Supercharge your metabolism

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Think you need to starve yourself to lose weight? Janey Holliday knows better...

Woman jumping
Metabolism is basically the amount of energy (or calories) your body burns to maintain itself. Whether you are eating, breathing, drinking, sleeping, your body needs to constantly burn calories to keep you going. People's metabolism varies depending on height, weight and also body composition (ie the amount of muscle they have) which is why you should never compare what you eat to the person you sit next to or live with. How active you are plays a massive role as does when and what you eat.

Eat little and often

Think of your metabolism as a fire that you want to keep burning, so fuelling the fire little and often will keep it going. Switch from three meals a day to five or six smaller ones and the grazing approach will help too. For example, have two smaller lunches, one at 12pm and one at 3pm, or have a late afternoon mini meal at 5pm to avoid overeating and crashing out in the evening. Food should energise you, not make you sleepy and eating little and often keeps your blood sugar stable and provides a steady source of energy to fuel metabolism.

Pump some iron

Metabolism is affected by your body composition - the amount of muscle you have versus the amount of fat. Muscle is metabolically active meaning that it needs calories to maintain itself - 50 calories per pound per day in fact. Fat doesn't and just sits there, so people who are more muscular (and have a lower percentage of body fat) will have a higher metabolism. This is why you should never look at the scales to monitor weight loss. If you weighed 10 stones 5 pounds, lost 5 pounds of fat but increased your muscle mass by 5 lb, you would weigh the same, be smaller (as muscle is smaller 1lb for 1lb than fat) and you could eat an extra 250 calories a day without gaining any weight.

Start the day with a juice

Having a fresh vegetable-based juice in the morning works wonders for kick starting your metabolism. It is not only jam-packed with nutrients, but when drunk on an empty stomach the nutrients get absorbed really quickly so it's an instant energy boost. Raw foods are packed full of enzymes which help the body function better, from breathing to thinking to doing. Make your own at home or buy in a juice bar on the way to work. Great zing-a-ling juices are: Carrot, apple, spinach and lemon, or carrot, apple, celery and beetroot.

Eat breakfast

If you don't eat breakfast, you slow down your metabolism and send the body into a panic thinking it's starving because you're going a long period of time, 10 hours or so, without food. If you aren't a big breakfast fan, then have a juice to give your body what it needs first thing and have breakfast a little bit later on. Breakfast is basically 'breaking the fast', so it doesn't have to be huge, but it needs to be something so that your metabolism stays where it should be.

Early bird catches the burn

Exercising first thing in the morning is a great way to get your body working properly and helping you and your body to start the day the right way. If you exercise on an empty stomach you are more likely to tap into fat stores quicker, and the breakfast you eat afterwards will replace glycogen you have used, rather than being stored. You don't just burn calories while you exercise either, post metabolism burn can last hours. So training hard can mean your metabolism is raised for longer and you can burn hundreds of calories afterwards!

Fidget

Remember that metabolism is the energy needed by your body to do things. Fidgeting can burn around 250 calories a day, meaning those who can't sit still will have a higher metabolism than those who take things easy. All this calories expenditure adds up to help increase metabolism. Tapping your feet at your desk, walking around when on your mobile phone, tapping your hands to music in the car, doing the house work at a faster pace, all leads to a better metabolism. As people have got less active, people's metabolisms have decreased which is why people find it harder to keep weight off. Anything you can do, to move, will increase your metabolism and it doesn't always mean pounding at the gym.

Make sure you eat enough

While it's important to spread calorie consumption throughout the day, it's essential not to under eat. When the body isn't fed enough, the body goes into panic mode, literally thinking that it is being starved and so your metabolism slows down. This is why so many women who have done quick weight loss programmes or very low calorie diets often find it hard to keep weight off when they return to normal eating. As a guide, you shouldn't drop more than 4-500 calories a day from your daily calorie needs. Everyone's daily needs are different but an average woman's calorie needs are about 1800, so don't go below 1400 if you want to keep your metabolism on your side.

Drink enough water

The energy burning process of metabolism needs water to work effectively so make sure you are drinking about two litres a day. Also being hydrated means your body functions properly, allowing you to exercise better and generally have more energy.

Don't eat lots of food in the evening

Dinner should really be your smallest meal, and some experts recommend you don't anything after 8pm, or any later than three to four hours before bedtime. This helps your body process and burn the food when you are awake and moving around and therefore you will burn more calories per hour. If you eat food late at night, your body has to digest it at night and it's not able to do this as efficiently. You can also wake up with undigested food, making you feel sluggish which has an impact on how you start the next day. Remember the saying 'Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper'.
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