I’m not a certified nutritionist, so am always a bit reluctant to share my nutrition tips here because every person is different. That’s why my ears perked up while listening to a health podcast on the topic of boosting metabolism because the expert speaker recommended strategies that I use and see results from! The podcast was Mind Body Green and the featured guest was JJ Virgin, a certified nutrition specialist, fitness instructor, and best selling health author. A lifelong athlete, JJ really found her passion for nutrition and wellness after her a horrible hit-and-run accident left her teenage with a 2% chance of survival. Recognizing that she could not be there for his recovery unless she also took care of herself, JJ made self care a priority so she could better care for those she loved most…and it worked! Fast forward years later and she’s a wellness industry leader whose thoughts on the 4 best things for your metabolism are strategies FIT knows well. Today we share tips for implementing those practices. We provide this information in an effort to share the latest thinking in the health and wellness space. Adopting everything we discuss here is not expected and not our intention. Take or leave what you want, and please take advantage of the studies and further reading we link to. You’re encouraged to always make the choices that support your optimal mental and physical health!
Our metabolism helps our body burn fuel (i.e. what we eat and drink) to power our activities. To feel your best, you should focus on adopting habits that support optimal metabolic performance.
4 BEST WAYS TO BOOST METABOLISM
- Limit fructose consumption and frequency – A diet high in fructose (fruit sugars and high fructose corn syrup) prevents your body from using fat for fuel because the fructose presents a quicker and more readily accessible energy source. It has also been found to increase risk for cardiovascular disease and metabolic disfunction. Other editors at Honestly make fun of me because I don’t eat very much fruit and I’m always talking about the importance of low sugar recipes but JJ agrees that it’s a really important thing to watch! It’s also part of why I roll my eyes when people go crazy for pressed juices as a health cleanse because some have even more sugar than a soda! JJ explains that fructose can only be metabolized by the liver and there is a limit to how much it can process each day, so when we have too much it goes unused and turns into fat. When we consume fructose consistently throughout the day our metabolism doesn’t have to pull from other bodily sources (fat) for fuel, so we’re not utilizing stored energy in the ways our body is naturally inclined to do. This does not mean you can never eat fruit! Signs that you are consuming too much fructose can include: you cannot go 4 hours without eating or feeling very low energy, or you lose weight but not at your waist. Foods that are high in fructose and should be limited include: apples, cherries, mangoes, watermelon and pears and any juices made with these ingredients. Foods containing high fructose corn syrup should ideally be completely eliminated from your diet, here are some unsuspecting places it can get slipped in: salad dressing, bread, granola, flavored yogurt, coffee creamer, sports drinks, jam and various condiments… so check your labels!
- Get adequate sleep – When we are tired we reach for food, even if it’s not what we need. Sufficient sleep is linked to a multitude of benefits, including better immune system, mental and athletic performance, lower rates of disease, less overeating and improved mood. When you are well rested you have the energy and focus needed to stick with a healthy routine. Prepare yourself for better sleep by:
- Eliminating afternoon caffeine
- Taking melatonin supplements
- No TV, cell phone or screen time for the 1 hour prior to bed
- Drinking herbal tea (chamomile, peppermint, lavender and ginger are heavy in my rotation)
- Setting your technology to emit a warm light and start dimming when it’s time to tuck in for the day.
- HIIT Workouts- Many folks incorrectly assume that blasting calories with cardio will get them where they want to be, but endless amounts of cardio can end up burning off your muscles and make you hate exercise. To set your metabolism up to effectively use fuel even when you’re not in the middle of a workout, an exercise regime that combines strength work with explosive cardio movements will serve you best. That is where High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) becomes ideal. Read our post about its benefits, why we love HIIT and what to expect from a class!
- Intermittent Fasting – Like many other wellness experts, JJ is a proponent of having an extended fast every night for 12 hours (min) to 16 (max) hours. Scientific studies have found it reduces oxidative damage and inflammation, optimizes energy and bolsters cellular health. Our wellness editor Grace practices IF regularly and shares the below tips on making it work for you in a safe and realistic way. Please note that IF is not for everyone and not necessary to be a healthy person!
- FYI: Intermittent Fasting (IF) is the practice of occasionally entering a fasted state. The beauty of this practice is in its very name: it’s intermittent and not super intense! Done correctly, IF can result in increased focus and energy, improved mind-body connection, fat loss, and reduced inflammation. After 6-8 hours of entering a fasted state, your body has burned up all of the glucose (quick, readily available energy) in your system. Subsequently, it burns up the glycogen stored in muscles, then turns to fat as its source of energy (which is most pronounced around 18 hours, but you can still get benefits from a 12 hour overnight fast). In today’s world of readily available refined carbs, our bodies are rarely required to move past the glucose and glycogen burning phases. Thus, by engaging in the occasional fast, we allow our bodies to tap into our natural energy stores, and burn fat for fuel.
- Stay Hydrated and Go All Out With The Teas: This is especially important during the beginning when you’re getting used to IF.
- Remember these Principles: Be kind to yourself! Especially if you’re trying an intermittent fasting regime for the first time. And if something doesn’t feel right, listen to your body and stop.
- Stick to your balanced diet! This is key, as many don’t realize the benefits of fasting because they over indulge on non-fast days.
- Be sure to incorporate plenty of healthy fats to feel satiated.
- Lee From America wrote an in-depth post about her IF fasting habits that is a great read if you’re curious about the benefit, process and impacts.
Other metabolism boost tips:
- Drink more water!!
- Check to make sure your thyroid is working.
- Understand how certain foods make you feel by consistently keeping a Food Journal.
Image by Andrea Posadas for HonestlyFIT