Monday, 2 June 2014

Rev Up Our Engines

Well, once again I have been away from here for too long.  I have not only been sliding in doing my posts but I have been backsliding in my weight loss efforts too.  It was a long hard winter and for a number of reasons (that I do not need to get into here for fear of boring you) my head has not been in the game.  Does it show on the scales ... most definitely!

But what's done is done and can, thankfully, be undone.

So, I'm starting again TODAY.

We hear a lot of talk about metabolism and weight loss (in my case it’s usually “I must have a slow metabolism”), so I thought I’d check into it a little bit and see what metabolism is exactly, and is it true that we can rev up our metabolism in any way.

Let’s start with a short quiz …

What is metabolism?

  1. Your ability to digest fatty foods
  2. Your body’s ability to burn calories
  3. Your brain telling you you’re hungry
  4. Your ability to believe in the supernatural

Which of these is the best way to adjust your eating habits?

  1. Eat small meals frequently
  2. Eat as little as possible
  3. Eat two large meals per day
  4. Eat at Joe’s

Drinking water is an effective way to increase you metabolism if …

  1. It’s room temperature
  2. It’s ice cold
  3. It’s lightly salted
  4. It’s fluoridated

If you are overweight, you actually have a faster metabolism?

  1. True
  2. False

How does an increase in muscle affect your RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate)

  1. Your RMR will go up
  2. Your RMR will go down
  3. Your RMR will be unaffected
  4. You’ll need some R and R

When doing aerobic exercise, you should ideally work out for 30 minutes with …

  1. A raised heart rate
  2. A good sweat
  3. Ice water
  4. A sweet play list

Your daily caloric intake should be …

  1. Less than your RMR
  2. Between your RMR and your maintenance intake
  3. Your RMR and dessert

Which of these foods actually increase your rate of metabolism?

  1. Grapefruit
  2. Celery
  3. Garlic
  4. None of the above

As you lose weight, your body needs …

  1. More calories
  2. Fewer calories
  3. Fewer carbohydrates
  4. New clothes

Which of these is NOT a factor in determining your RMR?

  1. Age
  2. Weight
  3. Gender
  4. The amount of sleep you get


  1. Metabolism is the body’s ability to burn calories.  Increasing your metabolism means burning more calories and therefore burning more weight.
  2. Having smaller, more frequent meals instead of larger ones will help limit unhealthy snacking and reduce overeating.  Bonus:  Eating healthy snacks will also help increase your metabolism.
  3. Drinking plenty of water is good, but ice cold water is even better for increasing metabolism.  This is because your body expends extra calories warming the water to your body temperature.
  4. Surprising as it is, overweight people actually have a faster metabolism than skinnier people.  However, if someone is overweight it means their metabolism isn’t fast enough to counteract their caloric intake, leading to weight gain.
  5. An increase in muscle mass will increase your RMR.  This is because muscle burns more calories – even at rest – than fat.
  6. When doing aerobic exercise, work out for 30 minutes with an increased heart rate.  It will temporarily boost your metabolism and burn calories.
  7. Keep your caloric intake between your RMR and your maintenance intake.  It’s just as important to avoid under-eating as it is to avoid overeating.
  8. The idea that certain foods will increase your metabolism is a myth.  However, eating small meals more frequently will definitely help.
  9. As you lose weight, you’ll need fewer calories.  But we have good news!  As you lose weight, your appetite will shrink, so you won’t feel as hungry.  Losing weight is about moderation, not deprivation!
  10. Sleep does not affect your resting metabolic rate.  RMR is the rate at which your body burns calories doing nothing, so it is only affected by your age, weight, height, and gender.
Now that we all see how much (or little) we understand about metabolism, let’s see what it is really all about.

Your body’s metabolism is the rate at which your cells produce energy and that translates into the rate at which your body burns calories.  It is the process of breaking down the 3 macronutrients – proteins, carbohydrates and fats – by your body in order for it to maintain itself.  AND – the number of calories you burn during eating and exercising every day influences metabolism and obviously the number of calories you consume.  That part is completely in your control.

The number of calories that are expended due to your genetic makeup also influences metabolism.  Forget about being able to influence your genes.  They are what they are!  Thank your parents for that.  Although they are a factor, the also account for very little of how many calories are spent each day. 

Age is a huge factor influencing your metabolism.  Unfortunately, from the age of around 25 the average person’s metabolism decreases by between 5% and 10% each decade.

Gender also influences your metabolism as men generally burn calories more quickly then women because they have more muscle tissue.

RMR was mentioned frequently in the quiz.  RMR stands for RESTING METABLIC RATE not to be confused the BMR which is your BASAL METABLIC RATE which can only be calculated in a controlled clinical or laboratory setting.  It’s easy to get a ballpark figure for your RMR by doing the following:

    1. Weigh yourself first thing in the morning (to avoid weighing the food you ingest during the day
    2. Convert your weight into kilograms (weight in lbs divided by 2.2)
    3. For females use the following formula:  (10 x weight) + (6.25 x height) – (5 x age) – 161 = RMR.  For males use the following formula:  (10 x weight) + (6.25 x height) – (5 x age) + 5 = RMR.
Your RMR will tell you how many calories you need to maintain your body at rest.  Your daily consumption to maintain your current weight should be:  RMR x 1.15.  To lose weight safely, do not exceed your maintenance intake or have a caloric intake lower than your calculated RMR.

It seems to me that between age, genetics and all the math involved beating your metabolism into submission might be a thankless and nearly impossible task with regards to weight loss.  Alas, fear not – there are some things that you can do to work with your metabolism instead of against it.

Let’s start with the metabolism “killers”.  These are things that you CAN change and those changes will help “rev” up that metabolism.

Not getting enough sleep

I did a whole post on the importance of sleep to any weight loss effort and here it is again.  If you are not getting seven to eight hours of sleep a night, you might be killing your metabolism.  Studies show that not getting enough shut eye can lead to chemical reactions that increase fat storage and make you hungrier.

Eating before bed

If you snack right before bed, your body won’t deal with the excess calories – it’s busy recovering from the day.  Instead, it will slow down your metabolism and save the calories as fat.


Who doesn’t love carbs?  They taste great, but they also cause your blood sugar to spike, which in turn increases your fat storage.  It’s a chemical thing.

Not enough protein

Protein is important for building lean muscle mass, which burns fat, but it’s also important for your digestive system.  If you’re not eating enough protein, chances are your body isn’t digesting food properly and instead is storing it as fat.

Sitting still

Sitting around all day – whether at the office or on the couch – puts your metabolism in a near vegetative state.  And, when that happens, your metabolism shuts down.  Get up and move!

Drinking alcohol

A cold beer might help you relax, but it stresses out your metabolism.  Alcohol is high in calories and sugar, both of which confuse your metabolism and make it shut down.

Too many processed foods

They’re cheap, tasty and guaranteed to make your metabolism scream “NO MORE”.

Yo-yo dieting

Starving yourself to lose a few pounds – and then binging.  Starving yourself to lose a few pounds – and then binging again.  If this is your eating cycle, your metabolism is wondering what in the world is going on – and your body will go into survival mode, which means it’s storing calories as fat instead of burning them.

Cycling (not the good kind)
Hitting the bike for 30 minutes a day is good for your metabolism  “Weight cycling” is not.  If your weight goes up and down and up and down, you’re messing with your metabolism.

So, what can you do to get your old metabolism back?  Some of the answers are as obvious as reversing the bad habits mentioned above …


Make sure you get enough sleep.  The amount of calories that your body burns at rest is decreased if you’re not getting enough sleep.

Eat more protein

Your body burns twice as many calories trying to break down and digest high protein food, compared to high carb or high fat foods.  Try to include at least one protein at every meal.

Eat often

Every 2 – 3 hours is ideal even if just snacking.  This feeds
muscles and starves fat.  Your body is a clever little thing and it is reassured if food comes in on a regular basis.  If you typically skip breakfast (a cup of strong coffee DOES NOT constitute breakfast!), then grab a light sandwich for lunch and a big dinner in the evening it means that you are potentially fasting for 16 – 19 hours every day.  Not great!

Reverse the aging process

Don’t get excited now, I am not about to tell you about a new magic pill.  Simply, stay active and keep exercising – even as you get older.  Studies show that those that stay active see an average .3% drop in metabolism every decade (as opposed to the 5% - 10% drop mentioned above).

Have a plan to get more toned

Getting more toned is another way of saying adding lean tissue.  This means adding muscle (not bulking up) but adding more muscle.  Basically you burn more calories at rest the more muscle you have.

Do some interval training with heavier than average weight.
Whether this means 4 pounds instead of two or twenty pounds instead of fifteen … this will give your metabolism a boost for up to 24 hours as your body uses up energy in order to repair tiny (and healthy) muscle tears.

Omega 3 fish oils

EPA and DHA are the fatty acids found in fish oils.  Studies have shown that these can increase the amount of calories your metabolism burns by up to 400 calories per day!!  They increase levels of fat burning enzymes and decrease fat storage enzymes.

I’ll close this by answering the burning question that I’m sure is at the top of everyone’s mind … are there any foods that will increase your metabolism?  Sadly to say – No! Some foods and drinks like red peppers and green tea have been studied for the potential for increasing metabolism but the is no conclusive evidence that their effect is enough to result in actual weight loss.

So although there are no foods to “boost” you metabolism it is important to eat properly.  You need to eat breakfast.  The first meal in the morning can increase your resting metabolic rate by as much as 10%.  BUT – avoid fatty breakfast foods and opt for healthy alternative such as fruits, granola, yogurt and whole-wheat toast or cereal.  Try to include a protein.  Snacking is okay because a snack can be a good metabolism booster.  BUT – make sure to munch on snacks that have the appropriate amount of proteins and carbs, such as banana, peanut butter, carrots, and apples.  Don’t cut back too far on calories.  Most people think that the most effective way to lose weight is to cut down their caloric intake.  However, this only leads to a slower metabolic rate because the body undergoes a process known as “dietary induced thermogenesis”.  That’s a fancy way of saying it goes into “starvation mode”.  The body thinks it’s out of energy (food) so it alters the metabolism to preserve the fats and carbs.  Avoid taking lesser amounts of calories than recommended, or else the body will try to conserve its limited resources, and the result will be a slower metabolism and that will lead to weight gain instead. 

I hope this has helped to “de-myth” metabolism a little bit.  As usual I have combined what I think was the best of numerous and respectable sources to compile my information.

Food Renegade, Kristen Michaelis (editor)

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