If you look at weight loss studies or talk to the average person about their weight, generally somewhere or sometime the word “metabolism” comes into play. But what is metabolism and how does it affect our weight?
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Metabolism is the process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy.” Our body needs energy from our food and drink in order to work properly and our metabolism is at the forefront of these functions.
When our body is at rest, our metabolism still needs energy to do subconscious functions like breathing, circulating blood, maintaining a consistent heart rate and repairing cells.
The body needs to have a system in order to maintain these necessary functions. This is known as your basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is the amount of energy expended while you're completely at rest. At rest, your BMR accounts for an average of 60 to 75 percent of the calories you burn in a day. So even at rest, your body is working hard to manage resting bodily functions.
Besides your BMR, there are two other primary factors that influence the amount of calories you burn in a day. First is food processing. Second is physical activity.
Your body burns around 10 percent of your daily calories by processing the food and hydration you consume. The amount of calories burned a day through physical activity is the most varied way to burn calories. If you do not engage in physical activity, your body will not burn very many calories. The opposite is true if you engage in exercise.
It may seem logical to blame a slow metabolism for weight gain, but our metabolism is a natural process and it adjusts to meet our individual needs.
Generally, weight gain is associated with consuming more calories than the body needs or can burn off in a day. This is why it’s necessary to either decrease your caloric intake, exercise more or both in order to lose weight.
It is true that our metabolism slows as we age and men tend to have a faster metabolism because they generally have more muscle mass than women. However, there are ways you can “speed up” your metabolism that help with weight loss:
- First, engage in cardiovascular exercise like running, biking, swimming or aerobic workouts.
- Next, complement your workouts with strength training to increase your muscle mass.
- Third, be sure to hydrate. The body needs water for our metabolism to function properly. Even mild dehydration can negatively impact our metabolism.
- Fourth, eat smaller snacks throughout the day. This keeps your metabolism working instead of it slowing down between meals.
- Finally, replace some of your carbohydrate foods with high-protein foods. The body can burn more calories digesting protein than fat or carbs.
By boosting your metabolism the healthy way, your body will have the best chance of losing weight while maintaining a good balance between exercise and calorie reduction.