Our metabolism is the force within our bodies that mysteriously determines whether the food we eat is converted into bursts of energy or extra kilograms on the scale.
When we struggle to lose weight, the first thing we often blame is our “slow” or “slow” metabolism.
As a result, a $33 billion industry offers thousands of products that promise to increase metabolic rate and achieve weight loss success.
But instead of reaching for supplements, there are things you can do to boost your metabolism.
What is metabolism and how does it work?
Metabolism is a term that describes all the chemical reactions in the body that keep us alive. It provides the energy needed for important functions such as breathing and digestion.
When we refer to metabolism in relation to weight, we are actually referring to basal metabolic rate, the number of calories your body burns at rest, determined by your muscle and fat mass.
Many factors can affect your metabolism, including gender, age, weight, and lifestyle. It naturally slows down with age and becomes dysfunctional after dieting.
Why does metabolism slow down with age?
As our bodies age, they no longer function as efficiently as they once did. Starting around age 40, muscle mass begins to decrease naturally and the ratio of body fat to muscle increases.
Muscle mass helps determine the body’s metabolic rate, so less muscle means your body burns fewer calories at rest, slowing your metabolic rate.
Why does metabolic function decline after dieting?
If you lose a lot of weight, your metabolic rate is likely to have slowed, and even if you gain weight back, it won’t return to pre-diet levels.
This is because dieting to lose weight typically results in a loss of both fat and muscle, which slows down your metabolism due to less muscle mass to burn calories.
Although weight loss explains the expected decrease in metabolic rate, metabolism does not recover even after regaining the lost weight.
Studies have shown that with each diet attempt, you burn food an additional 15% slower, which is inexplicable.
3 ways to boost your metabolism (and 1 thing to avoid):
1) Be careful about what you eat
Diet affects the amount of energy your body uses to digest, absorb, and metabolize food, so consider the types of food you eat. This process is called diet-induced thermogenesis, or the thermic effect of food, and it accounts for about 10% of our daily energy expenditure.
Research shows that the thermic effect of food is highest in protein-rich foods because our bodies need to use more energy to break down and digest protein. Eating protein-rich foods increases your metabolic rate by about 15% (the average for all foods is 10%). In contrast, carbohydrates increase by 10% and fat by less than 5%.
But this doesn’t mean you need to switch to a protein-only diet to boost your metabolism. Rather, your diet should include vegetables and protein sources, with a balance of whole grain carbohydrates and good fats to support optimal health, disease prevention, and weight loss.
2) Start moving
Regular physical activity increases muscle mass and boosts metabolism. Increasing muscle mass increases your basal metabolic rate, which causes you to burn more calories at rest.
To achieve this, incorporate 30 minutes of physical activity into your daily routine, plus two days of gym or strength training each week.
It’s also important to mix things up, as following the same routine every day can quickly lead to boredom and avoidance of exercise.
Lack of exercise quickly leads to a loss of muscle mass, and muscle loss slows down your metabolism, hampering your efforts to lose weight.
3) Get enough sleep
A growing body of research supports that sleep deprivation can have a major impact on your metabolism.
Lack of sleep disrupts the body’s energy balance. This causes appetite hormones to increase hunger and cause food cravings, while at the same time altering sugar metabolism and reducing energy expenditure.
If you want to boost your metabolism, set a goal of getting 7 hours of continuous sleep each night.
An easy way to accomplish this is to avoid screens for at least an hour before bed. Screens can seriously disrupt your sleep by suppressing melatonin production in your brain, signaling that it’s day instead of night.
4) Don’t waste your money on diet pills and supplements
Thousands of products promise to revitalize your metabolism and accelerate weight loss. Some contain ingredients such as caffeine and capsaicin (the ingredient that gives chili peppers their heat) that increase metabolism immediately after ingestion, but studies have confirmed that these effects are temporary and are long-term. It has no effect on weight loss.
Most products that promise to help you lose weight by boosting your metabolism do not provide scientific evidence to support their effectiveness. Two recently published extensive reviews examined nearly 120 studies on weight loss supplements and found that despite bold marketing claims, they were completely ineffective.
So leave the pills, potions, and powders on the shelf and focus on what works. Your metabolism and hip pocket will thank you.
Nick Fuller, Charles Perkins Center Research Program Leader, University of Sydney
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.