Metabolism always comes up when talking about weight loss. It is not surprising, as weight loss is all about burning calories, and metabolism is the process that makes it possible.
A lot is being said and written about metabolism and its role in managing weight.
Every now and then we hear about a pill or a miracle tea or some magical powder, claiming to speed up your metabolism, and help you lose weight quickly and effortlessly.
Whether they work or not is an entirely different topic of debate.
But what exactly is metabolism, and how does it affect our weight?
What is metabolism?
Metabolism is a set of biochemical reactions that converts the food we eat into energy and uses the energy produced to synthesize compounds needed by the body cells to function efficiently.
Food is our fuel, and metabolism is the engine (like in your cars) that burns this fuel to keep it running. Unlike the engine, we can’t switch on or off metabolism at our will. It is an ever-running process, taking place in every cell of the body, whether we are active or at rest.
Metabolism is responsible for pretty much everything we do- like getting dressed in the morning, lifting a spoon to eat or a pen to write, healing a wound, or simply, breathe.
What is metabolic rate?
The metabolic rate is the rate at which the body utilizes the energy produced. Higher the metabolic rate, the more calories you burn. (Calorie is the unit of energy and often used interchangeably)
The body uses energy in three different ways-
- To maintain basic metabolic functions of the body like breathing, circulation, temperature regulation, etc., and is known as the Basic Metabolic Rate (BMR).
- To digest the food we eat. Some foods require more energy for digestion than others. It is known as the thermic effect of food.
- To fuel the physical activities like running, different types of exercises, sports, etc.
What determines your metabolic rate?
The metabolic rate differs from person to person and is dependent on several factors-
- Genetic: We all have that friend who, regardless of what they eat, never gain weight. Some people, on the other hand, tend to put on weight despite being careful. Well, that’s genetics at work, and some people are just lucky.
- Body size and composition: Bulky people have a higher metabolic rate. It is the percentage of muscle mass as opposed to the fat stores that affect the metabolic rate.
- Gender: Men tend to have a higher metabolic rate compared to women because men have higher muscle mass than women
- Age: The metabolic rate decrease by 10 % every decade as we age.
How does Metabolism affect your weight?
We come back to the most sought-after question, does metabolism affect weight loss?
Yes, it does.
Metabolism controls how energy/calories consumed are used in the body. And that has a direct effect on your weight.
Regardless of whether you have a slow metabolism or fast, the body is programmed to store the unused energy as fat. The increase in fat stores and surplus energy lowers the metabolic rate and promotes weight gain.
Similarly, during starvation or lack of food, the body cuts down the energy expenditure and starts saving instead, lowering the metabolic rate leading to weight gain. Read- Healthy Snacks for Weight Loss- 5 Things to Look For
The basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the minimum energy we need to live. The BMR mostly remains constant throughout life. But the calories spent on physical activity and digestion can be increased to our advantage.
The following few changes can help you rev up your engines to burn more calories and accelerate weight loss.
1. Balance your plate
A well-balanced diet ensures that you get all the essential nutrients- carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Our body has a unique set of reactions to metabolize each nutrient. We need all the nutrients to function efficiently. Deficiencies of one or more nutrients can bring the process of metabolism to a halt, reducing the total energy expenditure.
2. Push Up On Proteins:
Foods high in protein help increase your metabolic rate in three ways.
Firstly, Proteins require a higher amount of energy for digestion.
Secondly, proteins help increase muscle mass, and lastly, they promote satiety which helps to reduce the calories consumed.
3. Fill up with fiber:
Fiber increases the metabolic rate, stabilizes blood sugar levels, and promotes satiety.
A perfect combination for a healthy weight loss.
4. Shush out the sugar:
Sugar and other refined simple carbohydrates provide empty calories i.e. calories without any useful nutrients.
Sugar is a big ‘No’ if you want a healthy metabolism.
5. Exert with exercise:
Regular exercise increases overall energy expenditure in the body. It burns stored fat and builds muscle mass, both known to accelerate metabolism.
6. Do not fall for the fad diets:
The fad diets harm your metabolism since they restrict one or more food groups leading to several deficiencies. Eat healthy foods. and a balanced meal for losing weight and to keep your metabolism running
Metabolism is not an organ or a muscle that can be flexed or manipulated. A lot more research is needed to understand and manage our metabolism.
A lot of products in the market claim to boost our metabolism, and promote quick weight loss. But let’s face the truth; there are no shortcuts to weight loss; No magic pill or formula that will simplify it for you.
Losing weight and staying healthy requires you to eat good food and lead a physically active life, and the rest will take care of itself.