Metabolism is a topic that's discussed a lot in advice columns and conversations, especially in terms of weight loss and recommendations of how to boost a broken metabolism.
With the likes of 'skinny teas' and different pills and powders that claim to have metabolism boosting benefits, we've been led to believe that our metabolism is something that can be sped up with these 'fat burning' supplements.
You might have also been led to believe that spicy foods, ice cold water, and apple cider vinegar are the answers to all of your ‘slow metabolism’ problems - but is this really the case?
We’re here to clear things up and bring a little science back into the argument about metabolism boosting.
What is your metabolism?
Your metabolism refers to a series of very intricate and complex processes your body completes each day in order to sustain all aspects of your body and life. This includes breaking down the food you eat to create energy, repairing your cells, producing hormones and more.
While metabolism refers to the chemical processes taking place, your metabolic rate is a representation of the total energy your body uses each day to complete these tasks and keep you alive and functioning.
Your body’s energy expenditure can then be further categorised into Resting Energy Expenditure (REE) and Non-Resting Energy Expenditure (NREE). For the purpose of this blog, we’re going to focus on your REE or your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR).
To put it simply, BMR is the amount of energy required to keep your body functioning at rest without taking into account your NREE, such as energy needed to exercise or complete daily activities.
We don’t consider this often, but basic bodily functions such as breathing, pumping blood and maintaining your correct body temperature actually require A LOT of energy!
In fact, approximately 70% of your total energy output goes into keeping your body running.
So, what impacts your BMR?
- Muscle mass - the biggest modifiable contributor to metabolic rate is your overall muscle mass.
Muscle is a much more metabolically active tissue than fat mass (adipose tissue) meaning it requires more nutrients to simply exist. More nutrients = a higher intake requirement due to a higher energy burn each day. Win win!
- Adequate energy availability - if you reduce the energy that is available to your body for a prolonged period of time (e.g. if you are in a significant deficit for several months) your body will naturally down regulate some processes in order to ‘conserve’ energy for its more vital tasks.
You may have heard this described as metabolic adaptation. This in turn reduces your metabolic rate and total daily energy expenditure. Not a win.
- Age, ethnicity and sex can also impact your overall metabolic rate, but this is usually due to a variation in muscle mass and/or general activity levels, so it’s best to focus on those factors.
The bottom line
Despite the metabolism boosting claims and celebrity endorsements of certain supplements and products, unfortunately it's mostly just marketing.
The truth is, you can’t exactly ‘break’ or 'boost' your metabolism. While you can manipulate your metabolism to a degree with some lifestyle and dietary factors that can slightly increase or decrease it over time, this is pretty small in the grand scheme of things.
A more realistic goal than boosting your metabolism is to aim to keep it as high as possible. The best way to look after your metabolism is to focus on incorporating a well rounded diet, combined with a strength training program that focuses on increasing your muscle mass. Building and maintaining as much muscle as you can as you age will help keep your metabolism higher.
You can't exactly control your biology, but you can control the choices you make, so focus on leading a healthy, balanced lifestyle and trust that your incredible body knows what it’s doing.