The metabolism is the key regulator of your homeostasis, keeping us in a balanced state. If we eat too little or too much, this balance is disrupted, affecting our hormones and our ability to burn off fat or build muscle. The key is keeping our metabolism maintained for the long run, and in a state where we can maintain a healthy, lean body. How can you do this? By paying attention to how much you eat, and what you eat. Use the following four tips to help construct a proper nutrition plan to maintain your metabolism.
Tip #1: Know Your Calorie Intake
Do you know just how many calories you’re actually taking in? Are you tracking your calories and weighing your food? What method do you use to keep track? If you want to be sure you’re optimizing your metabolism, you need to make sure you’re eating the right amount to maintain muscle, avoid fat gain and still be able to have enough energy to kill your workouts. It’s important to create a calorie deficit, but too much of a deficit will actually be damaging. Your body will turn to muscle for fuel, and instead of burning fat you will actually start to hold onto it.
So how do you determine your calories? Use the Mifflin equation to determine your RMR— resting metabolic rate, and then multiply by the correct activity factor. See my previous post on 5 Easy Steps for a Meal Prep for the exact calculation. This will give you the amount of calories that you should be eating to maintain your current weight. To lose weight, subtract 500 calories.
Tip #2: Carb Control
Most diets that focus on weight loss are carb restrictive, and the degree of carb restriction is determined by how well your body processes, burns off or stores carbs. There is lots of evidence and research to support a low-carb diet for quicker fat loss and a leaner, more muscular body composition versus other macronutrient ratios of the same caloric value. But in actuality, the amount of carbs you need is completely dependent on your unique metabolism. Generally speaking, the slower your metabolism, the fewer carbs you need, and the faster your metabolism, the more carbs you need.
So how do you know which amount is right for you? Experiment with your diet. If you’re looking to lose more fat weight, try eating a diet that provides about 20 percent or less calories from carbs. If you’re looking to maintain and you’re very active, eat about 30 percent or less. And if you’re looking to put on muscle and have a very fast metabolism, you could go as high as 40 percent of your calories from carbs. You can also experiment with different diets that focus on carb manipulation, such as carb cycling or ketogenic diets. These diets will allow you to fluctuate your carb intakes to keep your metabolism guessing and revving high.
Tip #3: Avoid Crash Diets
Very low-calorie diets may result in fast weight loss but they will also result in fast weight gain. Crash diets are hard to maintain and instead of staying on the diet, most will rebound, gain the weight back and then some! In order to maintain your metabolism, it is better to use a slow and steady, consistent approach to your weight loss than cut your calories too low. Determine the amount of calories that you’re actually taking in currently, and then compare this number to the amount of calories that you should be taking in using Tip #1. If these numbers are far off from each other, you might have a hard time sticking to a calorie deficit. Slowly reduce your calories and up your activity level until you’re body has adjusted, and you no longer feel too hungry or too low in energy! If you feel a 500-calorie deficit is too much, cut this in half, reducing your calories by 250 to begin with for a few weeks, then further reduce after a few weeks.
Additionally, switch where your calories are coming from slowly. If you have been carb dependent for a long period of time, you may want to slowly reduce your carb calories until you have adjusted to eating fewer. A good way to start this process— start eating more fibrous carbs. For example, if you have been dependent on simple carbs like white potatoes, make a switch to squash or vegetable mashes, or sweet potatoes instead, which are higher in fiber and lower in carbs.
Tip #4: Add Calories Slowly Back
Once you have reached your goal weight, it is important to not reach a plateau in your progress. A plateau will result in a metabolic slow down, and can cause the reverse of what you want. You can start to gain or hold onto your fat, and lose that hard-earned muscle.
There is no need to stay on too low calories for too long. Once you have reached your goal weight, your metabolism should actually be fast and primed, which means your body can now function on greater calories. Slowly start to add back calories. Add about 100 to 200 calories make per week, to a limit of 500 calories. This should be enough to maintain your weight without any further losses. If you notice you’re gaining too much weight, simply lower your calories again. As for what type of calories— keep your protein high to at least 1 to 1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight. Play with your carb and fat calories. If your workouts are still intense, keep the carbs on the higher side, but if your workouts are going to slow down after you have reached your goal, keep the carbs lower and adjust your fat macros.