The word “metabolism” is thrown around a lot these days. We use to describe those who are thin (“they must have a fast metabolism”), to describe our hormonal state (hello, thyroid), and to describe how our beautiful bodies are aging (my metabolism isn’t what it used to be).
But do you know what metabolism means?
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 your body. You see, your body has an incredible ability to grow, heal, and survive. 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
We are all different, and these processes (metabolism) can work quickly, slowly, or just right. This variation in speed is our metabolic rate.
This is how fast your metabolism works and is measured in calories (yup, those calories!). The calories you eat can go to one of three places:
Work (i.e., movement, exercise and other activity)
Heat (i.e., generated from biochemical reactions)
Storage (i.e., leftover “unburned” calories stored as fat)
It is easier to lose weigh (and keep it off) when we burn more calories for work or heat because there are be fewer “leftover” calories to store for later. There are a couple of different ways to measure metabolic rate.
Resting metabolic rate (RMR) is how much energy your body uses when you're not being physically active.
Total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) measures both the resting metabolic rate, as well as the energy used for “work” (e.g. exercise) throughout a 24-hour period.
Ideally, you should include both RMR and TDEE, as well as other physical markers, when you are determining your ideal calorie count to influence your metabolic rate. This is something I often do with clients looking to gain and lose weight.
How can you influence your metabolic rate?
Often, people think of the thyroid when they refer to their metabolic rate. This gland sits at the front of your throat and releases hormones that 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 will burn. And visa versa.
But that's not the only thing that affects your metabolic rate. How big you are counts too! Larger people have higher metabolic rates, however, body composition is crucial in that mix!
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 is exactly why weight training is often recommended as a part of a weight loss program. You want muscles to burn those calories for you. Here’s the catch ... when people lose weight, their metabolic rate often slows down (which most people don't want to happen). So you definitely need to offset weight loss with more muscle mass. Muscle also helps protect your spine, bones and body as you age. For this reason alone, weight training should be part of everyone’s weekly routine.
Aerobic exercise temporarily increases your metabolic rate – the effect is not lasting. Your muscles are burning fuel to move, so they're doing “work”. Once the movement stops, so does the work. However, aerorbic exercise is essential for heart health and should definitely be included in your weekly routine.
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. By working them out and feeding them what they need they 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.
Metabolism refers to the biochemical processes in our body. It refers to activies you control and can’t control (breathing). It also includes how our body stores energy.
Metabolic rate references how fast our body burns or stores calories for work (movement) and heat generation.
Leftover caloreis are stored for future use.
Our metabolic rate is influenced by our size, our RMR, TDEE and other factors.
Weight lifting and foods with high thermagenic influence will help us burn more calories.
Sleep can also have a postivie impact on metabolic rate as we produce growth hormone factor while we sleep – we need this to heal from daily activities.
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. If you are interested in learning more about your metabolism and how to influence your metabolic rate, schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation with me to discuss your goals.