Do you feel a twinge of jealousy when you meet a skinny woman with an elephantine appetite? She can gobble down an array of pastries and yet seems to repel weight. You, on the other hand, have tried every fad diet but the kilos refuse to budge. Well, you can blame your metabolism.
Harvard Medical School defines metabolism as “the series of chemical reactions in a living organism that create and break down energy necessary for life. In other words, every time you eat, enzymes in your body’s cells break down the food and convert it into the energy you need to carry on your daily activities.” Metabolism is at times used interchangeably with metabolic rate, but they’re not the same. The latter is calculated by taking into account the amount of calories your body burns when it is at rest. The higher your metabolic rate, the more fat you will burn. “You have a huge amount of control over your metabolic rate,” says strength and conditioning coach, Deckline Leitão. “You can burn extra calories by exercising properly and following a proper diet.” To help you knock off those extra kilos, we get experts to list out ways to put your metabolism into overdrive.
Before you start, keep in mind that a slow metabolic rate is not solely responsible for weight gain. “There are other factors, such as thyroid trouble, a sedentary lifestyle, stress and environmental factors, that can cause your weight to shoot up. Nevertheless, revving up your metabolism can help a great deal in your weight-loss journey,” says Lovneet Batra, chief nutritionist at Fortis La Femme, New Delhi.
A simple way to fire up your metabolism is to increase activity levels. Vesna Pericevic Jacob, holistic fitness expert and author of books Work It Out Without A Workout and Fit To Fight, says, “When it comes to boosting one’s metabolism with exercise, the way you do your workouts is more important than what you’re doing.” Regular exercise will stimulate the production of new mitochondria within muscle cells and cause them to grow larger. More muscle means your body will burn more fuel to produce energy, even at rest. Leitao suggests the following ways to get it done. “It comprises two main components – strength training and cardiovascular exercises,” she adds.
Squats are called the king of strength exercises for women as they help shape the thighs and butt while building immense endurance in the legs to help you run longer. You’ll find it on the workout routine of every elite athlete.
Do it better: Aim to perform three sets of 25 before you progress to using additional weight such as a barbell placed on your shoulders or dumbbells in your hands. You can also make it tougher by holding the bottom position for two seconds. The lower you go, the more effective the exercise becomes, but be careful not to bounce.
It will help tone the abdominal region and improve coordination between your upper and lower body. This exercise basically teaches the core to work like a corset around the spine and is another favourite for not just shaping up but also to prevent lower back pain.
Do it better: Perform three sets of one-minute holds. Remember to take shallow breaths throughout. Don’t lock your knees or over-arch the back.
High Intensity Interval Training is a technique that can be applied to both strength training and cardio-vascular exercises. For example, run fast for 30 seconds followed by 60 seconds of easy jogging, and then repeat this combination. Another example would be to do shadow-boxing fast for 30 seconds and then slow running for 60 seconds. This way you get the benefits of exercising hard without overexerting yourself. HIIT not only makes you burn more calories but also takes the monotony out of doing slow, continuous movements.
Do it better: Make sure you start slow and build your intensity gradually with HIIT, as this form of training is also notorious for causing injuries if too much is done too soon.
Slow running or swimming
Slower training is great for fitness newbies and also for advanced exercisers when they need a break from heavier routines. Compared to HIIT, slow and continuous training such as walking or swimming for 60 minutes burns fewer calories. This steady state cardio is fuelled mostly by stored fat. HIIT burns more fat and is fuelled by stored carbohydrates.
Do it better: Maintain an exercise pace that allows you to carry on a conversation. Maintain a heart rate of around 65 per cent of your Maximum Heart Rate. Learn to check your heart rate manually through educational internet videos.
Another physical activity that one can incorporate in their daily routine to boost metabolism and burn fat is through yoga. Certain yoga poses not only help you melt away those extra carbs, but also speed up the metabolism rate, in turn helping you burn fat faster as well.
Also known as the cobra pose, Badhakonasana is great for increasing the metabolism rate. To do the post, lie face down on a mat and slowly stretch out your legs. Now join your feet together, making sure both knees are touching each other. Take a deep breath in and slowly lift your chest off the mat — push your upper body up. Hold the pose and your breath for a short time and while exhaling lower yourself back on to the mat. Repeat a couple of times through the day for better results.
The butterfly pose proves effective when strengthening the core, however it is also great for speeding up your metabolism rate too. Begin by stretching your legs in front of you and slowly bend them at the knees. Pull your legs in so that your heels touch. Hold your legs at the ankles and rock your thighs up and down. Repeat around six to seven times a day.
One of the most important yoga poses, Kapalbhati aids in digestion. If perfomed religiously it can help increase metabolism. Sit on a yoga mat and sit cross-legged. Keep your back upright and shut your eyes — place your palms on your knees and slowly take a deep breath. Exhale out with force and repeat it for about ten minutes every day.
The tree pose is quite effective when helping with metabolism. Begin by standing still on a mat with your legs close together. Move your weight from one leg to the other and then slowly raise the opposite leg towards your knee to form a triangle. Place your foot on the inner thigh of your opposite leg and raise your arms above your head to maintain balance. Keep switching between legs and repeat the pose on each side a couple of times.
Jacob recommends doing this first thing in the morning, before eating any solid food, but after drinking a concoction of lime juice, turmeric, apple cider vinegar and cayenne pepper to kickstart your metabolism. Choose an exercise and divide your energy levels from 1-10, where 1 represents resting and 10 is the level you can’t go beyond. Start with your level 4 and keep at it for a minute. Then increase to level 5 for a minute, level 6 for a minute and level 7 for a minute. Then drop it back and this time start with level 5. Hold it for a minute, move to level 6 and so on till you reach level 8. Drop it back at level 5, and repeat it 2 or 3 times depending on your fitness levels. Do it better: Do not exceed 20 minutes. Do stretch after the session to avoid sore muscles.