The term ‘metabolism’ is used to describe all the different chemical reactions that occur within your body in order to sustain and maintain your life.
They can conveniently be divided into two sections.
● Catabolism – This describes the process by which molecules are broken down to obtain energy.
● Anabolism – This describes the process by which compounds are synthesized in order to feed and build cells.
In slightly more technical terms you can break the function of your metabolism into three different groups:
The Resting Metabolic Rate, or ‘RMR’ – Looks at your body in a resting and awake state, and the amount of energy that is needed to fuel all bodily functions in this state.
The Thermic Effect of Activity, or ‘TEA’ – Refers to the rate at which you burn through calories when exercising or being active throughout your day.
The Thermic Effect of Feeding, or ‘TEF’ – Is used to determine the number of calories required during the eating and digesting of food.
So, as you may have gleaned from this, one of the leading roles your metabolism plays in your body, is the digestion and conversion of foods into energy. Which is why your metabolism is such an important consideration when we talk fitness and health! You may often hear people expressing a desire to ‘speed up’ their metabolic rate (or total energy expenditure), in order to help them achieve their fitness goals. The reason for this is two-fold.
Firstly the rate at which your metabolism functions directly affects the rate at which you burn through calories when resting or participating in everyday activities. So the faster your metabolism, the more calories you will be burning, simply through standing up and walking to your refrigerator!
Secondly the faster your metabolic rate, the more energized you feel at any given time throughout your day. This means you will have more fuel powering you through your workouts so you can push that little bit harder for that little bit longer!
People with slower metabolisms tend to have less energy and put weight on easier than people with faster metabolisms. Unfortunately, the reality is that having a slow metabolism may be something your parents have passed down to you. Don’t let that put you off though, there are numerous healthy and effective ways in which you can amp up your metabolic rate.
Here are 5 Tips for boosting your metabolism naturally:
Get Your Heart Pumping First Thing – A fantastic way to kick start your metabolism from the moment you wake up, is by jump starting your heart and lungs into action first thing. Even just a quick 10 minute HIIT sesh, or simple cardio workout, will be enough to stimulate your metabolism into action. Exercising first thing also works to wake up your digestion system so that it ready to start working on your breakfast. If you are starting off with a simple workout, of less than 30 minutes, then drinking a glass of water beforehand should be enough to get you through, so you can enjoy a nutritious breakfast when you are done.
Drink Water – Get yourself into a habit of drinking a glass of water first thing each morning. Not only will this help combat potential dehydration, and help wake you up, it will also flush through your digestive system stimulating your metabolism into action.
Don’t Skip Breakfast! – Breakfast is the time in which you ‘break the fast’ of the evening before. It really is an important meal, because it provides the energy foundations from which you will set about tackling the rest of your day. If you skip your breakfast, you are much more likely to fade on an energetic level, as well as potentially make poorer food choices as your day progresses. In relation to your metabolism, breakfast is essential in starting off the digestive processes, which in turn is an essential element to firing up your metabolism. So don’t skip your breakfast and make sure you opt for healthy, protein-rich foods that are low GI, to maximize on your energy potential.
Move it – High-intensity cardio is the most effective way of raising your resting metabolic rate. The fitter you are, the faster your metabolism. So incorporate some cardio into your workout routine as often as possible, to help stimulate your metabolism and increase its overall efficiency.
Build It, To Boost It – The more muscle mass you have, the faster your metabolic rate will be. Every single muscle contraction in your body, no matter how basic, requires energy. This means that simply by sitting upright or scratching your nose, you are burning through calories. When you are using a muscle (your biceps for example), all the muscle fibers contract to create the movement. Each and every muscle fiber involved in the movement requires energy. The more muscle fibers you have, the more energy you will expend! So by building up your body’s lean muscle mass, you are helping to improve the function of your metabolism.
Regulate Your Sleep – Making sure you get enough sleep each night, without overdoing it, will go a long way in ensuring your metabolism is functioning at its optimal level. As a general rule adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep per day. Any more than this and you will likely find that you feel lethargic during the day, which is often a sign that your metabolism may be getting a bit sluggish.
Natural Thermogenics – Thermogenics work to increase your basal metabolic rate, which not only provides you with energy, it also increases your fat burning efficiency. Though thermogenics are a large part of pre-workout supplements, there are many more natural alternatives. Green tea is an excellent example as it is naturally rich in caffeine as well as being rich in antioxidants! As Chris Kresser and Robb Wolf discuss in this interview, your diet plays a leading role in your metabolic rate. Avoid eating highly processed foods, trans fats and simple carbs that will have a negative impact on your metabolism, and instead, opt to eat fresh food that will help stimulate it. Some foods are believed to have more thermogenic properties than others.
Examples of metabolic boosting foods include:
● Lean Beef
So don’t let an inherited slow metabolism get you down, there are plenty of small lifestyle changes you can implement to help boost your metabolism so that you can burn fat efficiently and gain the most energy from what you eat!
When I first started to enjoy exercise, not just do it because I knew it was important for my health but actually look forward to working my body to the point of exhaustion, I did it because I loved feeling myself grow in strength, stamina and endurance. I appreciated the aesthetic changes in my physique as well as my enhanced flexibility and agility.
I craved each workout because I could feel the changes in my physical body as I worked to carve and shape a healthier version of myself.
Yet as my life evolved from here, I started to recognize how other aspects of my health are equally as important. I began to practice meditation as a way of not only calming my thoughts so that I could relax but also to enhance the strength, flexibility and endurance of my mind and my mental health.
Meditation has opened up my world in so many ways, or more accurately, it has helped me open up and become more mindful of myself and the world around me. Mindfulness is a key aspect of meditation and one which I am now working to implement into all the other areas of my life.
Exercise being no exception. Which brings me to today’s blog; Why mindfulness should play a key role in your workout.
It may be common sense that you are better off paying attention when you are trying to say, bench press 200 lbs, as opposed to being off with the fairies! Though that could be fun, too! However, there is a difference between paying attention and being mindful.
Mindfulness involves drawing your awareness into the present moment and being aware not only of your surroundings but also of your body, breath and mind as you work to move through different exercises.
It is the witnessing and observation of your internal and external environment happening in the present moment.
This technique will enhance your workout experience in many ways, including increased body awareness and an appreciation for movement, a deeper connection with your breath and the role it plays in exercise, as well as cultivating a healthier and more accepting body image.
Increased Body Awareness
Ever been at the gym, pumping iron, or slogging it on the treadmill and realized that your mind has been miles away?
If I am honest, it has happened to me many times!
The problem is that the more familiar you are with an exercise, the more likely you are to allow your attention to wander off and your form is likely to suffer for it. Having correct form while practicing an exercise not only ensures you gain the most out of each movement, it also helps protect your body from injury.
When mindfulness is incorporated into the practice of exercise, the experience and understanding of your progress can move beyond the atomic motion and be taken all the way down to a cellular level.
You are no longer simply bending your elbow and working against a resistance. Instead, you can feel into the different muscles and tendons that are contracting and relaxing in order to make the movement possible. You create an awareness of the muscle fibres that are being stressed, in order that they can repair themselves to be stronger and more resilient than before.
Incorporating mindfulness into your strength training expands the benefits outside of the physical realm to incorporate numerous psychological benefits as well. Not only does your enhanced awareness of body and breath help protect you from injury, it also enhances your bioenergy, enabling you to experience more fluid movements and foster faster muscle recovery and healing. As Chris Kresser mentions in his podcast, mindfulness is an important element in supporting metabolic reserves and preventing adrenal fatigue.
Through applying mindfulness into your strength training, you are able to really experience your body as a flowing energetic force, instead of just a solid physical object to be manipulated and moved.
This understanding of the energetic body, which is referred to as the ‘pranamaya kosha’ in Ayurvedic terms, helps us to better understand limitations within the body, and ways with which to work to strengthen and overcome them.
Improved Body Image & Self-acceptance
There is nothing wrong with exercising as a means to enhance your body aesthetically. Just as there is nothing wrong with taking pride in the results you achieve through hard work and perseverance.
Yet in this modern day, with mainstream media, magazines, and movies constantly presenting us with ‘images of the ídeal body’, many people can fall into a habitually abusive relationship with their bodies. This abuse takes shape internally with negative thoughts each time we look in the mirror or step onto the scales.
Through cultivating mindfulness in union with enhancing our physical fitness, a healthier perspective is formed. We start to develop more of an appreciation of our own unique body and what we can achieve with it, as well as an increased awareness and understanding of all the phases we move through, both internally and externally.
Tips To Cultivate Mindfulness Into Your Workout
Mindfulness in itself is a technique that involves bringing your focus, attention and awareness into the present moment. In doing this you become aware not only of your body, how you are breathing, moving and feeling but also of your mind and how you are feeling emotionally. By drawing your awareness into the present moment you are able to form a deeper connection with the experience of exercise, with all the benefits it provides.
Here are some tips to help you cultivate more mindfulness into your workout:
- Switch off your phone – Having your phone near you is asking for distraction. Receiving TXTs, calls or notifications from social media sites are only going to pull your attention into the digital world, even if only for a moment of two. Attempting to multi-task (and we have all been there!) will prevent you from being mindful of yourself as you exercise and your workout will suffer because of it.
- Opt for silence – Though listening to music can be motivational and enjoyable when working out, it does tend to distract the mind. Try opting for silence, or listening to music without lyrics so that your mind is not tempted to sing along and trail off in thought.
- Tune into your breath – Your breath works as an anchor for your mind into your physical body. It is a key tool in present moment awareness, because when you think about it. it is always happening right now! Breathing also plays an integral role in exercising and can be used to help tap into energetic reserves so that you can push that little bit further.
- Internal & External Environments – Use this time to really connect with your physical body. Acknowledge how it is feeling today and remember that it is normal to have the occasional ‘off day’. Mindfulness is about observing the internal environment without judgment or criticism. It is not about comparing how you feel today to how you may have felt 5 or 10 years ago, or even how you felt last week. Just tuning into the different sensations you are experiencing in each moment.
Just as you tune into your body, have a sense of what is happening around you. Take note of the other people and how they seem to be feeling. Pay attention to the temperature of the air, the time of day, your surroundings. Use this awareness to help anchor your focus into the present moment.
- Acknowledge Discomfort – A good workout requires pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, which means it is likely you will experience a little discomfort. Being mindful of this sensation for what it is, a necessity in growth and development, will help you lean into the experience instead of retreating from it.
- Don’t Forget To Stretch – Your warm-down is a perfect way to really move your body with intention. Feel the rewarding stretches as they move your muscles and aid in recovery. Give your body the TLC it deserves!
Homo sapiens have evolved over millions of years to bring us to where we are today, upright, fairly intelligent and increasingly aware of our bodies and how to best look after them.
As with all organisms, our evolution is written into our genome. A genome being the complete set of genetic instructions of any organism, in our case homo sapiens, that shows the evolutionary path that has lead us to where we are now. The way our genome looks today has been shaped by the many genetic changes our ancestors have been faced with. Not all of our ancestors lived in the same climate or faced the same environmental challenges or advantages as each other. Some survived barren landscapes and scorching heat, others icy tundras and sub-zero temperatures, whilst others evolved living within lush, tropical climates.
Because of this, it stands to reason that we are not all genetically equal when it comes to evolution, and more specifically how we have adapted in relation to our diet. Evidence does suggest however that when it comes to the modern diet, we as a species have strayed away from what our bodies can handle, faster than our bodies have been able to adapt.
As Robb Wolf says; “ Research in biology, biochemistry, Ophthalmology, Dermatology and many other disciplines indicate it is our modern diet, full of refined foods, trans fats and sugar, that is at the root of degenerative diseases such as obesity, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, depression and infertility.” For this reason, resorting back to a more simplified diet, that avoids processed foods, as well as excess carbohydrates, and instead, focuses on foods that have been available to us over the span of our evolution, is in our health’s best interest.
This is where the benefits of the paleo diet comes into play.
The paleo diet is based on genetics and takes into consideration that human beings are genetically wired to environmental factors that are quite different from that of today. Evolution is a slow process and the human race has seen such rapid advancements in technology over the past few hundred years, that we have not been able to genetically adapt to the changes these advancements have made to our ‘modern diet’.
Yet, as I mentioned briefly before, there is another consideration to be taken into account when determining what works best for you personally, and not just for humans as a species. Your genetic background. Studies indicate that people from different historical backgrounds may be more or less suited to specific nutrients, depending on their genetic make-up.
For the sake of this blog, I would like to focus on carbohydrates, and more specifically on starch and lactose, and how genetics play a leading role in your ability to digest them.
Lactose and the LTC gene
Lactose, a disaccharide sugar compound found in milk, requires the enzyme ‘lactase’ in order to be digested by the human body. When we are young, the lactase enzyme is more prevalent in our body, so that we are able to digest our mother’s milk, yet as we grow into adulthood, our levels of this lactase enzyme drop significantly. In fact, many people lose the ability to produce lactase altogether. The production of lactase is controlled by the LCT gene and for many people their LCT gene shuts down as they enter adulthood, causing them to become lactose sensitive or intolerant. This is the divide between lactose tolerant and lactose intolerant people.
As stated in a study by Deng Y, Misselwitz B, Dai N, and Fox M in 2015, ‘Lactose Intolerance in Adults: Biological Mechanism and Dietary Management’, “The percentage of the population that has a decrease in lactase as they age is less that 10% in Northern Europe and as high as 95% in parts of Asia and Africa”
So what this means for American’s is that if your family are American dating back many generations, then chances are you may have a dairy intolerance.
Carbohydrates and the AMY2 gene
The AMY2 gene is an interesting gene because it plays an important role in the digestion of starches. Studies suggest that obesity may be genetically linked to people’s ability to digest carbohydrates. How well you digest carbohydrates is directly linked to the number of AMY2 genes you carry. Though the range can fall between 2 and 15, most people carry between 4 and 8. How many AMY2 genes you carry depends on your ancestors and from what part of the globe they originated. Those from drier climates have better adapted to eating foods higher in starches, whilst those from lush and dense climates are more likely less tolerant, as their ancestor’s diet contained less starch.
Because of this, your genetics plays a role not only on your tolerance towards carbohydrates, but also on your ability to metabolize it correctly and avoid putting on excess weight.
Even though evidence suggests that our evolution did not cease to progress since the Paleolithic era, it does indicate that the majority of us are not fortunate enough to have all the genetic adaptations that make us able to effectively digests lactose or starches. As Kriss Cresser says in one of his articles in the Daily Beast, “Two-thirds of the population still cannot digest lactose as adults, and nearly one in 10 people are intolerant to gluten.”
For this reason, and the numerous other health benefits that can be gained from it regarding health and maintaining a healthy weight, the Paleo diet really is the diet that our DNA dictates!
- 4 medium sweet potatoes
- 1 TBSP cooking fat of choice
- ½ small onion, diced
- 1 lb 80-85 % lean ground beef
- ½ cup diced tomatoes (from a can, no salt added)
- ½ tsp fine grain sea salt
- ½ – 1 tsp chipotle chili pepper (I used ¾ tsp)
- 1 tsp cumin
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
- Optional toppings – Paleo & Whole30 compliant ranch dressing plus thinly sliced scallions
- First, bake your sweet potatoes* – preheat your oven to 400 degrees and wrap each potato in aluminum foil and place on a baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or until completely soft in the center. The size/shape of your potato will affect the baking time!
- While you bake (or reheat) your sweet potatoes, make the chili. Heat a med/large skillet (I used this cast iron one) over medium heat. Add your cooking fat, then diced onions and stir to coat. Once softened, add the ground beef, breaking up lumps to evenly brown.
- Add the salt and spices and stir, cooking the beef until browned – about 3-4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and simmer for 5-10 more minutes, lowering the heat to avoid burning.
- Cut open your sweet potatoes, stuff, top with ranch dressing and scallions if desired, and enjoy!
To learn more about this savory paleo dinner idea, check out our friends over at PaleoRunningMama!
Spicy Peanut Sauce
- 1/2 cup natural peanut butter
- 1/4 cup reduced-sodium tamari or soy sauce
- 3 Tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons honey
- 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
- 1 large clove of garlic, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (if you are sensitive to spice try 1/8 teaspoon first)
- 2-3 Tablespoons of water
Sugar Snap Peas
- 1 pound sugar snap peas
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- pinch of salt
- Whisk together all the ingredients for the peanut sauce until smooth and creamy. Taste test and adjust seasonings as needed. If the sauce is too thick add a touch more water to thin.
- Preheat an outdoor grill to medium-high heat. Toss the peas with the olive oil and salt. Set a wire rack or grill basket on the grill grate and grill peas, turning occasionally, until lightly charred. About 4 minutes.
- Serve peas with the dipping sauce and serve warm or at room temperature.
To learn more about this great paleo happy-hour snack, check out our friends over at Dishing Up The Dirt!
How Ugly Produce Can Change Your Life For The Better
Perfect symmetry, flawless colouring, blemish free fruit and vegetables, that come in their ‘natural’ shape and size. These are what we have been lead to believe are the perfect choices when selecting our produce. Because of this 1 in 5 pieces of fruit in America get rejected because they do not fit the ‘standard’. When they are rejected they are thrown away, useless because they provide no profit. Yet the world is now opening up to the possibility that perfection, is in fact, not perfect at all. Especially when it comes to fruit and vegetables. It’s not perfect for your health, OR for the environment!
The ‘Ugly’ Truth
When you hear the term ‘ugly produce’, you are probably expecting bruised, or horrible produce, that has no place in a healthy and nutritious diet. However, the term ‘ugly produce’ is actually used to describe fruit and vegetables that are grown with no greater crime than looking a little different. Sure they may be an odd size or shape, or maybe the coloring is a little off, however, don’t be too quick to dismiss the odd ones out. You might be surprised to learn is that not only are these individual looking fruits and vegetables as packed full of taste and nutrients as any other, opting to purchase them (over those that have conformed to society’s ‘norms’) has numerous other benefits asides from looking ‘unique’.
From a health perspective, let us consider organic produce. When fruits and vegetables are not sprayed in chemicals, such as fungicide, insecticide or pesticides, they grow naturally. ‘Naturally’ doesn’t mean they always end up resembling an oil painting, it means they grow as nature intended. So some odd shapes or slight discolourations are all part of the natural beauty of fruit and vegetables. It is only over centuries of spraying and genetically engineering that more consistent ‘perfect’ specimens have been created.
For this reason, opting for a more natural product can be an indication of a more natural growing process.
How Ugly Can Help The Environment
Did you know that almost a third of all the worlds produce never gets eaten? That is nearly 3 trillion pounds of food per year, wasted! Every pound of produce that is grown takes up considerable amounts of energy, water and other resources, including people’s time and effort.
This discarded food ends up rotting away in landfills and it may surprise you to learn that food waste makes up the single largest component of municipal waste in America. Here it contributes to a large percentage of our country’s methane emission. Though the idea of rotting vegetation seems harmless enough, methane, compared to carbon dioxide, has 21 times greater global warming potential, meaning that all this extra food wastage is contributing to warming or our planet and the melting of the polar ice caps.
Not all food wastage occurs due to the discarding of ‘ugly produce’, but a large portion of it does. Working on switching our mentality in regards to how fresh produce should look, will help dramatically decrease this percentage and improve the conservation of water, energy and resources wasted each year.
Waste Not Want Not
According to The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, around 1 in 9 people are suffering chronic undernourishment. That is nearly 11% of our world’s population that not only don’t have much to eat, many of them have so little they die from malnutrition. You might think this is all happening in developing countries, but you would be wrong, there are estimated 11 million people in developed countries that are going hungry.
The 2.9 trillion pounds of produce that get wasted each year could feed the people that go hungry, twice over! That is nearly 800 million people, twice over! It just doesn’t seem right, does it?
Fortunately our communities are starting to catch on to the importance of cutting down food wastage, and also just how brilliant ‘ugly’ produce is. You can now order boxes of ugly produce to be delivered to your door, or purchase products made from ugly produce. Companies like Project Juice are doing their part to end this food wastage and educate everyone on the importance of fresh, organic and delicious produce (no matter what it’s physical appearance may be!).
So how can you help balance this scale a little? Support your local ugly produce stores, ugly produce companies and farmers markets, by opting to purchase some of their slightly more unique looking produce!. In doing so you will:
- Help support local farmers
- Cut down on food wastage
- Potentially be eating more natural and nutritious produce
- Save money (These neglected produce often come at a discounted price!)
Embrace the beautiful ‘unique’ qualities of ugly fruit and veg, and incorporate them as part of your nutritious diet!
- 2 handfuls baby spinach
- 1 ripe banana
- 1 cup almond milk
- 1 cup frozen pineapple chunks
- 1/2 tsp of ginger
- 1 tbsp chia seeds
- Place all of the ingredients into a blender. Pulse until smooth.
- If smoothie is too thick, add water. If too thin, add ice.
- Serve and garnish with a sprinkle of chia seeds, optional.
To learn more about this great workout-recovery drink, click on over to our friends at North South Blonde!
- 1 cup dates, pitted
- 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
- 1.5 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
- 1 cup cashew nuts
- 1/4 cup chia seeds
- desiccated coconut (optional)
1. Soak the dates in water for 10 minutes to soften. Drain and add to a food processor.
2. Add pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla, + salt and process until smooth.
3. Add cashew nuts and chia seeds and pulse a few times. The nuts should be coarsely chopped.
4. Refrigerate mixture for 30 minutes before forming into 16 bites. Optionally, roll each energy bite in desiccated coconut.
5. Store in the fridge or freezer.
To learn more about this time-saving pre-workout paleo snack, visit our friends over at ebay!
- 1 lb sweet Italian pork sausage, casings removed
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- Bunch of fresh spinach, roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
- *pinch of crushed red pepper (optional)
- 8 whole eggs, whisked
- ½ tsp onion powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 roma tomatoes (or 3 smaller tomatoes), thinly sliced
- fine grain sea salt and pepper, to taste
- more chopped fresh basil for garnish
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Heat the coconut oil over med-hi heat in a medium sized cast iron or other ovenproof skillet *See Note
- Crumble the sausage in the pan and cook, breaking it up as it cooks so it browns evenly. *Add the crushed red pepper now if you wish for extra spice.
- Once your sausage is toasty brown, add the spinach to the pan and give it a stir to soften and blend with the sausage, then remove from heat.
- Sprinkle the sausage mixture with chopped fresh basil once off the heat.
- In a large bowl, whisk your eggs well with onion powder and salt, then pour egg mixture over sausage mixture slowly to cover.
- Top the egg/sausage mixture with sliced tomatoes and sprinkle with more sea salt and black pepper, to taste.
- Bake in the preheated oven 20-25 minutes, or until the eggs are set and edges begin to turn golden brown. Garnish with more fresh chopped basil once the frittata has baked.
- Let it sit to cool and set a bit, and then either serve or wrap and refrigerate/freeze for later use.
To learn more about this super savory paleo brunch idea, please visit our friends at Paleo Running Mama!
- 1 1/2 teaspoons oregano
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 1/2 teaspoons real salt
- 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon parsley
- 1 1/2 pounds chicken, cut into bit size pieces
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 red pepper, diced
- 1 yellow or orange pepper, diced
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- In a small bowl, combine the oregano, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, salt, pepper, cumin, and parsley. Mix well.
- Place 1 tablespoon coconut oil in a fry pan and add the chicken and half of the seasoning mix. Cook until chicken is done, stirring often- about 7 minutes. Remove to a bowl or plate.
- Add the remaining tablespoon of coconut oil and add the onion and peppers to the pan. Sprinkle the remaining seasoning mix on them and cook until tender- about 8-10 minutes.
- Serve chicken, peppers, and onions over Romaine lettuce or cauliflower rice, top with avocado if desired.
For more about this Paleo-licious recipe, click on over to our friends at Jays Baking Me Crazy!