If you’re interested in speeding up your metabolism to lose weight, we are sorry to break this to you. A slow metabolism is rarely the main reason we gain excess weight. What you eat and drink and your level of physical activity have a much larger impact on weight gain or loss.
That said, you shouldn’t discount your metabolism entirely. It is possible to take action and rev up your metabolism to enhance weight loss when combined with a healthy diet and regular exercise.
At its most basic level, metabolism is the process of converting food into the energy your body needs to function. (If you want to learn more about this complex process, you can find some great articles here or here.) When you’re awake and moving around, you’re going to need energy. Your body also needs energy while at rest. Even when you are sleeping, you’ll need energy for basic functions, such as breathing, circulating blood, repairing cell tissue, processing waste, etc. The number of calories your body needs to maintain these basic functions is your basal metabolic rate, add in energy used digesting food plus energy used in activity and you get …. (tah-dah!) your metabolism.
Factors Influencing Your Metabolism That You Can’t Do Much About
There are simply things that are beyond your control with regard to your metabolism. It’s best to accept these factors and focus on the areas you can change and see a meaningful impact.
- Your Body Size
A larger body burns more calories. So, if you’re tall or big-boned, you’re going to need more energy to keep your body functioning that a smaller, lighter person.
- The Gender You Were Born With
Men tend to have a smaller percentage of body fat and a higher percentage of lean mass when compared to women. As we learned in this article about body composition, lean mass requires more energy to maintain than fat does. So, simply by having a higher percentage of lean mass than women, men tend to burn more energy than women, even at rest.
- Your Age
As your age increases the amount of lean mass decreases and the amount of fat grows, slowing the amount of energy needed to maintain the body.
- Hormone Production
Thyroid hormones have the biggest impact on resting metabolic rate, and thyroid activity in women typically slows after age 40. Beware of supplements claiming to increase thyroid activity.
Factors Influencing Your Metabolism That You Can Control
The good news is that there are some factors you can control or influence with regard to your metabolism.
- Body Composition
Lean mass requires more energy to maintain than fat. To increase your metabolism, increase your percentage of lean mass. Add strength training to your regular exercise program build muscle, improve bone density, and reduce excess fat.
- Increase Nutrient Density
Cutting calories by an extreme amount seems like a quick path to weight loss. It’s not. Starvation actually slows down your metabolic rate significantly. Women should consume no fewer than 1200 calories per day. For men, that number increases to 1800 calories per day. To make the most of your calorie allotment, focus on nutrient dense foods that fill you up, provide nourishment, and are low in calories. Examples include, protein, green vegetables, and whole grains.
- Protein Consumption
Make sure your diet has the right balance of protein. Eating adequate protein helps you maintain lean muscle mass as you lose weight. Protein also takes more effort (and therefore burns more energy) for the body to process. Strive to eat 18 to 20 percent of your total daily calories in lean protein. Additionally, add more fiber into your diet (the whole, unprocessed kind), which may slightly block caloric absorption and keep you feeling full longer.
Implementing any one of these changes might lead to a modest 60 or so more calories burned per day and little noticeable change in resting metabolic rate. However, practicing several of these modifications can add up over the long run to make a positive impact that revs up your metabolism, enhances weight loss, and improves your overall health and wellness.
Not sure how to get started making changes to your exercise routine or diet? PartnerMD can help. Wellbeing, our weight loss and lifestyle modification program, is a 12 week course that is designed to help you change the underlying behaviors that lead to excess weight gain. We help you make incremental changes that lead to new and healthy habits and, ultimately, to weight loss for life.