The One Secret to Boost Your Metabolism

Strength Training for Your Metabolism

Cross training athlete lifting barbell in gym
Corey Jenkins/Getty Images

Metabolism—what comes to mind when you hear that word? If it's frustration and anxiety, it's time to think about your metabolism in a new way. Remove all the emotional connection to the word and just look at metabolism for what it is—science.

What Is Metabolism?

Metabolism is a chemical process, just like photosynthesis or digestion. If you start with that fact, it might be easier to understand and accept that you can do something about your “slow” metabolism.

By understanding how muscle plays a role, you can learn how to boost your metabolism and make a change for the better.

Simply stated, metabolism is the chemical process that converts the food you eat into energy that you burn during the day. Calories are a unit of energy. If you burn more calories than you consume, you would lose weight. While this is essentially true, it's more complicated than that.

It’s not just movement that burns calories. In addition to the calories you burn when you run, bike and swim, you also have a “resting metabolic rate." This is the calorie burn that happens when you sit at your desks and work, watch television from the sofa, and while you sleep. Even when you're at rest, your body needs energy for all its hidden functions, such as breathing, circulating blood, maintaining body temperature, adjusting hormone levels, and growing and repairing cells. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are several things that can affect your metabolism:

  • Body size and composition: If you weigh more or have more muscle mass, you will burn more calories, even at rest. People who weigh more are more likely to have a faster metabolic rate—not a slower one—because a portion of the excess weight is muscle tissue.
  • Sex: If you're a man, you probably have less body fat and more muscle mass than a woman of the same age, so you burn more calories.
  • Age: As you get older, your muscle mass decreases, which slows down the rate at which you burn calories.

Do you sense a theme? The more muscle you have, the more calories your body burns all day long. Muscle burns three to five times more calories than fat does. So the more muscle you have, the more calories you’ll burn—even when you’re staying perfectly still.

Unfortunately, after age 35, you start to lose about a half pound of muscle per year if you're not actively replacing it. The good news is there is something you can do about it—strength training.

Strength Training to Boost Your Metabolism

Adding muscle to your body will help raise your metabolism and keep you fit. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) lists the other numerous benefits seen in people who strength train regularly such as reducing the symptoms of arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity, back pain, and depression

Now that you know the importance of strength training, where do you start? Do you have to go to a gym and be surrounded by grunting men lifting giant barbells? The good news is that lifting weights is only one of the many ways you can strength train. Take a look at a few others.

  • Dumbbells or Barbells: The most commonly used piece of strength equipment, dumbbells or barbells come in all sizes from very light to very heavy. This makes them appropriate for all levels of exercisers. Simply go lighter as you see fit. It is wise to hire a trainer (even for just one session) to show you proper form and get you started. If that’s not an option, there are online workouts and apps that can teach you what you need to know.
  • Bodyweight: If you are new to strength training, bodyweight is the way to go. Using your own body weight for push-ups, lunges, squats, or pull-ups requires no equipment but will give you a good workout.
  • Machines: Strength machines at the gym or in circuit-style clubs can be more user-friendly than dumbbells if you are new to strength training. Most machines have instructions and photos right on the front, making it easy to understand what you should do. Machines are also a bit safer given their fixed nature.
  • Strength Class: If you belong to a health club, try a class that involves strength training. Getting instruction from a professional teacher is a great way to learn several different moves for a variety of body parts. In addition, the group setting can be really fun.
  • DVD, Online, or App Workouts: Get your workout in the comfort of your own home. Videos allow you to follow along as a teacher walks you through the routine, providing not only instruction but some friendly company and motivation. There is online workout streaming services and apps that allow you to workout with your favorite fitness professional from anywhere at any time.

A Word From Verywell

With all of those options, a great workout is just a step away. Take that step today and start revving your metabolism back up now.

Sources:

2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://health.gov/paguidelines/guidelines/.

Metabolism and Weight Loss: How You Burn Calories. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/metabolism/art-20046508.

The Benefits of Physical Activity. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pa-health/index.htm.