To understand metabolism we first need to define it! Metabolism is the chemical process that occur in an organism in order to maintain life. Humans have what is called a Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) or Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). BMR can be measured in a dark room after waking up from 8-12 hours of sleep and RMR is measured through the gases we inhale /exhale through direct or indirect calorimetry, in a fasted state. Our RMR is made up of the amount of calories our body expends in a resting state in order to maintain life.
Each of us has a different RMR which is based off genetics, age, and biological factors. Some people have a high or “fast” metabolism meaning that their body expends more calories at rest in order to function, and some people have a low or “slow” RMR which means your body doesn’t expend as much energy at rest in order to function. There are small factors that can increase or decrease metabolism such as physical activity, climate diet, age, and body composition.
There are three main factors that contribute to how we burn calories. The first and most contributing factor is our RMR metabolism which expends 60-80% percent of total calories. Physical activity (PA) and Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT)contributes to 15-30% of calories expended, and the last 10% goes to TEF (Thermal Effect of Food) which is digestion.
So, as you can see RMR plays the biggest role in calories used to expend energy. So, how can we maximize and increase metabolism if we naturally have a “slower” metabolism.? Or has slowed over time due to age, chronic disease, and prolonged metabolic damage from long term dieting..etc.?
- Add more muscle
At rest, muscle cells are more metabolically active than fat cells. Increased muscle mass requires a higher energy demand on the body resulting in a higher caloric expenditure. So, if one were to increase their muscle mass, their metabolism would increase as well. Resistance training is your best friend when it comes to adding more muscle. Having a trainer that can provide a proper training program for you that allows for progressive overload and proper exercises to see results. If you need help I’m your girl!
- Increase calories
I know this may sound scary for some, but that has to relate to people that diet long term and need to give their metabolism a boost. Our bodies adapt to certain factors in order to stay alive. For example when you’re cold your body has a feedback mechanism that says “Hey, my core temperature is dropping below normal levels!” So, you get the “goose bumps” and this is your bodies way of trying to reserve heat and stay warm in order to survive.
The same thing applies with metabolism. If you have been dieting long term or frequently diet, eating a lower amount of calories for a prolonged period of time can slow metabolism and in serve cases cause metabolic damage.
Your body is very energy efficient machine, when you diet you are in a caloric deficit, which means you’re expending more calories than you are consuming. Your body adapts to the lower calorie intake and then tells your metabolism to also slow down so it can protect itself from starvation. If your metabolism is slow due to long term dieting the best option is to INCREASE calories at a slow and healthy rate. This is also called reverse dieting. Although you will initially gain weight to start off, this will help with getting your metabolism back to maintenance levels or even increasing it, because again the body adapts to dietary changes and it will start using your food intake more efficiently. Slowly introducing calories up by 2-5% each week is a good starting point!
- Increase Protein intake
As I mentioned earlier TEF takes up about 10% of calories expended.
Protein has the highest thermic effect compared to carbohydrates and fat. Meaning it requires the most amount of energy for your body to breakdown and then use it to repair damaged tissue. Increasing protein intake will also increase TEF which will directly increase metabolism and also keep you satiated (A.K.A FULL for longer amount of time). But its important to know that you can’t increase protein intake while still eating the same amount of carbs and fat. This will lead to a caloric surplus and overall weight gain. So protein calories can increase but carbohydrate and fat calories should be lowered in order to match the total amount of calories you previously were consuming.
- Increase NEAT OR Active Recovery
Get your steps in! On your rest days away from the gym, instead of sitting on the couch go out for a walk we call this Active Recovery, or aim to hit 10,000 steps per day to increase your NEAT. NEAT is defined as, activity that is not planned as physical activity or exercise. For example walking to and from your car, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, cleaning your house, walking the dog.. etc. are all forms of NEAT which increases metabolic activity and caloric expenditure. NEAT is a great option for active recovery on your rest days because your body doesn’t have to work as hard to recover from low intensity activity, like walking, but your body does have to recover from a stressor like moderate to high intensity exercise (running, biking, HITT, weight training) because these types of activities deplete glycogen levels quicker and at a greater rate. So my advice is to have a goal of hitting anywhere between 7,500-10,000 steps per day depending on your job and they type of activities you normally do for exercise.
These are small voluntary interventions that can help with increasing metabolism!
DISCLAIMER: These changes may not likely increase metabolism a significant amount, because metabolism largely contributes to factors that we cannot control like, genetics and aging. But research has shown that some of these methods can be effective!
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