Do you ever find yourself jealous of that one friend because they’re able to seemingly eat tons of food without gaining any weight? Chances are, that person has a very high basal metabolic rate (BMR). This person may also be active and partake in some exercise as well, but BMR is responsible for around 70% of your daily calorie burn (for most people). BMR is also referred to as metabolic rate or metabolism. It’s simply how many calories per day you burn just by existing. It’s highly genetic, but can certainly be manipulated through lifestyle changes. Unfortunately, if you’ve tried a handful of fad diets or chronically utilized cardio in order to lose weight, you’ve unintentionally shot yourself on the foot and slowed down your metabolic rate.
Yes, doing cardio and eating less will lead to weight loss. But this weight loss will be in the form of fat and muscle, and you’ll be left eating very few calories and moving and exercising an unsustainable amount because your metabolism is so slow. Human nature must be taken into account when prescribing weight loss plans, and it’s unrealistic to expect someone to just continue to reduce calories and increase their movement forever. A “metabolism building” approach is more sustainable and will result in better long term success.
Wouldn't you like to eat more than you do now and still have the ability to lose fat and improve your physique? Seems too good to be true, and many close-minded trainers may tell you it is. But you absolutely can speed up your metabolism, it just takes consistency and trust in the process. You must have the ability to not panic when you don’t see the scale move in the right direction daily (because if you’re doing it right, it wont). Like anything in life that ends in success, you must learn to delay instant gratification (losing weight on the scale daily) and focus on the process and long term goal.
It’s quite simple to speed up your metabolism, but depending on where you are now, may not be easy, nor is it a quick fix. There are only 3 major steps you’ll have to follow in order to speed up your metabolism. They may seem counterintuitive, but I can assure you that these procedures have worked for thousands of people.
The process is essentially a “reverse diet”, which is a bodybuilding term for slowly increasing your calories after a drastic reduction (like getting ready for a physique contest) in order to minimize fat regain, put on lean muscle, and most importantly, speed the metabolic rate back up (so they’re not eating 900 calories a day for the rest of their lives). Although you’re likely not a bodybuilder or physique athlete, you too can use the same techniques they do.
Even if you already have a fast metabolism, you can still follow this process to make it even faster! Look at your metabolism like insurance. The current state of the world is working against us in our goals to be lean and healthy. Food is abundant, convenient and delicious. Being able to burn more calories each day is advantageous to anyone.
Step 1 - Lift Weights
Lifting weights (or any type of resistance training) will send a signal to your body to build new lean tissue (muscle). Because step 2 involves an increase in calories, executing step 1 is a must. If you increase your calories without following a solid weight training program, the new tissue you add will inevitably be fat. However, if you increase your muscle mass, your body will require more calories just to exist, and even more calories to build more muscle tissue. How much resistance training should you be doing? Training your whole body 2 times per week can go a long way in sending this signal to your body. You could either do full body workouts twice a week, or train the upper body and lower body separately 3 to 4 times per week. My Kickstart program is perfect for this. How much does your BMR increase from weight training, you may ask? According to this study, in 24 weeks of resistance training, the men involved had a 9% increase in BMR and the women a 4% increase. While this sounds minor (it’s the difference of 140 cals/day for men, and 50 for women), you must remember that this is only in 24 weeks. If you continue to train consistently and eat right, you could be speeding up your metabolism by 200-300 calories per year! Remember when I said this wasn't a quick fix? If you can be patient, you’ll soon be able to eat more and more while simultaneously losing body fat.
Step 2 - Increase Your Calories
I know, this sounds crazy right? Well in order to increase your metabolic rate, you’re going to have to eventually increase your calories so your body can adapt to a higher intake. This step is the biggest mental hurdle that most people will need to negotiate. It’s tough to add calories to your diet when all you want to do is lose body fat. Many people have daily calorie intakes in the low 1,000’s, and that’s with spending a few hours a week doing cardio (more on cardio in step 3). This is an unsustainable and unhealthy way to live long term. For 99% of people, even those with the strongest willpower, burnout and rebound weight gain is inevitable. Now, I’m not telling you to double your calories tomorrow and hope for the best. This is a process, and a slow and methodical one. As a general rule, you’ll increase your daily calories by 50-100 per week until you’ve reached an intake that you’re comfortable with. For example, of you’re eating 1500 calories per day, increase it to 1600 per day for an entire week. The following week you may increase 50-100 calories and so on. As for how many calories you should get to before you begin to reduce, this is also highly individual and will depend on many factors including your body size and gender. Generally speaking, women can realistically cut from a daily intake of 2,000 to 2,200. For men, 2800-3,000 is a good starting point. Although you may initially gain some weight following this procedure, eventually your metabolism will increase (as long as you’re following step 1 consistently) and you’ll be adding solely muscle mass, and not body fat. If you find yourself gaining more than 1 pound per week in the first couple of weeks, you're likely either adding too many calories too soon, or you're not sending the right muscle building signal to your body. Once you've spent several weeks or even months (depending on your current situation) slowly increasing calories, you'll reach a point where you're adequately satiated by your daily food intake and the scale weight will either stay consistent or even begin drop. This is the perfect place to be because from here, you’ll be in a much better position to cut calories slowly and really begin to change your physique.
Step 3 - Stop Relying on Manual Calorie Burn A.K.A. Cardio
I’m not telling you to completely cut out cardio. If cardio helps you stay mentally healthy, keep it up! However, if you really want to maximize the effects of building muscle and increasing your calorie intake, your best bet is to minimize cardio, at least for the time being. Cardio, although very healthy for your heart, lungs, and brain, sends the exact opposite signal to your body as resistance training. Cardio tells your body to stop trying to build, and start trying to conserve. The more cardio you do, the more efficient your body will be. More efficiency as it pertains to metabolism is not what you’re looking for. So when you begin your metabolism building journey, if you can limit cardio to, at most, half the time you spend resistance training per week, you’re setting yourself up for success down the road. So if you lift weights for 3 hours per week, you’ll limit cardio to 90 minutes. Walking, however, is different in how it affects the body. I highly encourage you to walk as much as you’d like. You’ll still get the mental and physical benefits of cardio without interfering with your execution of step 1 and 2.
In order to speed up your metabolism, you need to lift weights, eat a little bit more each week than you currently do, and stop relying on cardio to burn more calories each day. Being patient and accepting that this is not a quick fix, but a long term solution, will lead to greater success.
How long will it take for your metabolism to increase? This is highly individual and will depend on many factors. If you’re in a place where you’ve yo-yo dieted for years and even decades unsuccessfully, this will likely take longer. But if you can just trust the process and be consistent, eventually you’ll be burning calories at a higher rate than you ever have and you won't have to suffer from the disappointment of another unsuccessful fat loss diet.
I’d love to hear your feedback on this blog post. What are your biggest hurdles when it comes to losing weight? Also, if you need help or more information on how to get started, feel free to reach out to me via direct message or email and I’d love to give you some more tips and tricks.
Thank you for reading, and Happy New Year!