Metabolism and our Weight

You’ve read in my recent past “New Years resolutions” corners, about foods to eat and different types of exercise to help with weight loss goals.  Lots of times you will hear the word metabolism, interchangeably with weight loss, as it’s an easy reference.  When people refer to their metabolism being slow—as a cause to weight gain or inability to lose weight—they typically are referring to metabolic rate.  Metabolic rate in simple terms, is the rate at which your body uses energy or burns calories.  We sometimes think of this, as in only burning body fat, but there are many other processes that metabolism is responsible for.   Activity of our major organs, brain, liver, kidneys, and heart account for about half of the energy burned at rest.  Fat, the digestive system, and especially the body’s muscles account for the other half.

You can see there are many components to metabolic-rate. But in relation to weight loss, there are things you can do to adjust your rate.  

  1. Calculate your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR).  BMR measures the total calories you need to perform the body’s most basic functions, like breathing, circulation, brain activity, and cellular activities – or what it would take to maintain your body at rest all day.
  2. Calculate your Active Metabolic Rate (AMR).  Your AMR represents the number of calories you need to consume each day, to stay or maintain at your current weight. For weight loss, AMR either needs to go up with more exercise, or a decrease in calories needs to be established for a calorie deficit. But be careful as these should go hand in hand, meaning you shouldn’t exercise yourself to extreme exhaustion or implement such an extreme calorie deficit that you barely able to function. 
  3. Have a productive exercise program that includes resistance training and eat a balanced diet.  Types of foods you eat can make a difference as there is another level of energy being spent or used during eating and digestion, known as the Thermic Effect of Food (TEF).

It takes energy to digest, absorb, break down, and store nutrients. See how the TEF on the following macronutrients has:

  • Protein requires the most energy to digest and metabolize, so it has the highest TEF.
  • Carbohydrates require less energy than protein, and the more complex the carbohydrate, the higher the TEF. Starch and fiber have higher energy demands than simple sugars in high glycemic foods as explained in a previous corner.
  • Unfortunately, the TEF of fat takes very little energy to digest, absorb, and store fat.

Overall, the TEF can account for as much as 10 percent of calories burned per day. 

But wait!  There is still one more thing that affects your metabolic burn and that is vitamins and minerals.  Although, these do not provide direct energy, they do play vital roles in metabolism.  Think of it this way – a fire burns hot with a lot of energy released.  But you need something to start the fire with, like a match – this would be the vitamins and minerals. 

Lastly, get adequate sleep, this is crucial for metabolic function (underlying metabolic processes happen at rest to help us repair, reset and regulate appetite)

Things that may hinder your metabolism to where you have little control are, genetics/family history, certain medications, and certain diseases/conditions.  Aging can be a factor too, as we start to lose muscle, but with a sensible training program you can control to what degree this happens.

*If this article or any past articles leaves you with questions, the want to be a better you, the courage to take the first step to a happier you, than please contact me at: 

Mikkie Nettles, Certified Personal Trainer/Holistic & Sports Nutritionist
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