You’ve probably heard people point to slow metabolism as the culprit of being overweight, but what does that mean? Is metabolism really the culprit? And if so, is it possible to accelerate it to burn more calories?
It is true that metabolism is associated with weight. But, contrary to common belief, a slow metabolism is rarely the cause of excess weight gain.
Although it influences the basic energy needs of the body, what really defines weight, is the intake of food, beverages and physical activity.
After all, what is metabolism?
The metabolism is the chemical process that happens constantly in the body to maintain vital functions and organs functioning normally as breathing, heartbeat and digestion of food.
For these functions to happen, the body needs energy. So, during this complex biochemical process, calories from food and beverages are combined with oxygen to release the energy the body needs to function.
Even when we are at rest, the body needs the energy to keep all its “hidden” vital functions functioning, such as breathing, blood circulation, cell growth.
The number of calories the body uses to perform these basic functions is known as the basal metabolic rate. Several are the factors that determine a person’s basal metabolic rate, such as:
Muscles expend more energy than fat cells, so people with larger muscle tissue tend to have higher energy consumption, even at rest.
In general, men tend to have a faster metabolism because they have more muscle mass and less body fat than women, which is why their daily calorie intake is higher.
As we get older, we tend to gain fat and lose muscle. This explains why we have decreased calorie expenditure with age.
The basal metabolic rate accounts for about 70 percent of the calories the body spends every day. In addition to the basal metabolic rate, there are two other factors that determine the number of calories the body expends per day:
Physical activities such as walking, jogging, cycling or walking the dog, cause the body to burn more calories. Physical activity is by far the factor that most changes a number of calories the body burns on a daily basis.
It is the energy we spend in the process of digestion, absorption, transport and storage of the food consumed. Representing on average 100 to 800 calories used daily.
Metabolism and weight
It may be tempting to blame low metabolism for weight gain. However, because metabolism is a natural process, the body has many mechanisms that regulate it to meet individual needs.
Only in some cases can weight gain arise from a medical problem that slows metabolism, such as Cushing’s syndrome or a thyroid hypoactivity (hypothyroidism).
Unfortunately, weight gain is complicated and happens when you consume more calories than if you burn – or burn fewer calories than you consume.
It is likely that several factors are associated with weight gains such as genetics, hormonal controls, diet composition and the impact of the environment on lifestyle, including sleep, physical activity and stress. All these factors can result in an imbalance in the energy equation of the body.
While it is true that some people seem to be able to lose weight more quickly and more easily than others, everyone manages to lose weight when they burn more calories than they consume.
Therefore, you have to create a deficit of energy through a reduced consumption of calories or increase the number of calories spent through physical activity.
Does slow metabolism exist?
People who struggle to lose weight often blame the slow metabolism. However, countless studies involving thousands of people around the world have failed to find evidence to support the belief that overweight people have slower metabolic rates.
In fact, the opposite seems true: overweight people can actually have a higher metabolism than thinner people, reflecting the increased energy needs for maintaining a larger body structure.
Another point that is taken into consideration is that people tend to eat more than they think.
Research that prompted people to write down everything they ate in one day confirmed that many people tend to report eating much less than they actually eat.
It may be difficult to accept, but controlling the number of calories consumed is the key to losing weight.
How do I know if my metabolism is slow?
The best way to know if the metabolism is within its normal or slow state is through indirect calorimetry, a noninvasive method that accurately determines the total energetic expenditure of the body at rest, that is, it measures the metabolic rate Basal by analysis of air inspired and expired by the lungs.
What can I do to speed up my metabolism?
Since we do not have much control over the speed of metabolism, we can control how many calories we burn through the level of physical activity.
The more active you are, the more calories you burn. In fact, some people who say they have a rapid metabolism probably just more active – and perhaps more restless – than others.
Here are some very effective ways to speed up your metabolism and burn more calories:
Have an active life
Why do not you start changing your lifestyle? Instead of using the car to go somewhere close, go on foot or by subway. Instead of climbing up to your house or your elevator job, go upstairs. Always be on the move.
Aerobic physical activity
Walking, running, swimming, pedalling, dancing or performing other aerobic activities is essential to ensure good health and fitness.
These exercises speed up metabolism, contributing to weight loss and improve physical fitness. The ideal is to do 150 minutes of aerobic activity per week. You can achieve this goal by doing 30 minutes, five days a week.
During a strength training such as bodybuilding, the muscle goes through a process of catabolism, that is, it is worn.
After exercise, the body works to recover, entering a state we call anabolism that regenerates the muscle, making it even stronger and stronger.
This mechanism of recovery of the body after a forced exercise spends much more energy than anaerobic activity.
In addition, muscles are a metabolically active tissue and they expend eight times more calories than fat cells. Each additional kilogramme of muscle demands approximately 100 kcal per day.
Which means that the more muscles a person has, the greater their daily calorie expenditure, even when they are asleep.
Eat more meals in the daytime.
Restricting a number of calories you consume to get slimmer more and faster is the main boycott of weight loss. When eating too little, instead of eliminating fat, the body starts to stock it, because it understands that it is going through a period of food shortage.
At first, you can even lose weight, but then the body decelerates metabolism to ensure that energy for vital functions such as breathing, thinking and moving will not be lacking. Result: slower metabolism and impaired weight loss.
One study found that people who slept between six and eight hours a night had a greater chance of reaching their weight loss goal than those who slept less or more.
In addition, the study also found that lower levels of stress were associated with greater success in weight loss, especially when combined with between six and eight hours of sleep.
That is why a badly sleepless night hinders the production and regulation of various hormones. Not sleeping at least eight hours a night affects, for example, the production of cortisol, a hormone that favours the accumulation of abdominal fat.
Are there foods that speed up metabolism?
Remember that the activities performed by the body consume energy, and this includes the digestion process, which can be used in favour to accelerate metabolism.
And at that point, foods known as thermogenic are able to increase the body’s caloric expenditure during digestion and the metabolic process.
The more difficult the digestion of food, the greater its thermogenic power. For this, these foods contain substances that have the ability to raise body temperature, speeding up metabolism and increasing fat burning.
Some foods like pepper, cinnamon, coffee, ginger, and even green tea seem to exhibit this thermogenic effect.
However, the evidence behind these claims is still fragile, and the effects on metabolism are hypothetical, apart from that, each person will react differently to each food.
It is worth remembering that for these foods to show results, it is necessary to ally them to the balanced diet and physical exercises.
It can be said that the metabolic rate is directly related to fattening, slimming, increasing or decreasing muscle mass, among others. That way you can say that understanding your own metabolism is a great way to control your weight and your quality of life.