From chocolates to mince pies to another couple of those pigs in blankets... With the festive season comes the constant flow of alluring Christmas treats to hand. But what if you could fire up your body's calorie-burning capacity, boosting your metabolism in the process so that you needn't worry too much about gaining weight through the fun, food-filled holiday?
Although many of us accept putting on a few pounds as a given extra, recent research shows that if we understood more about our metabolism, we could use it to help us burn calories faster.
When it comes to weight, it's all about supply and demand, a balance between the energy you consume and what you use. Much has been written about the types of foods we should be eating to stay healthy, as well as those we should avoid, and we all know the importance of exercise in calorie burning. But what about the metabolic factor?
Your BMR (Body Metabolic Rate) accounts for between 60 and 70 per cent of your total energy expenditure and, the higher your BMR, the more energy you can consume without putting on weight. However, your metabolic rate is never constant – yo-yo dieting, lack of exercise and the simple passage of time can all lower your body’s basic energy requirements.
Factors that play a role in determining your BMR include:
Bad news if you have been blaming your weight gain on a 'slow metabolism' as the truth is the more you weigh, the higher your metabolic rate will be, simply because it takes more energy for a larger body to function.
BMR decreases with age, and after you turn 40 drops between two per cent and five per cent each decade.
YOUR BODY COMPOSITION
This is the ratio of lean muscle to fat. Every pound of muscle burns 35 calories per day, while every pound of fat burns just two calories per day, so the more muscle you have the higher your BMR will be.
Men have a higher BMR than women, because typically they have more muscle.
Your BMR can go up as well as down and there are a number of ways to increase it:
Working out can boost your metabolism by ten per cent – not only during the exercise session itself, but also for at least a few hours afterwards. Exercise also helps to build muscle which, in the long term, burns yet more calories. The Department of Health recommends that adults should do at least 30 minutes of physical exercise, of moderate intensity, on five or more days of the week.
EAT LITTLE AND OFTEN
Digesting and absorbing food actually burns calories in a process, perhaps accounting for between five and ten per cent of your daily energy expenditure. Some studies have found that eating smaller, more frequent meals rather than the traditional three a day helps to keep your metabolic rate higher.
UP YOUR CALCIUM INTAKE
Research has shown that eating more calcium can help your body burn fat and so boost your metabolic rate. One study at the University of Tennessee concluded that dairy calcium plays a role in the way fat cells function, preventing them from storing excess fat and leaving them free to be metabolised by the body. It is also thought that calcium may act as a mild appetite suppressant..
TURN DOWN THE HEATING
External temperature affects your energy output, simply because your body uses extra calories to keep itself warm. So turn down that thermostat a degree or two.