Metabolism: How to Keep Your Fires Burning

You know that you must burn more calories than you consume to lose weight, but what's with this “burning” stuff? Are we really igniting those beef burritos inside our bellies?

No, although depending upon where you bought that burrito, it might feel that way. We use “burning” as a metaphor for our metabolism, which is the overarching process wherein our bodies break down food molecules to produce energy. You probably don't think much about your metabolism, worrying instead about just eating right and letting your biochemistry handle the rest. But if you pay a little bit of attention to how your body “burns”

For example, try to eat your meals at roughly the same times each day. Small and frequent meals with nearly similar timings each day helps keep your metabolism high, and a high metabolism is what you strive for if your intent is to lose weight. Instead of three “regular” meals daily, try five smaller ones. The longer gaps between the three meals cause your body's metabolism to slow and conserve energy. The shorter gaps between five meals keeps your metabolic fires stoked.

Understand that your body needs to work harder to digest foods with a low glycemic index (GI), and that harder work translates into a higher metabolism. Some low glycemic foods include whole wheat, green vegetables, poultry, lean meat and fish. Try to avoid high GI foods, such as fruit juices, refined flour, potatoes and sweets.

Eat breakfast, and don't skimp on the proteins. People who skip breakfast because they “don't have enough time” or “just aren't hungry” will slow their metabolism; their bodies will conserve energy at a time when the maximum amount of calories should be burnt. Worse, they are then likely to overeat for their next meal because they will be hungry. Proteins are key, because they increase lean body mass, and that raises your metabolic rate.

Stress, in addition to a whole host of other problems it can introduce, slows down your metabolism when it is prolonged. A bit of short-term stress may help us to focus and get a job done, but over time stress causes out body to produce more insulin and cortisol, both of which accelerate our fat storage.

Drink fluids, especially water. Again, insufficient fluid intake slows down your metabolic rate. Your body, already 75 percent water, needs fluids in order to carry out the myriad chemical processes involved in creating energy.