The first question you may now be asking is “Isn’t it all about burning more calories than I eat?”
For sure that’s part of it, but it’s not the only thing that matters when it comes to how much you weigh and how much energy you have. There’s something else that comes into play and that’s your metabolism.
Metabolism means: how you take in oxygen and food and use them for energy, heat, and storage. And what's really more important is how fast your metabolism works i.e. your metabolic rate. You may have heard of RMR and TDEE, which are ways to measure your metabolic rate.
By the time you reach menopause, you have more than likely had a long history of dieting, calorie restriction and crazy cardio exercise. All of these will result in a hormone imbalance brought about from various forms of stress. You may even have adrenal fatigue without even knowing it.
All this slows down your metabolism and can make it even harder to reset your metabolism to a more optimal rate, but it can be done.
So we’re going to look at what affects your metabolic rate, and how can you use that to your advantage. And of course it's not just about how much you eat but (as mentioned above) also your hormones, body composition, and even what you eat counts!
What is Metabolism?
This word “metabolism” is thrown around a lot these days.
You’ve probably heard that if yours is too slow you might gain weight. What exactly does this mean?
Technically metabolism is the word to describe all of the biochemical reactions in your body. It's how you take in nutrients and oxygen and use them to fuel everything you do.
Your body has an incredible ability to grow, heal, and generally stay alive. Without this amazing biochemistry you would not be possible.
Metabolism includes how the cells in your body:
So when you put all of these processes together into your metabolism you can see that these processes can work too quickly, too slowly, or just right.
Which brings us to the metabolic rate.
This is how fast your metabolism works and is measured in calories.
The calories you eat can go to one of three places:
As you can see the more calories you burn as work or creating heat the easier it is to lose weight and keep it off because there will be fewer “leftover” calories to store for later.
There are a couple of different ways to measure metabolic rate. One is the resting metabolic rate (RMR) which is how much energy your body uses when you're not being physically active.
The other is the total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) which measures both the resting metabolic rate as well as the energy used for work (e.g. exercise, normal daily movement and activities, etc.) throughout a 24-hour period.
What affects your metabolic rate?
Actually quite a lot!
The first thing you may think of is your thyroid. This gland at the front of your throat releases hormones to tell your body to “speed up” your metabolism. Of course, the more thyroid hormone there is the faster things will work and the more calories you'll burn. (And the opposite is also true)
But your thyroid is not the only thing that affects your metabolic rate.
How big you are counts too!
Larger people have higher metabolic rates; but your body composition is crucial!
Muscles that actively move and do work need more energy than fat does. So the more lean muscle mass you have the more energy your body will burn and the higher your metabolic rate will be. Even when you're not working out.
However, when people lose weight their metabolic rate often slows down which you don't want to happen. So you definitely want to offset that with more muscle mass. This is exactly why weight training is often recommended as a part of a weight loss program, because you want muscles to be burning those calories for you.
Aerobic exercise also temporarily increases your metabolic rate. Your muscles are burning fuel to move so they're doing “work”.
And finally, the type of food you eat also affects your metabolic rate. Your body actually burns calories to absorb, digest, and metabolize your food. This is called the thermic effect of food (TEF). You can use it to your advantage when you understand how your body metabolises foods differently.
Fats, for example increase your TEF by 0-3%; carbs increase it by 5-10%, and protein increases it by 15-30%. By trading some of your carbs for lean protein you can slightly increase your metabolic rate. Another bonus of protein is that your muscles need it to grow. By working them out and feeding them what they need they will help you to lose weight and keep it off.
And don't forget the mind-body connection. There is plenty of research that shows the influence that things like stress and sleep have on the metabolic rate.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to metabolism and how so many different things can work to increase (or decrease) your metabolic rate.
Takeaway Action Steps:
If you’d like some help with putting together well-balanced and protein rich meals, then click here to access your free guide. You’ll learn what makes up a nutritious but weight friendly meal, with the correct portions that will help you with your weight loss.
Click below to listen to a podcast episode I was interviewed for, about building resilience and my journey to being a Health Coach