Exercise is a big part of boosting your metabolism and burning calories.
Unless you’re born with one of those unusually active metabolisms, which allows you to eat thousands of calories a day without gaining weight, you’re like the vast majority of us who need to give our metabolisms a bit of a kick.
Cardiovascular (aerobic) exercise is an important part of boosting your metabolism. Increasing your heart rate, blood circulation, body temperature, and oxygen intake/carbon dioxide exchange, all send messages to your metabolic system to initiate catabolism (breaking down cells and using them for energy).
Many people, especially women, are very leery about an exercise regimen that can lead to muscle building. There is a perception that muscle building leads to muscle bulking, and before long, they'll look like a body builder.
Provided that women aren’t supplementing their workouts with specific muscle-building supplements, there is no need to be concerned, because building lean muscle won’t make them bulk up.
But why worry about building muscle in the first place?
Because a pound of muscle burns more calories than a pound of fat. So the more muscle you have, the more calories you'll burn. You don’t even have to do anything. You’ll simply burn more calories, because muscle requires more of an energy investment.
But if you build muscle and then leave it without exercise, over time, the muscle fibers weaken and you’ll lose that wonderful calorie-burning factory.
The basic weight loss principle behind exercise is catabolism.
Essentially, if you can engineer your body to require more energy, your body will comply by breaking cells down to deliver it. And the process of metabolism burns calories.
So based on that logic, interval training fits in with the overall plan. Interval training is simply adding a high-energy burning component to your exercise plan on an infrequent, or interval, basis.
For example, if you can jog for 20 minutes every other day, you're boosting your metabolism and burning calories/energy. But you can actually burn disproportionately more calories if, during that 20 minute jog, you add a 30 second or 1 minute sprint.
Why? Because during this 30 seconds or 1 minute, you give your body a bit of a jolt.
Not an unhealthy jolt, but enough that your body has to turn things up a notch. And to compensate for your extra energy requirements, the body will burn more calories.
Interval training only works when it’s at intervals. The metabolism-boosting benefits you enjoy as a result of interval training are primarily due to the fact that your body suddenly, needs to find more energy.
While it was chugging along and supplying your energy needs during your cardiovascular exercise, it all of a sudden needs to grab some more for 30 seconds or a minute; and in that period, it will boost your metabolism even further.
If you decided to extend your 30 second or 1 minute sprint into a 20 minute sprint, you simply wouldn’t experience all of the benefits.
Yes, your body would use more energy if you extend yourself to the higher range of your aerobic training zone. But your body won’t necessarily get that jolt that only comes from interval training.
So remember: your goal with interval training is to give your body a healthy jolt where it suddenly says to itself:
“Whoa! We need more energy here fast, this person has increased their heart rate from 180 beats per minute to 190 beats per minute. Let’s go to any available cell, like those fat cells down at the waist, and break them down via catabolism so this person can get the energy that they need.”
Interval training can last longer than 30 seconds or a minute. Some experts suggest that you can use interval training for 30-40 minutes, depending on your state of health and what your overall exercise regimen looks like.
The reason we’re focusing on 30 seconds to 1 minute is simply to give you a clear understanding that interval training is a kind of mini training within a training program.
And, as always, don’t overdo it with your interval training. Your goal here is to become healthier and stronger, and lose weight in that process.
You gain nothing if you run so fast or bike so hard during interval training that you hurt yourself. You will actually undermine your own health, and possibly have to stop exercising while torn muscles or other ailments heal.
There are a few easy ways to add variety to your exercise program. In addition to interval training, you can break up a longer routine into smaller parts.
For example, instead of committing to 1x1 hour workout a day, it can be split into 2x30 minute workouts; or even, 3x20 minute workouts.
You can also work in additional exercise into your daily routine by doing things like taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Or starting your day with a brisk walk instead of a coffee and the newspaper. Instead of parking close to the entrance of a building, park as far away as possible and walk.
All of these tips provide two metabolism-boosting benefits.
First, they can make exercising more fun. While it’s important to have an exercise routine, you don’t want to have a boring exercise routine, because then your chances of stopping are that much greater.
So adding these new elements to your overall exercise commitment simply helps encourage you to stick with the program. And since exercising is a core part of boosting your metabolism, any technique or tip that helps you continue exercising over the long term is a wise piece of advice.
The second important benefit of variety in your exercise program leads us back to the interval training concept, discussed above.
When you add variety to your workout, your body cannot get into a groove. Remember, the body is a remarkable piece of work, and will always strive to do things efficiently.
Naturally, the overall state of your health, which can be influenced by genetics and other factors outside of your control, will play a role in how efficiently your body runs.
But regardless of how your body is put together, it wants to do things as efficiently as it possibly can. So when you start exercising, your body develops an expectation of energy output. It’s not doing this to be lazy, it’s doing this because it's efficient. If your body starts to predict that you need a certain amount of energy to complete a 20 minute jog, but then you jog for 2 minutes, followed by 5 minutes of walking, 2 minutes of jogging and 1 minute of sprinting, your body may require a great deal more energy to help you achieve this.
As a result, you may find yourself very out of breath or tired as your body strives to meet this increased demand. Naturally, catabolism will be involved and your body metabolism will increase.
But over time, maybe a month or so, your body will simply become more efficient. It will become stronger, and will be able to supply your energy needs much more efficiently. Your health has improved and your body has to work less to provide you with your energy needs.
Ironically, this can actually obscure your metabolism-boosting efforts, because you want your body to start the catabolism process, but if your body is efficiently working, it won’t dig into its reserves (e.g. fat cells) in order to provide you with the energy you need.
So the trick is to keep variety in your workouts. Many people choose to cross-train. It targets different muscle groups, but it keeps your body from finding a groove whereby it tried to help you by slowing down your metabolism.
Remember, your body doesn’t read books like this. It doesn’t need to, and it doesn’t care. It has no clue that a speedier metabolism is “good” or “bad”.
Balancing work, family, hobbies, and other commitments often means that our lifestyle isn’t so much a choice, as it is a necessity, but we can do little things that help speed up our metabolism.