We Asked an Expert If Cardio Boosts Your Metabolism, and We Didn't Expect This Answer
As health and wellness continues to become more individualized, we suspect that topics like metabolism (and its importance) will become more mainstream. There are a lot of myths about metabolism such as eating spicy foods and drinking water to speed it up, but it's not that simple.
We do know that eating more protein, healthy foods high in fat, and strength training are expert-approved ways to boost your metabolism. To find out if other forms of exercise, such as cardio, are beneficial to boosting your metabolism, POPSUGAR spoke to Avigdor Arad, PhD, RDN, CDE, director of the Mount Sinai PhysioLab.
What Is Metabolism and How Does It Work?
As a refresher, metabolism is a complex process that deals with how your body produces energy from fat, protein, and sugar/carbohydrates and how it stores energy. When people use the term metabolism, they're actually referring to their metabolic rate, how much energy (commonly referred to as calories) you burn throughout the day, Dr. Arad explained. Your metabolic rate is not the same as your resting metabolic rate (RMR), which is the minimum amount of calories your body needs at rest to perform basic functions, like breathing, to keep you alive.
Everyone will have a different metabolic rate based on factors like age, genetics, and activity level. If you produce energy well, the higher (or faster) your metabolism will be. The less energy you produce, the slower your metabolism will be.
To learn more about your metabolic rate and how you body produces energy, you should consider getting a resting metabolic rate test ($200, but rates will vary), provided at specialized clinics like the Mount Sinai PhysioLab.
How to Boost Your Metabolism
Boosting your metabolism is a term that gets thrown around a lot, but what is really means is improving your metabolic rate: how much energy/calories you burn in a day.
No matter your metabolic rate, there are expert-approved ways to speed it up. Three effective ways to boost your metabolism for long-term results are to eat more healthy fats and protein, and to strength train. Eating more healthy fats makes it difficult for your body to process them, and as a result, your body will expend more energy (calories) as it breaks it down. By increasing your protein intake, your body will also have to work harder to digest, break down, and store it.
Weightlifting is one of best ways to build muscle, and as a result, improve your metabolic rate. Because muscle is more metabolically active than fat, the more muscle you have, the more calories you'll burn in a day. There's one caveat: "It's very difficult to increase your muscle mass," Dr. Arad told POPSUGAR. To build muscle you're going to have to work extremely hard. "The increase in the amount of energy that the body burns as a result of your muscle mass is certainly important, but it's somewhat small," he said. "For every one pound increase in muscle mass, there is an increase of about seven calories burned a day," Dr. Arad explained.
Why You Should Do Cardio to Boost Your Metabolism
There's no denying that building muscle is important, but cardio also plays an important role when it comes to your metabolic rate. "When you do cardio, you're burning calories. You're burning 60, 100, 200, 500 a session; it depends on how much you do. This is by default increasing your metabolic rate to a large degree," he explained. Cardio isn't better than lifting weights and vice versa; what's best will depend on your goals. But, when looking at it solely from improving your metabolic rate, cardio causes you to expend more energy/calories per workout than weightlifting.
We're not saying abandon your weights and never lift again. Like with most things, you need a balance of both. Strength training will help you preserve the muscle you have, build muscle, lose weight, and improve your metabolic rate. Cardio will improve your vascular endurance, lose weight, and also speed up your metabolic rate.
One day of strength training or doing cardio won't be enough to improve your metabolism for the long-term. Both should be done consistently if you want to improve your metabolic rate, commonly referred to as boosting your metabolism.
To get a good mix of both cardio and strength training, try the following workouts: