How many times have you felt the need to explain your weight with the phrase "My metabolism is SO slow!"? I know I've said those words a thousand times. The truth of the matter is - you probably DO have a compromised metabolism. If you do not eat properly or have dieted for years and do not exercise regularly, there is a very good chance that your metabolism is slow. But there is hope! You CAN raise your metabolic rate.

The controversy is HOW MUCH can you raise it? If you researched the subject, you would find that some experts believe you can make a big impact on your metabolism by changing your diet and beginning an exercise program. Others will have you believe that you can change your metabolism with diet and exercise but it is a minimal change. I do not proclaim to be an expert, nor do I have a degree in this subject. But common sense tells me that anything I can do to raise the number of calories my body burns in a day is an intelligent decision.

Quite simply, your metabolism is the rate at which your individual body burns up energy, i.e. calories. Metabolism varies from person to person. For a person of your size, you may have a faster metabolism than normal, or you may have a slower one.

Scientists have devised what is called the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) to compare metabolisms. Your BMR is the rate you use up energy/calories at rest. So if you laid in bed ALL day and night, your BMR would be how many calories your body requires to stay alive - how many calories it takes to run your vascular system, your digestive system, breath, etc.

There are several factors that affect BMR including genetics, age and gender. Men have a slightly higher BMR than women and people under 20 usually have a greater BMR than those 20 and older (dropping about 2% per decade). Also, the more you weigh, the higher your BMR. And those with a higher proportion of muscle tend to have a higher BMR than those with less muscle. THAT IS THE GREAT NEWS! It is also the news that motivates me to gamble on the experts who believe diet and exercise can have a big impact in raising metabolism.

So why is this great news? You have the power to change your metabolic rate! You can rev up your metabolic rate through exercise so your body burns more calories all day long. And one advantage to having a higher metabolism is that you can consume more food without gaining weight! Another advantage of a higher BMR is that if you naturally expend more energy, you will lose more fat. Why not let your metabolism burn more calories for you?

Experts agree that your body responds to a reduction in calories by lowering your BMR. Eating significantly fewer calories than you burn can ratchet down your metabolism as your body senses starvation and conserves energy. The most effective way to increase your metabolism is to combine cardiovascular exercise (cardio) and strength training with a slight reduction in calories. Not only do you use up calories while exercising, but the increased BMR continues even after you are done exercising - many believe, for several hours. The amount varies from body to body but even a modest increase would counteract the body's tendency to decrease BMR. Weight training also stimulates the growth of muscle tissue and muscle tissue is metabolically active so it requires calories even at rest. Hence, more calories burned daily than if you weren't exercising.

In addition to weight training, incorporating high intensity cardio into your exercise routine impacts your metabolism. Like weight training, it takes you into the anaerobic zone of training. This creates an "oxygen debt" so even when you have concluded your exercise, the body is processing waste and recovering from the activity - keeping your metabolism elevated. You can slowly incorporate high intensity cardio into your workouts by starting with one or two high interval spurts. If you walk for exercise, try to increase your pace for a minute every 3-4 minutes. If you run on a treadmill, do one-minute sprints with a 2-minute recovery. Try to work up to 8 intervals in a 30-40 minute session.

There are also several other changes you can make in your daily life that can have an impact on your metabolism. Things that seem silly like, parking in the farthest parking spot and walking to your destination or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Or drinking cold water. This tip may be a bit overrated but the truth is - your body will expend more calories trying to raise cold water to your body temperature. The exact amount is debatable but integrating this habit with other small changes in your daily routine can contribute to the greater goal of raising your metabolism.

Second only to exercise, dietary changes can have an impact on metabolic rate. Here are some that you can integrate into your life to help raise your metabolism.

The BIG metabolic changer - eat a big breakfast! Studies have shown that eating breakfast can increase your BMR by as much as 25%. And don't fear carbohydrates. Using the right type can be instrumental for your metabolism. Breakfast is a great time to eat those "forbidden" starchy carbs. Starchy carbs are not BAD! Your body needs them. Just make sure they are made with whole grains. Eating them early in the day is also recommended.

Try to eat whole foods rather than processed foods. Your body must extract the fiber and nutrients and effectively work harder to absorb them into your bloodstream. Make better choices like using whole grain breads and pasta (the package must say "WHOLE" wheat or grains). Barilla Plus is a great new pasta put out by the Barilla Group that has an added bonus - it's packed with protein which you don't get with white or whole-wheat pasta. Use brown rice rather than white rice. Whole foods pack more nutrients, are higher in fiber, and many nutrients in whole foods are cofactors in metabolic processes that your body uses to burn fat and build muscle.

Increasing your protein intake may also help raise your metabolism. Protein requires a complex chemical conversion by your body in order to be used as fuel. This conversion burns calories. If you are weight training, you will want to raise the amount of protein you consume anyway. Building muscle requires protein.

Here's another big one. Eat more frequent, smaller meals - ideally, 5-6 per day. Consuming food triggers digestion and digestion requires calories. By eating more frequently, you continuously supply your body with nutrients while forcing it to digest and break down foods. This can have the net effect of raising your metabolism.

Don't leave healthy fats out of your diet. Healthy fats are involved in the manufacture of hormones and repair of cell membranes in your body. With the right types of fats, your body can use these anabolically and aid in raising metabolism. Be sure to choose carefully. You can safely add foods containing healthy fats, like nuts and avocados, in moderation to your diet without increasing calories simply by lowering the percentage of calories from carbohydrates and proteins.

It's a bit of a balancing act but with some perseverance and practice, you can easily change the way that you eat. People often underestimate the amount of food they should consume each day. We need to eat! If you choose whole foods, you can't go wrong. It's the processed foods and foods made with sugar that pack in the calories and raise the amount of fat you gain.

To sum it up, you DO have the power to raise your metabolism. The first way is by adding regular exercise to your routine - at least 3 cardio workouts and 2 weight training workouts per week. The second is by altering the way you feed your body and the third is by incorporating simple changes into your life like some of those suggested above. Maybe it won't make a huge impact on your metabolism, maybe it will. I'm not sure anyone knows for sure. But there's one thing I do know for sure - it will make a huge impact on your health and weight. I have experienced it myself and I have seen my clients respond when they've incorporated the changes suggested above. So why not start today?!

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