Metabolism is often used on social media and in weight loss magazines as this elusive concept we’re all trying to chase down and capture so that we can improve it via things like:
Tons of cardio
Apple cider vinegar shots
Drinking energy drinks...no Green Tea...no, black coffee
When in actuality, metabolism is a pretty simple concept- and one that we can easily influence!
What is metabolism
The word “metabolism” describes the chemical processes that occur within a living organism in order to maintain life.
The three main purposes of metabolism are:
the conversion of food to energy to run cellular processes
the conversion of food/fuel to building blocks for proteins, lipids, nucleic acids, and some carbohydrates
the elimination of nitrogenous wastes.
Basically, metabolism is the breakdown of food and its transformation of energy.
Can you “rev up” your metabolism?
When we talk about “boosting metabolism” we are actually talking about increasing the calories we expend daily, aka our Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). There are four factors that make up our TDEE:
RMR: Resting Metabolic Rate (aka “BMR” or Basal Metabolic Rate). This is the calories we burn at rest, or calories needed if we were to just lay in bed and not move all day. This is the largest contributor to our TDEE, at somewhere between 50-70%. We can impact this number in a number of ways- more on that later!
NEAT: non exercise activity thermogenesis, the second largest contributor to TDEE, this includes energy burned during daily activities like moving around the house, walking, and fidgeting. To an extent we have control over this number by increasing our non-exercise activities.
TEF: aka the thermic effect of food. It takes calories to digest and absorb the foods we’re eating- carbs and fat have a TEF of 0-10% while protein may be up to 30%.
EAT: exercise activity thermogenesis aka the calories burned during exercise. This will generally be higher for aerobic activity, but weight training has its own unique benefits...
RMR/BMR contributes the most to our TDEE, so we want to think about ways we can impact that category first. There are some factors we cannot control here:
Age: the older you are, generally the less calories you require.
Gender: men typically burn more than women of the same size (unfair, I know).
Height: more surface area = more calories required.
However, let’s focus on some factors we can control:
More surface area generally requires more calories, so increasing your weight increases metabolic rate. However, many of us are focused on actually decreasing that number, right? Enter: muscle mass. Resting metabolic rate is highly influenced by muscle mass, as muscle is more metabolically active (i.e. burns more calories at rest) than fat. So one of the best ways to increase your resting metabolic rate is to build lean tissue aka muscle. And how do we do that? Well it’s a magical combination called strength training and eating enough food!
Other ways you can foster a healthy metabolism:
- Sleeping enough (ADULTS: this means 7+ hours)
- Moderating alcohol intake
- Managing stress
- Consuming adequate protein (this is different for everyone but I generally find that most exercising adults are far too low)
- Drinking enough water and eating adequate fiber (25+g for women, 38+g for men)
The moral of the story here: there is nothing flashy, no special supplements that are going to give your metabolism a boost. What will do it? Consistency. The basics. And if anyone tries to tell you differently? RUN.