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

  2. 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

    I need help to get down to my right wright, because of my kidney disease. I can only do walking nother esle, because of my health. Low excited only. Cheers Narelle.

    1. Hi Narelle – I would definitely suggest that you seek advice from your health care professional before embarking on an exercise program. They will give you the best recommendation as to which exercises to avoid and which ones you can perform safely.

      You can then modify your Exercise Plans and follow the Nutrition Plan based on your needs.

      All the best,
      12WBT Support Crew

      All the best,
      12WBT Support Crew

  4. Hi I hold a lot of fluid in my legs always have.As I’m getting older my weight is going everywhere I’m 42.Even when I’m skinny I still have bigger fluidly legs .I dread summer as I can’t uncover my legs.Running and walking helps heaps but I have to loose a lot to eliviate fluid and dumpling from my legs.

  5. I’m on 3 weight gaining medications and nothing works I tried the dietician and weight loss tablets Don’t do gym work due to heart condition so any suggestions?

    1. Hi Dayle – Great to see you are giving things a try. What we would recommend you do is talk with your GP as they will know your full medical history and can give you an idea of what activity (even if just gentle walking) you can do. In regards to food we do advocate a healthy balanced diet. To lose weight though you will need to be eating slightly less then your body requires each day (in a balanced way).

      Our Meal Plans are a good start as they are portion controlled and even in the absence of exercise you should (if followed consistently) still lose weight. If you get the all clear to participate in an online group based program then check out more about the Meal Plans and program here:

      All the best,
      12WBT Support Crew

  6. Hi i need help with my weight ive done most DIets but nothing works im 75 kilos and i want to lose 10 kilos if i can please help.

    1. Hi Linda – We very much understand how most diets can leave us feeling deflated that is why 12WBT sees itself as an overall wellness program not a diet. We combine nutrition, exercise and most importantly ‘mindset’ lessons to help you create new positive habits which help lead to positive health outcomes. We would love to have you on the team!

      All the best,
      12WBT Support Crew

  7. I have problems with some dairy products due to small growth on my liver . My doctor had advise that I should drop 15kilos .Does the 12wbt have a lot of dairy in it .I have just joined a gym to start my journey. But I need some help

    1. Hi Janelle – Great to hear about you joining the gym, you’ve taken the first step and that’s the most important!

      In regards to your dairy-free requirements, that’s not a problem at all. You are able to customise your Meal Plans to ensure you keep it dairy-free and stress-free. If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to shoot an email through to

      Hope to have you on board soon Janelle!

      All the best,
      12WBT Support Crew

  8. I eat very healthy. I eat natural yogurt with nuts,fresh berries and seeds for breakfast. I have an apple or an egg for morning tea. i eat a healthy sandwich on wholemeal bread for lunch, sometimes ill sneak a chocolate biscuit for afternoon tea. Then meat and veg/salad for dinner. i exercise on the tread mill and rower also stand on the power fit board every other day….I dont drink much water because i realy dont like it so i have coconut water instead or mineral water infused with lime… but just feel tired all the time. I never feel energised. i feel like ive eaten burgers and chips all day some days. I have had blood tests done and they say everything is good. and i never loose weight

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