Very often my clients tell me “I have a slow metabolism, so I struggle to lose weight”. This is a very common misconception about losing weight and general health. Your metabolism is something that you are born with, and that we can not truly influence. To a certain degree, it is true that our genetic make-up will have an effect on our metabolism, however there are several influencing factors that we can control.
What is Metabolism?
Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) is the amount of energy expanded at rest throughout the day and accounts for the amount of energy needed for the function of the brain, heart, digestive system, sex organs muscles and skin. Your Resting metabolic rate is by far the largest component of total caloric expenditure each day. It would therefore make sense when we are looking for weight loss that we concentrate on doing things that will boost your Resting metabolic Rate (RMR).
Here are my top 3 tips to kick-start your metabolism:
1. Muscle is Key to Fat Burning
Muscle is the most metabolically active tissue in the body; it will constantly burn up energy even at rest. The more lean muscle you have on your body the faster your metabolism will be. This can often be the key factor in why many people find it harder and harder to maintain their weight or lose weight as they get older. From the age of 25 we lose approximately 0.5% of our lean muscle mass. This muscle loss can then be increased further by going on calorie restrictive diets that promote muscle to be used as an energy source.
Having large gaps between eating will also lower your metabolism. This can cause the body to eat into precious muscle and promote fat storage. All these actions have a lowering effect on the metabolism, and this is why when you stop your diet you gain the weight back quickly plus often a whole lot more.
A common belief around exercise is that cardiovascular training (bike, treadmill & swimming) are the most effective for weight loss. In fact research has shown that cardiovascular exercise has little effect on your metabolism, therefore it is one of the least effective types of exercise for weight loss.
The most important thing we can do when exercising is to stimulate the metabolism. We can achieve this by doing big exercises involving multiple joints and moving in multi directions. This will effect your metabolism in two ways; these types of exercise cause small micro tears in the muscles which can take up to 72 hours to repair (burning up extra energy between sessions); secondly these types of exercises will increase the amount of lean muscle tissue you have (the most metabolically active tissue in the body!). For every pound of additional muscle you build you will burn approximately 50 calories per day more. It’s also worth remembering that no matter how old you are, your body is still capable of building muscle.
3. Eat yourself thin
The well publicised mantra “Eat little and often” is key to giving your metabolism a kick-start. I would expand on this further by saying eating meals and snacks that contain carbohydrates, proteins and essential fats little and often is vital to weight loss. Eating proteins and essentials fats is essential as often if people are trying to eat healthy snacks they will snack only on carbohydrates (fruit, cereal bars, crackers etc) and not eat proteins and fats. Carbohydrates are very easily digested and either stored or used as readily available energy source, this process has little effect on your metabolism. In contrast, digesting proteins and fats is more difficult for your stomach and this uses up more energy. If you eat 3 meals each day containing carbohydrates, proteins and fats as well as snacks twice per day that also contain carbohydrates proteins and fats you will burn approximately 350 calories per day more than eating meals that are predominantly carbohydrates.
Try to picture your metabolism as a fire; if you do not put anything on the fire for a long time the fire will go out. Conversely if you put too much on the fire at the one time you will smother it. The same thing happens with your metabolism. If you have long periods without food or if you eat too large portions during one meal our metabolism will stop burning.
The Key Points to remember about your metabolism are:
- Metabolism is influenced by our lifestyles
- Muscle is the most metabolically active tissue in the body
- Resistance training boosts our metabolism more than cardiovascular training
- Eat protein, fats and carbohydrates over 3 meals and 2 snacks each day