As mentioned in my previous post, Studies suggest that there are four main reasons behind obesity and weight gain, Hperphagia, a low metabolic rate, low rates of fat oxidation and an impaired sympathetic nervous activity. We talked about the Sympathetic Nervous system fully in my previous post. Today our focus is going to be on Metabolic rate, what metabolic rate or metabolism is, what causes it to slow down, and how can we improve our metabolic rate.
What is Metabolism?
The metabolism of an organism refers to the sum of all ongoing chemical reactions that sustain the life of that organism. The metabolic rate refers to the speed at which these reactions occur and can be expressed in terms of energy use per unit of time. Therefore, metabolic rate is how much energy you need to stay alive and function. The amount of energy your body uses in a day equals to your total energy expenditure.
BMR or Basal Metabolic rate Also known as RMR or Resting Metabolic Rate, is the amount of energy that our body uses while at absolute rest and fasting for 12 hours. BMR, on an average person, counts for about 70% of total energy expenditure. BMR is the minimum amount of calories that we need. The only difference between BMR and RMR is the way that they are measured. BMR measurements are typically taken in a darkened room upon waking after 8 hours of sleep, 12 hours of fasting to ensure that the digestive system is inactive, and with the subject resting in a reclined position. However, RMR measurements are typically taken under less restricted conditions than BMR and do not require that the subject spend the night sleeping in the test facility prior to testing.
Factors that affect metabolic rate
Even though genetics can affect metabolism and metabolic rate, there are still other factors or lifestyle choices and habits that can affect our metabolism, listed below:
- Muscle Mass – referring to the amount of muscle in your body. Muscle requires more energy to function than fat. So the more muscle tissue you have, the more energy or fuel your body uses. (While most forms of exercise will help boost muscle, resistance or strength training is the most effective. Resistance training is such as lifting weights or exercises that work against the resistance of your body weight such as push-ups, squats and lunges.)
- Age – Generally speaking, for adults, the older you get, the slower your metabolic rate. This is partly because of a loss of muscle tissue (more reason to add resistance training to your workouts), and also because of hormonal and neurological changes. When babies and children go through periods of growth, their metabolism speeds up.
- Gender – As men are usually larger than women, they generally have faster metabolisms.
- Genetics – your genes can play a role in whether you have a slower or faster metabolism, and some genetic disorders can also affect your metabolism.
- Physical activity – Regular exercise increases muscle mass and encourages your body to burn calories at a faster rate, even when at rest.
- Hormonal factors – Hormonal imbalances caused by certain conditions, including hypo- and hyperthyroidism and menopause can affect your metabolism.
- Environmental factors – The weather can also have an effect on your metabolism; if it is very cold or very hot, your body has to work harder to maintain its normal temperature and that increases the metabolic rate.
- Drugs – Caffeine and nicotine can increase your metabolic rate, while medications including some antidepressants and anabolic steroids can contribute to weight gain regardless of what you eat.
- Diet – Certain aspects of your diet can also affect metabolism. For instance, if you don’t have enough iodine for optimal thyroid function, it can slow down your metabolism.
- Stress– Stress causes your level of the hormone cortisol to rise, which can harm your metabolism. Increased cortisol levels can cause you to overeat, and when you overeat, you can gain weight.
- Sleep: To keep your metabolism revved, don’t skip snoozing. When your body lacks sleep, it can have a difficult time metabolizing carbohydrates, which triggers a chain reaction. When you don’t metabolize carbohydrates, your blood-sugar levels rise. High blood sugar levels spike insulin levels, and the increase in insulin tells your body to store unused energy as fat. To stop the cycle, make sure you are getting enough sleep.
Can you improve your metabolism?
The short answer is yes, it is not easy, and almost impossible without the willingness to change our lifestyle, but it is doable. Here is how we can improve our metabolism:
- Eat Plenty of Protein at Every Meal– Eating food can increase your metabolism for a few hours. This is called the thermic effect of food (TEF). It’s caused by the extra calories required to digest, absorb and process the nutrients in your meal. Protein causes the largest rise in TEF. It increases your metabolic rate by 15–30%, compared to 5–10% for carbs and 0–3% of fats. Eating protein has also been shown to help you feel more full and prevent you from overeating (1, 2, 3).
- Drink More Cold Water-Drinking water may speed up your metabolism temporarily. Studies have shown that drinking 17 oz (0.5 liters) of water increases resting metabolism by 10–30% for about an hour. This calorie-burning effect may be even greater if you drink cold water, as your body uses energy to heat it up to body temperature.
- Do resistance training- Muscle is more metabolically active than fat, and building muscle can help increase your metabolism .
- Eat Spicy Foods- Peppers contain capsaicin, a substance that can boost your metabolism. One study of capsaicin, at acceptable doses, predicted that eating peppers would burn around 10 additional calories per meal. Over 6.5 years, this could account for 1 lb (0.5 kg) of weight loss for an average-weight male.
- Get a Good Night’s Sleep- We already talked about the importance of sleep in the previous section.
Can certain foods increase your metabolism?
It would be very hard to increase your metabolism simply by eating certain foods. To get the best result, you need to change your diet, make sure your hormones are balanced and functioning properly, put on some muscle in your body via exercising, get enough sleep, and try not to stress. However, if you are still looking for a list of foods to eat to help you rev up your metabolism, this list might help:
- Hot Peppers
- Whole Grains: Oatmeal and Brown Rice (watch for arsenic in brown rice)
- Green Tea
- Apples and Pears
- Citrus Fruits like grapefruit
- Foods High in Calcium like dark leafy greens
- Foods High in Omega-3’s like Salmon, walnuts
- Purified Water
Even though genetics can play a role in our slow metabolic rate, but there are many other factors involved which we can change in order to improve our metabolism. Some important ways to improve our metabolism is to do resistance training, get enough sleep, eat clean, unprocessed foods, drink plenty of water, try not to stress and make sure our hormones are in balance.
Stay happy and healthy