5 Steps To Boost Metabolism

For most people with a desire to lose weight or maintain weight loss metabolism seems in come into question. Most will say there metabolism is too slow. All of us will notice with age that we can’t eat the same way we did when we were younger and get away with it. For some reason now the calories leave their mark in added body fat when they wouldn’t have even just a few years ago. Many with a history of excess weight point to a lifetime of slow metabolism as the root cause.  Can one truly have a slow metabolism? Can we change our metabolism? First we need to look at what metabolism actually is and how it works.  Once we have an understanding of that we can realistically set about to make changes of what we can control.

Metabolism 101

Metabolism infographic

The word metabolism refers to all the chemical reactions that occur in a living organism including digestion, transport of substances into and between cells, the breakdown and build-up of substances for releasing and storing energy and the elimination of waste products. A person’s Basal Metabolic Rate is the minimum caloric requirement to sustain life in a restive state. This includes energy needed to complete the above mentioned chemical reactions as well as things like the body rebuilding and healing, respiration, the pumping of blood and maintaining body temperature; these all burn calories. The BMR is the largest factor in determining a person’s metabolic rate responsible for around 70% of energy usage. There is little you can do to change your BMR. Some contributing factors to BMR are age (we lose about 2% per decade) body surface area (a large surface area equates to a larger metabolism). Contrary to what is generally believed a fat person has a higher metabolism than a skinny person (fat burns about 3 calories per lb. per day). Body temperature as well as external environmental temperature may increase metabolism.  Body composition too is a factor (more muscle means a higher caloric burn rate). Prolonged starvation can significantly lower metabolism.  Genetics as well as hormonal health (thyroxin is a BMR regulator) are also major factors.

Your total metabolism is your BMR plus your activity energy expenditure (10-20% of energy use) and finally diet induced thermogenesis (energy used during eating and digestion).

The Metabolism Conundrum

Dieting is what we do when we want to lose weight unfortunately any diet will lead to a slower metabolism. When we eat less calories a number of things happen; you become smaller and smaller means your body needs less calories so you have to continue to eat less. The next thing that happens is our bodies try to compensate by becoming more efficient with the calories you do consume (this takes only a matter of weeks). Follow this with the body breaking down muscle to fuel itself which again lowers your requirement (1 lb. of muscle burns around 7 kcal per day). Then of course there is the fact that the brain sends out hunger signals trying to get you to eat more. Sounds unfair, but it’s the way our species survived famines.  

The Metabolism Plan

Technically we are not actually going to boost metabolism, but rather minimize its slowdown while trying to reduce body fat.  Here are 5 steps to aid metabolism.

1)      Eat more frequent smaller meals. Think of a furnace you put fuel in and the fire grows. Eating increases the thermic effect of food (calories used for digestion and mastication) keeping your metabolism from falling into starvation mode.

2)      Eat more fat, protein and fiber. Protein, fat and fiber can keep the metabolism from falling. Protein requires more energy for digestion than either carbohydrates or fats so you will realize less of the calories consumed. Fat and fiber help to keep you full longer so the hunger signals are more avoidable.     Cutting carbohydrates in the form of simple sugars and starches reduces insulin response. This equates to a net gain of 250+ calories in metabolism per day.

3)      Don’t restrict calories excessively. Drastic calorie cutting will significantly erode your metabolism. Eat at minimum 10 calories per pound of body weight. Remember BMR accounts for 70% of your caloric intake. The brain is the biggest user of energy in the body at about 20%. These need to be fed.

4)      Do resistance training. Muscle building exercise will help spare you from muscle loss by preventing their breakdown to a fuel source.  Remember more muscle means more metabolism. Try to do either weight training, resistance bands and even body weight training 2-3 times a week. The workouts should be full body and progressively difficult.

5)      Go slow. A person who drops from 180 lbs. to 150 lbs. will not burn as many calories per day as a person who was always 150 lbs. This is a sad recently discovered fact. Essentially their body wants to return to 180 lbs. as its set point (weight it wants to be at). To combat this, lose only about 5-10% of your body weight then maintain. Your body will readjust its set point in a little less than 6 months. At this point the metabolism will become less efficient and it will be easier to maintain the weight loss or you can more easily lose more.

One last detail is sleep. Your body goes through remodeling as you sleep and this requires time. Try for at least 7-8 hours a night. Now it’s time to begin your transformation. Enjoy.


Health Magazine – Revving Your Engine

Eating Well – Can Losing Weight Slow Your Metabolism

Disabledworld.com – Human Metabolism

Scientificamerican.com – Does Thinking Really Hard Burn More Calories

www.framingham.edu – Results of Groundbreaking Framingham University Food Study