Your metabolism is a process in which your body uses calories at rest and how fast or slow it works depends on fitness levels and nutrition. Ciara Foy, Registered Nutritional Consultant at the Satori Urban Wellness Spa in Toronto shares her secrets on how to get with the program just in time for bikini season!

1. Pull, push and lift
The biggest factor in a fast metabolism is lean muscle mass, says Foy. “The more lean muscle mass you have, the more calories you will burn at rest.” Men, who naturally have more lean muscle mass, have a higher metabolism than women, she explains. But doing cardio alone is not going to cut it. You have to have a good balance of cardio and weight-baring exercises. Foy suggests a minimum of 30 minutes of each, three or four days per week. For cardio, go for simplicity, like walking, running or biking. And try basics like push-ups, lunges, squats and sit-ups for simple but effective at-home muscle-building moves.

2. Eat balanced meals
This means eating lean protein, balanced with slow-burning carbs and a small amount of good fats – at every meal. This could include a four to six ounce piece of white chicken meat, baked sweet potato, and a large salad topped with a tablespoon of flax oil. If you’re not sure how to incorporate protein into your breakfast, Foy suggests cottage cheese, eggs, or a homemade protein shake. She uses a whey isolate protein powder with no colour or flavour added, low fat milk or soy milk, lots of frozen or fresh fruit and a bit of good fat, like flax oil.

3. Choose nutrient-dense foods
These are foods that are packed with nutrients. You want to get the most nutrients you can in your diet at every meal, Foy explains. “If you’re not getting the right nutrients, your body won’t be satisfied and will want more,” she says. Nutrient-dense foods include whole grains, like brown rice, millet and quinoa, all fresh fruits and vegetables and fresh, un-processed lean meat and fish. When in doubt, always choose fresh, and stay away from anything processed or from a box.

4. Balance your blood sugar
The quickest way to get energy is through “junky” carbs, i.e.: anything made with refined sugar or white flour, because they go through your bloodstream like a rocket and increase your blood sugar almost instantly, Foy explains. But your energy doesn’t stay up for very long when you eat these foods and your body must then produce insulin to bring your blood sugar down. A balanced combination of protein, carbs and good fats will keep your blood sugar from spiking and help you feel fuller, longer.

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Underlying food allergies can be a factor in sluggish metabolism, Foy explains. If your body isn’t dealing well with a certain food you are eating, it can cause poor digestion. If you suspect you may have a food allergy, your doctor or nutritionist can put you on an elimination diet where foods are taken away, then slowly added back into your diet to see if you have an adverse reaction to them.

6. Drink water
Water helps with all processes in the body, including metabolism and digestion, so if you want your body to work properly, you need to stay hydrated, Foy explains. If you drink water continually throughout the day you can avoid getting dehydrated.

7. Eat small meals – frequently
Ideally, you should be eating three balanced meals and two balanced snacks a day, Foy says. Eating frequently keeps your metabolism revved up all day, meaning your body is always ready to burn calories. If you skip a meal, your metabolism has nothing to do and will slow right down until your next meal. If you want it to run at its best you should fuel yourself every three to four hours, Foy says. Fuelling yourself regularly also ensures you won’t get to the point of severe hunger, when you will be most likely to give in to cravings and make poor food choices.

8. Eat for energy
At night, when you’re sitting on the couch watching TV, you don’t need a lot of energy – so midnight snacks are a no-no. If your schedule permits, don’t eat anything past 8 p.m. Foy also suggests having lighter dinners because your body doesn’t need as much energy towards the end of the day as it does at breakfast or lunch time. Try a four to six ounce piece of wild salmon, large green salad and half a baked sweet potato. You want to minimize the starch or carbs you have with dinner because your activity level is lower. Eating more than your body needs means extra calories get stored as fat, Foy says. “Your body can only process so much.” So if you feel satisfied, put your fork down.

9. Eat breakfast
This is a no-brainer. “Eating breakfast is very important for a good metabolism,” Foy explains. Your metabolism doesn’t get revved up again in the morning until you fuel it. What you eat has a direct effect on your metabolism. If you put the wrong fuel in your car, it doesn’t run properly. The same principle applies to your body, Foy says. Fuelling yourself regularly, and with nutrient-dense foods is a crucial step in developing a good metabolism. For your first meal of the day, try a two-egg omelette packed with fresh veggies like broccoli or spinach and one piece of whole-grain toast, or a bowl of steel-cut oatmeal with some protein powder mixed in, Foy suggests. Include six or seven crushed almonds and fresh berries on top for added flavour and nutrients.

10. Go for the green
Foy says green tea has been proven to help burn fat. She suggests replacing your morning coffee with a cup of green tea. It doesn’t cause the same spike in energy as coffee does because there is less caffeine, and you’re also not adding extra calories to it from cream and sugar, which can add up.

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