Metabolism is a word we have all heard that word somewhere; perhaps on a talk show, in a health and beauty magazine, read about it in your doctor’s office or in a self-help dieting book. But you may be wondering what exactly is a metabolism? How does it aid in your overall health? And what can you do to increase it?

In order to explore the true significance of metabolism, we must first define the word. According to Medical News Today, “metabolism refers to biochemical processes that occur with any living organism…to maintain life. These biochemical processes allow us to grow, reproduce, repair damage and respond to our environment.”

While the scientific definition can be difficult to understand, just remember when it comes to diet and nutrition, metabolism is simply the mechanism that helps the human organs function and cells repair properly.

Most people want to have a higher metabolism, but what they are really striving for is a high basal metabolism rate (BMR), which is the rate at which your body burn the most calories. Your current BMR is based largely on your age, sex, genes and how much you weigh. These are all factors that are hard or impossible to change.

However, there are ways to alter your BRM that you can control. One of the most effective ways to increase your metabolism is to eat regularly throughout the day. A common myth is that skipping meals will cause you to lose weight. The truth is skipping meals will cause your metabolism to decrease, which will ultimately stall your weight loss.

For example, a person whose caloric goal for the day is 2,000 should not eat two meals that are 1,000 calories each. Instead, their breakfast, lunch and dinner should be around 500 calories for each meal. They should also have a snack for brunch and between lunch and dinner that total 250 calories each.

Eating this often will take some adjusting for those that typically eat two or three times a day, but this method keeps your digestive tract constantly active, your hunger at bay and your metabolism burning calories.

An immediate way to boost your metabolism is to exercise. You may have heard this one before, but there is a reason that you have. With aerobic exercises such as jogging, dancing, biking, etc., your metabolism stays at a heighten level for hours after you are done working out. Weight lifting has even better results. Web MD says “a pound of muscle uses 6 calories a day just to sustain itself.” Which means the more muscle you have, the more calories your body burns on a daily basis without you doing a thing.

You should know that there are food and beverages that have been clinically proven to raise your metabolism. Green tea is one drink that is commonly associated with metabolism. Green tea contains a significant amount of catechins, antioxidants that positively affect metabolism. However, make sure you are drinking hot green tea from a bag instead of the cold, bottled variety which can contain as much sugar as a soda.

Photo by Quan Siler

Spicy foods are also know to rev up that metabolism. Peppers, specifically the capsaicin in them, activates the process of thermogenesis. This means our bodies generates heat and as a result, our metabolisms increase temporarily. Cinnamon has the same effect.

Photo by Quan Siler

If you have unsuccessfully tried to lose some weight or are currently stuck at a plateau in you weight loss regimen, then it could be your slow metabolism to blame. You cannot alter your genes, but you can change your daily routine in order to start shedding pounds.

Remember to eat many small meals throughout the day, incorporate aerobics and weight lifting in your exercise routine, drink lots of green tea and add some spice to your life.