What is Metabolism?
This word “metabolism” is thrown around a lot these days.
You probably know that if yours is too slow you might gain weight. But what exactly does this all mean?
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”….
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. exercise and other activity)
- Heat (i.e. from all those biochemical reactions)
- Storage (i.e. extra leftover “unburned” calories stored as fat)
As you can imagine the more calories you burn as work or creating heat the easier it is to lose weight and keep it off because there will be fewer “leftover” calories to store for later.
There are a couple of different ways to measure metabolic rate. One is the “resting metabolic rate” (RMR) also called the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) which is how much energy your body uses when you’re not being physically active.
The other 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.
In clinic, I can show you what your current Basal Metabolic Rate is using the Bodystat QuadScan device. We can then look to see how much more energy you’d need if you increased your activity levels. This is a handy tracking tool for weight loss 🙂
What affects your metabolic rate?
In a nutshell: a LOT!
The first thing you may think of is your 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.
But that’s not the only thing that affects your metabolic rate…
YOUR MUSCLE MASS
Your body composition is crucial to a healthy metabolism.
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 I always recommend appropriate weight training as a key part of my weight loss programs. Because you want your muscles to be burning fat while you sleep (what busy woman doesn’t want more time efficient fat loss?!)
The thing is, when people lose weight via some crazy starvation diet with restrictive calorie intake, their metabolic rate often slows down which you DON’T want to happen. You need to be building muscle tissue so that you maintain your metabolic rate. That’s really the secret to sustainable weight loss.
Aerobic exercise (where you increase your heart rate) also temporarily increases your metabolic rate. Your muscles are burning fuel to move so they’re doing “work”.
The type of food you eat also affects your metabolic rate!
Your body actually burns calories to absorb, digest, and metabolise your food. This is called the “thermic effect of food” (TEF).
You can use it to your advantage when you understand how your body metabolises 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 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.
Your body is ALWAYS striving for balance, so if you are chronically in the stress-response state then your body will slow down other systems to conserve energy. Your digestion will slow, your metabolism will slow and you are more likely to gain weight.
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 would like to find out more about YOUR metabolism, then please book in for a FREE 15 minute chat (via phone or in the clinic) and we can see if I am able to help you reach your health goals.
Call (02) 4965 4881 to make an appointment.
Recipe (Lean Protein): Lemon Herb Roasted Chicken Breasts
2 lemons, sliced
1 tablespoon rosemary
1 tablespoon thyme
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
4 chicken breasts (boneless, skinless)
dash salt & pepper
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive old
Preheat oven to 425F. Layer ½ of the lemon slices on the bottom of a baking dish. Sprinkle with ½ of the herbs and ½ of the sliced garlic.
Place the chicken breasts on top and sprinkle salt & pepper. Place remaining lemon, herbs and garlic on top of the chicken. Drizzle with olive oil. Cover with a lid or foil.
Bake for 45 minutes until chicken is cooked through. If you want the chicken to be a bit more “roasty” then remove the lid/foil and broil for another few minutes (watching carefully not to burn it).
Serve & enjoy with plenty of veggies!
Tip: You can add a leftover sliced chicken breast to your salad for lunch the next day!