This word “metabolism” is thrown around a lot these days.
You know that if yours is too slow you might gain weight. But what exactly does this all mean?
Well technically “metabolism” is the word to describe all of the biochemical reactions in your body. It’s how you take in nutrients and oxygen and use them to fuel everything you do.
Your body has an incredible ability to grow, heal, and generally stay alive. And without this amazing biochemistry you would not be possible.
Metabolism includes how the cells in your body:
● Allow activities you can control (e.g. physical activity etc.).
● Allow activities you can’t control (e.g. heart beat, wound healing, processing of nutrients & toxins, etc.).
● Allow storage of excess energy for later.
So when you put all of these processes together into your metabolism you can imagine that these processes can work too quickly, too slowly, or just right.
Which brings us to the “metabolic rate”.
This is how fast your metabolism works and is measured in calories (yup, those calories!).
The calories you eat can go to one of three places:
● Work (i.e. exercise and other activity).
● Heat (i.e. from all those biochemical reactions).
● Storage (i.e. extra leftover “unburned” calories stored as fat).
As you can imagine the more calories you burn as work or creating heat the easier it is to lose weight and keep it off because there will be fewer “leftover” calories to store for later.
There are a couple of different ways to measure metabolic rate. One is the “resting metabolic rate” (RMR) which is how much energy your body uses when you’re not being physically active.
The other is the “total daily energy expenditure” (TDEE) which measures both the resting metabolic rate as well as the energy used for “work” (e.g. exercise) throughout a 24-hour period.
What affects your metabolic rate?
In a nutshell: a lot!
The first thing you may think of is your thyroid. This gland at the front of your throat releases hormones to tell your body to “speed up” your metabolism. Of course, the more thyroid hormone there is the faster things will work and the more calories you’ll burn.
But that’s not the only thing that affects your metabolic rate.
How big you are counts too!
Larger people have higher metabolic rates; but your body composition is crucial!
As you can imagine muscles that actively move and do work need more energy than fat does. So the more lean muscle mass you have the more energy your body will burn and the higher your metabolic rate will be. Even when you’re not working out.
This is exactly why weight training is often recommended as a part of a weight loss program. Because you want muscles to be burning those calories for you.
The thing is, when people lose weight their metabolic rate often slows down which you don’t want to happen. So you definitely want to offset that with more muscle mass.
Aerobic exercise also temporarily increases your metabolic rate. Your muscles are burning fuel to move so they’re doing “work”.
The type of food you eat also affects your metabolic rate!
Your body actually burns calories to absorb, digest, and metabolize your food. This is called the “thermic effect of food” (TEF).
You can use it to your advantage when you understand how your body metabolizes foods differently.
Fats, for example increase your TEF by 0-3%; carbs increase it by 5-10%, and protein increases it by 15-30%. By trading some of your fat or carbs for lean protein you can slightly increase your metabolic rate.
Another bonus of protein is that your muscles need it to grow. By working them out and feeding them what they need they will help you to lose weight and keep it off.
And don’t forget the mind-body connection. There is plenty of research that shows the influence that things like stress and sleep have on the metabolic rate.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to metabolism and how so many different things can work to increase (or decrease) your metabolic rate.
Here’s a really easy recipe to make sure you’re getting enough protein to fuel your metabolism:
Lemon Herb Roasted Chicken Breasts
2 lemons, sliced
1 tablespoon rosemary
1 tablespoon thyme
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
4 chicken breasts (boneless, skinless)
dash salt & pepper
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive old
Preheat oven to 425F. Layer ½ of the lemon slices on the bottom of a baking dish. Sprinkle with ½ of the herbs and ½ of the sliced garlic.
Place the chicken breasts on top and sprinkle salt & pepper. Place remaining lemon, herbs and garlic on top of the chicken. Drizzle with olive oil. Cover with a lid or foil.
Bake for 45 minutes until chicken is cooked through. If you want the chicken to be a bit more “roasty” then remove the lid/foil and broil for another few minutes (watching carefully not to burn it).
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: You can add a leftover sliced chicken breast to your salad for lunch the next day!
I have had a lot of questions about how I lost all of my weight. At my heaviest, I weighed in at 233 pounds. I don’t think I have a single picture from that time since I was embarassed about how I looked and didn’t want any pictures. I managed to lose about 30 pounds with Weight Watchers at Work and then we remodeled our kitchen and I gained some back from eating out and not being able to cook.
I started Tae Kwon Do with my kids, thinking it would be a good actvity for them and since my lessons were “included” in their entry fee, I figured it couldn’t hurt. It was the best decision I ever made. Not only did I meet a bunch of new friends, but I finally found an activity I loved. I adored my instructor and did everything he made us do – not only tae kwon do curriculum, but cardio too! I started there at 218 pounds and pretty much stayed there – not being able to lose much more weight. I was stuck. I didn’t know what to do and figured I was just a failure and wouldn’t ever lose the weight. I got very down on myself and was tired of being heavier than everyone else.
I started back on Weight Watchers and managed to get down to about 185 pounds – I considered that a huge accomplishment! Then my position at work was eliminated, I tested for my Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do, and ended up having to take a full time position in another department so I wouldn’t lose my seniority at the hospital where I work. I gained 15+ pounds and was back up to 202 in January 2011.
My sister had introduced me to a free weight loss/health website called sparkpeople.com and I had signed up, but wasn’t willing to re-enter all of my favorite foods since I had them all logged in to Weight Watchers. January 2, 2011, I finally made the decision to track on both WW and SP to see what the difference was. I had been reading a bunch of articles on Spark People about getting healthier but wasn’t using the SP tracker so I bit the bullet and started entering all of my foods on both websites.
What an eye opener! WW had zero points of both fruits and vegetables so that meant you could eat any amount of either of these food groups without logging any points. I found out that I was within my points for WW every day, but when I tracked on SP, I was over my calories! No WONDER I wasn’t losing any weight! So I canceled my WW account and went full time with Spark People.
Around March 2011 I had lost a few pounds and was feeling some success but was really finally sick of being the “big girl.” I decided that I was going to work out 7 days a week and nothing was going to stop me. That is when things really changed and my weight loss started really kicking into gear. Gee – what a concept – eating right AND workout out consistently! It was WORKING! I did stall a bit in July 2011 at 165 pounds when I started P90X and my eating got a little more confusing since the P90X program suggested I eat a lot more than I was previously eating, but I did drop two pants sizes while only losing about 5 pounds, so I was doing something right!
I had a lot of people asking me how I lost my weight and even though I would refer them to Spark People, many of them still didn’t want to really use the site and I started thinking about how I love talking to people about becoming healthy and how I could help them personally. I looked into being a Registered Dietician or Nutritionist, but what I really wanted to do was be a Weight Loss Coach. That’s when I found The Institute for Integrative Nutrition, signed up and never looked back!
Today, I am at 157.7 pounds, after reaching 154.4 a couple of weeks ago. Darn holiday eating! Now it’s the first day of 2013 and I am really happy to be getting back to a normal schedule and back to my regular eating. No more parties, sweets and extra snacks for me! I finally realized that I feel good when I eat a salad every day and start to really get worried if that’s not on the menu! I LOVE working out, although I have definitely found the wisdom of taking at least ONE rest day a week so I’m down to 5-6 days a week with my workouts. I’m happy, healthy, and loving my new nutrition school venture. I can’t wait to start seeing clients!
The moral of my story is this: you will never be successful unless you make the specific decision to take care of yourself. You have to finally be willing to do the work and do whatever it takes to be healthier and to lose any extra weight you want to lose. You have to be willing to forgive yourself and speak gently to yourself if you mess up. You have to hold yourself accountable. There is no magic pill and every person is different and has different nutrition and spiritual needs. If you can’t get started on your own, that’s what I am here for! I can help you!
Contact me to schedule a free Health History today. I can’t see clients until some time in April, but I can get your free session done, start you on my newsletter when we get those going, and keep you posted for when I can start seeing clients and make a real difference. You don’t have to live near me, we can do everything online or over the phone if necessary. Just take the first step for yourself and contact me. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!
Oh my gosh! I’m just finishing my 5th week at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and already I have learned SO much! I’ve learned some of the basics about Health Coaching, doing Health Histories, about whole grains, the effects of Trans Fat on our diets and why we need good fats, about water, oxygen, and so much more. I can’t wait for each Monday morning so I can download all of my lectures to my ipod and listen to them. I have NEVER had so much fun learning in my life! Each day I am convinced that I have finally found my calling. It will still be a few months before I can start seeing clients but I can do Health Histories with anyone at any time to practice my coaching skills. If anyone wants more information about health coaching and what it can do for you, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.