Fresh on the heels of the discussion on calories, it’s also helpful to note that eating frequently throughout the day can be very good for boosting metabolism. There are a couple of reasons for this.
The first reason is that people who tend to eat throughout the day do considerably less snacking. As a result, they tend to avoid the potato chips or candy bars that they might otherwise consume if they suddenly felt hungry.
People who eat throughout the day don’t tend to experience severe hunger pangs, because they don’t reach that stage.
The second reason, and the one that you can probably guess based on your understanding of metabolism, is that by eating throughout the day, you are constantly keeping your metabolism in motion.
It’s kind of like having a generator run all the time; it will simply use more electricity than if you powered it on 3 times a day.
Now, it goes without saying (but we should say it anyway just in case!) that just because it’s good for metabolism-boosting to eat frequently, this doesn’t mean that you can eat junk all day long!
Rather, if you choose to eat more frequently, then you’ll certainly need to be very aware of what you eat; because you can easily exceed your required amount of daily calories if you don’t keep an eye on this.
That’s why, if your plan is to follow the eat-more-to-burn-more approach, then you should keep a food journal that notes what you eat (and drink of course) throughout the day.
You should not merely know the calorie levels of what you eat, but you should know the
overall nutritional values, too.
For example, if you’re on target to eat 50 grams of protein per day, then you want to make sure you reach this target and not exceed it (or come in below it).
In other words, merely focusing on calories is only half of the job. You will need to ensure that you’re eating enough protein, carbohydrates, fats (the good unsaturated kind!), and the other vitamins and minerals that your body needs in order to function at optimal levels.
We’ve all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. And in terms of boosting your metabolism, this is indeed the case! There are a couple of reasons why eating a hearty and healthy breakfast can boost metabolism and lead to weight loss goals.
The first reason is that people who eat breakfast are much less inclined to snack throughout the morning. For example, if you had a good breakfast of fruit and low-sugar cereal in the morning, your chances of visiting the vending machine at work around 10:30am diminish significantly.
Of course, as you recall from our previous discussion on eating more frequently, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t eat something between breakfast and lunch.
It simply means that, since you won’t be extremely hungry at 10:30am (because you skipped breakfast), you’ll be less inclined to eat anything that you get your hands on; such as a nice donut that your co-worker was kind enough to offer you.
In other words, by starting your day in a nutritious way, you’ll have more control over what you eat throughout the day.
The second reason is more aligned with metabolism-boosting. Studies have shown that metabolism slows during sleep, and doesn’t typically get going again until you eat.
Therefore, starting the day with breakfast is like kickstarting your metabolism. You’ll actually burn more calories throughout the day, simply by eating breakfast (hey, who knew?!).
Remember: as you eat your breakfast, control both the portion and the contents. You don’t want to eat to the point of complete fullness; because, remember, you want to eat throughout the day and you won’t be able to do that if you’re stuffed.
At the same time, beware of high-fat breakfasts. Studies have shown that high-fat breakfasts, such as those that include bacon and sausage, not only deliver lots of calories (there are 9 calories for every gram of fat, as compared to 4 for every gram of carbohydrates and proteins, respectively).
But they also can make you very hungry again, very soon! So in addition to having ingested a lot of fat (and hence a lot of calories), you’ll typically find yourself rather ravenous again in a few hours.
Alternatively, breakfasts that are high in fiber take longer to digest, and thus, the body won’t be hungry again for a while.
This is something to bear in mind; and it may explain why many people who eat breakfast find themselves painfully hungry by lunchtime; it’s not their “overactive metabolism” at work; it’s the high fat content, which has been swiftly digested.
Befriend Protein and Good Carbs
There is a dizzying array of things that you can eat these days. Truly, a trip to the grocery store can be an adventure. Everywhere you turn, there’s yet another food promising you healthy this or weight loss that.
Added to this confusion is that there are some foods that are beneficial for metabolic boosting, and some that aren’t; and the differences aren’t always well-known. Fortunately, we’re going to tackle this problem right now and describe the three basic food groups/types that are indeed good for a speedy metabolism.
In terms of protein, studies have shown that having enough protein in your system can actually increase the speed of your metabolism. This is because protein is difficult to break down. Or rather, it requires more energy to break down. It’s like feeding the body a knot; it needs a bit of time to unravel it.
And, as you know, when your body spends time on something, it spends energy (calories). And so the more time it can spend breaking down protein, the more calories that it uses.
Different people will require different amounts of protein on a daily basis. Those who exercise and build muscle will typically need more than the average amount, too.
The USFDA Food Guide suggests around 50 grams of protein a day for a reasonably active adult.
Keep in mind (not that you don’t already have enough to remember, but…) that there are different sources of protein: some lean, and some high in fat. Fast food burgers may deliver up to 20 grams of protein (sometimes more), but they also deliver a great deal of fat; which makes them almost nutritionally worthless.
The benefits you enjoy from the protein are far outweighed by the immense fat intake; which, for some fast food burgers, can exceed 40 grams! And that’s not including the fries (we won’t even go there!).
So the thing to do is ensure that your source of protein derives from lean protein. Typically, protein from some fish and chicken is lean; though not all of it.
If you’re a vegetarian, or simply looking for non-meat lean protein alternatives, low-fat cheese, legumes (lentils), and yogurt are all good sources. Simply check the food labels to determine if the source of protein is lean (doesn’t deliver high fat content), or fatty.
In terms of carbohydrates, there probably isn’t a more battered around micronutrient than this. It’s gone from being the greatest thing in weight loss history, to one of the most reviled.
And really, it’s not the fault of the innocent carbohydrate! It’s really just a matter of information and knowledge, instead of speculation.
Carbohydrates are one of the most essential nutrients for firing up your metabolism. They are the most basic fuel for the energy you consume for physical activities.
If you exercise regularly, carbohydrates are necessary. But if you are building muscle, carbohydrates are crucial. As you progress in your muscle building and interval training, you need to increase your carbohydrate intake. As your body burns more energy, it will need more energy from carbohydrates. If the carbohydrates you consume are not enough, your body will turn to your muscle mass and get its energy there. Yes, your hard-worked muscles will be wasted if you do not consume enough carbohydrates.
More than 50 percent of your calorie requirements should come from carbohydrates.
There are two types of carbohydrates – simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are easier to digest and absorb compared with complex carbohydrates. If we are to consider the thermic effect of food which also contributes to faster metabolism, complex carbohydrates are the way to go. And usually, complex carbohydrates are the healthy types of food while the simple carbohydrates are usually the processed foods loaded with preservatives and artificial sweeteners.
But simple carbohydrates should not be neglected entirely. Healthy sources of simple carbohydrates are honey, milk and fresh fruit juice.
The thing to remember is that when carbohydrates are refined, such as white bread and potatoes, they are what the diabetic world refers to as high glycemic index (GI) foods, because they require spikes in insulin in order to be digested.
As you may know, when insulin is released into the system, it promotes the storage of fat; and some experts believe that it also pushes down metabolic speed (which makes sense).
Therefore, the good kinds of carbohydrate to consume are those that are high in fiber, and those from fruit and vegetable sources.
Why? Because these sources of carbohydrates don’t score high on the glycemic index. In other words, they don’t cause a spike in insulin levels, and therefore, they don’t promote fat storage.
Avoid empty calories like the plague. These come from refined, highly processed foods – usually the simple carbohydrates that are not natural whole foods. Why empty calories? They fill you up but give little or no nutrients. What‟s more, these foods usually contain a lot of sugar – and too much sugar seriously affects the metabolism.
When You Eat is Key
Even though you are consuming the right foods, your results will be compromised if your timing is not perfect. Follow the advice below and you will get the best results.
1. Eat several meals a day, every two and a half hours to three hours. To really maximize the thermic effect of food, you need to eat more than the usual three meals. Eating every three hours will allow the thermic effect to last you throughout the day, as it takes between two and a half to three hours to digest food while protein broken down to amino acids stays for three hours in the bloodstream. For the exact number of meals, the magic number for men is six while it is five for women. Men require 600-900 more calories every day than women.
Do not go over your optimal number of meals, especially through late night snacking. When you are asleep, your body has a difficult time digesting. Also, the calories from your last meal are stored as fat. Keeping the last meal light and easier to digest compared with the earlier meals is recommended.
2. Always eat breakfast. Your body has been in starvation mode during your sleep time. To get your metabolism up and running again, start the day right with a healthy, hearty breakfast. The later you eat your first meal for the day, the later your metabolism starts.
3. Do not skip meals. Under no circumstances should you skip meals, especially the three basic meals. If you have a busy schedule and have a hard time snacking, keep “emergency” foods within your reach, like whole wheat crackers and bananas. During particularly hectic days, just a few crackers or one banana would suffice as a snack to keep your metabolism running. A fresh fruit shake or a protein shake would also be enough.
4. Take one snack or meal after your workout. A meal or snack with protein and carbohydrates taken within one hour after your workout for the day helps in the recovery of your muscles and the building of new ones.
5. Do not eat less than two and a half hours before bedtime.
Though metabolism still happens while sleeping, digestion will be difficult and your calories will most likely be stored as fat in your body.