Well - yes and no. While working up a sweat and eating well are essential for staying slim and in peak physical condition, there is something else that, though often overlooked, is just as important.
Speeding up your metabolic rate means your body burns through more energy (in the form of calories) carrying out everyday functions, which in turn makes it easier for you to keep your weight at a healthy level.
So how do you do it? There are a number of simple lifestyle choices that will send your metabolism into overdrive. Here's our step-by-step guide to get you started.
First things first - you need to eat. A speedy metabolism means you burn more calories even when you are resting, but in order to achieve this you need to give your body a jolt at the start of the day. Many women make the mistake of thinking skipping breakfast will help them to lose weight. In fact, the opposite is true. Fasting only encourages your body to slow its metabolic rate so it can hold calories in reserve. And instead of burning fat, it's your muscle cells that lose out. Breakfast will give you the energy you need to get through the day but also light a spark under your metabolism, as long as you eat the right foods. Try slow release carbohydrates like porridge oats or protein-rich eggs, both of which will keep you feeling fuller for longer.
Get a good night’s sleep
According to the Sleep Council, only one in 10 of us say we always sleep well - a factor which research suggests could be fuelling Britain's obesity epidemic. A study carried out at Columbia University in New York found that people who sleep for four hours or less a night are 73% more likely to be obese. This is because sleep deprivation makes it harder for your body to carry out the most basic functions, including burning through calories. This makes it more difficult for you to lose weight, even when you're dieting, while a slow metabolism has also been linked to increased appetite, meaning you are more likely to snack and crave unhealthy foods during the day.
Drink ice-cold water
Most of us know that good hydration keeps our body's systems working properly, including our metabolism. This is why we are told to drink around 1.5 litres every day (more if it's hot out or if you lose fluid during exercise). Water is also an effective weight-loss aid as it acts as an appetite suppressant and prevents fluid retention. However, research carried out in Germany now says that drinking six cups of ice-cold water daily helps you burn an extra 50 calories a day (the equivalent of five pounds of fat over the course of a year). This is because more energy is needed to warm the water to your body's core temperature.
Eat more iron
Low levels of iron is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies, especially among women - it's thought that one in 10 suffer from the condition. Haemoglobin in the blood transports oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body, including the muscles which need the O2 to help them burn fat. But it is iron that helps keep this vital supply moving, and without it your metabolic rate begins to slow, energy levels drop and you start to feel lethargic. Make sure your diet is full or foods that are rich in iron, including red meat, dried fruit, shellfish and spinach.
Drink coffee and tea
While in the past coffee has been linked with several nasty illnesses (such as cancer and heart disease), recent research seems to suggest that the benefits outweigh the risks. For one thing, the caffeine in coffee is thought to stimulate the central nervous system, a knock-on effect of which is a rush of energy in terms of your metabolic rate. Green tea, meanwhile, contains high levels of the antioxidant catechins (also found in regular tea), which health experts say can raise your metabolism by as much as 10% and help you burn an extra 100 calories a day.
Eat little and often
Nutritionists often recommend eating five small meals a day, as opposed to three larger sittings, but why? Well - think of your metabolism as a fire, and if you don't eat (or eat properly, for that matter), then that fire will quickly go out. And you'll get fat. Eating large meals also causes bloating as well as sharp spikes in blood sugar levels, which in turn make us more likely to snack when they come crashing back down to earth. Grazing on small, healthy, balanced meals will keep the flames under your metabolic rate burning throughout the day.
Get your heart rate up
As well as burning fat, exercise has the added bonus of speeding up your resting metabolism for up to 24 hours after you stop working out - but only if you train hard enough. An East Tennessee State University study found that your metabolic rate only spikes for such a long time after high-intensity exercise sessions. Which means one thing - getting your heart rate up by ditching the long, slow run round your local park and instead doing interval training, power yoga or something similarly sweaty.
Spice it up
While you shouldn't view this piece of news as an excuse to order a takeaway curry twice a week (although we know you always go for the low fat option), you should embrace the fact that adding fiery chillies to your meals can raise your metabolism by up to 50% for around three hours after eating. Chillies contain capsaicin, which gives them their bright red colour and, because the body expends higher levels of energy processing the compound, raises your metabolic rate. If you can't handle spicy foods, try red peppers instead, as they are also rich in capsaicin.
Eat oily fish
Protein-rich, omega-3 infused fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines may seem like the 'lighter' option on the menu, but they'll make you feel fuller for longer than carbohydrate-heavy pastas and sandwiches. And don't forget that they are high in 'good' fats, so you shouldn't worry about piling on the pounds. Oily fish like these are also high in vitamin D, which helps protect and build muscle tissue, which is more efficient than fat at keeping your metabolism firing on all cylinders.
Your wallet may take a hit, but your metabolism will only benefit when you switch to primarily buying organic foods. Research from Canada found that slimmers with the most pesticides in their fat tissue were more likely to experience disruptions to thyroid function, which in turn can lead to a sluggish metabolism. If you're worried about cost, then you don't have to buy everything in organic form. Most important are fruit and vegetables, nuts and dairy.
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