Understanding Metabolism

As defined on the Mayo Clinic website, “Metabolism is the process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy. During this complex biochemical process, calories in food and beverages are combined with oxygen to release the energy your body needs to function.”

People that struggle with their weight often think it is because they have a slow metabolism.  “But contrary to common belief, a slow metabolism is rarely the cause of excess weight gain” (Mayo Clinic)

In fact, your metabolism is affected by so many things. I have listed some of the key factors that affect your metabolism and the changes you can make to help your body break down the food you eat into energy and not store it as fat.

1. Inconsistent Meal Times


I am such a snacker! Until I did more research I thought it was good to eat every couple hours and snack - as long as it was healthy.  But, regular meal times, preferably 3 meals a day, is best.  Your body uses up the calories at that meal time for fuel and burns more calories in between meals. When you eat at erratic times that are too spaced out, your body is not quite sure when your next meal is coming so it stores the food as fat. Often times when you snack in between meals you are taking in too many calories that won’t be burned off. So eat at regular times throughout the day and fill your plate with good Macro-nutrients (Carbs, Protein & Fat). Good healthy fat includes avocado, oils, nuts, or seeds.

2. Sleep

Sleep is the key to losing or maintaining weight. I know the day after I don’t get a good night sleep (at least 7 hours) I eat more! I am searching for energy through food - and usually not making good choices. With minimal sleep, your hormones that control hunger are out of control. Too much ghrelin (the hunger hormone that increases your appetite) gets produced and too little leptin (that decreases your appetite) gets produced - making you feel hungry. Also, more cortisol (often called the stress hormone) gets produced. Among the many jobs of Cortisol, it helps control blood sugar levels. With all these hormones out of whack, your cravings for sugar and fatty foods increases.


3. Not eating enough


Yes. You read that right! Cutting too many calories will put your body in “starvation” mode and again store food as fat instead of using it for fuel. Make sure you get enough calories based on your activity level and again, get a good balance of Macronutrients at regular meal times throughout the day.


4. Strength Train


As I wrote in my previous blog, strength training is key to building muscle mass and the more muscle mass, the higher your metabolic rate! Dumbbells, body weight, resistance bands - use them all to strength train and add variety to your workout.


5. Drink Water


This is a hard one for me! I do not drink enough water - most of us don’t. Drinking too little can lead to dehydration. You might not even know you are dehydrated! When you are dehydrated you burn up to 2% fewer calories. Drink little sips throughout the day. Don’t just drink when you are hot or when you are exercising!  


6. Move


Do not sit too much! . If you work at a desk all day - make sure you get up every 20 minutes to move. Listen to that FitBit!  Just stand and do squats by your chair or walk down the hall and back.  Throughout the day, use the stairs, walk to the train - just move!


Facts supported by ACE (American Council on Exercise)