The Metabolism Mystery
By Executive Chef Paul Marks
If you are anything like me, you are cursed with a slow metabolism. It’s frustrating to watch friends who can down pizza, burgers and fries, while I have to count calories and eat salads to maintain a healthy weight for my size. Or, maybe you have smug siblings who can eat whatever they want and still stay slim. Whatever the case, some of us seem to gain weight and some of us don’t. Because studies show that only about 5 percent of your metabolism is attributed to genes, what is the magic behind our metabolism?
Let’s start with what we do know. When we eat our bodies need to break the foods down, and metabolism is the process that the body goes through to break down proteins, carbohydrates and fat. The rate of this process can be slow, medium or fast, depending on your genetic makeup, lifestyle and level of exercise.
While we would all prefer that our bodies burn fat first, the body only burns fat when carbohydrates run out and energy is needed. This leads some people to the false idea that skipping a meal will stimulate more fat burn, but this is definitely not the answer.
When you don’t eat, your body panics. It thinks there is no food available and, like a diligent planner, it starts rationing and storing whatever it can for future use. Your metabolism slows down and your body absorbs more of the calories you eat rather than burning them immediately for energy. It’s far better to eat on a regular basis so your body doesn’t go into panic mode and start hoarding whatever it can.
So how should we eat? Definitely start with breakfast. It jump-starts your metabolism for the day. I’ll admit I’m not a good breakfast eater. I simply am not hungry when I first wake up, and I’m also a get-up-and-go type of person. However, I have gotten into the habit of a smoothie or apple in the morning. The awesome thing about eating an apple is that it takes more calories to eat the apple than the apple actually has in it.
Besides simply eating, exercise plays a very large part of speeding up your metabolism. When our metabolism is raised, it stays that way for up to two hours after we exercise. And the higher your metabolic rate, the more energetic you will feel.
Try the Lemon Chicken Stir-Fry recipe for a metabolism-revving dish that tastes amazing.
Lemon Chicken Stir-Fry
½ cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 each red and yellow pepper sliced
½ cup sliced sweet onion
1 cup diagonally sliced carrots (1/4 inch thick)
2 cups snow peas (6 ounces), stems and strings removed
1 bunch scallions, cut into 1-inch pieces, white and green parts divided
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 teaspoon chopped ginger
Grate 1 teaspoon lemon zest. Juice the lemon and whisk the juice, chicken broth, soy sauce and cornstarch in a bowl.
Heat coconut oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add chicken, and lightly cook, stirring occasionally for 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and cover with a towel. Add peppers, onions and carrots to the pan, cook until the carrots are tender or about 5 minutes. Stir in snow peas, scallion whites, garlic, ginger and lemon zest. Cook until fragrant, for about 1 minute. Whisk the broth mixture and add to the pan. Stir and cook until thickened for about 2 to 3 minutes. Add scallion greens, chicken and any juices from chicken. Stir and cook until heated through or about 1 to 2 minutes.
Serve over steamed brown rice.