Metabolism is the process by which your body uses fuel provided by foods you eat to produce energy at the cellular level. Of all the things you could do to insure a healthy, robust metabolism – nothing is more effective than regular physical activity. The reason is simple – exercise can enhance metabolism through four separate ways.
Exercise, especially resistance exercise, like weight lifting, yoga, and Pilates, increases lean body mass (muscle). The amount of muscle tissue you have in your body is the primary determinant of your basal metabolic rate or BMR. BMR accounts for about 65% of the total calories your body burns daily. Muscles tissue is highly active and burns fat very effectively. For perspective, one pound of muscle burns 14 calories a day, while one pound of fat burns just 3 calories. The more you exercise, the more muscle tissue you can maintain or even build. The value of resistance exercise to enhance metabolism becomes even more important as we age. Unfortunately, loss of muscle tissue is a predictable part of the aging process, but taxing those muscles, especially resistance exercise, can mitigate this loss.
The act of exercising leads to a significant, transient increase in metabolic rate. This is called “afterburn.” Aerobic exercise, especially vigorous activity, provides the most afterburn. High intensity interval (HIT) exercise, which entails very brief (15 seconds to 1 minute) of very intense (85-100% max heart rate) aerobic activity alternating with 3-4 minutes of very light activity is a very time-efficient way to exploit afterburn. As an added bonus, HIT exercise shifts fuel burning to fat.
Exercise increases the numbers of and the activity of our cell’s fuel and fat-burning machinery known as mitochondria. The more mitochondria you have and the better they operate, the more fat you can burn and the more energy you will have. Although all forms of exercise can increase mitochondria, HIT is particularly potent.
People have often asked me “Which is the best time to workout in a day?”
Although exercise is profoundly beneficial no matter what time of day you choose to do it, morning exercising has some amazing benefits.
Below are some of the reasons why we should workout in the mornings:
- It begins the day on a positive “healthy” note that can set the tone for the rest of the day.
- It provides an opportunity to tackle and fully complete an activity critical for your health that allows you to begin the day with an immediate sense of accomplishment and empowerment.
- It increases the chances that you will choose a healthier breakfast. After all who wants to negate the benefits of a morning exercise routine by following it up with a donut or pastry?
- It provides an immediate boost in mood and cheerfulness that studies show can last up to 12 hours. (Stand outside the doorway of a gym and watch all the smiling faces upon exit.)
- It primes the brain for learning and enhances focus in the first 1 to 2 hours post-exercise. (Always plan your most cognitively challenging daily activities in the period just after exercise.)
- It enhances your sleep. Studies show that regular morning exercise improves sleep patterns. In contrast, late afternoon and evening exercise can interfere with sleep onset.
- Because there are significantly less “competing” events or activities in the earliest parts of the day, morning exercise is easier to build in as a consistent, daily habit. Studies show that early morning exercisers have the best long-term success in maintaining fitness.
- It provides a transient increase (up to 5 hours) in metabolic rate that can help you burn off some of your breakfast and lunch calories.
Good luck with your workouts!