“I have a slow metabolism” A phrase I have caught myself saying and hear often from my clients. What does it mean? What is metabolism really? How does it affect your weight?
I have often felt I have a slow metabolism. I have decided that if a famine hit Australia, I would be fine. My body has adapted very well to a low intake of calories. I like to think I have the thrifty gene. (This is a debated topic in research, as to its existence and application) I am very good at using every little calorie I consume for life. Anything extra is stored for a rainy day. I am built to last! I can smell chocolate and store it as fat for later use! Who feels the same?
Let’s dive a little deeper into metabolism.
Metabolism is the process by which the cells in your body create energy from the food you eat. It is cellular biology and biochemistry! Gahhh… Krebbs cycle from biochemistry will always haunt me in one way or another!
Your body needs energy for everything it does. Not just to exercise, but to breathe, circulating your blood, creating and adjusting hormone levels, growing and repairing cells. The number of calories your body uses to perform all these functions is called your basal metabolic rate (BMR), or metabolism.
Various factors influence your BMR including:
- Your size and composition. The larger you are, the more of you there is to maintain, the more muscle mass you have, the higher your BMR, even at rest.
- Your sex. Men typically have a higher BMR than females.
- Your age. For an unknown reason, the BMR seemingly drops over time. Often shown to decrease from the early age of just 18.
On top of your BMR, there are two more processes the body requires energy to perform.
- NEAT – Processing the food you eat. It takes energy to digest, absorb, move and store the food you eat. You need more energy to eat more food! This category also includes the small incidental movement you make in the day!
- Physical activity. Moving your body for exercise. Not just the day to day walk from room to room, but the actual netball playing, gym-going, walking, jogging, swimming, HIIT sessions, cardio, yoga etc.
It has been shown that the BMR is quite different from person to person, and as of yet, it is unknown why the variance is so great. There has been research performed that shows that you can change your metabolic rate. Unfortunately, most of this research has shown that is it much easier to decrease your BMR (slow your metabolism) than it is to raise it (speed up your metabolism). One such study was done in the biggest loser contestants. It showed that weight loss done via the fastest means had detrimental effects on the contestants’ metabolism. Several years after the show was over the contestants which had gained back all their weight (which was nearly all contestants) still had a decreased metabolism, it had never returned to their pre-show levels. This made it harder for them to maintain their weight loss. In fact, it has been shown that fast weight loss has the biggest impact on metabolism. Conversely, a slow and gradual weight loss has been shown to have minimal impact on metabolism. With this in mind, slow and steady might be the better option to weight loss if you want to maintain your BMR.
But what has lifting weights got to do with this conversation?
You might have noticed that factors that influence your BMR included, your size and composition. Muscle requires more energy to be maintained. They burn more calories even as they rest, lets alone when being worked out. So, by maintaining higher muscle mass you can increase your BMR. Meaning it takes more calories to maintain your size and weight.
Lifting weights and building muscle mass is not just good for your BMR, there are many benefits to increase muscle mass including:
- Blood sugar control
- Increase strength and stamina
- Better bone health
- Joint health
- Improved posture
- Improved heart health
Who is up for joining me in the gym this year?
Who wants to eat more and exercise more?
Yours in Health,
Dr. Anthea Holder
(Chiropractor and Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner)