Metabolism gets blamed when people put on weight or have trouble losing weight, but you can learn how to speed up your metabolism. Increasing your metabolism can help you burn calories, replace fat with muscle and give you more energy. The key to increasing your metabolism is understanding what it is.

Metabolism is a combination of physical and chemical processes called anabolism and catabolism. Anabolism is the constructive phase of metabolism in which body cells synthesize protoplasm for growth and repair. Catabolism is the destructive phase of metabolism in which complex substances are broken down into simpler compounds producing energy which is essential for the proper functioning of body cells. Together, these processes distribute nutrients which are absorbed into the blood after digestion.

Three factors determine your metabolic rate, which is the amount of calories your body uses every day. The basal metabolic rate(BMR) is the rate your body uses energy for vital body processes. The rate you burn energy during physical activity and the rate you use energy during digestion of food are the two other factors involved in your total metabolic rate. To improve your metabolic efficiency you only need to alter what you eat and what you do a little bit to experience a difference in how you look and feel.

The best way to jump-start your metabolism is to exercise. Exercise will reduce body fat and increase lean muscle mass. By increasing lean muscle mass, metabolism will increase and aid in the weight-loss process. Muscle tissue uses more calories than fat tissue because it has a higher metabolic rate. Aerobic exercise, like walking, swimming or cycling, has the added bonus of speeding up your metabolism for 4 to 8 hours after you stop exercising. Additional calories will be burned off long after you stop exercising.

Weight lifting, resistance or strength training, does not speed up your metabolism, but it does burn fat and increase your lean muscle mass which increases your resting metabolic rate. A combination of aerobic exercise and resistance training is best for optimal fat burning and metabolism boosting. Exercise in the morning and you will reap the benefits of a faster metabolism throughout the day, or exercise in short 10 or 15-minute bursts every couple of hours to keep your metabolism pumping. Exercise any time you can fit it into your day and you will burn that fat away. By exercising just a little more than usual you can speed up your metabolism and use up stored fat in the process.

Eat breakfast!
Breakfast is essential. Your body has been deprived of food throughout the night, therefore your metabolism has slowed. If the cells do not receive sufficient nutrients they will begin to function less efficiently on smaller amounts, and they will actually store more fat to use during these times of nutritional deprivation. Eat six small meals a day to keep your body's fuel supply consistent and keep your metabolism revved up. Avoid eating late at night because your metabolism naturally slows down in the afternoon and evening, so eat a hearty breakfast. Consistency is important because your body metabolism adapts to your current weight. If you have been dieting or skipping meals your body's metabolism slows down to compensate for the lack of nutrients. When lean people overeat their metabolism speeds up and when obese people diet their metabolism slows down. The key is a balance of exercise and diet.

Eat fewer high-fat foods and less total calories. Choosing healthy foods, such as lean protein and vegetables, can actually increase your metabolism as well. Increase dietary fiber and limit sugary foods, alcohol, caffeine and don't smoke. The best foods to increase your metabolism and help you lose weight are fish, dark green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, blueberries and other fruits, whole grains, and at least 8 glasses of water a day.

When your cells need energy they will break down carbohydrates first, then fat and finally protein. Your body converts carbohydrates into a form of sugar called glucose which is easily used as fuel by your body. Any excess carbohydrates you eat will be turned into fat for storage. Of course, any fat you eat will be stored as fat as well. Your body converts the fat you eat into body fat very efficiently. If you exercise and eat wisely, however, you will burn those fat stores and increase your metabolism.

You can jump-start a sluggish metabolism through exercise and diet which will have lasting health benefits for you. Not only will you lose weight and gain muscle mass, but you'll have more energy to burn and you'll feel great.