What is metabolism?
Metabolism is the process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy. Metabolism occurs around the clock, even when you are sleeping. In fact, the term used for what your body burns at rest is called resting metabolic rate and accounts for up to 50-75% of total calorie expenditure1. The brain, liver, kidneys, and heart account for about half of the energy burned at rest, while fat, the digestive system, and especially the body’s muscles account for the rest.2Energy needs for your body’s basic functions stay fairly consistent and aren’t easily changed. Many people may blame their metabolism for weight gain. This is rarely the case. However, there are ways to improve your metabolism which will increase the number of calories you burn. Let’s take a closer look at a few.
If there is one thing that you have complete control over it is the amount of physical activity you get. It is as simple as this: the more active you are, the more calories you burn. Building more muscle with some strength training can be marginally helpful as well because muscle uses a lot more energy than fat while at rest. In fact, 10 pounds of muscle would burn 50 calories in a day spent at rest, while 10 pounds of fat would burn 20 calories7. Not only does exercise increase your metabolism, it is also beneficial for strengthening bones, improving coordination and balance. If you don’t have the time to do 30 minutes a day of exercising, then try to enhance your daily activity by taking the stairs, parking further away so you have to walk more, housework, even washing your car all can provide extra movement.
How your diet affects your metabolism
It is true that if you consume less calories than you burn, you lose weight. However, temporary diets won’t work. First of all, crash dieting and yoyo dieting will have negative effects on your metabolism. Your metabolism will actually slow down if you deprive your body of fuel from calories. You may lose weight at first, but most of the time these diets come to an end and when you go back to how you were eating before; the result usually ends up in weight gain because your overall metabolism has slowed. Not only is weight gain the end result, by slowing down your metabolism during the dieting phase, you may deprive your body of critical nutrients which put stress on your immune system. Experts say that long-term restrictive dieting can even be harmful to your heart, due to the loss of heart muscle from calorie-cutting.3
A more strategic plan to increase or maintain your metabolism is to focus on a diet high in nutrients with adequate amounts of protein and fat for fuel. Protein has a higher thermic effect compared with fats and carbohydrates so it takes longer for your body to burn protein and absorb it. Eggs, chicken, fish, nuts, even red meat are good sources of protein. (Be sure to limit or avoid beef if your Ferritin levels in your blood are too high. This can be tested by your doctor). Get your nutrients from fresh vegetables with every meal. Fruits are also good to include in the diet, just be sure to not over eat a lot of fruit if you are diabetic since many fruits can be high in sugar. Fruits and vegetables are also high in water content. If you are even mildly dehydrated, your metabolism may slow down. So be sure you are drinking at least 64 ounces of water daily. If you are exercising or sweating a lot, you may need to increase your water intake.
Promising studies have shown that probiotics can change the way that bile acids are metabolized which means it could change how much fat the body is able to absorb.4 Probiotics also help create nutrients and vitamins for the body to use. If your digestive system is not working properly, then absorption rates of fats, proteins, and other foods you consume may not be occurring. This can lead to deficiencies, and a slower rate of healing and repairing in the body.
For many people, just changing the gut flora won’t help them lose weight or increase their metabolism. However, if the actual cause of a person’s unhealthy gut flora is discovered, that is what can be addressed. The factors that can change a person’s gut flora and effect the way that their digestive system works can include but is not limited to: a pro-inflammatory diet, alcohol, stress, lack of exercise, chronic antibiotic use, medications, and more.
Proper sleep accompanied with a healthy diet helps maintain balance between metabolism and circadian rhythm. When your normal circadian rhythm is disrupted then normal cellular function can be disrupted, and this can lead to illness and disease. This also helps explain why lack of rest or disruption of normal sleep patterns can increase hunger, leading to obesity-related illnesses and accelerated aging5. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation can alter the glucose metabolism and hormones involved in regulating metabolism, that is, decreased leptin levels and increased ghrelin levels.6With increased ghrelin levels, appetite can increase, therefor making you feel hungry.
Is there a medical reason why your metabolism is slow? Many people jump to conclusions that their thyroid is to blame, or that their hormones are imbalanced, or they think they have adrenal fatigue. However, if you just address one factor, you may miss the underlying cause; which is the bigger picture.
The best way to find out the actual cause of why your metabolism may have slowed down over the years is to get tested. The wide range of symptoms associated with poor metabolism can include, but are not limited to: weight gain, fatigue, poor memory, hair loss, depression, etc. A comprehensive blood test and hair tissue mineral test will detect deficiencies and toxicities associated with the symptoms of poor metabolism along with other factors that can contribute. You don’t just want to chase the symptoms because you may miss the actual cause. This is what proper advanced testing can do. Schedule a consultation with your experienced nutritionist today to stop guessing!
- Weigle, D S. “Appetite and the Regulation of Body Composition.” FASEB Journal : Official Publication of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Mar. 1994, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8143936.
- Belluz, Julia. “Most of Us Misunderstand Metabolism. Here Are 9 Facts to Clear That up.” Vox, Vox, 4 Sept. 2018, www.vox.com/2016/5/18/11685254/metabolism-definition-booster-weight-loss.
- Harvard Men’s Health Watch. “The Truth about Metabolism.” Harvard Health, Harvard Health Publishing , Apr. 2018, www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-truth-about-metabolism.
- Imperial College London. “Probiotics Affect Metabolism, Says New Study.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 January 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080115085347.htm>.
- Mercola, Joseph. “Your Body Clock Regulates Your Metabolism.” Mercola.com, Apr. 2009, articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/04/09/Your-Body-Clock-Regulates-Your-Metabolism.aspx.
- Sharma, Sunil, and Mani Kavuru. “Sleep and Metabolism: An Overview.” International Journal of Endocrinology, Hindawi Publishing Corporation, Aug. 2010, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2929498/.
- Magee, Elaine. “8 Ways to Burn Calories and Fight Fat.” WebMD, WebMD, 11 May 2007, www.webmd.com/diet/obesity/features/8-ways-to-burn-calories-and-fight-fat#1.