For the most part, we are all born with a metabolic rate that suits our body and disposition. Some people are naturally fast burners, and some are naturally slower burners, but that doesn’t mean we have zero control. We do have some authority over the rate at which we metabolize food and use it for fuel. Here, we look at some key ways to access that power.
Shauna Faulisi is a celebrity wellness chef and holistic nutritionist, so she’s no novice to the art of balance via food and lifestyle. She was frank with us, debunking common diet practices as well as helping us better understand some recently popularized practices and how they work for our body. First things first: a healthy, comfortable metabolic rate for your body is finding your groove with food and staying on it.
Eat an appropriate amount, and make sure you get protein.
Shauna kicked off with the fact that “contrary to popular belief, frequently eating throughout the day is not helpful to your metabolism.” While eating five or six small meals a day is a fad that had its time in the limelight, it doesn’t give your body the break it needs to digest and utilize nutrients. “Grazing throughout the day means your body is constantly releasing insulin, the fat-storing hormone. When you give your body time to rest between meals, it allows the body to use its stored-up fat energy for fuel.”
Shauna explains that this also means the body will become less dependant on carbs for fuel, which allows your blood sugar to stay steady. This results in less cravings, “better energy, mental clarity, and a sense of control.” Steady blood sugar supports an efficient metabolism, so address that early on.
However, this doesn’t just mean you should eat whatever you feel like. While you’ll have fewer cravings, namely for things like sugar and processed crap, it’s still important to be mindful of your macros—carbs, fiber, protein— so that you feel full for an appropriate amount of time. Being hungry all the time doesn’t necessarily mean that your metabolism is high, so Shauna strongly endorses eating well-portioned meals that fill you up and help you to feel satisfied.
Shauna’s rule of thumb? “Fill the majority of your plate up with above-ground vegetables, four to six ounces of protein, and anti-inflammatory fats like extra virgin olive oil and avocado. Keep your protein intake up—it has a great thermic effect in the body that causes metabolism to ramp up.”
Remember that little note about maintaining steady blood sugar so your metabolism can function properly? Well, that tracks (it’s important to note that skipping meals is not the same as thoughtfully planned out intermittent fasting). “When you skip meals, you actually allow the body to dip into its protein—aka, the muscles—for fuel.” So, not eating lunch when your body is asking for fuel isn’t going to strategically pull from that soft pocket of fat in your inner thighs like you’re hoping. In fact, it may make your body hang onto it for dear life. When you trick your body into worrying that it might not get fuel for a while, your metabolic rate slows down, so you hang onto your calories longer in case you need them for an emergency. That means your fat stores will be the last to go. It’s a survival thing.
Don’t be afraid to do some heavy lifting.
Shauna is also a big proponent of weight-training and HIIT. “If you’re trying to increase your metabolic rate, then taking care of your muscles is going to give you a big bang for your buck.” Yoga, pilates, isometric exercises, and low-impact training absolutely have their place, but don’t be afraid to mix it up, go hard, and push yourself.
She explains that using resistance training to build muscle in the body goes a long way for your metabolism. “Lifting weights raises your metabolism long after you’re finished with the workout. Don’t be afraid of weights! You won’t get bulky, you’ll feel grounded and centered, and you’ll notice a big difference in your energy and the way your body and metabolism function.”
It’s not always easy to know where to start with weight lifting, so Shauna suggests aiming for interval training rather than a long, steady state of cardio. Similar to a car, you body burns way more when it accelerates to the max than it does on a steady burn.
Try cold exposure and heat therapy.
When we think of stress, we think of the danger zone for our health and well-being. But there are different kinds of stress, and the shock of environmental stress (like temperature) is actually really good for us.
Many studies (like this one) suggest that cold water immersion has a pretty consistent effect on raising the metabolic rate in humans. If immersing yourself in cold water seems daunting or maybe not very accessible, a rinse in the shower will do. Like us, Shauna is a huge fan of alternating hot and cold water in the shower. You can start with smaller spurts of cold water and work your way up. Just remember, it’s always a good idea to end on cold.
On the other end of the homeostasis spectrum, heat is another way to boost your metabolic rate. A hot, relaxing, salty bath or a sit in the sauna can purge your pores while boosting your metabolism. So, treat yourself!
Our hormones hang in a delicate balance and yet control every single aspect of the body, and it’s easy for poor sleep to disrupt important factors like blood sugar. Because Shauna’s approach is completely holistic, she knows that making sleep a priority is crucial in the steadying of your metabolic rate. Have you ever had a late night of work, or too many cocktails, or a very poor snack decision in the wee hours of the morning—and still woken up starving? Shauna explains that “when we don’t get enough sleep, our hunger hormone ghrelin raises, hence why we feel so ravenous!” Getting enough sleep is the best way to take care of yourself and your metabolism—so start tonight!