Many people think of metabolism in terms of how their body breaks down food or how their body uses energy when they’re doing physical activities. While both of those are true, your metabolism is still working even when you’re not “doing anything” so that your body can continue to function. By looking at your basal metabolic rate, you can figure out how many calories you need if you’re resting. While this rate varies from person to person, there are ways to increase your metabolism on your rest days.
What is Metabolism and Why is it Important?
Metabolism is used to describe the many chemical processes in an organism necessary to maintain basic functions for living. You can then divide metabolism further between catabolism and anabolism. Catabolism is the process of breaking down large molecules like food into simpler forms for energy. Anabolism is the process of our body making complex molecules to build and repair itself.
Metabolism is important because it’s how our body is able to convert what we eat into the energy we need. The higher your metabolism, the more calories you can burn—whether at rest or while exercising. That also means the more calories you can eat without putting on weight or a less strict caloric deficit that needs to be achieved to lose weight.
The Basics of Basal Metabolic Rate
Even if we’re not moving or exercising, our body still needs energy for things like breathing, pumping blood, and repairing cells. This is reflected in your basal metabolic rate or BMR, which is the number of calories your body needs to perform its essential, life-sustaining functions. To figure out your basal metabolic rate, you can input your age, gender, height, and weight into an online BMR calculator.
With your BMR in mind, you can figure out how much you need to change your daily calorie intake so that you can ensure you’re burning more calories than you consume, which leads to a calorie deficit and thus weight loss.
1) Get Out of Your Chair
Even when you’re taking a rest day from working out, moving just a little bit can help boost your metabolism. When you’re at work or school, try to get out of your chair every half hour or hour. If you often take phone calls in your job, try standing up for those conversations as an easy way to remember to get a little more movement in your day. You may also consider swapping your regular desk for a standing desk.
2) Drink Tea and Water
Green tea has long been known for its health benefits, and these include its metabolism-boosting abilities. This beverage contains compounds called catechins, which have been shown to increase metabolism. If you really want to maximize your catechin intake, opt for matcha tea over regular loose leaf green tea as the way it’s prepared means you’re ingesting the full nutrients of the entire leaf.
Along with green tea, water is another beverage proven to increase metabolism. When you’re drinking water, go for cold water over room temperature water as that extra work of your body having to warm up the water in order to maintain a temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit may help boost your metabolism.
3) Mind Your Diet
What you eat can make a huge difference to your metabolic rate. Try to eat more high-fiber, low-calorie foods like fruits and vegetables. Additionally, changes in your blood sugar can lead to changes in your metabolism. Spikes in your blood sugar can signal your body to store extra sugar as fat while dips in your blood sugar can cause your body to burn muscle. To maintain stable blood sugar, choose foods rich in protein, fat, and fiber like meat, dairy, and nuts over sugary treats and simple carbohydrates.
4) Get Plenty of Rest
Yes, even simply resting can help you increase your metabolism! This is because a lack of sleep can actually decrease your metabolic rate. Make it part of your daily routine to get a good night’s rest (around seven to nine hours of sleep) and try to avoid pulling those all-nighters—your metabolism will thank you for it.
5) Keep a Schedule
While you should be focused on getting a sufficient amount of sleep, it also helps if you have a routine of going to bed and waking up around the same time every day. This is because disruptions in the circadian clock have been tied to metabolic disorders. Then when you wake up, make it a habit to eat a healthy breakfast so you can activate your body’s thermogenesis process and jump-start your metabolism.
Even if you’re not exercising, your body is still burning energy so that it can complete its basic metabolic functions. Your basal metabolic rate reflects how many calories you need to get this baseline of energy, and you can quickly figure this out with a BMR calculator. And, while you’re resting from physical activity, there are steps you can take to improve your metabolism, including eating and drinking the right things and maintaining a healthy sleep schedule.
Cindy is a freelance writer and editor with previous experience in marketing as well as book publishing. Along with her content writing for a diverse portfolio of clients, Cindy’s work has been featured in Thrillist, The Points Guy, Forbes, and more.