How to increase your metabolism

This article on how to increase your metabolism is for those who have tried lowering their calories and regularly hit the gym, walk or do some form activity often. However, they have either have stagnated weight loss or are bouncing up and down in weight without changing the way they look.

I’m not going to give you special food and tea’s that speed your metabolism up by a minuscule amount, if that. I want to show practical training and eating tips that move the needle.

You will know when your metabolism has speeded up, it’s undeniable.

I repeat myself often, this is deliberate as I want to get across the nuance and important points so you can tell if your metabolism is speeding up.

This is a practical guide, and it is simple. But you will have to do some work and make changes. However, anyone can do it and once you get the hang of it you will never look back.

My Story and Why I know What You are Going Through

I recommend you read this section as it will help you avoid the mistake I made. However, you can skip this part and go straight to what you have to do, if you like.

I have been training for many years, I was national level martial arts competitor and love to train. A couple of years ago I made the same mistake you are probably making.

I was busy and had family situations I had to deal with.

I had bulked up with muscle, but had put on fat as well., by no means fat, but I was carrying too much. So I decided to count the calories I was consuming. To my surprise they were low. If I wanted to lose fat it would be impossible to reduce calories further without damaging my energy, mood and sex drive.

Rather than thinking things through, I made the mistaken assumption the two days I had counted calories were an anomaly and I was actually eating more. So for a 6 weeks I kept my calories above what I had measured. I felt terrible, because that was still too low.

After six weeks I decided to increase my calories, and in a couple days felt great. I did this for 4 weeks and did not put on weight, I then reduced them again. I repeated this process 3 times. Each time I did it I would lose a little fat when I reduced calories.

My Metabolism Boost…

Then on the 4th time I noticed when I increased my calories, after a week or so I felt leaner , especially around the waist. So I kept increasing them and did not gain fat. And I was much hungrier. That was when it hit me, my metabolism had increased.

Because I had been so busy, I had reduced my calories too much which slowed my metabolism.

I could have speeded up my metabolism up much earlier if I had realized it was slow. Rather than 7 months of increasing and decreasing calories, I would have done it in three months, or probably less. And I would have felt much better and would not have had to obsess over calories so much.

Don’t make the same mistake.

What Signal are You Sending Your Body?

The way you train and eat sends a signal to your body to adapt.

Is what you are doing telling your body to burn fat or keep it? Is it saying you should have a fast or slow metabolism?

A Very Short History Of Our Metabolism

For most of our history we needed to conserve energy, so our body is adapted to favour a slow metabolism over a faster one. This was because when food is scarce and we are active (hunting, farming or foraging) we need to be frugal with our calories because if we burn them too quickly we will not have the energy to do what we need to do and not enough for our bodies cellular processes.

We now live in time of abundance and sedentary life styles, so we no longer have the same problems as our ancestors. A slow metabolism now, means weight gain.

What do most people do when they want to lose weight? They do cardio and cut calories, with weight training as an after thought. The signal this sends to their body is to slow their metabolism down, just like it did to our ancestors. This leads to a cycle of reducing more calories and doing more cardio to try and get through the plateau, then your metabolism slows further.

So what speeds up our metabolism?

To speed up your metabolism you want to send a signal to your body that says we do not need to preserve calories because we have an abundance of food and that we are not so active that we are afraid of running low on calories.

When the body realizes there is enough food and it’s not required to be overly active, it speeds up the metabolism.

PLUS you need to change your body composition. I.e. Build muscle. Muscle uses more calories than fat.

This is why you need to do resistance training. In addition to this, by lifting weights you send a message to your body to use the calories you eat towards muscle growth. This happens for 24-48 hours after training.

Just to be clear, in order to lose fat, you need to burn more calories than you consume. The issue is when all you do is cardio and calories restriction for long periods of time, you can only reduce so far and do so much running.

Putting on muscle means you are burn calories without having to to do endless cardio,

SUMMARY: Send the right signal to your body to speed up your metabolism. Calories burned while resting increases when you have more muscle.

How to increase Your Metabolism

Steps to increase metabolism

The first step is to take account of the following…

  1. How many calories are you eating?
  2. What is your energy, mood and libido like?
  3. How much cardio and resistance exercise are you doing?

It does not matter what age, this principles work if you want to increase metabolism after 40 or younger.

1. How many calorie are you eating?

The best way to count calories is to download an app. I use the cronometer app, the free version is all you need.

Don’t change anything you eat, log everything for a week. Then do an average for the week ( total calories for the week divided by 7).

The minimum number of calories to cover the basic functioning of your body (BMR) is 1200. However, this is a low estimate. Most people will need more. It will depend on your activity level, age and height and other genetic considerations.

Use the 1200 as a ballpark figure. What you want to look at is how you feel and your body fat composition.

I would say if you are woman and are on 1500 calories or less and man who is on 1800 calories or less, you are not in a position to reduce calories further. You will just slow down your metabolism more.

However, there is a lot of variance between individuals. You can get an idea of the calories you need for your body to carry out it’s functions by using a BMR (basal metabolic rate) calculator,

2. What are your energy levels like?

The calories give you part of the picture. To get the full picture you want to look at your energy, mood and libido.

If all these are low or inconsistent, the chances are your calories are too low (leaving out any health conditions you may have).

When my calories are low, I notice my libido and mood the most. My energy levels hit me last.

3. How much cardio and resistance training are you doing?

Take an account of your activity. What is your focus, cardio or resistance training?

As we have seen, long cardio focus tells your body to preserve calories, together with low calories your metabolism goes down fast.

There is nothing wrong with cardio, it’s great for your heart and general well being. But too much and your body responds by preserving it’s resources by slowing down your metabolism.

If your main focus is resistance training, then how are you training? What are the rest periods , how many reps and sets?

5 Steps to Increase Your Metabolism

You should now have a good idea of where you are.

If your calories are low, your mood, energy and libido are low and you are not losing fat, you probably need to boost your metabolism.

Do ALL of these for two months , then reassess.

1. Do Resistance Training

This is the key you want to turn first. But you must do it in a certain way.

Don’t do circuit type training, which is really just cardio with weights.

You want to do strength training which increases your lean muscle mass and therefore speeds up your metabolism. A pound of muscle burns more calories than a 1lb of fat you are carrying – as you sitting around!

Strength training means heavy weights (for you) and reps from 1-15 per set, with 2-5 minutes rest between sets. As your reps get higher they become less strength based and more muscle/cardio based. I’m being simplistic. The key point is that you want to focus on getting stronger and not on endurance.

There are some good strength training programs out there like 5 x 5. Do research and start one. This guide will get too long if I cover all aspects of training and it’s nuances. Also I do not know your age, circumstances and what you are currently doing.

Whatever training protocol you use, keep track of the weight, sets and reps so you know if you are getting stronger.

If you are getting stronger it is a good indicator that you are putting on lean muscle. It’s one of the key metrics that you will use to workout if your metabolism is increasing and what to do next.

2. Increase your calories

Increase your calories by 50-100 a day for the first week. Then hold it there for another week. If at the end of the 2nd week your scale weight is the same, 1lb more or you weigh less, then increase calories again by the same amount for the next week and hold it there for another week. Repeat.

If you put on 2 plus lbs in a week, stay at that level and do not increase calories. Keep with the training and see where you are in a week. If you have not changed weight, but are getting stronger and you are hungry, then increase it again. If not, keep it the same until your strength levels drop and/or your hunger increases then add a more calories as before.

This is general advice, because you might gain weight and it is all muscle . It depends on how much resistance training you have been doing up till now. If very little you many notice a bigger increase.

Go with your hunger, how you look in the mirror and your strength gains. If all are fine you can increase calories even though you are putting on weight. I Would say more than 3 lbs in one week is rare, if this is the case don’t add more calories.

Increase the calories with protein. Until you get to 1g per pound of body weight then you can add carbs or fat next. Maintain a healthy diet of whole foods.

Remember you can average calories out over a week. Some days might be higher other days lower. But at the end of the week your average should be 50-100 calories higher.

You need the extra calories to build muscle and send a message to your body that you have enough food available so it does not have to slow down your metabolism to persevere energy.

Hunger

One of the ways to tell your metabolism has speeded up is that you are more hungry, in some cases a lot more. It will be obvious when this happens.

Hunger coupled with consistent strength gains and you know you are on the right right track and your body is becoming a fat burning furnace.

3. Rest and Recovery.

If you are not sleeping well, over doing it at the gym or stressed in life generally you will not be able to boost metabolism and put on muscle.

So make sure your get a good nights sleep. Simple things like not staring at your phone to the last minute and having a routine before bed all help.

If sleep is a problem for you then you need to look into ways to improve it.

Make sure you get enough recovery from your lifting. Muscle needs rest to grow, so don’t get into the “more is better” mentality. The gym is full of people like that, they look the same and sometimes look worse than when they began. REST!

A good training program will have recovery built into it.

4. Cardio

For the next two months, do not do long steady state cardio.

Instead go for walks as many times as you like and do one HIIT training workout a week.

HIIT (High intensity interval training) is when you do an exercise intensely for a short time and rest. Repeat for desired number of repetitions.

See my Air bike article, it also has a variety of HIIT workouts from beginner to advanced. You can apply the principles to other forms of HIIT.

HIIT has many health and heart benefits and it can increase metabolism.

SUMMARY: No long steady state cardio, go for walks instead and do one HIIT session a week.

5. Change Your Relationship with the Weighing Scale

You can still weigh yourself regularly, but understand if you do not lose weight it does mean you are not losing fat.

Say you put on 3lbs of muscle and lost 3lbs of fat, your scale weight will remain the same. However, you body composition will have improved considerably which means your metabolism is faster. You will also notice you look better and have more energy.

Even a pound or two increase does not mean you are putting fat on, you could have put on muscle and not lost as much fat. Again your metabolism is better off.

Eventually you will experience that when you increase your calories you might actually lose weight for a short while. Because your body needed the extra nutrients and it is now functioning better.

Be patient and don’t go by the scale alone. Use the mirror, your energy levels, hunger and strength gains in the gym to give you a good idea that you are heading in a positive direction.

What To Do Next

what next?

You have now changed your calorie set point and added muscle. You metabolism is faster and you are not starving yourself. If you want to, you are in great position to reduce calories to trigger fat loss. Just don’t go back to where you were and start obsessing over cardio and lower calories.

Obviously, you cannot keep increasing calories indefinitely. Say you started of at 1600 calories and by slowly increasing calories you have gone up to 2200 and are not putting on weight, you look better and feel better, then you can add a little more calories, keep it at 2200, or even reduce them slightly for a couple of weeks to a month and you will lose fat, in many cases at a fast rate.

This guide is a How to increase metabolism, which you will do if you follow the above steps. After that it will vary for each individual, depending on their goals and body.

SUMMARY – How to Increase Your Metabolism

  1. Start strength focused resistance training.
  2. Increase calories – but slowly. Start with protein.
  3. Make sure you are resting and sleeping properly.
  4. Do HIIT training once a week. Go for walks. Don’t do long steady state cardio for two months.
  5. Don’t go by the weighing scale alone. Look at strength, mood, energy, hunger, libido and how you look in the mirror.
  6. You can stop increasing calories when you are are eating more calories than you started and are not putting on weight, your hunger is stable, mood and libido are good, At this point you will have to reassess your goals. Because your metabolism has speeded up, when you reduce calories you will start burning fat quickly.

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