Metabolism (or the metabolic rate) is the amount of calories your body uses to fuel all vital functions (breathing, blood pressure, and brain activity). These calories are obtained from macronutrients (carbohydrates, fat and protein) housed in the foods you eat. Your metabolism is affected by numerous factors, which collectively determine your body weight. If your health and fitness goals are centered on losing weight it’s important to understand the critical role that your metabolism plays.

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Metabolism Dictates the Rate of Weight Loss

Your metabolism largely affects your ability to lose weight. The higher your metabolism, the more calories you’ll burn at rest and during everyday physical activities. The metabolic rate is for the most part determined by genetics. Some people are predisposed to having a high metabolism while others are burdened with a metabolic rate that’s naturally sluggish.

Unfortunately, there’s really not much you can do to control your genetic makeup. If your metabolic rate is high managing your body weight is a simple process whether you regularly eat wholesome salads or chilidogs and regardless of whether or not you exercise. On the flip side, folks with lower metabolic rates (including myself) can just think about a piece of cake and gain weight.

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Muscle Mass Greatly Influences Metabolism

Your total body weight is largely comprised of fat and lean mass (bone, muscle and organs), which is collectively known as your body composition. Muscle mass is very closely related to metabolism. The more muscle you have, the higher your metabolic rate tends to be at rest and during any types of physical activity. Differences in muscle mass is one of the reasons why women usually have lower metabolic rates than men. Men are just naturally leaner than women.

Interestingly enough, the decline in metabolism that starts in the thirties is also largely dependent on simultaneous declines in muscle mass. These changes make it much easier to gain weight (fat mass), even if you were lean all your life (click here to learn more). During these critical years, everyone’s metabolic rate starts to decline and genetics no longer matter.

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How to Boost Metabolism for Weight Loss

Without a doubt, having a high metabolic rate can greatly enhance your weight loss efforts. While you can’t reverse a naturally low metabolic rate, you can definitely start implementing specific strategies to kick your metabolism into high gear. Here are five strategies that are especially effective.

1. Implementing Regular Resistance Training

Due to its muscle preservation and building effects, regular resistance (weight) training can significantly elevate the metabolic rate. In fact, just one moderate- to high-intensity weight training session can boost your metabolic rate for up to 12 hours. When your metabolic rate is elevated, you’ll burn more calories during any given activity, even at rest.

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2. Engaging in High-Intensity Cardio Exercise

Performing moderate levels of cardiovascular (cardio) exercise can substantially jump-start your metabolism but doing so at higher intensities keeps it elevated for several hours afterwards. High-intensity cardio exercise also affects your hormones in such a way that beneficially curbs appetite for hours at a time. For maximal results, perform at least 30-45 minutes of high-intensity cardio exercise 3-5 days each week.

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3. Eating Protein-Rich Foods

The simple act of digesting protein can temporarily raise your metabolic rate by as much as 35%. Regular intake of protein is also necessary for burning fat efficiently and maintaining muscle mass, which plays a critical role in metabolism and weight management. You can get an adequate supply of high-quality protein from healthy food sources like fish, poultry, lean meats, eggs, low-fat dairy and whole soy products.

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4. Drinking Moderate Amounts of Coffee or Tea

Caffeine is a natural stimulant that can greatly increase your metabolic rate for up to 3 hours after consumption. It also enhances your body’s ability to burn fat, which can ultimately speed up weight loss. Consuming caffeine in the form of coffee or tea has added health benefits. You can reap the full benefits of coffee or tea by drinking as little as two 6-8-ounce cups per day.

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5. Adding Spices to Your Foods

Spicy foods like hot peppers contain a natural chemical called capsaicin, which can cause dramatic spikes in metabolism. In fact, eating red hot peppers has been shown to increase the metabolic rate by over 20% immediately after ingestion. Adding hot pepper varieties to meals can also help curb your appetite helping you to eat less, which further promotes weight loss.

By implementing these five tips you can greatly boost your metabolic rate for maximum weight loss. Now, it’s also important to understand that when you lose weight, your metabolic rate will likely decrease because fewer calories are required to sustain vital functions in a smaller body. This holds true especially if you lose a large amount of weight (over 50 pounds).

As such, if you continue to consume what you were burning (in calories) at your previous metabolic rate you will regain weight over time.

To avoid weight regain after weight loss, it’s crucial to continuously monitor changes in your metabolic rate to ensure that you never take in more calories than you’re burning on a day-to-day basis. You can do this either by using a free online calculator for an estimate of your metabolic rate or by having it directly measured by a health/fitness professional.

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