A couple of weeks a go I attended a “How to maximize your metabolism: Reverse Dieting” seminar at the Arnold Sports Festival. At this seminar there were credible individuals that I personally look up to in the fitness industry, each of them has a Master’s or is obtaining their Masters’ in dietetics or exercise physiology. Laurin Conlin, Paul Revelia, Dylan Bair, and Lacey Dunn all did a great job and brought up very good points. They presented case studies of clients/ situations they’ve been in when it comes to reverse dieting a client or essentially reversing metabolic damage in clients as well. So here are some things that I learned on this topic at the seminar and what I’ve learned from my education and personal experience!
So let’s dive in!
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 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 mainly based off our genetics. 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 a small factors that can increase or decrease metabolism such as physical activity, diet, age, and body composition, but like I said these factors play a small role in metabolism.
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 genetically do have a slower metabolism.? Or may 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 expediture. So, if one were to increase their muscle mass, their metabolism would increase as well.
- Increase calories
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 this can slow metabolism or cause metabolic damage. Your body is very energy efficient, so 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. 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
Get your steps in! Instead of increasing cardio substantially to increase your overall caloric expenditure, increasing NEAT is a better option! NEAT is activity that is not planned as physical activity. 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 better option because your body doesn’t have to recover from very low intensity activity, like walking, but your body does have to recover from a stressor like exercise (running, biking, HITT, weight training) because these types of activities deplete glycogen levels quicker and at a greater rate.
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!
I am very passionate about what I do! If you would like to work together you can check out my Online Coaching page and fill out a form and I will be in contact with you ASAP!