One of the magical buzz words in the fitness and diet world is metabolism. It seems to be the word folks throw around in the constant weight loss puzzle, seem confused about and want to figure out. It seems to be a magical, mythical word that is covered in some cloak of secrecy – kinda like that Invisibility Cloak Harry Potter uses to hide under at Hogwarts.
I’m sure you have heard folks blame their weight on a slow metabolism or complain that their metabolism has changed. What does that really mean? You read magazine articles promising to rev up your metabolism or speed your metabolism to make you burn more calories. Some of these articles make the metabolism sound like some evil creature wreaking havoc on our bodies.
Is metabolism really the culprit?
Well, it is true that metabolism is linked to weight. But having what one calls a slow metabolism isn’t always the cause of excess weight. I guess it would be nice to have some outside source to blame, but it’s really the food and drink intake and how much or little physical activity we get that is going to determine our weight.
Scientifically, metabolism is the process used by the body to convert food and beverages into energy. In simple terms, calories in food and beverages are combined with oxygen to release the energy the body needs to function. We are expending energy even while we are sitting and sleeping. Think of all the things the body has to do to just get by. It works together to move blood throughout, makes us breathe, grow and repair muscles and cells and adjust hormones. These basic functions burn calories – this is our metabolism.
Several factors determine your individual basal metabolic rate, including:
Your body size and composition. The bodies of people who are larger or have more muscle burn more calories, even at rest.
Your sex. Men usually have less body fat and more muscle than do women of the same age and weight, burning more calories.
Your age. As you get older, the amount of muscle tends to decrease and fat accounts for more of your weight, slowing down calorie burning.
Energy needs for your body’s basic functions stay fairly consistent and aren’t easily changed. Your basal metabolic rate accounts for about 70 percent of the calories you burn every day.
What else determines how many calories you burn?
Food processing (thermogenesis). Digesting, absorbing, transporting and storing the food you consume also takes calories. This accounts for 100 to 800 of the calories used each day. For the most part, your body’s energy requirement to process food stays relatively steady and isn’t easily changed.
Physical activity. Physical activity and exercise — such as playing tennis, walking to the store, chasing after the dog and any other movement — account for the rest of the calories your body burns up each day. Physical activity is by far the most variable of the factors that determine how many calories you burn each day.
So, while it might be easy to blame weight on metabolism, it’s a little more complicated than that. One has to look at one’s genes, diet, hormonal controls, lifestyle, environment, sleep, physical activity and how much stress one has and how the body handles it. Whew!! You can see it’s more than just walking a few extra miles a day.
It is true that some folks lose weight or gain weight more quickly than others. I know, it drives me absolutely crazy that I can’t eat what my best friend can eat without putting on 3 pounds, or even that I can’t eat like I used to when I was a bit younger. Heck, I can’t eat like I did three years ago! So, while it may be calories in versus calories out, there are all those variables to consider, and we are all created differently. That is where we have to be a little patient, give ourself some grace to figure out our body, and, more importantly, how all of those variables work together for each of us and how we can make changes.
Once we look at all the things that affect the metabolism, and lifestyle, and we begin to make some changes to making sure we are nourishing our body with clean foods, we can see the difference in our body, our energy levels, in keeping blood sugar stable and then the weight can change or stabilize.
So, what about all those claims to speed up the metabolism? Weeding through the research, it seems that most of those folks “in the know” agree on a few basic tips for metabolism.
If you are drastically cutting calories in order to lose weight, then you are not helping your metabolism. Your body needs to be nourished and provided with energy to function. If you are cutting too many calories, it stands to reason that your body is going to hold onto every last calorie in order to function.
Please! Do Not look at the photoshopped models claiming to consume fat burning pills to get those hot bodies. Who knows what is in the supplements? Save your money for buying clean, whole foods.
3. HOT SPICY FOODS
I’v read that eating chili peppers and hot spices speeds up the metabolism. If that were true The Husband would have negative body fat because he douses every bite of food with so much hot sauce and peppers he cannot even taste what he eats. Maybe it might help, but the payoff is so minimal. I’m not saying to five up your spicy foods, just don’t count on that to make you lose weight.
4. GREEN TEA
It is claimed that drinking green tea helps with fat burning. In fact, catechins in green tea have been shown to help the metabolism. So, drinking green tea during the day or with meals can help your body’s function and in conjunction with water, is healthy for your diet and lifestyle.
5. COLD TEMPS
The researchers say that if you set the temperature to a cooler setting to below comfortable, around 60 degrees, it will bump up your metabolism. They say the cooler temps activate calorie burning to help regulate your body temperature. Maybe this is so, but I’ll be honest, I’m shivering as I type this due to the freezing temps The Husband keeps our home, and I’ve not magically lost any weight lately!
Research shows that coffee boosts the metabolism 1-3 hours after drinking it. Furthermore, drinking caffeine prior to a workout is said to help you burn 15% more calories. I use this as support for that 1-2 cups of coffee I love in the morning . . . which is normally right before my workout!
Your body has to work harder to digest protein, making the calorie burn greater than when it digests carbs. This is one of the many reasons to make sure you are getting adequate protein in your diet.
8. LIFTING WEIGHTS
Weight lifting and resistance training does help you burn more calories even while sitting on the couch. Muscle is active and always ready to work. The more muscle you have the more calories you can burn. That is one of the many reasons it is so important to not be a “cardio queen” or “king”. For every 5 pounds of muscle you have, you can burn an extra 70 calories.
So, you can see, there are really no gimmicks or crazy diets or fasts that will make our metabolism do something magical. It’s really much more simple. Eat clean, eat protein, strengthen your muscles, drink healthy green tea, don’t feel guilty about a little coffee, get rest, manage stress, and be physically active. This is our lifestyle. This is making our body work and function at its very best. That’s how we can boost the metabolism. Not really any magic there, just being healthy and being smart with our body.
What crazy things have your heard about speeding the metabolism? What have you tried? Does metabolism confuse you?
Hope you Enjoy Your Day!