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What Do You Really Know About Metabolism?

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If you’ve been trying to lose weight, reading about diets and researching the best way to shed those unwanted pounds, you’ve no doubt heard the word metabolism.

This word is often tossed around by fitness instructors and weight loss “gurus,” but what do you really know about metabolism and how it affects your weight? When it comes to burning fat, you may believe that a slow metabolism has destined you to be overweight.


But is your metabolism really to blame?


What is metabolism?

Metabolism refers to the rate at which your body breaks down nutrients in food to produce energy. The human body constantly requires energy, even when it’s at rest. Metabolism is a biochemical process that combines calories from food and drinks with oxygen to release the energy your body needs to function.

The number of calories used to carry out basic functions of life such as breathing, circulating blood, growing cells and adjusting hormone levels is known as your basal metabolic rate, or metabolism. Basal metabolism is determined by several factors, including body size and competition, gender and age.


Does a slow metabolism make you gain weight?

It’s a common belief that a person with a higher metabolism burns calories more quickly, making it easier to maintain a healthy weight. But that’s a misconception. While metabolism is linked to weight, a slow metabolism isn’t the cause of excess weight gain. Ultimately, how much you eat and drink (and how many calories your body burns in the process of digestion and exercise) and how much exercise you get determines how much you weigh.

Some studies suggest consuming certain foods and beverages — such as chili peppers and green tea — will boost metabolism. While that may be true in the short term, what’s most important for a healthy metabolism is consuming a nutrient-dense diet that’s high in protein and low in fat.


While losing weight will always come back to the simple equation of calories in and calories out, seriously restricting your calories or fasting could kick your body into starvation mode, storing as many calories as possible.


If you want to give your metabolism a boost and burn more fat, here are a few tips:

  • Get more sleep: Sleep deprivation can make it more difficult to manage blood sugar and resist cravings. Getting the right amount of sleep can help you maintain a healthy weight. Aim to get between six and eight hours of sleep each night.
  • Drink plenty of water: Not only is water a no-calorie drink option, but your body uses calories to warm the water you drink to body temperature. The more water you drink, the more calories your body will burn.
  • Eat enough protein: Protein increases energy expenditure when your body is at rest, so eat adequate amounts of protein to keep your body burning calories all day long. If meat isn’t your favorite, you can get your daily protein from other sources such as seafood, beans, eggs, nuts, low-fat dairy and soy.
  • Exercise regularly: A balance of high-intensity cardio exercise and weight training will help your body blast fat in the short-term and keep burning after you end your workout. Cardio provides a short-term boost to your metabolism, but doesn’t affect your basal metabolic rate. The more lean muscle mass you have, the greater your basal metabolic rate will be, so over time, strength training will slowly increase your metabolism.


Schedule an appointment with your primary care physician, or with a Registered Dietitian to tips on what foods to eat.