What is Metabolism?
Metabolism… we’ve heard it that word used before, but what is it?
It’s thrown around a lot. “My metabolism is so slow, I look at a cookie and gain 10lbs”, or “She’s lucky, she can eat anything she’s got a super fast metabolism”
Just where do we get one of these Metabolism things, and I want the super fast one please!!!!
Let’s break it down.
Well technically, “metabolism” is the word to describe all of the biochemical reactions in your body.
Wait, the what… what? Stay with me, I’m not going to nerd all out too much, I swear!
Metabolism is how our bodies take in nutrients (and the good stuff in our food) and oxygen to use as fuel everything we do.
From growing, healing, breathing, and really just being alive. This biochemistry makes everything our bodies do possible.
Yes, it helps us to exercise, but it’s so much more than that. It’s all those little things our bodies do for us automatically that we forget about. (Breathing, beating our heart, getting rid of toxins, those things)
All of this going on in our bodies is tons of work! Our metabolisms can work too quickly, too slow, or be just right.
Ok, so I went all goldilocks there, I’m a mom of 4… it will happen from time to time.
So metabolic rate is what everyone wants to know more about and we are going to talk about calories here too.
Yes, the calorie, not my favorite subject. Most of us put too much emphasis on the importance the calorie.
A calorie is just a unit of measure. It measures how fast the metabolism works.
This fuel, or calories, is used for 3 things.
- It can fuel our “work” This is our activity like exercise or day to day movement.
- Your body’s biochemical reactions – “heat”
- Save unburned calories as fat – “store”
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. There will be fewer “leftover” calories to store for later.
Now stop right there. This does NOT mean to go out and workout like a maniac to burn those calories off. I saw you pay attention to that “store” function there. We will get into that too, but please know that over training can actually cause you to store more fat. Keep reading.
There are a couple of different ways to measure metabolic rate. One is the “resting metabolic rate” (RMR), 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.
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.
How big you are counts too!
Larger people have higher metabolic rates; but your body composition is crucial!
This is why when you’re always entering those apps to find your “calories” or macros it asks for your height and weight.
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. Because you want muscles to be burning those calories for you.
Metabolic rate can slow down as you lose weight....
Don’t freak out, let me explain.
Here’s the thing – when people lose weight, their metabolic rate often slows down because you’re smaller, or lost fat and may have lost muscle.
We don’t want this to happen, so preserving your muscle is very important. Working out in a specific way so you’re not losing muscle and resting and recovering enough is often overlooked, but necessary for body.
Just like in your car, the fuel you put into it matters!
Calories are not all the same. 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).
Just like you can’t out work a poor diet, you can’t out eat one either, but 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. (Note, I said slight and did not just give you the green light on eating mass amount of protein)
Now, don’t go out and start eating tons of protein, that’s not what I’m saying here. What I am saying is you could trade out that bag of chips for so real food and that will help!
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.
What does your body need for fuel?
Understanding what your body needs for fuel is a very important part of success for fat loss and muscle gain. It doesn’t need to feel overwhelming or confusing, but it will take time to understand how your body burns fuel and what the very best choice for you is.
A huge area that is overlooked when starting a “weight loss program” is the mind-body connection. There is plenty of research that shows the influence that things like stress and sleep have on the metabolic rate.
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.
Your metabolism is affected by what you do and don’t do. You’re not stuck with a slow metabolism and have to deal with it. There are many different areas that will help you with energy, weight loss and health.
I will continue to give you plenty of helpful tips and tools you can to reach your healthiest you!
Want more personalized help from me? I’d love to talk to you about your goals. Work with me