By Layla Alexandar
The ways we work and live are not very well suited to keeping an active, healthy body. Even those of us who work at home may not get very many opportunities to be active, and when we’re at our busiest we may not have a chance to get away from the computer at all.
When I first began working at home, I found myself losing muscle tone and gaining weight. I was much busier than I had expected I would be and often forgot to make time to get to the gym or even exercise at home, letting my fitness goals slip. I had never had a problem with this when I had a desk job!
There are a few tricks you can use to boost your metabolism. Having a body with a high level of metabolic activity keeps extra weight off and makes it easier for you to stay fit.
Build Muscle Mass.
This is one of the best things you can do for your body. Muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue does. This helps you stay at a healthier body weight, because whether you’re at rest or exercising, your body will use more energy than it would if you had less muscle tissue.
Doing resistance training like weights or exercise bands can help you build muscle. Adding weights during cardio exercise like walking or running will add resistance and tone the muscles. You also may consider trying high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which is a type of exercise that involves short intervals of intense activity like sprinting in between longer intervals of lower intensity activity like a slow jog. Sprinting tones muscles better than simple jogging does.
Drink More Water.
Your body’s metabolic processes require water, and when you are not well-hydrated, these processes slow down and become less efficient. Your body may send signals that you are hungry rather than thirsty, since a lot of the water we get comes from food. Staying well-hydrated flushes fat from your system and makes you less likely to have food cravings. In addition, after drinking water, your body starts burning calories at a higher rate within just a few minutes.
Eat 5-6 Small Meals Per Day.
Having three larger meals with more calories than your body can process at once causes an insulin spike in response to the elevated blood sugar that usually occurs. Insulin causes any excess sugar to be stored as fat. In addition, any excess protein and other nutrients you eat are flushed from your system – a waste when they could be building and repairing tissues!
Eating frequent, smaller portions instead of three larger meals each day makes your body less likely to store fat and stimulates your metabolism. It takes energy to digest food, meaning that when you eat smaller meals, you’ll have a lower net calorie gain than you do when eating larger, less frequent meals. You will also be less likely to overeat, since frequent eating makes you feel less hungry throughout the day. Spacing meals 2-3 hours apart is a good interval.
Don’t Skip Meals.
Frequent eating keeps your metabolism kicking, but when you skip meals, your body tries to conserve as much energy as it can, holding on to whatever you give it – including excess sugar and fat.
Eat a Good Breakfast.
We have heard, ad nauseum, about a certain meal being the most important meal of the day for a few decades now. And while it is true that eating soon after waking up will get your metabolism going, it’s also important to consider the quality of the breakfast you eat.
A breakfast high in protein will provide you with a short term source of energy, while complex carbohydrates like whole grains will give you a slow-digesting, long term source of energy that won’t cause an insulin spike and prompt your body to start storing those carbohydrates as fat.
Steel-cut oatmeal sweetened with brown sugar and fruit is a favorite of mine for a healthy breakfast. High protein foods like eggs, Greek yogurt and cottage cheese are all quick to prepare and easy to supplement with vegetables, fruit and other delicious additions.
Eat More Whole Foods.
Processed foods are full of simple carbohydrates and refined grains, which cause your blood sugar to rise, stimulating the release of insulin and causing your body to store fat. Whole foods, or foods that are closest to their natural form, are usually higher in fiber and take more energy to digest. High-fiber meals cause your stomach to release carbohydrates and nutrients in a slow, steady stream. Your body will be able to use more of the nutrients and will not store excess energy as fat.
One of the best ways to introduce more whole foods in your diet is by snacking on nuts and raw vegetables. Steaming vegetables instead of sauteing, baking or frying will also keep a lot of the fiber and other nutrients intact.
Eat Spicy Foods.
Spicy foods can often help you feel full more quickly, making you more likely to eat less. In addition, people from areas like Thailand, where spicy foods make up a high proportion of the cuisine, are less likely to experience certain heart conditions like clotting disorders. Putting some hot peppers in your meals or using spicy condiments made from hot peppers can introduce more capsaicin, the substance that makes peppers hot and acts as a blood thinner, into your diet.
Making just a few habit changes like these can get even the most sluggish metabolism moving. Whatever physical activity you get will be much more beneficial when your metabolism is at is most efficient, helping you shed and keep off fat and getting more out of the food you eat.
Layla Alexandar lives in Knoxville, Tennessee. She has had a passion for volleyball and weight training since she was a teenager. She is a student at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and blogs at FitnessInsane.com.