Health-heads talk about metabolism all the time, and many of us believe we already know what metabolism is. The common thought surrounding metabolism is it breaks down the food we consume to convert into energy, basically insinuating the faster your metabolism, the skinnier you’ll be.
While this isn’t necessarily untrue, the meaning behind metabolism isn’t so black and white. So we broke down 10 facts that will help you better understand metabolism and how it all works.
1. Thank Your Cells
You probably see commercials all the time promoting supplements that will “boost your metabolism,” or people talking about metabolism like it’s something you can control yourself.
The reality is that, according to Dr. Ananya Mandal, metabolism is “the term that is used to describe all chemical reactions involved in maintaining the living state of the cells and the organism”. In short, metabolism is what creates fuel for your body through the calories you consume, and each cell is responsible for this process.
Your metabolism also works while you’re at rest! In this state, major organs like the heart, liver, and brain take up nearly half of the energy burned, while fat and muscles take up the other half.
2. More Rest = Higher Metabolism
As aforementioned, your metabolism also works while your body is at rest, but it also works right after you eat and while you are performing physical activity. Surprisingly, the resting phase is when your body burns the most energy stored in your body (See point #4 in our “New Rules of Fitness” article).
Unless your job involves a ton of physical activity, your body’s metabolism during workouts only accounts for burning roughly 10-30% of total body energy. Likewise, digesting food also only accounts for around 10%. Meanwhile, according to Dr. Tom M. Manini, your metabolism burns a whopping 60-80% of total body energy while in the resting state. So get your rest on!
3. Every Person Is Different
Although scientists still don’t understand why, metabolisms between two different yet almost physically identical people can completely differ. There’s no definitive way to accurately measure an individual’s metabolism; one person may be able to eat 10 burgers a day without gaining any weight, while someone else would suffer dramatically from weight gain.
However, there are a couple of factors that may play a role in how your metabolism functions.
Some factors can include how much fat tissue and lean muscle makes up one’s body. Other factors can include age and family genetics, but gender is among the most influential. Males tend to lose weight a lot more easily than females do, being that females are naturally made up of more fat tissue than males. However, women can actually burn 10% more of their body energy than usual toward the end of their menstrual cycle.
4. Old Age Can Slow You Down
We don’t mean this in the sense of physical ability, but rather how fast your metabolism is able to function. As young as the age of 18, getting older could have a drastic effect on slowing down your metabolism. Supposedly, people who are 45 and over tend to lose 10% of muscle mass per decade, thereby making your metabolism slower in the process. So essentially, with age also comes a change in body composition, thus the slower metabolism.
But don’t worry, because there’s still good news…
5. You Can Still Lose Weight With A Slow Metabolism
Although we say some individuals may have a faster metabolism than others, that doesn’t mean the slower ones don’t work. It may take a longer time to reach your goals, but the real ticket is to make changes in your everyday lifestyle.
Not only do you want to exercise regularly, but you also want to make sure you are not repeating the same workouts week in, and week out. Switch it up so your body doesn’t adapt to one set of particular movements and you are sure to see some changes.
People who see results also make sure that they eat breakfast and count their calories throughout the day. You can check out how many calories your body needs to maintain the same weight here. If your goal is to lose weight, make sure you are eating under the number you calculate. Also make sure you’re not weighing yourself more than once per week, as your body weight tends to fluctuate throughout the day, throwing your recordings off-balance.
6. Dieting Can Slow It Down
This isn’t us telling you to avoid a more healthy-eating lifestyle. Healthy dieting is and will always be a great way to lose fat and avoid illness, weight gain, and disease. However, what we are saying is that as you lose more weight, whether through extreme dieting or exercise, your resting metabolic rate tends to decrease.
As mentioned earlier, resting metabolism tends to target half the energy from your major organs and half the energy from your muscles and fat tissue. The more fat you lose, the less your resting metabolic rate will take bodily energy from your fat (or muscle) tissue…meaning it will become harder to lose fat over time.
7. There’s No Real Way To Permanently Boost Your Metabolism
There’s no doubt you’re surrounded by ways that “guarantee” to boost your metabolism. Whether it be eating spicy food, drinking coffee, etc. The truth is, the “gain” it all provides is so small, it’s almost immeasurable due to how short of an effect it actually has on your body.
Building muscle, however, has the biggest impact on your resting metabolism. At rest, the one half measurement of energy that is taken from fat and muscle tissue tends to take away more energy from the muscle built in your body.
So, even if you are losing more fat, you are still keeping your metabolism at a constant (or higher) rate if you are still building muscle at the same time. There is a catch, though: Being that your metabolism might increase with this gain in muscle, this means that your body may want more fuel. This will usually result in a higher level of hunger. Meaning that if your goal is to still lose weight after this, you’ll need to avoid eating to reach your goal.
8. Stay Hydrated
According to The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, drinking water can temporarily have an effect on how fast your resting metabolism functions. A study involving 14 individuals, seven men and seven women found that drinking at least 500ml of water throughout the day can temporarily increase your resting metabolism by as much as 30%, but only for about 30-40 minutes. You can also keep this temporary rate up by chomping on fruits and vegetables throughout the day, as they all naturally contain water.
9. Power Up With Protein
Your body naturally burns more calories while digesting protein than while digesting carbohydrates. This makes sense, being that protein helps to build muscle, which we now know helps your metabolism stay at a higher rate than usual.
By replacing whatever carbohydrates you usually eat throughout the day with a source of protein, you may subtly be helping your metabolism target the areas you want to achieve for weight loss. Some good sources of protein include nuts, almonds, eggs, beans, turkey, poultry, fish, and low-fat dairy products!
10. Have More Than Three Meals
You probably think that it’s really unhealthy to eat more than the normal three meals a day, but that’s really a matter of perspective. This theory is often argued over, but if the three meals an individual eats a day is a large amount of calories, they may want to consider switching to six or more rational and healthy meals throughout the day.
This method of consumption can stop the feeling of being overly-hungry throughout the day, thus helping the individual target more healthy and nutritious foods to eat. As long as the individual is meeting the targeted amount of calories throughout the day, they will have a constant maintenance of weight. This method is more so practiced to prevent the consistent feeling of hunger throughout the day, thereby limiting over-eating.