How to Seriously Boost Your Metabolism

Convinced you were born with a slow metabolism? Good news: you can boost it by building muscle mass and fitness. Here’s our definitive guide to boosting your fat-burning abilities!

How your body burns fat

When you exercise, your body burns glucose first and fat second. Glucose is the energy from carbohydrates that flows into your bloodstream after you eat, and is stored in your muscles as glycogen.

While glycogen provides instant energy, your body can’t store much of it (unlike fat), so supply is limited. The good news? Once glucose runs low, you’ll start burning fat.

To be used for energy, fat has to be broken down into fatty acids and glycerol, which requires time and oxygen. So to get your body to burn some serious fat, you need a pretty serious workout.

“The more intense your exercise, the greater the fire in your fat furnace,” says personal trainer and 12WBT Program Writer Tim Pittorino. “And once you shift into fat-burning gear, you have the energy to swim, cycle and run for much longer.”

Also read: Top 10 Cardio Myths Busted

3 effective fat and glucose burners

With each form of exercise, your body uses a combination of fat and glucose as fuel.

1. Anaerobic Exercise

Short bursts of high-intensity anaerobic exercise – such as sprints and short, heavy sets in weight training – eat up glucose stores rapidly. “During weight training, the primary fuel is glycogen because your muscles need energy quickly,” Tim explains.

12WBT Support Crew Member Lou McDonald says anaerobic exercise will raise your BMR fast. “It’s an extremely effective way of burning fat as it generates the hormones that encourage fat burning, suppress insulin levels and raise the metabolic rate more effectively than other methods of cardiovascular activity.”

2. Aerobic Exercise

“When you’re doing more sustained aerobic work – low-impact jogging or walking – you don’t need the energy as quickly, so your body taps into your fat stores and grabs a combination of glycogen and fat,” says Tim.

“The more aerobically fit you are, the faster you start burning fat and the greater percentage of fat you burn, which also means you’ll have more energy for your workout.”

So is it best to stick to low-intensity aerobic exercise when you’re trying to lose weight in order to tap right into your fat stores? In a word, no. While you’ll initially use glycogen rather than fat as fuel for more intense aerobic exercise such as running, you’ll burn more calories overall during your workout, which will lead to greater weight loss.

3. Weight training

“Strength-training sessions may not burn as many calories during the session,” says Michelle Bridges, “but they have you burning loads of calories afterwards and they build up that lean muscle mass, which turns your engine from a two-stroke lawnmower into a V8 Supercar!”

That’s because muscle is a hungry tissue that requires loads of energy when you’re exercising at a high intensity, when you go back to low-intensity exercise and even when you’re at rest.

Also read: 5 Fast Ways to Burn Calories at Home

How to approach your new plan

Building lean muscle mass is tricky, so you need a plan. “Your weight-training workouts will depend on your exercise history, body type and physical limitations,” says Lou. “In general, the training needs to be intense, with a set amount of repetitions, sets and rest periods as the body adapts to the training” she says.

Tim adds, “There are some gifted people who put on muscle mass quickly, but they’re a very small percentage of the population.”

“The truth is it can take months to put on lean muscle, especially for women,” says Michelle. “You need to push as hard as possible during the training sessions. I want sweat pouring from your brow in at least three sessions per week” she stresses.

But if you stick to it, you will see and feel a difference over time. “Generally, after one to two Rounds, or three to six months, you’ll begin to see real definition,” says Tim.

And if you’re older, don’t use your age as an excuse – resistance training is one of the most important things older people should be doing. It improves bone density, strengthens muscles, protects joints, and helps prevent poor posture and mobility normally associated with age.

Boost your confidence

The magic formula: toning and cardio!

So what’s the best tactic for metabolic magic?

“Bodybuilders have very fast metabolic rates because they have loads of muscle mass,” says Tim. “And a marathon runner burns a huge percentage of fat even though they have less muscle mass because they’re aerobically fit. So the ultimate weight-loss formula is to carry a good amount of muscle mass and be as aerobically fit as possible, which is why the 12WBT programs have both toning and cardio.”

If you’re one of those people who naturally have a lot of muscle mass, you’re better off focusing on cardio work. And if you’re naturally skinnier, you’re better off focusing on the weights, particularly if you want to tone up.

Also read: What’s a Realistic Weightloss Goal?

How food helps

Your carbohydrate intake has an impact on how much fat you burn during exercise. When glucose concentrations are low, your intense run dribbles out to a walk because you just don’t have the energy to fuel those hungry muscles.

“Attention to detail with nutrition is vital to make sure that the muscles are fed properly, just like filling up your car with fuel!” says Lou.

But that doesn’t mean you should load up on burgers. If your body is flooded with extra glucose from a carb-loaded meal, it will stash more fat.

The best way to make sure your body burns fat efficiently is by following a sensible diet. “Eating regularly gives your body the correct signal to continue to burn fuel at a consistent rate, as it knows that it will receive more of it soon,” says Lou. “Many people confuse not eating with weight loss, when in fact the body then switches into survival mode, holding on to its fat stores.”

Fueling your body properly before a workout is important if you want to get the best results. “Have a small amount of food half an hour to an hour before training,” recommends Lou.

And hydrating is also vital for metabolism. “Drinking plenty of water is essential in assisting the digestive process in breaking down nutrients and processing them effectively. A water-starved body won’t release toxins and body fat efficiently,” Lou explains.

Access the expertise of the 12 Week Body Transformation’s fitness experts. 12WBT has programs for every level, developed by professional athletes and trainers. Register your interest in 12WBT now.


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  1. I am in the 5th week of the programme and apart from the first week I have not lost any weight. Actually in week 3 I gained .3 I did however loose 14 .4 centre meters Any suggestions for more joy at the scales and not disappointment Thank you

    1. Hi Carole – Thanks for sharing this with us. Isn’t it so frustrating when that happens! It’s so easy for us to get bogged down and defined by the numbers on the scales and even though they make us accountable for our actions and they’re a gauge as to how we are progressing, they shouldn’t be our only measure of success. That’s why you re-do your measurements and Fitness Test every 4 weeks, so you can see how your body shape is changing and fitness and strength is improving! The fact that you’ve lost 14.4cm is testament that you’re making super positive changes. Why not take a photo every 4 weeks as well, you will very likely ‘see’ more changes in the pic than you can ‘see’ on the scales. All these things are measurements of your success and should be celebrated!

      In regards to a slight gain of 300g, I wouldn’t worry too much about this. You might find that your weight gain is fluid retention, depending on where you are in your cycle – pre-menstrual women can put on noticeable weight (up to 1 – 1.5kgs in some instances!), and this will come off again as you move through your cycle. As an added note – if you had a high salt content meal the night before your weigh in, you might find that you retained fluid for your weigh in, even if you aren’t prone to weight gain over your menstrual cycle. Again, this is a temporary thing and will pass!

      If for some reason the reduction in your measurements was to cease and you continued not to see changes in the scales over the next few weeks, it’s time to look closer for what’s going on.

      • Are you following the 12WBT Meal Plans as prescribed? Keep a food diary for a week and check your daily calorie intake.
      • Are you following the 12WBT Exercise Plans as prescribed? Get a Heart Rate Monitor and track your calories burned per workout.
      • Are you getting enough sleep? Sufficient, good quality sleep is vital for the optimal functioning of your body.
      • Are you at a plateau and your body is recalibrating? Be patient, weight loss wont always happen in a consistent, linear fashion.

      Weight loss may not happen overnight, but if you follow the 12WBT Plans as they are prescribed, and get enough sleep, weight loss will happen over time. Please stick with it, consistency is crucial.

      You CAN do this!
      12WBT Support Crew

  2. Hope this video is also useful if you want to boost metabolism

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