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The truth about metabolism

Facts and myths

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Do you think that you have a sluggish metabolism and that's why you can’t lose weight?  Or perhaps the fact is it that you just can’t resist when the birthday cakes come round the office!   We are going to investigate whether our metabolism has any effect on our ability to lose weight and also investigate if there are any real ways to increase our metabolic rate.

 

What is metabolism?

In order to stay alive, there are many chemical processes that are continuously taking place in our bodies.  These processes keep our organs functioning normally, facilitating our breathing, repairing cells, digesting food and a host of other vital functions.  There is a minimum amount of energy required for all these processes is the BMR or basal metabolic rate.  This counts for 40 - 70% of the body’s daily energy requirements. Slow metabolism may also be described as a low metabolic rate

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There are several factors that can have a role in determining your BMR, these include our age, gender, genetic makeup, body size and lifestyle.

Lean muscle on our body requires more energy to maintain them than fat cells, so the more lean muscle tissue we carry, the higher the metabolic rate.

It is true for many people that as they get older the proportion of body tissue will be more fat than muscle so our metabolic rate will tend to slow down

In general, men will carry more muscle tissue than fat and have heavier bones so will have a higher BMR
 

However, we could argue that the single largest factor which influences our metabolic rate is our genetic makeup.

 

How can I increase my metabolic rate? - myths

Our metabolic rates can’t change

This rather suggests that as our genetic makeup pre-determines our metabolic rate so it must be written in stone.  This is not entirely true as we can increase our metabolic rate by increasing our proportion of lean muscle mass in the body.  As lean muscle requires more energy to function, this will lead to an overall increase in metabolic rate.

As mentioned above, our proportion of muscle mass decreases as we get older but through exercise and diet we can redress this balance

 

Eating late at night will slow down our metabolic rate

Eating late at night doesn't slow down metabolism.  However, if you are mindlessly snacking in front of the TV you may be unaware of how the snacking adds up in terms of calories, this, in turn, will lead to weight gain purely as a result of overindulging, not as a result of slowing metabolism.

If you enjoy a  snack in the evening beware of overdoing it!

 

Skipping meals and very low-calorie diets can kick start weight loss

Whilst the bottom line with weight loss is that the fewer calories we eat, the more weight we lose, we have to remember that our bodies are very adaptable and if they consider at any point that our survival is at risk (perhaps through starvation) self-preservation measures will kick in.  The body will understand that it needs to use fewer calories to perform the same tasks and so it will adapt to the reduced calorie intake in this way.

 

A diet of green tea and red chilli peppers will boosts metabolism

There are no ‘magic’ foods to increase our metabolic rate.  There are studies which have demonstrated that green tea and red chilli peppers may temporarily boost your metabolism, however, it is not a significant effect.

 

How can I increase my metabolic rate?- facts

Weight training

As we have discussed before, if we carry a higher proportion of lean muscle tissue, this tissue requires more calories to function than fat (adipose) tissue and so our overall metabolism will rise.  We can increase this proportion through strength training and any exercise that increases muscle 

 

Aerobic exercise

Aerobic exercise, such as running and swimming, can stimulate your metabolism. During aerobic exercise, various hormones are released which increase your metabolic rate. 

 

Eat protein with every meal

Just eating a meal can increase your metabolism for a short period of time through the extra energy burned in the digestion process.  Protein requires more energy and so the larger the proportion of protein the larger the rise in metabolism.

In addition, the protein will make you feel fuller for longer and so you are less likely to snack.

 

Drink plenty of water

It has been shown that drinking water will temporarily speed up metabolism as well as filling you up if drunk before meals

 

Stand up more

Long periods of sitting is not good for us in terms of weight gain or lack of exercise which in turn is detrimental to our physical health

 

Sleep well!

Lack of sleep has been shown to have a link with obesity, increased blood sugar levels (insulin resistance which can lead to diabetes), increasing the hunger pangs and decreasing the feeling of fullness.

This may also be as a result of the fact  that when you are tired your body may read this as a need for sustenance and so increase the pangs of hunger

 

Conclusion

Some of these lifestyle and eating habit changes are major, others less so, but if we can at least incorporate some of these changes into our life, we can increase our metabolism to some extent and through this and improvements to our diet, we can lose weight and so improve our overall feeling of health and wellbeing

 

Sources

  1. How can I speed up my metabolism? https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-weight/metabolism-and-weight-loss/
  2. The truth about metabolism https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-truth-about-metabolism
  3. 4 Metabolism myths and facts https://www.eatright.org/health/weight-loss/tips-for-weight-loss/metabolism-myths-and-facts

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