It’s a common question, but what exactly is metabolism? Simply put, it’s your internal calorie-burning firepit – the amount of energy your body burns to sustain itself. This includes your resting metabolic rate and additional calories (or kJ) expended from physical activity and digestion (thermic effect of food).
Your metabolism is influenced by a number of factors, such as genetics, hormones, and your body composition – particularly how much muscle you have. Muscle is very metabolically active (unlike fat, that metabolic freeloader!), so the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn, even at rest.
So how do you stoke the flames of your metabolism (without setting yourself on fire!)? Despite all the quick-fix pills, potions, and infomercial gadgets on the market, the best way to speed up your metabolism and trim away body fat is by making healthy food choices and increasing your regular physical activity.
Increase your muscle mass by adding resistance training to your routine (body weight exercises, free weights, or machines). Then stoke your ‘metabolic firepit’ by keeping that extra lean mass active all day through incidental activity (more time standing, even at work) and through structured exercise such as aerobic exercise. The lunge is a great multi-joint movement to incorporate, and taxes the large muscles of the hips, thighs, and calves.
So how much exercise is enough? The American College of Sports Medicine recommends you train with resistance two or three times a week, performing eight to 10 separate exercises hitting all of the major muscle groups in the body. For basic conditioning, you should do at least one set of eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise. If you’ve been sedentary for quite some time, then this should suffice. You can also use other forms of resistance training such as resistance bands, kettle bells, or anything else that puts stress on the muscles above and beyond a level to which they’re normally accustomed (called progressive overload).
Also aim for regular aerobic exercise. The Surgeon General recommends at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week engaging the large-muscles of the lower body such as walking, jogging, swimming or cycling.
When it comes to stoking your metabolism, just remember to be consistent with your routine. After all, a little bit of something is still better than a whole lot of nothing!