Metabolism, that enigmatic force silently at work within our bodies, is a topic of fascination and often, frustration. “My metabolism is slow, so I can’t ____.” We hear it frequently, usually in the context of weight management and energy levels, but how well do we really understand it?
Is metabolism our best friend, propelling us toward our health and fitness goals, or is it, at times, our greatest foe, seemingly thwarting our efforts to achieve the ideal body composition we desire? Let’s delve into the intricacies of metabolism, unpack its mysteries, and explore how we can make it work in our favor.
What Exactly Is Metabolism?
Metabolism is the sum total of all the chemical processes that occur within an organism to maintain life. It involves the conversion of food into energy, the building and repair of tissues, and the elimination of waste products. At its core, metabolism is a complex network of biochemical reactions orchestrated by enzymes, hormones, and various molecules.
Metabolism at Rest: Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)
Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the amount of energy your body expends at rest to sustain basic physiological functions such as breathing, circulating blood, and regulating body temperature. Think of it as the energy your body needs just to exist. Factors like age, gender, genetics, and muscle mass influence your BMR. Having more muscle increases your BMR because muscle tissue demands more energy to maintain than fat.
I tell all my clients to not go below their BMR when in a calorie restriction. They may find weight loss but also a lot of other problems, like malnutrition and weight plateau. Bottom line: if this is the amount of energy you need to live, we don’t want to dip below it.
Friend or Foe: The Metabolic Conundrum
Friend: A Faster Metabolism
A faster metabolism can indeed be your best friend. It means your body burns calories more efficiently, making it easier to manage or lose weight. Factors that can boost your metabolism include regular physical activity, especially high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which revs up your metabolic rate long after the workout ends; drinking water regularly; and gaining or maintaining muscle mass.
Foe: A Sluggish Metabolism
Conversely, a sluggish metabolism can feel like your greatest foe. As we age, metabolism tends to slow down. This is partly due to a decrease in muscle mass and hormonal changes. However, lifestyle factors like inactivity and poor diet choices can exacerbate this slowdown.
The Influence of Genetics and Food
But I know I have a slow metabolism because of my genes! While genetics play a role in determining your metabolic rate, it’s important to remember that their influence is relatively modest compared to other factors. You might have inherited a tendency for a slightly faster or slower metabolism, but you have the power to influence it through your choices and habits.
Some may even say that a slow metabolism is due to their food choices, such as a healthy food increases metabolism and a not-so-healthy food choice decreases metabolism. Well, this review resulted in inconclusive evidence for a specific food or diet effecting metabolism.
How to Increase Metabolism
Now that we’ve explored the dichotomy of metabolism, let’s discuss how you can nurture it to be your best friend.
- Prioritize Strength Training
Incorporate strength training into your fitness routine. Building and maintaining muscle mass can boost your metabolism. Muscle is metabolically active tissue, and it requires more energy to function, even at rest.
- Embrace High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
HIIT workouts are a metabolism-boosting powerhouse. These short bursts of intense exercise followed by brief recovery periods can elevate your metabolic rate, helping you burn more calories.
- Protein is Key
Protein has a higher thermic effect, meaning it requires more energy to digest and metabolize compared to fats or carbohydrates. It also aids in muscle repair and growth. Check out these high protein smoothie ideas and talk to a Registered Dietitian to know how much protein is sufficient in your diet.
- Stay Hydrated
Drinking water is crucial for metabolism. Even mild dehydration can slow down metabolic processes. Aim to stay adequately hydrated throughout the day.
- Get Adequate Sleep
Quality sleep is essential. Poor sleep can disrupt hormones that regulate appetite and metabolism, leading to weight gain and metabolic disturbances.
- Manage Stress
Chronic stress can adversely affect metabolism. Employ stress-management techniques like meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises to keep stress in check.
Metabolism is neither solely a friend nor a foe; it’s a dynamic and adaptable process that responds to our choices and circumstances. While genetics may play a role, our lifestyle choices have a more significant impact on whether metabolism becomes our ally or adversary. By prioritizing exercise, a balanced diet, and a healthy lifestyle, we can nurture metabolism into being our best friend, helping us achieve our health and fitness goals.
My hope is that you’re understanding this intricate system a bit better will empower you to make informed choices and lead a healthier life. If you need additional support, please book a free 15-minute discovery call to chat with me about your current lifestyle and goals.