Most of us are at least somewhat familiar with metabolism — the reason you can eat whatever you want or why you’ve gained weight, right? But, that’s like saying the wheels on your car are the reason why you were able to drive to the grocery store. While that’s partially true, it doesn’t give you the full picture.
Your metabolism is actually affected by multiple, dynamic mechanisms that may change over the course of your lifetime or be influenced by a variety of factors. So yes, while metabolism does impact your weight loss or weight gain, other factors can influence it — either boosting or slowing it. Today, we’re going to learn exactly what your metabolism is and how you can boost it to help you reach or maintain a healthy weight!
Your metabolism is the process through which your body converts food into energy. More specifically, your body uses your metabolism to take the calories that you get from eating or drinking and turn them into the energy that your body needs to run. When you “burn calories,” that’s your metabolism at work.
But, your metabolism isn’t only working when you’re working out. Even involuntary actions, like breathing or your heart beating, use some degree of energy created through metabolism. The amount of energy these hidden, or involuntary, everyday activities use is called your basal metabolic rate. It can be helpful to know how many calories you burn on average each day. Some people use that rate to help them lose weight.
That said, metabolism isn’t the main force behind losing or gaining weight. A slow metabolism doesn’t automatically mean you’ll gain weight, just like an efficient metabolism doesn’t mean you’ll always be thin. Ultimately, your diet and exercise habits are more influential than your metabolism, since the calories you take in, or burn through exercise, can easily overcome the number of calories you burn through the metabolic process.
Now that we’ve covered the basics of metabolism, it’s time to cover the some of the science of metabolism. See, the process that we call metabolism actually involves two different processes — catabolism and anabolism.
Catabolism is the process our body uses to break nutrients down to make energy and cellular building blocks. Anabolism uses energy to build molecules and cellular structures like muscle. Together, these two processes make up what we consider metabolism by breaking down our food into less complex units and energy, then using those units and that energy to build molecules that the body can use for new cells and maintaining tissues.
As we mentioned, external factors, specifically your diet and exercise, can influence your metabolism. Dietary tweaks are perhaps some of the simplest ways to gain a little metabolic boost. For example, spicy foods have been shown to trigger thermogenesis and raise metabolic rates. And, drinking coffee with coconut oil or drinking green tea can increase your metabolism. Eating a healthy breakfast or drinking water may also raise your metabolic rate. Finally, a diet rich in protein could also be effective at giving your metabolism a boost.
Exercise may be another valuable aid if you’d like to increase your metabolism and lose weight. For instance, strength training can increase your metabolism. This is partially because muscle is more metabolically active than fat. This means that the more muscle you have compared to fat, the better your metabolism is. This doesn’t mean that you should neglect cardio, however, since HIIT workouts can have a long-lasting benefit for your metabolism as well. In other words, a well-crafted workout routine that blends together aspects of cardio and strength can do you wonders.
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There are many other ways you can try to boost your metabolism to help with healthy weight loss! What’s important to remember is that your metabolism can help you lose weight, but it can’t help you lose weight alone. Without a healthy diet and exercise routine, you likely won’t achieve your weight or health goals.
Mayo Clinic — Metabolism and weight loss: How you burn calories