2 Easy Ways to Control Your Metabolism (Part 2 – Diet)
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. In this series, we are focusing on the two most common things that affect your metabolism and what you can do with them to maximize results.
Remember, these are the two that you have the MOST control over so commit hard here and will focus on diet today. Check out last Friday’s post to read about #1 – how exercise can control metabolism. In the next couple weeks, we will also talk about how to hack two things that play major roles in your metabolism that most people think they have NO control over but actually have a little, if they know what to focus on.
#2 – Diet: Level of Controllability = High
As we’ve talked about before, it’s not just calories in-calories out that matters, food composition and quality also make a huge difference in both your body composition and metabolism. It is important to pay attention to the number of calories consumed and in what ratios of proteins, carbohydrates and fats along with anything else you put in your mouth like supplements, medications and even zero-calorie food products. Even the timing of when you eat certain things can make a huge difference in how and when they are burned by your body for fuel. For example, carbohydrates are most-effectively used when eaten within 30 minutes before or after your workout. But before you start worrying about all of that, here are three diet focus points you should have a good handle on before trying more advanced techniques like counting macros, Paleo, Zone, Ketosis or nutrient timing.
Your #1 focus should be on eating real food and eliminating processed foods. Our bodies were designed to perform and THRIVE when eating the bounty the earth provides so we can’t be at our best if we are fueling ourselves with food products and convenience food items. Food products contain artificial colors, texturants, flavors, processed sugars, trans fats, preservatives and other chemicals to make food products last longer (years of shelf life), taste better, more like food texture and look prettier. There are many downsides and negative implications to ingesting these things, some of which include obesity, diabetes and heart disease but there are many more.
Shopping the perimeter of the store will give you access to the real food – veggies, fruit, meat and eggs – but limits your exposure to food products that are typically found in the aisles like bread, sodas, cereals, packaged foods, frozen pizzas, etc. Label reading is another important tool in determining food product versus real food. If the ingredients list has more than three ingredients, if the chicken has a list of ingredients or you can’t pronounce any of the items on the list, then it probably isn’t a real food.
Eat protein with every meal is the #2 focus. Lean protein is essential for helping you build and repair lean muscle tissue (remember from last week’s article that more muscle = a faster metabolism). It also helps you feel satiated and full throughout the day so you don’t overeat on other substances like sugar and junk food. So when we look at nutrition, protein really needs to be of utmost importance. The trend is for guys to go way overboard on protein intake, and for the ladies to go way low. A good rule of thumb is to eat a palm-sized portion of lean protein at every meal. Others prefer a card deck size portion of protein. That equates to about 3 to 5 ounces of lean protein.
Here are some recommend protein sources:
Seafood – fish, shellfish… choose wild-caught vs farm-raised when possible
Ruminants – beef, buffalo, lamb, venison, etc…pick grass-fed when possible
Non-ruminants – pork, boar, rabbit, etc…pastured and organic when possible
Eggs – choose pastured and organic if available
Poultry – chicken, turkey, duck, etc.
We also suggest consuming processed meats such as bacon, sausage, and deli meats in moderation. And if you are a vegetarian, you need to be especially aware of making sure to eat a variety of plant-based proteins so you get the full spectrum that your body needs. Check out this post – How to Eat a Plant-Based Diet and Not Die of Malnutrition – for more detailed information on how to do that.
And eating breakfast is #3. Most people have probably heard the saying, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” But in working with my clients, I regularly hear that breakfast is the meal most often skipped due to lack of time in a busy schedule. Perhaps just as bad, if not worse than skipping breakfast, many people reach for a quick-fix breakfast, such as processed cereals, meal replacement bars or massive amounts of coffee to curb their appetites. Fueling your body with high-quality food is essential to the performance of both your body and brain. Not only does breakfast get your metabolism going for the day, it also fuels your body and brain so that you can concentrate on completing your daily tasks. Most people know this, but healthy eating requires planning and preparation. If you know that breakfast is the most difficult meal for you to make healthy choices, put yourself in a position to do something about it and set up your day for success.
Once you have mastered these three rules, then you can focus on counting calories, proper ratios of proteins, carbohydrates and fats (counting macros), and nutrient timing based on your current body composition and your goals for body composition and needs for lifestyle and exercise/training. When you get to this step, consult a nutrition professional for guidance on your ratios.