I am willing to bet we have all heard the word ‘Metabolism’ before.
Am I right?
Maybe you have heard that if your metabolism is too slow you might gain weight.
But what exactly does metabolism mean? And how much do we really need to know about our metabolism?
Honestly, an average person really doesn’t need to know too much. But having some knowledge can help if we are working on any specific goals to understand how it effects us.
So let’s break it down, hopefully, in an easy way to understand.
The word “metabolism” technically describes all of the biochemical reactions in your body.
While it may sound like it is measuring a single function in our body, it is actually measuring many different functions taking place at the same time.
Essentially, it's how your body takes in nutrients from everything we eat and oxygen we breath to fuel everything you do.
Your body is amazing! It has the ability to grow, heal, and generally stay alive. Without this amazing biochemistry you would not be possible.
When we look at Metabolism it relates to:
● Activities you can control (e.g. physical activity etc.).
● Activities you can't control (e.g. heart beat, wound healing, processing of nutrients & toxins, etc.).
● Storage of excess energy for later.
There are a lot of factors that can come into play when trying to figure out if your metabolism is working too quickly, too slowly, or just right.
But how do we determine that?
That brings us to the “metabolic rate”.
The Metabolic Rate how fast your metabolism works and is measured in calories (yup, those calories!).
When we eat calories (which really is just energy for our body) that energy will go to one of three places:
● 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).
The more calories you burn as work or the more calories you use to create heart, means the easier it will be to lose weight and keep it off because there won’t be as many calories “leftover” to store.
There are a few ways to measure metabolism, although, it is not really something you have to know, but if you are curious here are a couple.
One is “resting metabolic rate” (RMR) which measures how much energy your body uses when you're not being physically active and just performing basic functions, such as breathing and circulation (hence the resting part of the RMR).
Another is the “total daily energy expenditure” (TDEE) which measures both the resting metabolic rate as well as the energy used for “work” (e.g. exercise) throughout a 24-hour period.
While these can be calculated in a lab, there are online calculates for RMR and TDEE as well. That is how many calorie counters can help you determine what might be an appropriate amount of calories to consume on a daily basis for weight loss or weight maintenance.
However, as I mentioned in my last blog post ‘Everything You Know About Healthy Eating May Be Wrong and Might Be Making You Fat and Tired.’ Calories (or in this case energy measured in metabolism) is just one part of the equation.
And remember as well, if you feel like you would like to learn about the services I offer or how I can help you in achieving your goals, you can set up a FREE 20-minute discovery call with me, Kati Sarbu, at any time!
Alright, let’s keep going...
What affects your metabolic rate?
In a nutshell: a lot!
And this is the part you may want to know a little more about because this is the practical information you can apply or look into more if needed.
First, let’s talk a little about your thyroid. The thyroid gland is at the front of your throat and it releases hormones to tell your body to “speed up” your metabolism. The more thyroid hormone there is the faster things will work and the more calories you'll burn. People that have too much of this hormone release experience hyperthyroidism. When there is not as much of the thyroid hormone being release, the slower things will work and the fewer calories you’ll burn. When there is not enough being release, it is known as hypothyroidism.
If you want to learn more about your thyroid, that is something you will need to discuss with your healthcare provider. Although, your thyroid is just one factor.
How big you are will also affect your metabolic rate.
Larger people have higher metabolic rates; but your body composition is crucial!
Muscles that actively move and do work need more energy than the body fat we have stored does. That is why we often hear that it is so important to build lean muscle mass. It will help your body burn more energy and the raise your metabolic rate... Even when you're not working out. Pretty awesome, right?
However, it is good to know that when people lose weight, their metabolic rate often slows down. This is something you don't want to happen. So you definitely want to offset that with more muscle mass. You want muscles to be burning those calories for you!
Aerobic exercise (think cardio workouts) will also temporarily increases your metabolic rate. Your muscles are burning fuel to move so they're doing “work”.
But again, just as we looked at in my last blog post 'Everything You Think You Know About Healthy Eating May Be Wrong & Might Be Making Your Fat & Tired', the type of food you eat also affects your metabolic rate! So it’s not just the how much but also the what.
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 increase your TEF by 0-3%
Carbs increase your TEF by 5-10%
Protein increases your TEF by 15-30%
By trading some of your fat or carbs (especially if they are unhealthy fats or refined carbs) for lean protein you can slightly increase your metabolic rate. Although, that does not mean you should only eat protein and skip healthy carbs and healthy fats. And we still want to make sure that we are choosing healthy, wholesome proteins. Choosing highly processed meats or sugary dairy products are not going to be ideal or promote optimal health.
Remember as well that proteins can also come in the form of plants! Eating more along the lines of a vegetarian (or a "Flexitarian" as it is become more well known as) and eating more meat-less meals have been associated with many health benefits, such as lower risk for heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and even help with weight loss. It also is associated with a reduced occurrence of cancer.
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 lastly, 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.
I know that can be a lot to think about and this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to metabolism. But remember, it’s not always necessary for us to worry about every little detail here. Instead, let’s focus on some main points that we can actually use in every day life.
● Metabolism is a lot of different processes taking place in our body and can be affected by many different factors.
● Staying active and working to build lean muscle mass can help boost our metabolism.
● Lean proteins increase your TEF more than carbs or fat, so having that protein during the day (no need to go crazy, but choose high quality proteins at meals and even snacks if needed) can help slightly increase metabolism.
● Proteins can also come from plants! Having more meatless meals can also have positive health benefits.
If you are looking for ways to make sure you are choosing high quality proteins during the day or want to learn how you can even add in more plant-based proteins, then make sure to set up your FREE 20-Minute Discovery Call with me today!
And if you just want some ideas on meal plans to ensure you are getting balanced meals during the day with high-quality proteins, make sure to check out my Dietitian Created Meal Plans that I offer for a low monthly cost. You can even try out any meal plan for free for 3 days or download a sample recipe book.