This word “metabolism” is thrown around a lot.
You know that if yours is too slow, you might gain weight. But what exactly does this all mean?
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 basically keep itself 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.
Sometimes these processes can work too quickly, too slowly, or just right.
This is how fast your metabolism works and is measured in calories (oh, those wacky 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 – doing nothing but breathing, circulating blood…
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. (This is why people with hyperthyroid conditions can have trouble keeping weight on, and hypothyroid the opposite!)
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!
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 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/plant-based 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.
Chocolate Hazelnut Protein Bowl
- 1 frozen banana
- ¼ cup hazelnuts, soaked 30 minutes
- 3 tbsp hemp seeds
- 2 tbsp raw cacao powder
- 1 scoop chocolate protein powder
- ¾ cup coconut milk
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ice (optional)
- 1/4 avocado (optional and may be needed for additional thickness and consistency)
Toppings: banana, strawberries, cacao nibs, shredded coconut, hemp seeds, chia seeds, goji berries, hazelnuts, sesame seeds, pumpkins seeds
- Place all ingredients (minus the toppings) into a blender and blend until well combined. Pour into a bowl and top with your favourite ingredients.
- Topping with hemp seeds, chia seeds and other superfoods will give this bowl a super antioxidant kick and supply you with a ton of plant-based protein and healthy fats.
This recipe appears in the new LPFL 10-Day Body Reset, which includes over 30 delicious plant-powered recipes to enjoy and get your body back on track. Enrollment for the January session is now closed. The Reset will be available again in the spring, but in the meantime you can take advantage of my free LPFL 5-Day Sugar Breakup! Subscribe to LPFLnews to get it, and follow me on Facebook and Instagram and watch for announcements!