We hear people all the time blame their weight-gain on their slow metabolism. Or we are told to eat several times per day to keep our metabolism moving, but if we already have weight to lose, isn’t that counter-intuitive? Let’s take a look into what exactly metabolism is, how is works, and what we can do to keep it working to our advantage.
Simply put, Metabolism is the process that takes everything that we eat/drink and converts it into energy for our body to use. Our body uses this energy whether we are awake or asleep. It’s a complex system that is different for everyone based on age, sex, and body composition (how much muscle and fat that you have.) When we say we’ve burned X amount of calories, we are talking about our metabolism and energy. Our basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the amount of calories that our body uses to survive in a healthy manner at rest. This includes things that we don’t have to think about: circulation, breathing, repair of tissues, etc. We can thank our BMR for about 60-75% of the calories that we burn daily. The rest of the calories burned depends on our physical activity and how well our body processes food.
Fact. One pound of muscle burns approximately 40-60 calories per day. The number varies per person. One pound of fat burns approximately 1-3 calories per day.
Fact. People who have more muscle mass burn more calories per day even when at rest.
Fact. Metabolism can be altered regardless of age.
Fact. Physical activity is the one variable that is most easily changed.
Most weight gain occurs because we ingest more calories than we burn, so common sense would mean that if we simply eat fewer calories, we’d lose weight, right? Well, not so fast. When we go on low-calorie diets or skip meals and don’t eat enough calories to maintain our BMR, we are actually slowing our metabolism down. Our body is smart. It automatically thinks STARVATION…CONSERVATION…MUST SURVIVE. To protect itself to survive, body processes…ie metabolism…slow down. Even worse, our body begins to burn our own muscle for the necessary calories (yes this will show as a weight-loss on the scale but at what expense?) When our metabolism slows down, it suddenly becomes easier to eat more calories than we burn. Result? Weight-gain over time…even though we didn’t mean to…and the weight gain is fat, which burns less than muscle. In essence, we’ve just replaced muscle with fat.
Let me just say there are medical conditions that will affect metabolism and must be dealt with under a physician’s care. The vast majority of people, however, do not fall into this category.
OK, so now that we’ve had a quick one-minute anatomy & physiology lesson, what can we do to change our metabolism?
I’m going to give you four simple steps that work.
1. Eat 5-6 small meals per day. Have you ever been camping and sat around a campfire? If so, you’ll remember that you must continue to add kindling to the fire so it doesn’t burn out. We need to think of our metabolism as a fire. Eating small, frequent meals keeps our metabolism burning. Note…we must choose healthy foods for these meals. If our frequent meals consist of fat and sodium-laden, nutritional-void items, we’ve missed the mark entirely. If you struggle with eating that often due to work, plan ahead for portable, healthy snack foods including protein bars & Shakeology.
2. Add in weight training 3 times per week. Remember the above fact? Muscle burns more than fat. Adding more muscle to our body via weight training means less fat, a tighter body, and smaller clothing sizes. Yea, I could live with that.
3. Do aerobic exercise 5-6 times per week. Although cardio doesn’t really help us build our large muscle groups, it does rev up our metabolism potentially for hours afterwards! Faster metabolism means more calories burned.
4. Drink enough water. Even being mildly dehydrated can slow your metabolism. Our body needs water to process calories into energy. Drink up!
In short, don’t allow yourself to fall into victim-mode, believe the fallacy that you have a slow metabolism, and think that you can’t do something about it. Also don’t sabotage yourself by unwittingly slowing your metabolism down by low-calorie diets. If you will commit to eating 5-6 nutritious, small meals per day, adding in weight training and cardio exercise, and drinking enough water, you CAN make positive changes. I know you can, and I believe in you.
Get Started & Never Look Back!