Reader’s request: 5 easy ways to boost metabolism

Since I got my Weight Loss Specialist certification, quite a few readers have asked me to feature more posts with weight loss tips and tricks. This was a tough one for me because I’m not one to encourage weight loss -I like to focus on body fat percentage- and I understand that reader friends may have had a history or are currently recovering from an eating disorder. I try to remain mindful of potential circumstances others may be facing, and wanted to point out a couple of things before continuing with this post:

-How you FEEL is a better gauge of progress than any scale. Throw your scale away! If you really want to track fitness progress or fat loss, have your body fat percentage checked out via calipers or hydrostatic testing at a local gym. Many facilities will offer this for free or at low cost to members.

-While the following are tips to boost metabolism -especially if you find yourself hitting a rut or plateau- they’re also great tips for general health and wellbeing. So instead of looking at this as a “weight loss” post, think of it as general tips to kickstart new healthy habits! 🙂

-If you think it may be one worth skipping, listen to your intuition. What we read can affect our bodies and minds, so it’s up to us to use the best judgment <3 Sending healing wishes and love.

Back in the day, I effed up my metabolism. It was during the transition from weight loss to maintenance mode, and I was still eating diet foods, not fueling myself properly, and working out too much. My body was eating away at precious muscle, and I had no idea how much food I should be consuming. This is also when a large portion of my diet consisted of low-calorie and low nutrient ”food-like substances” instead of real foods. Live and learn. By adding calories back in each day, and decreasing my workout load, I was able to restore my metabolism. I can work out less, eat more, feel energized, and increased my lean muscle mass. 

What is metabolism exactly?

The sum of all living cells’ energy reactions to produce and utilize energy. (Source) Many factors can have an impact on metabolism, especially age, muscle density, genetics and hormones. If you suspect something is awry, or you’re not seeing results from clean eating and a solid workout routine, it can be advantageous to meet with a doc to perform blood work and an overall health check. 

Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) is the amount of calories your body needs to LIVE. It doesn’t account for the calories you burn through every day activities (walking around, chores, errands, folding laundry, gardening, etc) or your daily workout. 

According to this research, this is the most accurate formula for RMR estimation:

Males: RMR=10x(wt in kg) + 6.25x(ht in cm) – 5x(age in years) + 5

Females: RMR=10x(wt in kg) +6.25x(ht in cm) – 5x(age in years) – 161

To determine body weight in kg from lbs simply divide weight in lbs by 2.205. For instance, a 140 lb woman would calculate body weight in kg as follows: 140 lbs/2.205=63.5 kg. Height in centimeters is easily determined by multiplying a person’s height (in inches) by 2.54. So, for a female who is 5 feet 6 inches (or 66 inches), height in centimeters is 66 inches x2 .54=167.64 cm. Continuing with this RMR estimation, if a female client is 30 years old, 140 lbs and 5 feet 6 inches the estimate for her RMR would be calculated as follows:

RMR=10(63.5) + 6.25(167.64) – 5(30) – 161=635 + 1048 – 150 – 161= 1372 calories per day

She would need to add in an estimate for calories burned in daily activities (this site will calculate based on activity level) + an exercise estimation.

Let’s pretend our example girl, let’s call her Emily, burned an estimate of 300 calories through daily activities + 450 in a Zumba class. Her estimated calorie expenditure for that day would be:

1372 + 300 +450 = 2122

If she had a goal of weight loss, a safe way to decrease the amount of calories each day would be by 500 (500 x 7 days each week = 3500 calories = 1 lb of fat loss each week). She could target her intake around 1622 each day.

Now that we’ve got the numbers mumbo jumbo out of the way, I’m going to throw it out there that I hate counting calories. I did it for a long time, and I found that it sucked the joy out of food and turned it into too much of a science experiment. I think that if you strength train, do cardio, focus on quality, whole foods, you will settle into a healthy spot. I did provide the info above because it makes sense, and it does work for many people, but I’m just not one of them 😉 Instead, I like to focus on actions I can take in my daily life, instead of a numerical goal.

Here are 5 ways to get your metabolism going, especially if you’re facing a plateau or looking to increase the benefits of your routine.

Boost metabolism tips

EAT. Provide yourself with nutrient-dense food, including fresh produce, whole grains, healthy fats and lean proteins (animal or plant-based). Pay attention to your hunger cues, and eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full. Hydration can impact hunger levels, so I like to always keep a water bottle with me throughout the day. 

Sleep. Insufficient amounts of sleep can stimulate the release of ghrelin (a hormone that sends hunger signals; I like to picture it like a hangry gremlin) and can decrease the regulation of lepton, which tells us that we’re full and satisfied. You can read more about the impact of sleep on hormones and metabolism here, but try to get your magic number of sleep eat night. For me, it’s a solid eight hours. Already get enough sleep? Create a bed time ritual to help yourself wind down each night and promote high quality sleep. 

Drink water. As I mentioned before, dehydration can have a host of negative effects on fitness results and how we feel. Aim for 96 oz of water each day!

Strength train. In this 2000 study (Hunter et al), participants were able to increase their daily calorie burn by 100, just from consistent and simple resistance training. Already strength training? Brainstorm ideas to safely increase the intensity, like adding weight, changing the resistance method (bands, kettlebells, machines, dumbbells, barbells, etc) or adding cardio blasts in between sets.

Add in interval training. I beat that “do interval training drum” loudly and proudly 😉 Interval training increases our exercise consumption post-workout, which means the body has to work harder (aka burn more calories) to restore oxygen levels to a resting state. Try adding interval training max 2-3 times each week on non-consecutive days. Want to know how? Check out this post for more guidelines.

Hope this helps a little!

In your current routine, what has the most significant impact on your fitness gains and how you feel? For me, the major ones are sleep and strength training. I feel so much better (and stronger!) with consistent amounts of both.

xoxo

Gina

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Comments

  1. I’m training to qualify for the Boston Marathon now and I think the biggest differences have been investing the time in my recovery (foam rolling, icing) and core & body weight strengtheners. I feel so much stronger! On another note, just wanted to say how much I love your blog and thank you for being so genuine and kind all the time! I’m going to San Diego for about 24 hours this weekend and NEED to try one of those acai bowls you rave about 🙂

  2. YES! Love all these, mostly because I’ve had to learn them the hard way. 😛 It still amazes me when I do a little self-assesment and then step back the excessive training and step UP the good eating (as in better quality and MORE food) and sleeping (as in get my ass in bed by 2200).

  3. Sleep and clean eats keep me feeling great! Plus yoga helps a bit too!

  4. Great tips!!

  5. Yaara Leve says:

    I don’t know how much I believe that eating more will increase your metabolism. I’ve heard this and read about it numerous times. But–I don’t know–whenever I’ve tried to increase my calories–I end up just gaining weight. I think it’s a very personal, subjective thing. If that’s what worked for you–that’s great! But for me–just eating more would backfire–especially during periods that I lack motivation to exercise as much. I think everyone has to just find that special balance that works best for their individual bodies.

    • The way I read and understood what Gina wrote about eating was not to
      “eat more”, but being in tune with WHAT you are eating and making sure you are, in fact, eating. Many people think that skipping a meal will help them lose weight, when in actuality is slows your metabolism down.

      • Yaara Leve says:

        Ummm–I know my body and I eat extremely clean! I live off of veggies and lean proteins and eat no sugars, grains, or fruits–yet still when I eat “more” of those clean foods I manage to gain weight. I have to be really strict with calorie counting in order to maintain. And I totally do not agree with you. Skipping meals does not slow down your metabolism. That’s just wrong. Looks at people that do intermittent fasting. I think you’re basing your theories on old outdated science.

        • Fitnessista says:

          even when you’re doing intermittent fasting, you’ll still consuming a full day’s worth of meals, but in a shorter time frame. those who intermittent fast definitely still eat 🙂
          that’s how i was a long time ago, too. i had to add in calories gradually so i didn’t gain weight in the process but could get to the point where i could consume enough food to maintain my muscle

  6. Agreed with you – sleep and lifting make me look and feel like a rock star! I don’t feel that way when I’m just stuck on cardio or missing out on sleep.

  7. Amanda Frey says:

    Each day I do a different work out. I box on Mondays, and then for the rest of the week I’ll do either 30 minutes of incline walk/run, strength train, HIIT, or I’ll do 20-30 mins of interval cardio (flipping the resistance or the speed) and then take a class at the gym! It keeps my body guessing, and I switch up the muscle groups. Eating clean is roughly 75% of my diet and I’m really trying to clean it up but it’s hard!!

  8. I’m so glad you included info on RMR! I know so many people do online calorie counters to lose weight and I’m always appalled at the number of calories their “allowed.” I think if you’re going to use calorie counting as a tool for weight loss you’ve got to know your RMR and take that into consideration in order to keep up a healthy metabolism and make lasting changes.

    Sleep and strength training are huge for me! I’ll get sick if I’m working out hard and don’t get enough sleep. As for strength training, when that’s my focus and I’m supplementing with cardio and other workouts I see the best results. I’ve started marathon training and cut back on strength to focus on running and I’ve already lost some definition. Oh well!

    Great post 🙂

  9. I believe that you can’t out exercise a bad diet. A lot of people eat what they want and then think they can just fix it on a treadmill. I thought I was tone up while training for a half marathon, but it did not happen. When I cleaned up my diet and got rid of extra sugar and carbs (that don’t come from veggies and fruit), I slimmed down.

    Before & after photos – http://busyboldblessed.blogspot.com/2013/05/even-more-whole30-results.html

  10. Stress and sleep are the big ones for me. I lost 80 pounds four years ago and I know exactly what you mean about being in maintenance mode and not knowing what to do. I did exactly what you did and are too little & worked out too much. I honestly think maintenance is much harder than weight loss.

  11. Faye Holloway says:

    Gina, your paragraph about how you messed up your metabolism is exactly what I’m struggling with now. I lost weight by counting calories, eating diet foods, putting every sauce, condiment, dressing on the side, in addition to cutting portions in half. I’ve gotten to the point in my fitness where I now enjoy hard workouts, but don’t know how to eat like a normal person (in other words – how to not eat like a dieter). Like you mentioned, I don’t know how much to eat that I think It’s made me too thin with no muscle tone. I’m working on this though and trying to learn to eat to be strong and not fear the scale. Your posts really help – thank you!

    • Fitnessista says:

      i’m so happy to hear your find them helpful, but bummed that you’re in the same spot. it’s a tricky one! thinking of you as you come out on the other side 🙂 xoxox

  12. Sleep is such a big one for me and I still need to work on that. Since I workout at 6 or 7 am, i really need to make an effort to go to bed early.
    Crossfit and Yoga is what makes me feel best. Crossfit challenges me in strength but makes my body tense, so Yoga evens that out and keeps me flexible.

  13. I love this post! So many people neglect the water and weight training. To me, they are the 2 most important things (other than eating a balanced diet) to losing weight and living healthy.

  14. I am not a big fan of weight loss tips but enjoyed this post. Very honest and full of solid advice. Balancing strength, cardio and whole foods is what helps me feel and look the best.

  15. Sarah Morgan says:

    I generally eat pretty well (mostly homemade and real food), it’s stress and the oh-I-can-have-one- glass-of-wine-every-night thing that kills me.

    I recently found an interesting blog post on the 3500 calories = 1 lb fat loss idea. I’d be interested to hear what you think of it, since I’m sure you learned about this formula in your certification.
    http://www.zoeharcombe.com/2014/06/the-calorie-theory-prove-it-or-lose-it/

    • Fitnessista says:

      that was very interesting! thank you for passing it along; awesome read. i’ve been taught the 3500 rule multiple times, and had never questioned it, because it makes sense. maybe it’s recommended because it’s easy for people to remember and follow, even though it make not be 100% accurate?

  16. I’m adding more strength training in. i was focusing too much on running, but I feel so much better with a balanced amount of weight/circuit training!

  17. Great tips! I think I messed up my metabolism when I was younger by going with the “low calorie” foods that have no nutrients. But I think I have fixed it now, and I feel better than ever!

  18. I need more sleep! Haha, a common cry from parents of young kids. But really, it’s my own fault now that my daughter is sleeping until 7 instead of 4:30 (finally!). I just need to go bed earlier.

    I found that adding intervals to my cardio routine helped out a ton with my fitness. I love strength training, but need to make sure I’m getting in enough cardio too. I notice a big difference in my body when I don’t make time for enough cardio.

    • Ashley S. says:

      My little one just changed schedules from waking up at 6 a.m. to 4:30 a.m. 🙁 Not a happy momma. It is hard to continuously hear how important sleep is and how much weight and stress (thus adding more weight) are going to pile on me since I am unable to figure out any solution for the past two weeks. Sigh.

      I can only hope I will come out the other side like you have!! When I’m this tired strength training is a bit daunting, but I can make it in for a cardio workout, since it seems to give me more energy in life 🙂

      • Oh no! It’s so hard to power through when they wake up so early. I hope your LO grows out of it soon! We had several months of waking up between 4:15 and 5:15 and not even the time change helped. It’s only been the past week or two that we’ve made it to at least 6:30 consistently and it’s been amazing when she’s thrown in a 7-7:30 sleep in.

        Switching to one nap a day (she’s 19 months now) seemed to help, but it wasn’t immediate. We actually switched to one a day for two weeks and then went back to two because it didn’t help the early wake up and she was so tired in the morning. We tried it again a couple weeks later and she seemed more ready. It was shortly after that she started sleeping later.

        Good luck!!!

  19. Sarah C says:

    I’m trying to lose the “last 15 lbs” of baby weight and they just will not budge (I lost 15 pretty quickly over the fall but it’s been stalled out since the new year). Definite plateau, even though I eat about 1300 cal/day (I use myfitnesspal to track) and exercise 6 days a week. The problem I’ve found with the “eat more” plan is that it just doesn’t seem to work for me – I tried to up it to 1500 cal to see if that worked – after a few weeks I’d gained several pounds!! I eat clean (whole-foods plant-based diet, no “diet” foods, wheat, etc), sleep enough, etc. The only thing I could do more of is weight training. I don’t know, maybe that will help. It’s just really discouraging to find that a single day of eating 1500 cal instead of 1250-1300 makes the scale go up a whole pound. I’m stuck and don’t know how to get it moving again!

  20. This is an amazing post! You went about it in exactly the right way. As someone that used to struggle with body image and eating issues, I can tell you that this is exactly the way I would want it phrased. We all need to focus on fueling our bodies and enjoying ourselves while doing it! Thanks Gina 🙂

  21. Melodie says:

    Pretty sure my metabolism is screwed up also from years of dieting. Looking back i wonder why in the heck was I even dieting! I was at a healthy place for my frame. Even now eating whole foods and working out consistently. … It seems as though it’s doing nothing for me. As far as changing my physical body and getting leaner. And the older I get the more worried I get that I’m never going to figure out the formula for me! Huge frustration in my life right now. But I loved this post!!

    • I’m in the same boat! For the past year, I’ve really focused on eating whole, clean foods and working out four to six times per week (right now I’m doing summer shape up). While I can tell that I’ve gotten physically stronger, I feel like my clothes do not fit differently and my weight certainly hasn’t changed (in fact, I think I’ve gained a few pounds). It’s frustrating to feel like you’re doing everything that you can with no results.

  22. Sleep is key for me and eating “well.” I can tell such a difference even when I eat something that isn’t necessarily “unhealthy” but just not the best choice in terms of nutritional value.
    I love how I feel when I have good balance in my workouts as well, cardio, interval training, strength training, and yoga.
    Thanks for the post, it is fantastic, and a good reminder for so many of us.

  23. Love this post, Gina! Always a good reminder. I totally agree… I. NEED. My. Sleep. Plain and simple. But I also feel fully energized when I’m eating clean, well-portioned meals.

  24. Preety useful points!! right diet, proper sleep and adequate water intake keeps your body fit and active. As it helps to generate required energy for your body and makes you active throughout the day.

  25. 96 ounces of water? I don’t keep track, but I probably don’t drink that much. Maybe I should measure what I drink throughout a normal day, because the target I set for myself is a bit lower than that.

  26. Claudia says:

    I’m totally for throuing away your scale! Sometimes I check just for info but this week I noticed that I’ve the same weight as a year ago, but lost some inches all over my body!!! 😉

  27. i don’t really agree with you. indeed the scale and ww was the only thing that helped me get leaner and stronger. points take away the calorie focus, and help you work on portion control. clothes lie, i can fluxuate 20 lbs in the same pair of pants. i eat mostly clean, but struggle with portion control, and i can’t see how to address that without something structured. however, one needs time in their day to log in and log foods, and i’m in a surgical internship and often work insane hours, and barely have time to pee let alone use a program, and have been packing good foods, but too much, and have gained 20 # in the past year that i took off the year before with ww. hunger cues go out the window when you end up working back to back 22 hour days…

  28. Thank you for all your posts, Gina! You are always so honest and genuine and it really shows through. As someone who as really struggled with body image issues, it is really important to have a positive public figure who promotes self love and feeling good over having perfect abs!

    I messed up my metabolism by losing too much weight during an emotionally difficult time. I almost all together stopped eating for a couple months. When I started working on myself, spiritually, emotionally and physically, I started to put eat again and put weight back on. Unfortunately, I messed up my metabolism and went from being underweight to overweight (a 30 pound weight gain). I’m still struggling but appreciate the tips. Although I don’t want to focus on looking perfect, I do want to feel good and part of that is feeling comfortable and confident in my own skin. So again, thank you!

    Tara

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