Metabolism is THE word. It is the reason why one person can eat like a growing teenager and not gain a pound, while another person’s every indulgence shows up on their waist.
What is Metabolism?
It is the name for the chemical processes by which our bodies convert food that we eat into the energy that we need to survive and function. It powers all our chemical processes from breathing to blinking.
The minimum amount of energy your body requires to carry out these chemical processes is called the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) or resting metabolic rate (RMR).
What determines our metabolic rate? Or what determines how effectively we burn the calories we consume into energy?
The aim is to burn all the food that we eat and not to have any excess, otherwise body will be storing it as fat and that is how we gain weight.
So, what determines how fast or slow the process happens is the combination of one’s body size, age, gender and genes. Of course, foods that we eat and drink will also effect the metabolism as some support it and some hinder the process.
Muscle cells require more energy to maintain than fat cells, so people with a higher Muscle to Fat ratio tend to have a higher BMR. Men, therefore, burn more calories as they have more muscle tissue and, whilst it may seem unfair to you, but that explains why men usually tend to lose weight faster too.
As we get older, we tend to gain Fat and lose Muscle. Normally, that is because our lifestyle choices mean we eat more calories and are less active than we were when we were younger, but also this has everything we do with the balance of the nutrients we consume too.
BMR tends to decrease with age, however, it does not need to be that way.
How can you naturally BOOST your metabolism?
- Support and protect your Lean Muscle Mass by exercising and eating optimal amount of protein;
- Keep your body in the Fat Burning Zone by eating balanced meals for your unique body composition in the right frequency;
- Increase the number of calories you burn through Physical Activity;
- Ensure adequate Water Intake;
- Eat and drink naturally Thermojetic Substances that can help in combination with the above factors as their effect on its own is minimal.
Now, whilst it is important to know what naturally boosts metabolism, it is equally important to know what slows it down:
- White carbs: exessive intake of simple carbohydrates and sugars
Eating more calories from sugar than your metabolism needs to convert into energy, is a clear way to gain weight. And you can not even count on exercise to remedy this problem, mainly as you can not out train a bad diet. Having too much sugar and carbs in our diet is simply not good for us for many reasons. Here are two linked articles to understand the connection of sugar & excess carbs to our metabolism as well as their connection to hormones, especially those responsible for weight management:
We do need some natural sugar in our diet, however, what is very important is to avoid added, artificial, processed, refined sugars and access of both natural and added sugar as well as simple carbs such as white bread, white pasta, even white rice and excess of white potatoes – starchy foods, in general. They all contribute to slower metabolism, especially when eaten on their own. Typical foods, above all those mentioned, would also be alcohol, cakes, fruit juices, ice cream, biscuits, candies, pizzas, etc.
A refreshing study published in the British Medical Journal (Nov 2018) confirms that the lower the GL of a diet (achieved by lowering the amount of carbohydrates) the more energy you burn off through metabolism: you will lose more weight, whilst burning off 250 more calories when eating a low carb, high fat diet than a conventional low-fat, high carb diet despite eating the same number of calories. Protein was set at around 25% due to its effect on metabolism and satiety.
So calorie, finally, is not just a calorie. Not only did participants lose more weight following a low carb/low GL diet as opposed to a low fat, high carb diet, they also found that those on the lower carb, higher fat diets had lower levels of the ‘hunger hormones’ – ghrelin and leptin. Study confirms that diets higher in starch and sugar change the body’s burn rate after weight loss, lowering metabolism.
2. Fad Diets: they are not balanced and, as each promotes some excessive restriction or food omission – they are unsustainable in the long run.
Your metabolism slows down as a result of too few calories and, if calories are too low and if so is the amount of protein too: all fad diets ensure is a weight loss through your lean muscle instead of fat loss. It may feel good to lose weight, but, with muscle loss, metabolism will be slowing down further as body is unable to burn as many calories and weight gain is inevitable. Remember that our metabolic rate is mainly determined by the amount of muscle we have (the more muscle we have, the higher our metabolic rate), so, loss of lean muscle tissue will slow down metabolism.
For every pound of muscle that you lose, your resting metabolism drops by about 2-10 calories a day. If you lose 10 pounds of lean muscle – you now have to eat 20 to 100 fewer calories to maintain your trimmer physique.
Also, diets that are too restrictive results in constant hunger and lack of energy! And, while some diets emphasise a lot of protein, make sure not all of it comes from animal sources as that is equally unhealthy.
3. Skipping breakfast: it is a sure way to slow down your metabolism
Skipping breakfast, or any other meal, has a similar effect to starving yourself:
- It slows down your metabolism as your body conserves energy, burning only what is absolutely necessary until fuel becomes available
- Breakfast is your first opportunity of the day to fuel your body, rev up your metabolism and start burning the most calories possible -it should fit in up to 20% daily requirement of fibre, vitamins and minerals and up to 25% of daily calories.
- Skipping breakfast increases your chances of bingeing on whatever is available when hunger pangs hit and this is usually not healthy fare
- Eating a filling healthy breakfast ensures you will not resort to unhealthy choices
- Skipping breakfast in order to save calories is something that a lot of people do but it can lead overeating at lunch and dinner an there is a whole science behind those…
I am well aware that Intermittent Fasting is gaining in popularity for its weight loss abilities (and not any more weight loss than following a healthy and balanced diet), however, we need to be patient until more evidence is given to us and should ideally do it under medical supervision, especially if we have Diabetes. But I will say for now – there is far more evidence through science available right now that supports having a healthy and balanced breakfast as a way to manage your weight efficiently and ensure a healthy metabolism.
The solution should always be… Healthy nutrition… instead of dieting:
- Start every day with a nutritious & balanced breakfast. Feel free to ask me about my ideal breakfast;
- Eat plenty of good proteins every day, 1gr of protein per every 1 Lbs of lean muscle and balance plant with animal sources, unless you are already a vegetarian;
- Eat 5-6 small meals per day… smaller meals, every 3 hours, this will keep your metabolism fire burning;
- Aim to drink min. 2 litres of water each day, although, the amount does depend of gender and body compositions, so men could go even up to 4 litres and women up to 3 litres; take 2 litres as an absolute minimum;
- Eat a wide variety of fruit and vegetables (5 + a day is an absolute minimum);
- Ensure sufficient physical exercise, morning exercise is especially beneficial;
- Limit excessive sugars and aim for higher fibre varieties of carbohydrates: Eat whole grains, not multigrain.
So, what you eat and drink, quantities and timings all contribute to how fast your metabolism is and with that, how effective you are with turning food into energy without having any excess, which is stored as body fat…
I hope this was interesting and of a value to you. And if it was, please share, it might be to others too.
Until next time,
Yours in health,