With Spring officially here (at least according to the calendar, if not yet the weather), there’s a certain level of excitement to ditching the winter clothing and getting your mojo going for the sunny season. Here are five sure-fire ways to boost your body’s thermogenic rate so you can burn more calories and get your metabolism working like a fine oiled machine.
Kick your thyroid into gear: The thyroid controls the metabolic rate of every single cell in the body and also maintains body temperature. Without enough thyroid hormone, all our bodily functions slow down; we feel tired and lethargic, gain weight, experience constipation, feel cold and are prone to depression.
What causes too little thyroid hormone? Nutritional deficiencies, for one; they may prevent the proper manufacture or function of thyroid hormone in the body. Many individuals with decreased thyroid hormone levels have a zinc deficiency. Both low iron and low vitamin D levels will also contribute to reduced thyroid levels. And iodine and tyrosine are necessary for the formation of thyroid hormone, while selenium is necessary for its normal function.
Bottom line: Ensure that you are taking a comprehensive multivitamin daily (or getting enough vitamins in your diet) to avoid any deficiencies. You may also want to top up your levels of tyrosine (500–1000 milligrams per day is recommended, though those with high blood pressure should avoid it), vitamin D (4,000–5,000 iu daily, with breakfast) and zinc (15 milligrams per day), especially in the winter.
Feed your stomach fat-burning foods: While it sounds high tech and scientific, thermic or “thermogenic” foods are simply those that heat you up and raise your metabolism. The thermic effect happens as your body burns calories by digesting and absorbing the food. Yes—even the very act of eating stimulates your metabolism, especially when you consume protein, which has the highest thermic effect of any food group. In general, the typical thermic effect of protein is 20% to 35% of energy consumed; for carbs, this usually falls between 5% and 15%. That’s quite a difference!
Cruciferous veggies, (such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower) also burn calories in the digestion process. Certain spices and condiments—such as cayenne, mustard and hot salsa—will also keep your metabolism revved up. One recent study found that ginger consumption enhanced the thermic effect of food and promoted feelings of fullness in overweight men. On the opposite spectrum, here’s another great reason to opt for whole foods versus processed foods – they’re associated with a 50% decrease in post-meal energy expenditure.
Get things revving in the gym. There’s another metabolic benefit of protein: Eating it helps support metabolically active muscle growth, especially if you are using strength training. That’s right—strength training helps to increase the thermic effect. A study published in the Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise Journal found the thermic effect of the same meal was 73% greater after even a single bout of resistance training. This certainly helps illustrate why strength training is so important for optimal calorie burning. So keep this in mind – if you have more muscle your resting metabolic rate is higher, which means you burn more calories at rest. Those who are do regular cardio also burn more calories after eating, particularly after a large meal, due to increased aerobic capacity (known as VO2 max).
Love your liver: While muscle is your primary fat-burning tissue, your liver is your master fat-burning organ. Compromised liver function not only interferes with the body’s ability to burn fat, but it also hinders the elimination of toxins. To keep your liver healthy be sure to get in eight glasses of water a day (preferably from an alkaline filter), adding freshly squeezed lemon for a cleansing effect, along with a dash of cayenne pepper for an enhanced thermic effect. For best results, you can also add a liver support product from your health food store that includes any combination of these nutrients: Artichoke extract, milk thistle, cysteine, methionine, curcumin and N-Acetyl-Cysteine (NAC). Since both alcohol and many medications (such as Tylenol) are processed through the liver, keep these to a minimum when possible.