The term “metabolism” refers to all processes in the body that use energy. But the word is more commonly used when talking about weight. When someone says “I have a fast metabolism” or “I have a slow metabolism” they are usually referring to their ability to lose weight or maintain a normal weight. Most people can increase or decrease the rate at which they burn calories throughout the day, but many don’t know how. Nor that their biological sex, their daily habits and even their state of health affect their metabolism.
Here are seven levers to act on the metabolism that are all keys to unlocking your weight loss.
- 1 7 facts about metabolism and weight loss
- 2 1. Determine your basal metabolic rate, or BMR
- 3 2. More muscle equals higher metabolism
- 4 3. Eating more protein can boost your metabolism
- 5 4. Men tend to have higher metabolisms
- 6 5. Menopause can reduce metabolic rate
- 7 6. Many health conditions can influence metabolism
- 8 7. Vitamin D can affect metabolism
7 facts about metabolism and weight loss
1. Determine your basal metabolic rate, or BMR
Metabolism can refer to any chemical process that takes place in your body, but what most people care about is their BMR. That is, the amount of energy you use every day just to stay alive. BMR accounts for about 65-70% of your total calorie expenditure. Online calculators can estimate your BMR, but they don’t take your muscle-to-fat ratio into account. If you want a more accurate number, see an obesity specialist for a calorimetry test, which measures how much carbon dioxide you exhale, to determine your BMR.
2. More muscle equals higher metabolism
More muscle mass in your body translates to more calories burned, even at rest. This is because, just at rest, 500 grams of muscle expends about six calories per day. While 500 grams of fat consumes about two calories. The most effective way to build muscle: strength training. A study published in July 2015 in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that nine months of strength training three times a week increased resting metabolic rate by approximately 5%. Haven’t exercised in a while? Working with a trainer is a great way to learn safe and effective exercise strategies that suit your body and your specific needs.
3. Eating more protein can boost your metabolism
Did you know that digesting food burns calories? And of the three macronutrients: carbs, protein, and fat, protein burns the most. Research shows that an increase in protein intake temporarily boosts metabolism by about 15-30%. But more than that, a high-protein diet encourages healthy levels of lean muscle mass to increase basal metabolic rate. Good sources include lean meats like chicken and fish. But also dairy products, whole grains, beans, lentils and nuts. For best effects, spread protein intake throughout the day.
4. Men tend to have higher metabolisms
Men generally have greater total body mass, muscle, and higher testosterone levels. This influences the burning of calories. Research shows that in the first few months of a weight loss diet, men can lose twice as much weight as women.
This can be especially confusing if you’re a woman trying to lose weight with a male partner. But don’t let that deter you. If you are losing weight more slowly than your partner, remember that this is not necessarily a sign that you are doing something wrong. Every body works in a unique way. Focus on yours.
5. Menopause can reduce metabolic rate
Menopause can decrease the body’s ability to burn calories. As women go through menopause, lower estrogen levels can lower their metabolic rate. It can also cause them to accumulate more belly fat, which further influences metabolism. Additionally, age-related decline in muscle mass, called sarcopenia, can make the condition worse.
The most effective way to lose fat and preserve muscle during menopause? Combining diet and exercise is more effective than either strategy alone. In terms of food, it is necessary to favor frequent meals, small and rich in fiber. Researchers strongly recommend keeping protein above 0.36 grams per pound of your ideal weight.
6. Many health conditions can influence metabolism
Sometimes specific illnesses or their medications can affect the rate at which you burn energy. For example, insulin resistance, unhealthy thyroid function (untreated hypothyroidism), and certain medications can affect metabolism and cause weight gain. Certain antidepressants, anti-epileptic drugs, steroids, and blood pressure lowering drugs are linked to weight gain.
7. Vitamin D can affect metabolism
Vitamin D is generally touted for its contribution to bone health and sunny moods. But research has shown it may also play a role in metabolism and weight change. For example, when vitamin D-deficient women reached recommended vitamin D blood levels, they lost more weight. Potential signs of vitamin D deficiency include bone pain and muscle weakness. Even if you take vitamin D supplements, don’t assume your levels are where they need to be. To determine your levels, consult your doctor. All you need is a simple blood test.