The Competition Class gets after some HIIT intervals on the Assault Bikes.

2 Easy Ways to Control Your Metabolism (Part 1 – Exercise)
Written by Michele Vieux

You can throw the age-old excuse of having a “fast” or “slow” metabolism out the window if you actually want to reach your body composition goals. You are not a victim of your metabolism – how quickly you burn calories or fat can be controlled by you in many ways. You just have to know what you CAN control and HOW.

There are a number of things that should be considered when trying to make the most of your metabolism. Today, we will discuss one of the two most common things that affect your metabolism and what you can do with them to maximize results. We will discuss #2 next week.

Remember, these are the two that you have the MOST control over so commit hard here. We will go over two others next week that seem like you have no control over but actually do have some.

#1 – Exercise: Level of Controllability = High
The more you exercise, the more calories you burn. But more isn’t always better. Smarter is better. Here’s how you can make the most of your exercise routine to affect your metabolism.

You may have heard two things about muscle: 1) it weighs more than fat; and, 2) the more of it you have, the more calories you burn. For these reasons, weight training should be high on everyone’s priority list because it gives you many benefits including not only increased metabolism due to the increased muscle mass but weight training also increases bone density (making you weigh more and burn more) and this increased bone density also helps prevent diseases of aging like osteoporosis or sustaining injury from a fall, which is a common fate of older folks. Not to mention all the hormones that are secreted due to the stimulation of lifting – hormones that can help balance testosterone and estrogen levels (and more), which as we will learn in next week’s post, can also play a role in weight gain or loss. Weight training can be combined with both high intensity interval training and low-intensity “cardio” for a complete workout – kind of like you do if you participate in CrossFit or circuit training workouts. See more about these below.

High intensity interval training (HIIT) is another key to the weightloss puzzle because when you do these workouts, you are not only burning calories during the workout itself, but also in the hours and days following that workout. To understand why this is, we need to address the concept of excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC. It is the effect seen following exercise in which the body is burning more oxygen (and more calories) for a period of time anywhere from a few minutes to more than a day. This results in an elevated metabolism and creates what is known as the ‘afterburn effect.’ So that 300 calorie workout can turn into a 500+ calorie workout by the next day. HIIT workouts also preserve muscle more than “cardio”-style workouts and as we learned above, you want that extra muscle to help boost your metabolism. HIIT workouts also stimulate production of Human Growth Hormone (HGH) by up to 450 percent during the 24 hours after you finish your workout and is responsible for not only increased caloric burn but it also slows down the aging process, and aging, as we will learn in the next post, is one of the things that affect metabolism.

Low-intensity “cardio” also has its place, especially if you currently have a relatively low level of fitness, have a high-stress job or lifestyle or show any signs of adrenal fatigue, which can cause undesired weight gain or muscle loss and can be perpetuated by HIIT workouts. You may only be burning around 100 calories per 30-minute session but it’s a great start, especially if it is relieving stress – which combats weight gain – versus causing stress like HIIT workouts can do if your body isn’t in it’s ideal state. If any of these sound like you, Gradually increase the volume throughout your training program to improve work capacity and progress to HIIT workouts, which do provide the biggest bang for your buck. You can integrate some strength training into the same session as cardiovascular work.

Exercise Guidelines Based on Current Fitness Level

Low Level of Fitness (Resting Heart Rate over 80 beats per minute)
– 30-40 minutes per training session
– 2-4 sessions per week
– Low-to-moderate intensity (including weight training); no more than 1 high-intensity day/week

Average Level of Fitness (Resting Heart Rate of 60-80 beats per minute)
– 60-90 minutes per session
– 4-6 sessions per week
– Alternate between high- and low-intensity days (including weight training)
– 2-3 days of high intensity

High Level of Fitness (Resting Heart Rate under 60 beats per minute)
– 60-90 minutes per session
– 5-6 sessions per week
– Alternate between high- and low-intensities (including weight training)
– 3 days of high intensity, spaced out during the week

Hopefully this gives you some steps on how to kickstart your metabolism! If you have questions, feel free to post them in the comments. Stay tuned for Tuesday’s post – which is Part 2 of this series – that focuses on how to tweak your diet to manipulate your metabolism.

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  • Justin

    What do you consider a high intensity workout? Does it include a WOD/Metcon? My RHR is usually below 60. So I should only do 3 high intensity workouts a week? I’m just trying to understand your guidelines