Natural ways to power up your metabolism
When it’s chilly outside, we tend to exercise less, eat more and curl up on the couch. While we all need resting time, a little too much of this habit long-term can really slow down our metabolism. Are you stuck on how to make changes? Read on to learn about natural ways to speed up a sluggish metabolism, not involving diets leaving you feeling hungry, and with no excessive exercise required.
What exactly is our metabolism? We’ve all heard about a ‘slow’ or a ‘fast’ metabolism, and this is true: genetics and gender are factors. Men can have faster metabolisms until their testosterone starts to decline in middle age. The metabolism takes place in each living organism to keep it alive. Not only is our metabolism responsible for keeping slim by burning calories into usable energy, it’s also important for immunity, fertility, libido, brain function, energy and longevity.
Unfortunately, our metabolism slows down with age: an average person begins to gain about a half kilo each year after age 35. So, during midlife, you can expect to gain a whopping five to seven and a half kilos! This middle-aged spread usually lands right in our middle -- around the belly, thighs and hips. As we age, there is a gradual reduction in our metabolic rate, mostly due to loss of muscle mass, but also due to the loss of sex hormones and thyroid hormones that support muscle mass.
Do you suffer from a sluggish metabolism? Check the possible signs here:
- Regular fatigue
- Dry skin
- Low libido
- Irregular periods
- Thinning hair
- Brittle nails
- Frequently feeling cold
- Irregular bowel movements
- Bloating after meals
- Getting sick often
- Allergies or sensitivities
- Brain fog
- Dry mouth
- Frequent need to urinate
- Low motivation to exercise
The good news is that there are natural ways to increase metabolism at any age swapping a few old habits for healthier ones:
- Don't starve yourself: Depriving yourself of an appropriate volume of calories could leave the body in what could be termed ‘starvation mode’. We lose muscle mass, which then slows down our metabolism. When we starve ourselves, our bodies store most calories we take in as fat rather than burning them off (as your body thinks it might not get fed again). Too little calories coming in means the metabolism has less fuel to work with. That’s not to say, eat fast food to your heart’s content! It’s all balance with the right calories as fuel.
- Eat regularly: choose high protein, nutrient dense foods in smaller portions throughout the day. If you’re famished by the end of the day, you probably haven’t had enough calories. Snack every few hours on protein, such as boiled eggs, nuts, seeds, coconut yogurt, hummus and veggies, jerky, leftover meat from dinner. Use a smaller plate at mealtime to control portions.
- Avoid foods that might cause inflammation: processed sugar, casein found in dairy and gluten found in wheat products like pasta, breads, cereals and muesli bars could be the culprits causing sluggishness. Choose healthy grains like quinoa and brown rice that still provide heart healthy fibre.
- Become a tea drinker: (green or oolong) 2-4 cups just before exercise can burn up to 17% more calories.
- Kick up the spice: add chilli flakes to stews and sauces to rev up your metabolism. Eat Korean kimchi, a fermented spicy cabbage found in Asian supermarkets or health food stores, as the chili spice it contains is an appetite suppressant.
- HIIT training and weights, not over exercise: the goal is to exercise in short bursts and build muscle. Try 30 minutes 4-5 times weekly. Too much? Increase slowly. Over exercise without rest can increase the stress hormone, cortisol. This impairs insulin sensitivity, reducing the body’s natural recovery ability and damaging healthy muscle tissue.
- Hydrate: We need water to process calories. If even mildly dehydrated, your metabolism could slow down. In one study, adults who drank eight or more glasses of water daily burned more calories than those who drank four.
- Detox: Avoid personal and household cleaning products that may contain ingredients that have a disruptive effect on the hormone system. Seek out plant and mineral based hair care, face and body care, laundry and dish cleansers.
- Incorporate natural metabolism boosters into diet or by supplement form daily: turmeric, ginger, lecithin (sprinkle granules on quinoa porridge or in smoothies), kelp and iodised kelp salt (for thyroid support), cinnamon, chromium and bitter orange extract.
- Get your hormones tested: Thyroid (TSH, T3, T4, thyroid antibodies) blood tests. Men: Free testosterone blood test (not the standard testosterone blood test); there’s a difference between these two tests and they don’t provide the same information (free testosterone is not subsidised, but can be requested via Labtests for a fee or as a salivary test from a functional or natural medicine specialist). Women: progesterone, oestradiol.
- It’s time to peel yourself off the couch, and get started on naturally improving your metabolism today.
Kathleen Wills is a natural and integrative medicine specialist. She consults with people from all walks of life, addressing hormones, gut health, moods and everything in between. A passionate advocate for whole person health, she regularly speaks at corporate and educational organisations and is co-founder of the LipoRevolution™ liposomal supplements company. She was named as one of New Zealand’s sought-after wellbeing experts by New Zealand Herald’s Viva magazine (September 2014). Her aim is to open a multi-modal wellness centre for sick children along with rescue animals called the ‘Una Centre’, in honour of her passed away animal therapy husky dog, Una.
This does not substitute for any health advice from your medical professional. Kathleen Wills is not a registered GP in New Zealand and as such does not act as your primary health provider. Do not stop taking any medications without first consulting with your qualified medical professional.