You hear a lot about metabolism these days.
You probably know that if your metabolism is too slow you can gain weight or have a hard time losing weight. But what exactly does this all mean?
Well, the simple definition of “metabolism” is that it is a series of chemical reactions that take place in your cells which converts the oxygen and nutrients you take in to a form of energy your body uses 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 can be fast, slow or “just right (for you)”, which brings us to the term “metabolic rate”.
Your metabolic rate indicates how fast your metabolism is working or more simply how fast your body is using up the energy you take in from your food. It is measured in calories (yep, those calories!) over a period of time, usually a day.
Your metabolic rate or Total Daily Energy Expenditure is made up mostly of three components:
- Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) – This is the amount of energy (measured in calories) needed for your body to keep all of its systems functioning. For example, your body uses energy for things like breathing, circulation and cell repair.
- Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) – This is the amount of energy (calories) your body uses to digest food and absorb the nutrients from that food into your cells.
- Thermic Effect of Activity (TEA) – This is the amount of energy (calories) you use exercising and doing normal everyday activities.
Unused calories are stored by your body as fat to be converted back to energy later when needed. However, if you have excess stores that are not needed for energy later, then you accumulate fat and gain weight.
As you might imagine the more calories your body burns for its normal functioning or for physical activity the easier it is for you to lose weight, because there will be fewer unused calories to store as fat.
What affects your metabolic rate?
In a nutshell: a lot!
Your metabolic rate is affected by things like body size, body composition, hormones, age, gender, physical activity level, crash dieting, genetics and even to a small degree by environmental temperatures or illness.
So, what are some things you can do to positively affect your metabolic rate?
Muscle tissue uses more energy than does fat tissue. So, the more muscle mass you have, the more energy your body will burn and the higher your metabolic rate will be, even when you’re resting.
This is exactly why weight training is often recommended as a part of a weight loss program. You want muscles to be burning those calories for you. And people often lose muscle mass when they lose weight, so weight training is a good way to prevent that muscle loss.
Aerobic exercise also temporarily increases your metabolic rate. Your muscles are burning fuel to move so they’re doing “work”.
The type of food you eat affects your metabolic rate!
Remember that the Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) affects your metabolic rate. Your body actually burns calories to digest food and absorb the nutrients from that food.
You can use this to your advantage when you understand how your body metabolizes foods differently.
For example, most fats increase your TEF by 0-3%, carbohydrates increase TEF by 5-10%, and protein increases TEF by 15-30%. By trading some of your fat or carbohydrates for lean protein you can slightly increase your metabolic rate.
And your muscles need protein to grow and repair, so making sure you’re getting adequate protein helps you maintain muscle mass which boosts your metabolic rate.
And don’t forget the mind-body connection. Stress affects your hormones that in turn affect metabolic rate. Find ways to reduce your stress.
Sleep also affects your blood sugar levels and hormones and therefore affects your metabolic rate. Make sure you are getting at least 7-8 hours of restful sleep every night.
You can see that metabolism is complicated and is affected by what you eat, what you do and the environment you’re in.
Here’s a simple recipe for a good lean protein main dish.
Lemon and Herb Roasted Chicken Breasts [Serves 4]
- 2 lemons, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (Organic, pastured)
- 1 Tablespoon rosemary
- 1 Tablespoon thyme
- ½ teaspoon Himalayan sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive old
- Preheat oven to 425 F.
- Layer half of the lemon slices on the bottom of a baking dish and sprinkle half of the sliced garlic on top.
- Sprinkle one side of the chicken breasts with half of the herbs and place them on top of the lemons in the baking dish.
- Sprinkle remaining herbs and garlic on the chicken.
- Place remaining lemon slices on top.
- Drizzle with olive oil.
- Cover the dish and place it in the oven.
- Bake for 45 minutes until chicken is cooked through.
- Uncover and bake for 3-5 more minutes to brown.
Are you wondering how to get your metabolism in check? You don’t know what foods your body needs or how to make sure your hormones are in balance so that your metabolism is working optimally? Click the button below to schedule your 15-minute Discovery Session and find out how Susan can partner with you to help you achieve your optimal health goals.