I think we can all agree that we’d like to have a “fast metabolism.” Having a fast metabolism or, in more scientific terms, having a higher resting metabolic rate allows us to enjoy the pleasure of eating more food without having to stress over gaining extra weight. The problem is that there is a lot of misinformation continually put in front of us about what causes our metabolism to slow down and what we can do to speed it back up.
The good news is a health coach at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), and in my private practice, I’ve helped hundreds of clients who were misguided about what influences the speed of their metabolism and, as a result, confused about what they could do to increase their metabolic rate. When working with clients, I have been able to help them block out misinformation about how to speed up their metabolism and instead focus on adopting habits that have been proven to increase metabolic rate. As a result, these clients have boosted their weight loss results. This approach has also allowed them to enjoy the foods they like without having to stress over every meal.
In this article, I will share the 3 habits that have been proven to increase a person’s metabolic rate with you so that you can have a fast metabolism. These 3 habits are:
Performing strength training
Performing cardiovascular exercise
However, before we dive into each of these habits in detail, I’ll first share with you the two things that cause all of our metabolisms to slow down.
What Causes Your Metabolism to Slow Down?
There are many misconceptions about what is actually to blame for your metabolism slowing down. The most common being that you have an underactive thyroid. I can’t even tell you how many times a patient came into our primary care practice at MGH and requested a “thyroid test” because they were gaining weight. While it’s true that hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) can lead to a slow down in your metabolism and consequent weight gain, the incidence of hypothyroidism is actually is very low. In fact, less than 5% of people in the U.S. ages 12 and older have hypothyroidism, and most cases are mild (1).
On the other hand, there is a significant factor that causes a decrease in metabolic rate, with a prevalence rate of 100%. This factor is age.
Bad news, the older we get, the slower our metabolic rate becomes. Age slows down our metabolism for two reasons; it shifts our hormones and causes us to lose muscle mass. Although we cannot slow down the aging process, we can offset the loss of muscle mass, which you will read more about later in this article.
Testosterone, a hormone found in both men and women, decreases as we age. Testosterone aids in regulating muscle mass, which is the primary driver of our metabolic rate. Therefore, a decrease in testosterone will lead to a reduction in muscle mass, especially if we don’t do anything about it.
Loss of Muscle Mass
Muscle mass related to aging, known as sarcopenia, occurs every year after the age of 30. In fact, individuals who don’t exercise regularly lose as much as 3-5% of their muscle mass each decade (2). In men, this equates to losing about 30% of muscle mass over a lifetime (2).
Since your metabolic rate is so closely tied to the amount of muscle mass you have, sarcopenia is the most significant cause and most common factor related to a slowdown in metabolism. As you’ll read, the good news is that you can offset this decline in metabolic rate by adopting a few critical habits, the most impactful being regular strength training.
Habit 1: Perform Strength Training
Your metabolic rate or metabolism speed is primarily influenced by the amount of muscle mass you have. As a result, the most effective way to achieve a fast metabolism is to preserve or add to your body’s muscle mass, which leads us to the first and most powerful habit you can adopt to rev up your metabolism; strength training.
Strength training is defined as performing exercises that cause your muscles to work against an opposing force. By performing these exercises, microscopic tears are created in your muscles, and when they heal, the muscles grow more prominent. By completing strength training habitually, you can add muscle mass to your body, which leads to a faster metabolic rate at all times. As a result, your metabolism will be churning away 24 hours a day, including while you are sitting at the office, watching television, or even sleeping.
Research has shown that performing strength training regularly can increase your metabolism by up to 7% (3,4). However, less than 9% of Americans perform strength training consistently (5). Luckily, incorporating strength training into your weekly routine doesn’t have to be a considerable commitment.
Muscle mass can be gained by performing strength training for as little as 10-15 minutes, twice a week. Yes, you can speed up your metabolism by adding a habit that will take less than a half-hour per week. The key to creating an impactful strength training routine is to ensure that you are exercising each major muscle group at least twice a week, which equates to 8-10 strength training exercises. You can choose to perform these exercises using tubing, free weights, plated exercise machines, or even your body weight. To learn more about creating a sustainable strength training routine that leads to a fast metabolism, please pick up a copy of my book Weight Lost: 5 Steps to Achieving Your Ideal Weight and Gaining the Life You’ve Always Wanted.
Habit 2: Perform Cardiovascular Exercise
Although not as powerful as strength training, adding cardiovascular exercise into your life can help increase your metabolic rate. After you perform cardiovascular exercise, your body needs to take in extra amounts of oxygen and repair the cells broken down during exercise. This recovery process, sometimes referred to as the “afterburn,” requires your metabolism to work at a higher rate for an extended period.
Depending on your workout’s length and intensity, your body could continue to maintain an increased metabolic rate anywhere from a few hours to well beyond 24 hours after exercise. As you can imagine, the longer and the more intense your workout, the longer your body will have to spend cooling itself down and repairing broken-down cells. As a result, if you perform cardiovascular exercise regularly, you could end up having an elevated metabolic rate, more often than not.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends performing at least 150 minutes of moderate or 60 minutes of vigorous cardiovascular exercise each week. This duration can be split up into as small as 10-minute chunks. For instance, you could spend 10 minutes walking (the most popular form of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise) in the morning, at lunch, and in the evening and still achieve 30 minutes of moderate cardiovascular exercise for the day. The same is true for vigorous cardiovascular exercise, however after performing these types of workouts, you will most likely need a shower, so it might be best not to split these types of exercise sessions into chunks. The most common examples of vigorous cardiovascular exercise are; jogging, cycling, swimming, group exercise classes, and aerobic exercise machines such as an elliptical.
Habit 3: Drink Water
The habit of drinking water is vital to your health for many reasons, like helping you feel energetic, maintain brain function, and avoid health issues like headaches and kidney stones. However, one of the most often overlooked benefits of drinking water is that it can increase your metabolic rate.
Making drinking water regularly a part of your everyday life has been shown to increase your metabolism (6,7). This revving of your metabolism after drinking water is caused by your body, having to expend energy to heat the water to match your internal core temperature. The energy required to heat the water you drink comes from your body’s fat stores. The process of breaking down stored body fat to use as an energy source to heat up the water you drink causes an increase in your body’s metabolic rate. When done repeatedly, this process leads to a chronically elevated or faster metabolism.
Studies have shown that adults’ resting metabolic rate increases by 24-30% within 10 minutes of drinking water. This increase in metabolic rate lasts for at least 60 minutes after drinking water (6,7). To harness to the benefit of drinking water to gain a faster metabolism, aim to:
- Drink at least 8-10 glasses (8 oz) of water each day
- Drink cold water
- Spread your water consumption out over the course of the day
Now that you know what causes your metabolism to slow down and what habit changes you can implement to give yourself a fast metabolism, you will be able to filter out all of the misconceptions coming your way about what affects your metabolism’s speed. Having this knowledge will also help you prioritize the habit changes that generate a fast metabolism. These three habits are:
- Perform a full-body strength training routine at least twice a week
- Perform at least 60 minutes of vigorous or 150 minutes of moderate cardiovascular exercise each week
- Drink at least 8-10 glasses of water each day
By focusing on habitually performing strength training, cardiovascular exercise, and drinking water, you’ll achieve a faster metabolism. It will also become easier for you to lose weight and enjoy the foods you love.
To learn more about what habits you can adopt to increase your metabolism check out my latest book: Weight Lost: 5 Steps to Achieving Your Ideal Weight and Gaining the Life You’ve Always Wanted, which will be released on Amazon in early 2021. Please click here to be the first one to be alerted when the book is made publicly available and to take advantage of the special initial release pricing.
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1. Garber JR, Cobin RH, Garib H, et al. Clinical Practice Guidelines for Hypothyroidism in Adults: Cosponsored by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists and the American Thyroid Association. Endocrine Practice. 2012;18(6):988–1028.
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6. Dennis, E. A., Dengo, A. L., Comber, D. L., Flack, K. D., Savla, J., Davy, K. P., & Davy, B. M. (2010). Water consumption increases weight loss during a hypocaloric diet intervention in middle‐aged and older adults. Obesity, 18(2), 300-307.
7. Boschmann, M., Steiniger, J., Hille, U., Tank, J., Adams, F., Sharma, A. M., & Jordan, J. (2003). Water-induced thermogenesis. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 88(12), 6015-6019.