The metabolism: the body’s invisible force that controls how energy is transferred from food into action. It’s easy to believe we’re “stuck” in a metabolism that isn’t ideal for fat loss, but there are lifestyle factors that can influence metabolic rate over time. “Resetting” your metabolism, or bringing it back to its optimal function, is possible through the power of nutrition and other lifestyle behaviors. Learn more from our experts on how a few small changes in your daily habits can help shift your metabolism in your favor.
The body’s metabolism is largely determined by thyroid function, liver and adrenal function, the amount of lean muscle mass in the body, and genetics. Healthy habits over time are able to influence all of these factors – yes, including genetic expression. While it’s a popular notion to link a “slow” metabolism to difficulties in losing fat, it’s relatively rare to have a significantly slow metabolism. However, it is possible to “boost” the metabolism by changing body composition (gaining lean muscle) and providing the body with nutrients that promote the efficient use of calories, either through thermogenesis or optimizing cellular efficiency through (you guessed it) nutrition. Start developing habits associated with the strategies below and you may start to see your resting metabolic rate (the number of calories burned at rest each day) increase over time.
Include protein at every meal
The body uses more energy to break down protein than it does carbs or fat. For instance, carbohydrates and protein both provide the same amount of available energy (about 4 kilocalories per gram), but it takes about 25% more energy (calories) to process protein. Incorporating a higher percentage of protein at each meal can lead to more calorie expenditure during digestion. Protein is also the mail building blocks of lean muscle mass. Schedule 2-3 resistance training workouts per week, with a healthy amount of protein and carbohydrates to aid recovery and muscle repair, to start seeing an increase in lean muscle mass. (Want proof with data? Schedule a before and after DEXA body composition scan.)
Turn up the heat
There are certain foods that contain compounds that increase calorie burn through heat. Caffeine, green tea, capsaicin (found in hot peppers) are a few examples of foods thought to increase metabolism. However, the jury is still out on whether these directly promote fat loss (this can only truly be done through an appropriate calorie deficit over time). Other ways of producing a “heated” environment in the body is to get the heart rate up through high-intensity exercise and to continue incorporating movement throughout the day.
Create a healthy gut environment
The health of the gut, or intestinal tract, is the perhaps the most significant factor in overall health. As the main area where nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream, it is crucial to prime the gut environment with healthy bacteria. This can be done through a healthy diet and if needed, prebiotic and probiotic supplements. The right balance of bacteria can help reduce sugar cravings and increase metabolic rate, along with numerous other health benefits, including better mental health, as most hormones and neurotransmitters are produced in the intestines before they are sent to the brain. Healthy gut function is also linked to balanced hormones, which help control appetite and metabolic rate. A healthy gut thrives on a diet of whole fruits, vegetables, whole grains (for those not affected by grains), beans, legumes, healthy fat and moderate amounts of lean protein.
With all of the noise of “metabolic boosting” trends and supplements, it is important not to underestimate the power of nutrition and lifestyle modification. Creating and maintaining a lifestyle of healthy eating, proper hydration, high-quality sleep (lack of sleep can limit calorie burn and disrupt appetite-regulating hormones!), movement, and low stress can promote a healthy functioning metabolism that contributes to a healthy body composition: all factors that lead to long-term health and wellness.
Curious about your metabolic rate? Talk to our team about Resting Metabolic Rate testing at a location near you!