Metabolism is sometimes seen as the be-all-and-end-all of weight loss and it’s easy to see why. Your metabolism is what keeps the systems in your body functioning when you’re essentially doing nothing. It’s processing calories to produce the energy that your body needs to circulate blood, breathe and send signals from your brain through your nerves. Basically, it keeps everything running in the background. Co-founder of Activated Nutrients, Blair Norfolk shares how your metabolism can be affecting your weight.
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Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is how much energy your body uses to keep it all going. Some people’s bodies need more energy to function; those people have what is often called a “fast” metabolism. Other people need less energy to keep things going; they have a “slow” metabolism.
If you have a high BMR, you’re using more calories (relative to your body mass) at every moment of the day than someone with a lower BMR. So, it makes sense that the faster your metabolism is, the less prone you’ll be to weight gain.
Research strongly supports the idea that metabolism is linked to genetics and genetics are set in stone. However, there are elements of the way that your metabolism behaves that have the ability to be influenced by lifestyle factors.
For example, hormonal balance is conducive to optimal metabolic function. Again, while some hormonal disorders are inherited, many can be improved or even corrected through lifestyle changes. One example is the unisex oestrogen hormone, estradiol, which is believed to have a profound effect on metabolism.
In one study, researchers at the University of Houston speculated that based on their findings, “all the systems in the body involved with food consumption and metabolism which include the brain, liver, pancreas, heart, muscles and fat, are connected by estradiol, resulting in a ‘metabolic network’ regulated by the hormone.”
The way you eat, drink, exercise and sleep can have a positive effect on your hormonal health. Protein, for instance, can increase your metabolic rate by 15–30% in comparison to carbohydrates (5-10%) or fats (0-3%). A study even found that people were likely to eat 441 fewer calories per day when protein made up 30% of their diet.
As for exercise, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can assist in fat burning by increasing your metabolic rate, even post-workout. BMC Endocrine Disorders released results stating that “doing a few intense muscle exercises, each lasting only about 30 seconds, dramatically improves your metabolism in just two weeks.”
Adequate hydration and sleep also support a healthy endocrine system. Not only does every major organ in your body need water, studies show that drinking 500ml of water increases resting metabolism by 10–30% for approximately an hour. The importance of sleep quantity and quality can’t be overstated. Sleep is your body’s processing and healing time and consistent sleep deprivation puts your body under stress. Stress hormones do not promote optimal metabolic function and are known for their negative effects on weight loss.
Like many of our physical traits, metabolism is intrinsically linked to our genes. However, with compelling research around the effects of lifestyle and environmental factors on the way our bodies metabolise, there’s no reason to see it as a lost cause. Healthy changes to lifestyle and diet can only have a positive impact – on our metabolism and beyond.