Simply put, metabolism refers to the reactions that happen within our body on a cellular level that turn the calories we get from food and drinks into usable energy. There is evidence that suggests that having an understanding of your metabolism can help identify an increased risk of obesity, and aid weight loss by creating a diet plan that is catered to your own metabolic needs.
Extreme diet plans, like most crash diets, can slow down your metabolism and make it harder for you to lose weight long term. Whereas aerobic exercises paired with weight training can help speed up your metabolism, and help you achieve weight loss goals.
Metabolism encompasses all the chemical processes that happen within your body on a cellular level, on a daily basis. This is what allows you to breathe, digest foods, think and make decisions, and everything else necessary to keep you alive.
Although your metabolism does a lot of things, the term got popular when associated with weight loss or gain. Saying that a slow metabolism makes you fat and a fast metabolism makes you thin is a common claim, but it’s not that simple.
Every chemical process that happens in your body requires energy, and the minimum amount of energy necessary to keep you going is referred to as the basal metabolic rate (BMR). This can be translated to the number of calories you burn just by existing. So a slow metabolism would mean that you need less energy to survive than someone with a fast metabolism, who would need more calories to function properly.
The speed of your metabolism depends on your gender, age, genes, and current body size. Metabolism is not a set value, but rather a dependent variable – meaning that as you age, lose or gain weight, or gain or lose muscle – your metabolism will change.
One of the biggest factors is muscle. The speed of metabolism can all boil down to how much muscle you have, as someone with a lot of muscle will have a much higher BMR compared to someone who has a high body fat percentage with little muscle.
Knowing whether you have a slow or fast metabolism can be pivotal in your weight loss journey. By being aware of your resting metabolic rate, you’ll be able to create a diet plan that takes into account exactly how many calories your body needs to survive. Once you’ve got that down, you just need to subtract 100 to 200 calories to ensure you’re in a caloric deficit.
Your basal metabolic rate, or BMR, is the minimum amount of calories/energy your body needs to function on a daily basis. And a slow metabolism usually just means you have a low BMR. While your body thinks it is being smart by using energy as efficiently as possible and by being able to live on fewer calories, this usually just lowers your calorie threshold and will force you to restrict your calorie intake to avoid gaining weight.
But the truth is, your metabolism isn’t entirely to blame. The main things that contribute to weight gain are genetics, a sedentary lifestyle, eating too many calories, or even certain medications and bad habits, like not getting adequate sleep.
To stay fit and maintain a healthy weight with a slow metabolism, you may want to look to restrict your calorie intake and/or increase your activity level. If you find out what your BMR is and subtract 200 calories from it, then you should have a guideline daily amount of calories. This can aid a gradual weight loss, but without being too extreme, as that can slow your metabolism even further.
There are many things you can try if you want to speed up your metabolism. Evidence suggests that weight gain and obesity can be largely attributed to a lack of physical activity, and a slow metabolism can be remedied with a regular exercise routine.
Consuming certain foods and drinks can be a metabolism booster, namely coffee, tea (hold the sugars), protein-rich and spicy foods. But there is limited evidence proving these claims. Including these foods and drinks in your diet can help with long-term weight loss and maintenance, but the best thing you can do is make sure you burn more calories than you consume. A combination of aerobic exercises and weight training can be used as a good foundation to help speed up your metabolism and lose excess weight.
There isn’t a single type of drink or food that speeds up metabolism. But there are some metabolism-boosting foods that can help little by little, as well as general tips that when applied to your diet regularly, will have a noticeable effect on your health, such as:
There’s no guaranteed method to increase metabolism, but some exercises are great for improving your health and potentially increasing your BMR, such as:
No, you don’t necessarily need to boost your metabolism in order to lose weight. There are a lot of things you can do to try to achieve significant, long-term weight loss. You can try a high protein, low-fat diet. You can try eliminating fried foods, sweets and pastries, and other calorie-dense foods. You can incorporate an exercise routine. Depending on your BMI you can even try weight loss medication. But you’ll only really lose weight if you take in less calories than you use. So the slower your metabolism, the less food you can eat, and the slower your weight loss might be. In other words, boosting your metabolism isn’t essential, but it’ll help.
Physiology, Metabolism. PubMed.
Piaggi, P. (2019). Metabolic Determinants of Weight Gain in Humans. Obesity, 27(5), pp.691–699.
Energy metabolism, fuel selection and body weight regulation. International Journal of Obesity, 32(S7), pp.S109–S119.
The effects of green tea on lipid metabolism and its potential applications for obesity and related metabolic disorders - An existing update. Diabetes & metabolic syndrome, 13(2), pp.1667–1673.
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