Boost Your Metabolism ….
No gimmicky spicy foods on this list, only proven and measurable ways to boost your metabolism. Incorporate every idea into your fitness lifestyle and you will realize the true potential of your metabolism.
Just as the name implies, reverse dieting is basically dieting in reverse. Whereas when you diet you slowly cut your calories as your weight loss plateaus, reverse dieting does just the opposite – effectively raising your calories on a week to week basis so as to maximize your calorie intake.
This takes patience and the ability to objectively measure your progress. You must differentiate the difference between fat and water weight. Increasing calories means you inevitably increase muscle glycogen capacity, and glycogen carries water with it. However, water is not fat, and glycogen is fuel for high-intensity exercise.
How to Reverse Diet Correctly
Alright, now that you know how reverse dieting works and why it’s so beneficial, let’s look at how to actually do it.
1. Engage in heavy resistance training (weightlifting, ideally) 3 to 5 times per week.
This has two big benefits for your metabolic rate:
- it speeds it up in the short term, burning a significant amount of post-workout calories, and
- it builds muscle, which speeds up your metabolic rate in the long term.
2. Slowly increase your calories each week until you’ve reached your total daily energy intake.
The idea here is simple: slow, gradual increases in your daily calorie intake until you’ve reached your average TDEE. (If you’re not sure how to calculate average TDEE, check out this Video).
I like to increase in increments of about 100 to 150 calories with 7 to 10-day intervals. That is, I increase my daily intake by 100 to 150 maintain that new level of intake for 7 to 10 days. I then do it again and again and again until I’ve reached my TDEE.
In terms of which macronutrients to increase, focus on increasing your carb intake more than anything else.
You don’t need more protein than 1 gram per pound to build and preserve muscle and you don’t need more than 0.3 to 0.4 grams of fat per pound of lean mass to maintain health. Carbs, on the other hand, can continue to benefit you and your workouts as you raise your intake higher and higher.
So, for example, when I finish cutting, my daily calorie intake is usually around 2,000 to 2,100, which is more or less my basal metabolic rate.
Given my body composition and exercise schedule, I should be able to eat about 2,800 calories per day without gaining fat (my average total daily energy expenditure as calculated in the article linked above).
Thus, my first week of reverse dieting entails raising my daily intake by 25 grams of carbohydrate, or 100 calories. This puts me at, let’s say, 2,200 calories per day. Then, a week or so later, I do it again, bumping to 2,300 calories per day. And then I will start increasing by 150 calories per week until I’ve reached my target.
3. Eat plenty of protein.
A high-protein diet is important because it will promote muscle growth, which is what we want to achieve with step #1.
I recommend that you eat 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight when you’re working on speeding up your metabolism.
4. Eat a moderate amount of dietary fat.
While I’m generally not a fan of low-carb, high-fat dieting for athletes (and I explain why here), I do recommend eating a fair amount of dietary fat every day when you’re working on improving metabolic health.
The main reason why it can boost testosterone production (albeit slightly), which in turn speeds up metabolic rate. It’s a relatively minor point, but every little bit helps.
I recommend that you get 0.3 to 0.4 grams of fat per pound of lean mass while reverse dieting.
5. Get the rest of your daily calories from carbohydrate.
Once you’ve set your protein intake at 1 gram per pound of body weight and determined how many grams of fat to eat every day, you simply use your remaining calories for carbs. (Divide your remaining calories by 4 to calculate how many grams this is.)
Use Flexible Dieting When Creating Reverse Dieting Meal Plans
Don’t fall for the dogmas of “clean eating.”
Yes, you should eat plenty of nutritious foods every day, but this can include many foods deemed as “unworthy” by various health “gurus,” such as grains, fruit, dairy, and read meat.
That advice applies regardless of your diet goals–losing weight, building muscle, or maintaining body composition–and applies to reverse dieting as well. Life is better when you get to eat foods you actually like.
Eat More Calories
Eating fewer calories results in a slowing of your metabolism. This is a natural adaptation for your metabolism. To increase the rate at which your body produces metabolism-boosting hormones, you must feed it enough nutrition to carry out these functions.
This is why it’s so important that you always try to eat as many calories as possible that still enables you to lose weight. Keep your calorie deficit small and you will maintain a healthy metabolism all through your weight loss program. A 15% deficit is about all you need to get things going.
Create an Afterburn with HIIT
The afterburn effect, scientifically known as EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption), is your body’s way of returning itself to homeostasis after exercise. Your body uses extra calories after you finish working out to erase its oxygen debt, replenish fuel stores, and to repair muscle tissue.
While EPOC occurs after most exercise protocols, it is most elevated after intense bursts of exercise. If you push yourself in the gym or do intense intervals, you have the potential to have an elevated calorie burn for up to 48 hours after your workout.
Why is high intensity interval training so important?
It’s physiologically impossible to sustain maximal intensities during exercise for an extended amount of time. This is because of how our bodies use fuel.
Let’s say I tell you to go outside and run as fast as you can for 20 minutes.
Stage 1 – Phosphocreatine
OK! The first 10 to 20 seconds are going great! You’re sprinting like the wind! That’s because you’re using a high-intensity energy source known as phosphocreatine.
Stage 2 – Lactic acid and anaerobic glycolysis
After about 20 seconds, your phosphocreatine start to run low, and anaerobic glycolysis would predominate. At this point, more lactic acid would be produced and used as a fuel source.
You’re still be running as hard as you can, but you’d be slowing down, and your lungs are working overtime.
If you were a member of the Canadian Olympic Hockey team or an elite speed skater, you could probably maintain this for up to 10 minutes. But those who are not well conditioned would need to slow down and even stop. If this is your first time off the couch, you might even consider throwing up, thanks to the change in blood pH levels.
Well, it looks like the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. 20-minute sprint challenge: FAIL.
So why can’t you work at maximal intensity for an extended amount of time?
Oxygen: The molecule that makes the magic
One reason is the supply and demand of oxygen when working so hard.
Nature is full of trade-offs. In this case, we trade efficiency for intensity.
When you work at a lower intensity (such as during a brisk walk), aerobic metabolism predominates.
Your body uses oxygen to break down carbohydrate and fat for energy. This is very efficient, but you can’t work at top speed. With aerobic metabolism, you gain efficiency but lose intensity. Evolutionarily, this would be useful for traveling long distances while foraging for food or water.
On the other hand, when you work at a higher intensity (such as sprinting) , anaerobic metabolism predominates.
Your body can’t get oxygen to where it needs to go fast enough. This is very inefficient, but it lets you produce short bursts of speed or high energy — very handy when you’re running away from a sabre-toothed tiger or a rock-wielding Grok.
So, we have these two systems, both of which have their own advantages and disadvantages. What if we could have our cake and eat it too? (Or, in this case, lose the fat we gained by eating the cake in the first place.)
With HIIT, you alternate short bursts of very intense exercise (such as 10-20 sec of sprinting) with periods of lower intensity (such as 1 min of walking).
- The higher intensity periods create a metabolic demand that is very effective for long-term fat loss and overall conditioning.
- The lower intensity periods let you recover and use the aerobic energy system.
In addition, hormone release during exercise depends on exercise intensity.
Gentle movements such as yoga, tai-chi, or a pleasant stroll outside can lower stress hormones.
But when you approach 85 to 95% of VO2max, growth hormone, testosterone, endorphins, epinephrine (adrenaline), norepinephrine (noradrenaline), cortisol, and aldosterone all increase. These hormones all have effects on body composition and anabolism.
What you should know about HIIT
Exercise can range from gentle movements to maximal efforts. HIIT and heavy weights can elevate stress hormones.
Most every high intensity physical activity is a state of “crisis” in the body. It endangers oxygen supply to tissues, increases body temperature, reduces body fluids and fuel stores, and causes tissue damage.
Intense exercise creates endocrine and defense reactions that are similar to those elicited by low blood oxygen, high blood carbon dioxide, acidosis, high body temperature, dehydration, low blood sugar, physical injury and psychological stresses.
Hormonally, your body basically freaks out. Then it brings out the big guns to deal with the problem. High intensity exercise stresses the body so much that it’s forced to adapt.
As Nietzsche gasped during a 20-rep squat set, “That which does not kill me makes my quads bodacious.” (It makes more sense in German.)
HIIT is excellent for:
- losing body fat (while retaining lean body mass)
- strengthening the cardiovascular system
- developing sport-specific energy systems (e.g. training for that Olympic hockey team)
- developing “work capacity” (i.e. the ability to tolerate a high level of intensity for a longer period)
- improving fat and carbohydrate oxidation in skeletal muscle
- developing “mental toughness”
- making you a badass
- challenging the fast twitch muscle fibres — the fibres that are great for strength, power and looking buff
HIIT is extremely efficient. It lets you get a bigger training effect with less time spent. And compared to a 45-minute jog, 5 min of HIIT is a lot easier on the joints.
How to do HIIT
There are many ways to do HIIT. All you need to remember is the basic principle: Alternate short bursts of very high intensity with periods of recovery/low intensity.
The longest 4 minutes of your life: The Tabata study
One of the most famous studies of HIIT is known as the Tabata study. In this study (see abstract below), subjects performed rowing intervals: 20 sec of ultra-fast rowing alternated with 10 seconds of relaxed recovery rowing, for a total of 8 intervals, or 4 minutes.
At the end of the study, participants showed a 28% increase in anaerobic capacity along with a 14% increase in V02max. Pretty impressive!
The “Tabata protocol” — 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off — has become one of the most common methods of doing HIIT.
Using resistance exercises can be a very effective method of doing HIIT.
To use resistance training, choose compound exercises that are good “oxygen suckers”, such as:
- kettlebell swings or snatches
- jumping squats
Combo exercises are also good choices.
- do a pullup, drop down, do a pushup, jump back up to the pullup bar for another pullup, and so on
- hang clean + front squat + overhead press
- dumbbell snatch + wrestler’s sprawl
You can also combine resistance exercises with “cardio” type exercises.
- alternate a set of dumbbell swings with 100 m sprints
- sprint up a hill, then do a fast set of pushups at the top
- carry a heavy sandbag for speed
Customizing HIIT for your goals
You can mix up your HIIT choices to avoid overtraining and overuse injuries, and to keep things fresh and interesting.
If you’re a competitive athlete who needs energy systems work for your sport, incorporate some sessions of sport-specific HIIT work. For example:
- sprints for soccer players
- jumps for volleyball and basketball players
- heavy bag intervals for boxers
You can also vary the length of your intervals.
- High intensity intervals can last anywhere from 10 to 60 seconds
- Low intensity recovery periods can last anywhere from 10 seconds to a minute or more
If you’re new to HIIT, opt for shorter high intensity periods and longer low intensity periods.
And note: “high intensity” means “high intensity for YOU”. If you’re a beginner, a fast jog or uphill walk for 10 seconds is a better start than trying to handle an all-out sprint workout.
Don’t forget: Perform an adequate warm up and cool down when performing HIIT.
I’m a big fan of refeeds. Cheat meals are similar, but I no longer set aside specific times to have them. Instead, I incorporate about 20% my calories to come from “free” foods. Doing so enables you to get in plenty of nutrition, and if you pay attention to your portion sizes and calorie intake, you will still make great progress.
For people with highly-adaptable metabolisms, refeeds are a must at least once a week and sometimes twice. Simply eat the same foods as you always do and increase your calories to maintenance levels. This sends strong signals to your metabolism to up-regulate its fat-burning and muscle-building hormones.
Who Should (and Shouldn’t) Do Carb Refeeds?
The thought of “strategically increasing your carb intake” might sound like a headache waiting to happen…
Something to keep in mind: you don’t ever have to do carb refeeds. Just sticking to the fundamentals of a solid Paleo diet and lifestyle will get you healthy, lean and happy.
Carb refeeds can help take your weight loss to the next level… if that’s what you want.
If you’re looking for top aesthetic appeal—to get as lean and “ripped” as possible—carb refeeds can help you melt off that last layer of stubborn fat.
Another group who could benefit from carb refeeds: people who have been Paleo for a while and reached a weight loss plateau.
If you’ve been following a Paleo diet closely for several months, making the right food choices, and watching your carbohydrate intake, but you’re still not losing weight (or if you have low energy and cravings), now’s a great time to give carb refeeds a try.
If you have more than 10 pounds to lose to reach your target weight—or if you’re new to the Paleo diet—you’re better off not worrying about this stuff just yet.
Those who are overweight are usually resistant to insulin and leptin, two key hormones when it comes to weight loss and overall health. They’ll see better results by focusing on the basics: making the right food choices. Doing this will restore sensitivity to those hormones… as well as lead to weight loss and better health.
Then, once they have a solid diet and lifestyle in place for a few months and their weight loss has stalled, they can consider carb refeeds to lose those last few stubborn pounds.
How to Do a Carb Refeed
Okay. So you have a few pounds to lose, but your weight loss has stalled. Or you’re trying to get as lean as possible.
Carb refeeds can help you.
Just like with intermittent fasting, the concept is simple, but there are a ton of different methods you could use to do it.
I’ll get this out of the way right now: a carb refeed is not the same thing as a cheat day. It isn’t about stuffing your face with pizza or bread. And it isn’t about eating as many carbs as you want, either.
It’s just a certain day (or meal) where you have a lot more Paleo-friendly carbs than you normally do. Most Paleos use starches like sweet potatoes, potatoes, or even white rice to spike their carb intake. It’s tough to spike your carb intake by eating vegetables like broccoli or spinach alone; you’d have to eat a truckload of them!
Here’s how carb refeeds work:
Schedule Your Refeeds for Days with Heavy Physical Activity
You’ll get the most benefits from carb refeeds if you limit them to days when you’re physically active.
The more active you are that day, the better position your body is in to absorb the shock to your system and crank up your fat loss. So focus your carb refeeds on days when you do the most physically demanding activities.
Days where you go to the gym, do CrossFit, or train martial arts are all great options for a refeed day. The idea here is to deplete your glycogen levels… and then refill them after your workout.
Refeed Timing and Frequency
Most people will see great results by doing a carb refeed once a week.
Once a week is a small commitment, so it isn’t overwhelming if you’re just trying this for the first time. And it’s all it takes to give your system the shock it needs to keep the weight coming off—and you feeling happy, healthy, and full.
Another option: instead of setting aside a certain day for carb refeeds, you can do mini carb refeeds during certain meals instead.
That’s what I do. By the time a jiu jitsu sparring session ends, I can hardly drag myself off the mat. My muscles are sore, and the glycogen in my body is depleted. That means eating a carb-heavy meal shortly after I get home is the perfect opportunity to fuel my body, boost my leptin levels, and keep the weight coming off.
I do these little mini refeeds two or three times a week, and I only do them after intense training sessions. I want to avoid the carb spikes from occurring so frequently that they become the “norm” for my body!
Experiment with both methods and find out which one works best for you. It might make more sense to designate a day instead of certain meals. It just depends on your unique situation and lifestyle.
Limit Fats During Your Carb Refeeds
Because you’re increasing your carbs on refeed days, you have to watch out for increasing your total calories too much.
If you up your carbs during a refeed, but you don’t decrease your fat intake, you might end up eating so many calories that day (or meal) that your carb refeed does more harm than good.
That’s why carb refeed authorities like Martin Berkhan recommend limiting your fat intake during refeeds. This helps compensate for the increased carbs and avoids a massive calorie blowout.
It’s easy to think of it like this: during refeeds, go for more carbs and less fat. At all other times go for more fats and less carbs.
How Many Carbs?
How many carbs should you eat during a refeed?
Should you have an extra sweet potato? Or force three of them down your throat?
Here’s a guideline to follow: the more you restrict your carbs normally, the more carbs you need to eat during your refeeds.
So if you’re eating very few carbs—say 50 grams a day or less—go for 300 to 350 carbs during your refeeds.
If you’re eating low carb (between 50 and 100 grams a day), you don’t need the carb spike to be quite so dramatic to see good results. Shoot for 250 grams during a refeed.
If your typical carb intake is moderate (in the 100-150 grams range), you don’t need to eat many more carbs to refeed. Bump up your carbs a bit—maybe to 200 grams.
Just a heads-up: you’ll probably gain a couple of pounds during refeeds. You might feel bloated. This is completely normal; it’s just because your glycogen stores have been replenished. The weight and bloated feeling will go away quickly, putting you in prime position to burn off more body fat.
Bust Plateaus and Take Your Weight Loss to the Next Level
Carb refeeds can take your weight loss to the next level…
But only if you’re already close to your target weight.
If you’ve been Paleo for a while, but you’re stuck on a plateau where you can’t lose those last few pounds, give carb refeeds a shot.
They’re a powerful tool that can give your system the shake-up it needs to beat food cravings, as well as keep you energized and burning fat.
Have you ever tried carb refeeds? How did you do them, and what were your results? Leave a comment below and let us know.
Increase Your Protein Intake
No other macronutrient has as strong of an influence on your metabolism as protein. Protein is highly thermogenic, which means it produces heat through metabolic stimulation. Protein uses about 25% of its calories for the digestion process.
Aim to get at least .7-1 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass. If you don’t know your lean body mass, you can eat .6-.8 grams per pound. However, if you have a very high body fat, the latter method can be misleading, as muscle is much more metabolically active than fat tissue.
Last on the list but probably the most effective method for boosting your metabolism is strength training. Everyone should be incorporating some form of strength training into their fitness program. The benefits are just too many to ignore.
When it comes to your metabolism, strength training builds metabolism-boosting muscle. This muscle tissue uses calories at all hours of the day to maintain itself.
That means a single workout can pay dividends long after you’re out of the gym.
Try to strength train at least once per week. You don’t need a gym either. You can get an effective workout with nothing other than your own body weight.
Combine strength training with some HIIT, all while keeping your protein and calories up and incorporating refeeds, and you will soon find out just how powerful your metabolism can be.