There are a myriad of articles out there about ‘how to boost your metabolism’, and ‘losing weight whilst increasing your metabolism’. Fat burning foods, diet types, exercise regimes… it can be overwhelming knowing where to start. Let’s have a look at the basics of metabolism which is an essential starting block for implementing any health and lifestyle changes.
What actually is metabolism?
Metabolism is essentially the energy that is used to carry out all bodily processes – aka energy expenditure. This is made up of various components which include:
- Basal metabolic rate (BMR). This is the energy our body would use just breathing, sweating, and keeping vital organs working.
- Thermic effect of food (TEF). The energy used to digest food.
- Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT). This is the energy used when we move around during the day, but not specifically sports based activities.
- Thermic effect of activity (TEA). This the energy used when carrying out deliberate physical activity, e.g., walking, running, yoga, lifting weights.
The total of all these components equates to ‘total daily energy expenditure’ and by changing one or more of these components will lead to a change in energy expenditure (and therefore metabolism). Factors that affect metabolism include age, gender, pregnancy, activity levels, and types of foods eaten.
What’s the link between metabolism, your weight and calorie intake?
During weight loss phases, we want to increase our metabolism. A faster metabolism means a greater energy expenditure. If caloric intake is kept the same, but metabolism is increased, then there is a greater potential of achieving the calorie deficit needed for weight loss. Typically, people with a faster metabolism tend to be slimmer and store less fat (although individual factors can affect this). Men are also more likely to have higher metabolisms, as increased testosterone levels affect how energy is used and stored within the body.
Can any foods, powders or supplements speed up your metabolism?
This is an extremely debated and controversial topic, although it is generally agreed that foods higher in protein have a slightly higher thermic effect of food compared to other food groups (carbohydrates, fats). Protein is also really important for muscle repair and generally highly satiating, so adequate amounts should definitely be included into any diet. Foods that contain protein as the majority of their nutrient make-up include tofu, tempeh and protein powders/bars. Other plant-based sources of proteins include beans & legumes, wholegrains, quinoa and nuts/seeds (including nut butters).
What can have a negative impact on metabolism?
If increasing movement (both NEAT and TEA) can increase metabolism, the opposite is true of staying sedentary – limited movement can decrease metabolism. This means that if weight loss is the goal, then diet will need to become the focus. Having a regular exercise routine, creates a much more balanced approach, as well as having other benefits such as improved heart and bone health.
There are a variety of calculators online that can help you to determine your daily caloric needs and can often be a good starting point, especially if this wanting to build muscle or lose weight. It’s important to note these may not be relevant if there is a history of eating disorders or any other significant medical conditions. However, the take home message should be that simple changes such as incorporating sufficient protein and increasing activity levels should definitely start to have a positive impact on your metabolism and your overall health!