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Metabolism Untangled

The word metabolism or metabolic rate don’t need to be mysterious to you. It is a simple function of the body that help to regulate the energy you use throughout the day. To see a more in depth definition, read about it here. How can you make sure your metabolism is working for you and not against you? How does your training and diet effect your metabolic rate? What should you do long term?

Your Metabolism And Training

It is often said that raising your metabolic rate is good for you. This is because it makes you burn more calories throughout the day, thus it is easier to burn fat and gain muscle. It is also said that exercise will help to ramp up your metabolic rate, and thus make the fat fall off faster. Now these facts are true, but there are some important caveats to make sure we understand.

Cardio And Your Metabolic Rate

Does hitting the treadmill or cross trainer for a few hours per week increase your metabolic rate? What about if you are jogging a lot, maybe even training for a marathon? Unfortunately, if it is an improved metabolic condition you are looking for, this is the wrong way to go about it. Steady state cardio does nothing to improve your resting metabolic rate, therefore, the calories you burn during your jog are the only calories you will burn.

In fact, it has been shown that people who do lots of steady state cardio are more inclined to hold on to their fat as their body adapts quickly to the strain of steady state cardio. So to reiterate, long cross trainer, rowing, and jogging will do next to nothing for your metabolism.

What should you do instead? Throw out any lengthy steady state cardio and replace it with some HIIT. These are sometimes called “Metabolic Conditioning” or Metabolic Finishers. The clue is in the name, this will give you a jolt, and increase your metabolic rate. Higher rate, less fat. Simple.

Swap your jogging for HIIT

More exercise? Or Less?

So you may be thinking that if you pick exercises that burn the most calories, you will be jacking up your metabolic rate. This isn’t the right way of thinking about it. Do not focus solely on burning calories, let’s look at an example.

  • You burn 400 calories for a one hour jog.
  • You burn 250 calories for an hour of resistance training.

It may seem (in our calorie obsessed world) that jogging is the better option. But don’t be fooled. The calories burned while jogging stop as soon as you stop. With resistance training you will be raising your metabolic rate for hours to come. Not to mention your hormonal response and muscle growth will have a much better long term effect of your body composition.

Don’t just focus on calories

What type of resistance training?

You could now be tempted to take up a routine that is low rep and focuses mainly on increasing the weight on your lifts. While it is always good to get stronger, if you are trying to focus on your metabolic rate, then perhaps save it for later.

By following a more hypertrophy-centric plan you will be creating a greater metabolic stress. This is because metabolic stress is very important in the process of growing muscle. Therefore, volume over weight is the key point here. Aim to grow your muscles, and your metabolic rate will respond. A typical way to train would be a bodybuilding type program, or even a circuit based system that focuses on hypertrophy.

Focus on hypertrophy to jack up your metabolic rate

Your diet and metabolism

When you eat less

Traditional diets peddled around the world all have the same thing at heart, calorie restriction. Whilst it is true in the short term that a caloric deficit will create weight loss, over the long term it will have less and less effect. Your body will quickly adapt to this and a further reduction in calories will be needed. This is because your metabolism is slowing down. Put simply, Eating less slows your metabolism down.

When you eat more

Your body requires energy to digest food. Therefore, if you eat more, your metabolism increases. Now this is not an invitation to eat unlimited amounts of food, since you will get fat if you destroy 10 boxes of doughnuts per day. However, eating a healthy amount of food that actually fits your training routine is a must in regulating your metabolism. To sum up, Eating more increases your metabolism, to a point.

Eating And Training. All Together Now.

So, this leaves us with what we must do to make sure our metabolism is ticking over in the way we need it to be.

Most people will tell you, “Eat less and move more”. While this can be good advice to people who are severely overweight and do no exercises combined with an Oreo based diet, for the majority of people it can be a danger. Let’s take a few steps.

  • Exercise with metabolically challenging routines. HIIT, resistance training.
  • Eat enough to sustain this activity, do not actively try to cut calories.
  • Slowly reduce your calories until you hit your ideal physique.
What about the long term?

Now you will be in a position to tweak your exercise and calories for long term success and metabolic health. In essence what you will then be doing is alternating between two states that will ensure you are always making progress and keeping your metabolic rate healthy.

  1. Eat more, do more
  2. Eat less, do less.

The periodic cycling of these two phases will ensure that you don’t overtax your metabolism and cause it to backfire. If you are smart and consistent, you can make your metabolism work for you and not against you.

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