake falls between half an ounce to one ounce per pound of body weight, but can vary based upon your environment and activity level. Drinking enough water can also fight the fatigue and joint pain that may slow down your workouts. Adding lemon keeps the flavor of water interesting and helps your liver function as the body’s built-in detoxification system by promoting more efficient stomach digestion.
3. Make Your Bathroom Breaks Mini Workouts.
I go to the bathroom almost every hour. On days when I spend a good part sitting or don’t have time for a workout, I’ll do push-ups after every break. Sometimes I’ll add a few jump squats and bicycle crunches. When you get up for more-frequent bathroom breaks (in response to better hydration), take a couple of quick laps around the office to get in a bit more cardio.
4. Eat More Protein.
Protein takes longer to digest, and the body burns more calories digesting it than carbohydrates and fats. Lean meats, such as a turkey burger on a lettuce “bun,” are great sources of protein and micronutrients. Another option is to replace high-carbohydrate foods like pasta with a higher-protein alternative, such as black-bean pasta.
5. Add Intervals to Your Workout.
Interval workouts consist of short bursts of intense activity followed by rest periods. HIIT has been shown to burn fat more effectively than steady-state cardio and promote muscle building. If you’re new to HIIT, try sprinting for 30 seconds on a treadmill (you can add an incline to increase the intensity) then walk or jog for one minute. Repeat this 10 times and your metabolism will be revving high all day long!
6. Integrate Core and Balance Training.
This will help you get more bang for your buck. Any exercise you do on a flat surface, try to do on a balance device. I love the BOSU Ball: If you’re doing chest presses, do it on an exercise ball to work your core and stabilizers at the same time while also reducing the risk of injury.
7. Start Fidgeting.
All those small movements you do throughout the day can add up: Stand while you’re on the phone, and pace the room while you’re on a conference call. At your desk, take breaks to reach your arms overhead for a good stretch. Take the stairs, not the elevator. As we get older, spending too much time sitting can promote joint and muscle stiffness, bad posture, back pain and ultimately lead to higher rates of injury. Make sure you get up, stretch and walk around once every hour. Even better, get a standing desk or a treadmill desk at the office.
8. Eat More Fiber.
Fiber pushes everything through by helping the body process food more effectively. It also slows down carbohydrates’ digestion and absorption, which means your body is burning calories even after you’re done eating. Daily fiber recommendations are 38 grams for men and 25 grams for women. A variety of both soluble fiber foods (apples) and insoluble high-fiber foods (whole grains) is best for supporting a healthy metabolism and digestive system.
Bonus: Active Rest Days. Try to spend your rest days doing errands — grocery shopping, laundry, washing your car, etc. All of these daily activities burn calories while giving your body a much-needed break.
As I’ve gotten older and wiser, I’ve learned that by incorporating these things on a daily basis I feel more comfortable indulging a little bit each day because I know my metabolism has adequate fuel to power my body!
Karen Jashinsky is a personal trainer, MBA and founder of O2 MAX Fitness, a company whose mission is to revolutionize the way students experience fitness. She loves working with busy professionals and students to help them become fearless, confident and strong from the inside out.