While every athlete needs adequate nutrition, there’s no such thing as a nutrition plan that will work for everyone. From keto and paleo to low-fat and low-carb diets, there are so many nutritional plans out there that claim to benefit or reset your metabolism.
Since each person’s body is different, knowing the right breakdown of macronutrients — carbs, fat, and protein — for your unique body type is important.
Here are some general nutrition guidelines to help maintain a healthy metabolism. Then work with one of our trainers for more individualized assistance with nutrition, exercise, and a personalized plan that can work for your body!
What Is Metabolism?
First, a couple of helpful definitions:
- Metabolism: the process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy.
- Metabolic Rate: the rate at which your body uses energy while you’re at rest.
Before we get into how proper nutrition can affect your metabolism, we need to take a moment to talk about the m-word. For most of us, the word “metabolism” brings to mind one thing: the number on the scale and how many calories we can eat without making that number go up.
You’ve also probably heard someone complain about having a slow metabolism and how it has caused them to gain weight, or the reverse, where someone says they can eat anything they want due to their high metabolism.
While it’s true that some people are born with a faster metabolic rate than others, scientists haven’t really figured out why it varies so much from person to person. They also tend to disagree on the extent to which our metabolic rates and genes affect weight gain and obesity.
You can read study after study and find conflicting results about those topics, but for now, let’s focus on the things that are generally accepted about metabolism.
How Your Body Burns Energy
There are three main ways your body burns energy (calories) each day: energy used for your body's basic functioning while at rest, energy used to break down food (also known as the thermic effect of food), and energy used in physical activity.
The faster your metabolic rate, the more calories you burn and the easier it is to maintain your weight or get rid of unwanted body fat.
Factors Affecting Your Metabolism
Numerous factors can affect your metabolism, including age, gender, muscle mass, body size, body fat, environmental temperature, drugs, physical activity, hormones, and more.
Benefits of a Healthy Metabolism
A healthy metabolism can not only help you burn fat and maintain your weight, but it can also give you more energy, help you sleep better, and make you feel better overall.
Natural Metabolism Fluctuation
Your metabolism is in a constant state of flux. It changes throughout the day and throughout the years of your life.
The last one is really important — your metabolism is constantly changing, and food is one thing that affects it daily.
By staying active, consuming proper nutrition, and making healthy choices for your body (like getting enough sleep and avoiding emotional eating), you can help offset the changes in your metabolic rate and possibly even boost it.
For today, let’s dive into the nutritional aspect.
The Wellness Triangle
You may have heard of the wellness triangle. This is a concept that includes three factors: fitness, nutrition, and mindset. These three factors are vital to lose weight, get stronger, and improve your general health.
The reason behind the triangle is that all three factors support each other to form a complete set. Without one, your efforts might not be as astounding as you expect. That’s why it is important to focus on all three when starting a fitness journey.
How Proper Nutrition Promotes a Healthy Metabolism
There’s no “quick fix” when it comes to metabolism; as we covered, it’s a complex process that scientists don’t even completely understand. That being said, food does affect your metabolism every time you eat (or don’t eat), so why not do everything you can to try to make it work in your favor?
When we are talking about changing your metabolism with nutrition, we are not necessarily talking about specific foods. Remember, each person’s body is unique, so there’s no secret list of foods that could help us all speed up our metabolism for weight loss.
Sure, certain foods are known to boost your metabolic rate a little (things like coffee, chili, and certain spices), but the difference is so small it won’t really have a big impact. So what are we talking about?
Lifestyle changes! Scientists may not have the whole puzzle figured out, but research has shown correlations between nutrition, eating habits, and metabolism.
At Envision Fitness, we’ve witnessed first-hand how the methods listed below help our athletes learn discipline and reach their goals, whether they want to lose weight, increase muscle, or boost athletic performance. Check out some additional tips for improving your exercise and nutrition.
1. Stay Hydrated
Drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water daily, starting first thing in the morning. By drinking a glass of water soon after you get up, you are waking up your metabolism and creating a favorable environment in your body for nutrients to be absorbed.
Some researchers also believe that drinking water can help promote lipolysis, which is the breakdown of fats and other lipids.
2. Eat Breakfast Every Day
It’s called the most important meal of the day for a reason, so don’t skip breakfast! When we skip a meal, our bodies go into “starvation mode,” and our metabolism slows down.
Instead, rev up your metabolism in the morning with a balanced breakfast. You should eat a high-protein breakfast every day within 30 minutes of waking up to help fuel your body for each day’s events.
After a full night of sleep, your body requires a dose of nutrients to get the day going and rev up your metabolism. But when you skip out on breakfast, you might be more prone to making less-than-healthy food choices later in the day.
3. Increase Your Protein Intake
No secret here. You’ve likely seen those giant tubs of protein powder at your local health food store or heard fit people talking about their daily protein shakes. That’s because your body needs protein to maintain lean muscle.
And the more lean muscle mass you have, the higher your metabolism is at rest — meaning you’ll burn more calories even when you’re not working out. Protein also helps to regulate blood glucose levels!
4. Eat More Vitamin & Mineral-Rich Foods
Iron, Calcium, Vitamin D, Vitamin B, and Magnesium are just a few of the vitamins and minerals that can help promote a healthy metabolism. You’ll find them in foods like nuts, lean meats, beans, leafy greens, fish, melon, broccoli, and eggs.
When you sign up for nutrition coaching at Envision Fitness, we can ensure your weekly meal plan incorporates the necessary vitamins and minerals.
5. Limit Alcohol
Sorry to be a party pooper, but not only is alcohol full of empty calories but can also affect your metabolism. When you have a drink, you burn less fat because your body uses alcohol as fuel instead.
If and when you do drink, avoid sugary mixers, and try to be mindful about portion sizes: a serving of beer is 12 ounces, wine is 5 ounces, and liquor is 1.5 ounces.
6. Weekly Meal & Snack Prep
When you’re trying to maintain a healthy diet and a hectic schedule, a little bit of preparation goes a long way toward helping you hit your goals. But don’t think you have to eat boring meals out of Tupperware all week long!
Rather, you can prep meals using foods you actually enjoy, and you’ll be much more likely to stick to your healthy eating goals. Consider batch prepping one day out of the week (weekends work well for this) so you have a few dishes you enjoy already cooked and ready to eat.
Simply decide on two to four healthy dishes you can see yourself eating for the week ahead and prepare a large batch of each one. To ensure your meals stay fresh, consider popping them in the freezer and thawing them as needed.
There are a ton of healthy options here, including:
- Roasted sweet potato bowls or taco bowls
- Pre-made breakfast bowls
- One-pot meals
- Pasta bowls
- Hearty soups
- Large batches of beans, grains, and tubers
The same idea applies to snack prep. One day per week, prepare several grab-and-go, healthy snacks that you easily take with you on the run.
Prepping super simple foods like sliced veggies, fruits, jerky, raw nuts, yogurt, and other healthy snack options will help keep hunger at bay between your larger meals. When you have a healthy snack ready to go, you’re less likely to reach for pre-packaged junk foods to tide you over.
7. Try Not to Keep Junk Food in the House
If junk foods are a trigger for you, try not to keep them in the house. This is usually easier said than done, especially if your family members are not on board with your healthy eating habits.
If that sounds like your situation, try discussing your goals with your loved ones and explaining why you’d prefer not to keep so much junk food around. As they watch you transform, they might just jump on board the healthy eating train too!
Need help to find appealing alternatives for unhealthy junk food? Nutrition coaching with our team at Envision Fitness can help!
8. Purchase Pre-Prepared Healthy Foods
When you have a hectic schedule, taking the time to prep meals and snacks might not be an option. Fortunately, most grocery stores carry pre-prepared healthy meals and snack options that you can grab and go in a hurry.
Whether you don’t have time to meal prep or you’re not a fan of cooking, opting for pre-prepared healthy foods can help prevent you from reaching for unhealthy convenience foods in a pinch.
9. Keep It Simple
If you don’t have a ton of free time on your hands, there’s no reason you need to spend hours preparing complicated, fancy meals (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). In fact, pouring hours and hours into meal prep when you already struggle to make time for it is likely to result in burnout. So design your eating to accommodate your lifestyle, not the other way around!
Prepare simple recipes with fewer ingredients, stick to foods you know you enjoy, and if you want to, eat the same meals on a regular basis. This approach keeps your grocery list simple, your prep time short, and your diet adherence much easier.
10. Mindful Eating
One major way to reduce the number of calories you eat is to practice mindful eating. This means you should pay attention to your hunger cues. If you are hungry, eat. If you are full, stop eating. Also, if you feel hungry, think about how much water you’ve had that day. Perhaps try drinking a glass of water and see if your hunger levels go down.
Also, try not to eat to be over-full. You know that uncomfortable feeling in your stomach when you’ve eaten too much? Try to avoid that by paying attention to how full you are.
11. Avoid Crash Diets
Extremely low-calorie diets can slow down your metabolism, which doesn’t help you on your journey. Don’t send your body into starvation mode, which slows your metabolism to conserve energy. Eat an appropriate amount of calories through sustainable, balanced eating habits.
12. Don’t Skip the Carbs
There are several popular low-carb diets that some people swear by, but they’re not always sustainable. It’s important to get complex carbs in your diet, such as whole grains, because they’re essential for providing your body with energy. Restricting your carbs too much can slow your metabolism. Skip simple carbs and go for complex carbs.
Nutrition and Exercise Go Hand in Hand
While you’re working on improving your nutrition, don’t forget about regular exercise, from cardio to lifting weights. Eating right and improving your nutrition means you’ll have more energy and stamina for lifting weights.
Research shows that lifting weights is better for weight loss than cardio alone. Mechanically overloading your muscles (resistance training) helps induce fat-burning after a workout. It also helps to build lean muscle tissue that is more metabolically active than fat, which helps you burn more calories throughout the day, even when you’re not exercising.
Let’s Figure Out the Right Nutrition Plan for Your Body
Many people mistakenly assume that building a strong, healthy body is all about killing it in the gym. Although regular exercise is no doubt an integral part of the equation, the importance of proper nutrition cannot be understated. As they say, you can’t out-exercise a poor diet!
At Envision Fitness, our goal is to empower you to become the healthiest, strongest, most confident version of yourself, and to do that, we place a heavy emphasis on nutrition coaching.
We encourage you to chat with one of our experienced personal trainers to figure out the best course of action for you. Give us a call at 612-405-8414, or connect with us online to schedule a 90-minute fitness consultation – it’s free!