|This word “metabolism” is thrown around a lot these days.
You know that if yours is “too slow” you might gain weight. But, it might beg the question:
WHAT EXACTLY IS METABOLISM?
Well, technically “metabolism” is the word to describe all of the biochemical reactions in your body. It’s how you take in nutrients and oxygen and use them to fuel everything you do. Your body has an incredible ability to grow, heal, and generally stay alive. And without this amazing biochemistry you would not be possible.
Metabolism includes how the cells in your body:
● Allow activities you can control (e.g. physical activity etc.).
● Allow activities you can’t control (e.g. heart beat, wound healing, processing of nutrients & toxins, etc.).
● Allow storage of excess energy for later.
So when you put all of these processes together into your metabolism you can imagine that these processes can work too quickly, too slowly, or just right.
Which brings us to the “metabolic rate”.
HOW CAN I DETERMINE MY METABOLIC RATE?
Metabolic rate is how fast your metabolism works and is measured in calories (yup, those calories!).
The calories you eat can be used in one of four different ways:
- RMR (i.e. your Resting Metabolic Rate – the processes that need to happen to simply stay alive and what your body would burn just laying in bed doing nothing all day (sound tempting, lol?). The cool thing is, you CAN change this (more later).
- Work (i.e. exercise and other activity).
- Heat (i.e. from all those biochemical reactions).
- Storage (i.e. extra leftover “unburned” calories stored as fat).
So, the total amount of calories you use each day depends on your RMR and how much work + heat you’re putting out …and all the leftover gets stored.
HOW CAN I INCREASE MY METABOLIC RATE?
Make sure you have a healthy thyroid. This gland at the front of your throat releases hormones to tell your body to “speed up” your metabolism. Of course, the more thyroid hormone there is the faster things will work and the more calories you’ll burn. Going to regular well checks with you physician will help you know whether this gland is working properly.
But that’s not the only thing that affects your metabolic rate.
Body Composition & Type of Exercise
Your size counts too!
Larger people have higher metabolic rates; but your body composition is crucial!
As you can imagine, muscles that actively move and do work need more energy than fat does. So the more lean muscle mass you have the more energy your body will burn and the higher your metabolic rate will be….even when you’re not working out. This post-workout calorie burn is termed Afterburn and is a huge benefit to keeping a tight physique.
==> This is exactly why weight training is often recommended as a part of a weight loss program….you want muscles to be burning those calories for you. Losing weightwithout offsetting that with more muscle mass means a metabolic rate that is slowed down, making it easier to gain the weight back. Some of you might be able to relate to this cycle…it’s not a fun place to be! <==
What about aerobic exercise?
Aerobic exercise is excellent for many reasons (cardiovascular, etc) and it also increases your metabolic rate as your muscles burn fuel to move (aka “doing work”) but the Afterburn effect isn’t in play like it is after strength training. This is why our version of cardio is our Metabolic Conditioning classes (circuit-style strength + high burst exercises to reap the most cardio benefits).
The type of food you eat also affects your metabolic rate!
Your body actually burns calories to absorb, digest, and metabolize your food. This is called the “thermic effect of food” (TEF).
You can use it to your advantage when you understand how your body metabolizes foods differently.
Fats, for example increase your TEF by 0-3%; carbs increase it by 5-10%, and protein increases it by 15-30%. By trading some of your fat or carbs for lean protein you can slightly increase your metabolic rate.
Another bonus of protein is that your muscles need it to grow. Working them out and feeding them what they need will help you to lose weight and keep it off.
And don’t forget the mind-body connection. There is plenty of research that shows the influence that things like stress and sleep have on the metabolic rate. Our Valeo / Nutrition members are studying this very thing right now in their program – stress management and sleep are so crucial to how our bodies respond to nutrition!
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to metabolism and how so many different things can work to increase (or decrease) your metabolic rate. Knowing that many are in our control and can be very freeing.