Metabolism to blame?
More often than not people who struggle to lose weight tend to blame it on having a slow metabolism but how much blame can we really put on the speed of our metabolism for the extra kilos that we may have gained .What is the metabolism? How does metabolism even affect weight? And more importantly what healthy lifestyle adjustments we can make so it works in our favour?
- What is the metabolism?
So firstly let’s look what Metabolism is. It’s the system by which the body converts what we consume through food and drink into energy, during this complex biochemical process, calories in the food and beverages are combined with oxygen to release the energy your body needs to function.
A constant supply of energy even when at rest is needed, the body requires energy to maintain the body’s hidden functions such as breathing, circulating the blood, adjusting hormones, cellular repair and digesting food.
These basic functions are constantly carried out and account for approximately 75% of the calories we burn each and every day; this is called the Basal metabolic rate (BMR).
- What determines your metabolic rate?
Body size, age, gender and genes all play a role in determining your metabolic rate…
Body composition and size since muscle cells burn more energy/calories than fat cells.
In general, men tend to have a faster metabolism as they have more muscle mass, heavier bones and less body fat than women, which is why their daily calorie allowance is higher.
As we get older, we tend to gain fat and lose muscle. This explains why the BMR tends to decrease with age.
Excessive weight gain from an underlying medical condition that slows the metabolism such as Cushing’s syndrome or hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland) is actually quite rare on contrary to popular belief.
- How to improve and the benefits
Having a strong metabolism is not only beneficial in burning more calories but it also aids the digestive system, lowers rates of infectious and degenerative diseases and brain functionality, has positive impacts on appearance, mood and energy levels.
Now we know what metabolism is, let’s take a look at some factors that may either hinder or benefit the metabolic rate and how we can make simple tweaks that can naturally fire up the metabolism and help us along the way in our journey to fat loss.
- Physical activity
Physical activity is by far by the most variable of the factors in determining how many calories we burn and is one of the most influential elements.
Increasing physical activity levels and exercising are obviously extremely beneficial, especially high intensity/ interval training or resistance weight training they are brilliant since after exercise the metabolism stays elevated hours after even in resting state. So the next time you either go for a run, swim or walk crank up the intensity levels with 30 second intervals.
- Keeping hydrated
Dehydration slows down the metabolism, so staying hydrated is key drinking plenty of water helps in the body’s ability to process calories, also snacking on fruit and vegetables instead of crisps and other unhealthy snacks are great alternatives since they have a high water content plus are loaded with minerals, vitamins, fibre and antioxidants but at the same time are low in calories.
- Sleep and stress
Stress and not getting enough sleep “running on fumes “both have negative effects on the metabolism. Both can upset the natural balance of hormones especially important appetite regulating hormones Leptin and Ghrelin.
Certain foods and beverages such as sugary drinks, processed foods, artificial ingredients/ sweeteners and refined vegetable oils are best avoided to keep you metabolic rate ticking over nicely. A diet high in healthy fats, good quality clean protein and fibre including fruits and vegetables, chia/flax seed and nuts helps slows down the absorption of sugars (spikes in the blood sugar levels) and increase the speed of metabolism.
Crash diets and restricting calories may also have a negative effect for numerous reasons, these short lived diets may help drop some excess weight in the beginning but your body compensates by slowing down the metabolism and conserves calories for survival, rather than concentrating on how many calories a food has consider how nutritionally dense a food is.
Depriving yourself from food may also increase cravings and later lead to unhealthy food choices. Eating enough calories from unprocessed whole foods to keep energy, blood sugar and hunger levels stable is very important. Keeping your body properly fuels with the right foods will help it perform better.
It may be tempting to pin the blame on a sluggish metabolism and yes unfortunately we do not have control over our age, gender or genetics but as you can see we have a lot of wiggle room when it comes to improving the body’s ability to burn calories and shed unwanted excess weight.