As cold weather creeps in, we all set our thermostats a little higher to keep warm. When we do, our bill goes up; or the cost of increasing the heat in the house and kicking our furnace in takes more money, or in other words, it takes more energy to keep things heated up.

Our bodies work in a similar fashion. When we can turn up the heat in our body it takes more energy, or “costs” more to make the system run at a higher level. This is metabolism. Another definition is that metabolism is the way that chemical processes in our bodies cause food to be used in an efficient way, for example to make new cells and to give us energy.

Boosting metabolism, or cranking up our body’s furnace, is often a key element for those looking to lose weight. How many times have we heard someone talk about that they “just have a slow metabolism, so dropping pounds is so hard to do”!

How fast our body burns calories depends on a number of factors. Some people can thank their folks for giving them good genetics and having a speedy metabolism. Men tend to burn more calories than women, even while resting. (But most men also carry more weight and muscle mass than most women — more on this later!). For most of us, metabolism slows down after the age of 40. So, although you can’t do much about your age, your gender or your genetics, there are several things you can do to help bump up your body’s thermostat.

• BUILD MUSCLE — We burn calories, even at rest. The more muscle we have, the more calories it takes to keep you going. Each pound of muscle we have uses about 6 calories a day while fat only burns about 2 calories a day.

• PUSH A LITTLE MORE DURING WORKOUTS — Training can get that heat going in the body. Some great news is that it even stays higher after you’redone training. Depending on the type of training you do, it can keep your metabolism up for hours after you’re done and just hanging out. The key is to step up the intensity to get the best benefits.

• STAY HYDRATED — When your body needs water, even slightly dehydrated, your metabolism slows down. The rule of thumb, make sure you are drinking half your body weight in ounces of water each day!

• HAVE A SMART SNACK — They say eating more small meals throughout the day can help to keep your metabolism going. When you eat a large meal with hours and hours between meals, your furnace cools down. They have also found that folks that have healthy snacks during the day eat less at meal time. The key is that a “snack” shouldn’t be a MEAL. So eat right and eat smart.

• SPICE UP YOUR FOOD — This one can be tough if you don’t like hot and spicy food (like yours truly — but I am getting better!). Spicy foods have natural chemicals that kick your metabolism into high gear.

• PUMP IN THE PROTEIN — Your body burns more calories working to break down protein than it does carbs and fats. As part of a balanced diet, you can replace some carbs with lean, protein rich foods.

• GET IN YOUR JAVA — If you’re a coffee drinker, you already enjoy the energy boost and concentration improvements that coffee can give you. Coffee, taken in moderation, can also raise your metabolic rate. Along with feeling less tired, and some studies say it helps with your endurance levels when you exercise, coffee might be a good way to start your day.

• AVOID STARVATION OR CRASH DIETS — A new trend, and it’s not bad, is intermediate fasting. The key with that is, you are still eating and getting the calories your body needs when you do eat. On any diet, dropping below 1,200 calories a day for a woman and 1,800 calories a day for a man can be bad if you’re hoping to fire up the metabolism. Dropping calories way down will have the opposite effect. When you drop that low in calories, your body can start to use muscle as a fuel source — so you actually drop in lean body mass (Go back and look at #1!). In the end, your body burns at a lower level and you gain weight faster than ever before.

By implementing a few of these items off the check list, you can boost your metabolism and keep your furnace working at an efficient level. You’ll see huge benefits when you practice these steps over a consistent period of time and most of them aren’t hard to add into our daily lives.

Mark “Coach Rozy” Roozen is owner/director of Coach Rozy Performance - Powered by AVERA Sports Yankton. He can be reached at 817-219-2811, email him at rozyroozen@gmail.com or you can find more information at www.coachrozy.com about training programs, bootcamps and athletic & sport development.

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