Whenever we talk about weight loss, the topic of metabolism comes up. But do you know what it actually means and how it affects your body? Let’s get into some of the nitty gritty of your metabolism & what you can do with it.
What is metabolism?
First up, we need to understand what it is! There is a lot more to it than just losing or gaining weight. In fact, the definition of metabolism is:
All of the chemical processes that take place in the body to allow for growth, reproduction and maintenance of life
So it’s much more than just whether you can drop body fat or not!
It’s also important to note that there are several hormones & glands that play a part in controlling your metabolism. The major one to keep in mind specific to metabolic rate (how fast or slow it is) is your thyroid gland. In turn, your thyroid gland is controlled by your hypothalamus & pituitary gland in the brain.
Is it fixed, or can it be changed?
You might hear a lot of talk about a slow or fast metabolic rate. Teenage boys who can eat everything in sight and not put on a kilo? Fast metabolic rate. Someone with a condition such as Hashimoto’s that affects the thyroid’s function? Likely a slow metabolic rate that will lead to weight gain.
But it’s a big myth that your metabolism is fixed and there is nothing you can do about it! While there is a genetic component to the metabolic rate, there is plenty you can do to support a higher rate.
Does your metabolism drop with age?
Another common myth I hear from my clients? ‘Oh it’s just because I’m getting older, your metabolism slows down as soon as you hit 40 right?’
Think again. While there is some truth to it – there is a reduction that occurs – the latest science busted the idea that ageing was to blame for significant weight gain.
Research released in 2021 found that between 20 and 60, metabolic rate didn’t really change. It was once the participants reached 60 that the metabolism dropped – and even then, it was only by 0.7% per year.
It may even be that this myth itself is to blame. We tell ourselves that it’s inevitable to gain weight with age, so we don’t do anything to prevent it.
Tips to boost your metabolism
So now that you know a sluggish metabolism isn’t set in stone, what can you do to get it moving? Here are some simple habits to get you started.
There are a few ways that physical activity can support your metabolism.
First up, we have incidental activity. If you’re moving frequently throughout the day and getting your steps in, this kicks up the metabolic rate.
Then there is more structured training. HIIT can support a healthy metabolism, although keep in mind it’s not for those under high or chronic stress. Strength training and building muscle can also be amazing for supporting your metabolic rate – muscle requires more calories to function and maintain itself. So if you add more muscle to your body, you will naturally increase your metabolism.
Don’t starve yourself – eat regularly!
I see so many women calorie restricting to lose weight. But this can actually have the opposite effect and leave you unable to eat a normal amount.
There are a few factors at play here. Calorie restriction can impair thyroid function, dropping the metabolic rate. Food also supports metabolism through TEF or thermic effect of food. That’s right, food actually helps to burn itself off because it takes energy to digest and process it all!
And if that wasn’t enough, calorie restriction can also lead to nutrient deficiencies. If you don’t have the nutrients your body needs for an optimal metabolism, it can slow down the rate.
Get plenty of quality rest
If you’re skimping on sleep, you’re putting yourself at high risk of developing insulin resistance, which leads to cravings, weight gain and serious chronic health conditions. It also spikes your cortisol which puts pressure on the thyroid gland.
Make sure you prioritise 7-9 hours of high-quality sleep every night.
Add some green tea & spicy food
These ones have a minimal effect, but it can’t hurt to give them a go! Green tea and spicy food like chilli can give a minor boost to your metabolic rate. Not to mention, they’re also packed full of antioxidants and other fantastic supportive compounds.
Ditch the quick fixes and transform your body the right way!
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Susie Garden | Clinical Nutritionist & Naturopath
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