Maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle is something that may not come instantly. If you are committed, a closer look at metabolism may dissolve myths and get you on the right track.
“Metabolism is a subject of much debate, discussion, and research, and the target of many marketing and advertising blitzes and scams,” says Kelly Grillo, MD, a Scott & White internal medicine physician with a special interest in nutrition and fitness. “Why? It is the Achilles heel for so many who are trying to lose weight and having difficulty.”
Metabolism or the “Achilles heel for weight loss” is how fast your body burns calories and is a key factor in maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle.
Let’s take a closer look at this key factor. You may ask, is it possible? Can we really speed up the rate at which our body burns calories?
Factors that Influence Metabolism
Although there are a number of things we can do to influence our metabolism, our inherited or predetermined factors play a role in burning calories.
First, your genetics influence your metabolism. Part of your metabolic makeup comes from your parents, good or bad.
Along the same line, your gender is also a factor. Men have a higher metabolism than women.
Also, your age influences your metabolic rate because as you get older, especially after age 40, your metabolism slows down.
How to Boost Your Metabolism
Outside from predetermined factors, there are a number of ways to boost your metabolism.
“There are definitely a number of natural things that you can do to regain your health and to boost your metabolism,” says Dr. Grillo. “I would argue that these steps would aid in weight loss, but I encourage people to focus more on the daily benefit to their lives.”
Some of these daily benefits she mentioned include improved sleep, reduced pain, improved memory, increased energy levels, and improved cognitive function. She says all these benefits are realized within two to four weeks, a much more immediate reward than weight loss, which is usually slower in coming and harder to focus on as a motivator.
Here are a few things you can do to naturally boost your metabolism:
- Resistance training: Weight exercises help increase your muscle mass and will activate your metabolism for hours after you workout.
- For every one pound of muscle, it uses six calories a day, even at rest. This means your body can burn calories even while you are sleeping. Contrast that with fat, where one pound of fat only uses two calories a day.
- Aerobic exercise: The greater the intensity, the greater the effect and the longer it lasts after you finish exercising.
- If you have poor endurance or joint injuries, you can boost the intensity of your workout safely with short bursts of jogging or jumping. Dr. Grillo suggests if you can only perform low or moderate intensity exercise, your goal should be for longer periods of time, over 45 minutes if possible.
- Increase water intake: Dr. Grillo says dehydration slows down metabolism. Adequate water is required for the body to process calories.
- Eight or more glasses of water or unsweetened drinks is recommended, also fruits and vegetables instead of salty snacks will increase your fluid intake.
- Small, frequent, snack-sized meals: Eating frequently will help to boost your metabolism and adequate calorie intake will boost your metabolism.
- Dr. Grillo suggests to take your goal body weight and add a zero to it; that is the minimum number of calories you need to be taking in every day. For example, if you weigh 250 lbs, but your goal weight is 150 lbs, you can take in 2500 kcal a day to maintain your weight, but at 1500 kcal a day you will have no problem achieving your weight-loss goal. Somewhere in between that range will accomplish a slower weight loss or compensate for a heavy exercise regimen. It is best to talk to your doctor to work out a weight loss plan.
- Certain drinks or foods: Coffee, green tea or spicy foods have also been shown to boost metabolism.
- These should all be in moderation and only consumed if tolerated. For more information about foods to regulate metabolism, contact your doctor.
“It is so important to arm yourself with honesty, information, and determination. Then you truly have the tools you need to succeed,” says Dr. Grillo.
Beware of Metabolism Myths
With a wealth of opinions and information, it is easy to get lost in the myths of metabolism. Dr. Grillo highlighted three main myths about hormones, healthy eating and exercise.
Regarding endocrine disorders, if you are exercising and dieting and still not able to lose weight, or have a sudden unexplained weight gain, you might want to see your physician to be checked for metabolic disorders.
Another myth is that skipping meals is a good way to lose weight.
“In fact, this slows down your metabolism by ‘convincing’ your body you have limited access to food,” says Grillo. “Your body ‘thinks’ you are starving to death, so it goes into survival mode, slowing down your metabolism, making you fatigued, and in fact increasing fat storage as a life-saving mechanism, and making it even harder for you to lose weight.”
So, remember that in order to lose weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle, consume at least 1,000 calories and consume smaller meals more regularly. This will help retain muscle mass and help you burn calories faster.
Concerning exercise, Dr. Grillo says research about exercise and metabolism suggests that benefits actually increase with age. This means exercise as you grow older will benefit your body even more. It’s never too late to give yourself a boost.
“While I do not believe any of us expect to live forever, I do believe we all want to have the best quality of life while we are still here, and want to be as functional and independent as possible for as long as possible,” says Grillo. “I believe being committed to our health is our best chance at achieving that goal.”