When most people think about metabolism, they think about energy conversion: specifically how many kcal they burn per day. You’ve heard folks say, “I can’t lose weight because I have a slow metabolism” but is that really true? Or is it like saying I’m big boned?
Every other Thursday, I get to do a Health and Fitness segment on Channel 41’s KCLIVE TV show with Michelle Davidson and Joel Nichols.
This week we discussed how we can support or sabotage our metabolism. Check out our quick 3 minute video!
Metabolism – what is it and why do we care?
Strictly defined, metabolism refers to the chemical processes that take place in our bodies that converts what you eat and drink into energy to sustain life. When our metabolism is sluggish we feel sluggish because the process directly influences our bodies ability to generate energy.
BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate)
Even when you’re at rest, your body needs energy for all its “hidden” functions, such as breathing, circulating blood, adjusting hormone levels, and growing and repairing cells. The number of calories your body uses to carry out these basic functions is known as your basal metabolic rate — what you might call metabolism.
Several factors determine your individual basal metabolic rate, including:
- Your body size and composition. The bodies of people who are larger or have more muscle burn more calories, even at rest.
- Your sex. Men usually have less body fat and more muscle than do women of the same age and weight, burning more calories.
- Your age. As you get older, the amount of muscle tends to decrease and fat accounts for more of your weight, slowing down calorie burning.
- Hormones. Thyroid and stress hormones can affect metabolism.
Energy needs for your body’s basic functions stay fairly consistent and aren’t easily changed. Your basal metabolic rate accounts for about 70 percent of the calories you burn every day.
So what can we do to make sure our metabolism is healthy and functioning well? Here are five sure fire ways to boost your metabolism.
1. Strength train. The amount of muscle we have directly affects our metabolism because the more muscle cells we have, the greater the demand for energy, even at rest.
2. Maximize your metabolism with the right kind of exercise.
HIIT – muscle sparing activities as opposed to muscle wasting activities. Intervals of short high intensity training will create and maintain muscle mass which helps our metabolism. Also, the afterburn effect of this type of workout, raises our metabolism not just during the workout but for hours after. (For up to 24 hours depending on the intensity of the workout)
3. Avoid workouts that undermine your ability to build and maintain muscle- i.e. Spending hours on the treadmill, stair climber or running. Lots of people get hung up on the kcal burned DURING the exercise, but the bigger picture tells a different story.
Too much cardio can have a boomerang effect and actually undermine your ability to maintain muscle. This is due to the release of stress hormones which short circuit our metabolism and may actually trigger you to gain weight! IRONIC!
4. Eat to boost your metabolism.
Food is the foundation of our health and that includes metabolism. First of all EAT. Eating fewer calories will only interrupt your metabolism. If your body doesn’t get enough energy and protein, it will turn to your muscles instead. That’s why weight loss programs that focus on calorie restriction only often end up with folks actually having a lower metabolism after they lose weight as they have also lost lean body mass. This is what we call “skinny fat.”
To maximize your metabolism, eat a clean diet with enough protein to build and sustain muscle. Avoid empty calories (i.e. Sugar, processed foods and colas) and focus on a variety of fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds and protein. Why protein? Eating protein can help with that, by boosting your metabolic rate (calories out) and reducing your appetite (calories in). This is well supported by science.
So how much protein do we need to eat?
Studies show that the recommended 46 grams of protein per day for women and 56 grams of protein for me is insufficient. In fact, research shows that folks who consume around 30% of their total daily calories from protein (around 150 grams for someone eating 2000 kcal per day) show greater ability to lose fat and maintain lean muscle tissue than those who eat less. That’s because eating protein in this amount boosts your metabolism up to 80-100 kcal per day… and that can add up.
But probably the most important contribution of protein to weight loss, is its ability to reduce appetite and cause a spontaneous reduction in calorie intake. Protein is much more satiating than both fat and carbs.
5. How much exercise do we really need to be healthy?
Less than you might think. In fact, you can get all the health benefits you need from moderate exercise that won’t make you huff and puff, even if you do it in little chunks — as long as it adds up to enough total activity.
The term “cardiometabolic exercise” (CME) encompasses a range of activities, from climbing the stairs in your office building to pushing yourself on an elliptical. All these things will improve your heart, your metabolism, and your health.
The key is to do enough and to do it often enough. For health, doctors should “prescribe” at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise or 15 minutes of intense exercise a day
Mix daily activities, formal workouts, and sports play to get the exercise you need for health. And for best results, do some stretching nearly every day and some strength training two or three times a week.
The older we get, the more we need these supplementary activities. And as the years roll on, most of us will also benefit from some simple exercises to improve balance and prevent falling, a major health problem for seniors.
At Pilates 1901 we have a huge variety of 30 minute High Intensity Interval Training classes as well as 50 minute core and flexibility classes to help kick your butt and your metabolism into high gear.
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