The Truth About Metabolism

You’ve cut down on calories and take regular exercise yet you’re not losing weight. What would you blame? Slow metabolism! It’s quite common to hear this from those who have weight issues despite their efforts. So what is a slow metabolism? How does it affect your weight, and can you do anything to speed it up?

What is metabolism?

Metabolism refers to the chemical processes that go on constantly inside the body to keep your organs functioning normally. These chemical processes require energy. The minimum amount of energy your body requires to carry out these chemical processes is called the basal metabolic rate (BMR). Your BMR accounts for anything between 40% and 70% of your body’s daily energy requirements depending on your age and lifestyle. A ‘slow metabolism’ is a low BMR.

Do some people really have a faster metabolism than others?

Your metabolism is determined by your genes, which play a role in muscle size and your ability to grow muscles, which affect your metabolism. Muscle cells require more energy to maintain than fat cells, so people with a higher muscle-to-fat ratio tend to have a higher BMR. Body size, age and gender also play a role in determining your metabolic rate. Men have a higher basal metabolic rate than women because their muscle-to-fat ratio is generally higher than women’s. This means that an average man will burn more calories than an average woman of the same age and weight. As women approach menopause, there is a drop in hormones that normally promote energy use. Women find it harder to lose weight during this time. Age also plays a role because as we get older, we tend to gain fat and lose muscle. This explains why the BMR tends to decrease with age.

Can you speed up your metabolism?

When you have confirmed with your healthcare expert that you do not have an underlying condition contributing to your weight gain, you should focus on three crucial factors associated with weight loss – dietary intake, exercise, and sleep. Managing the number of calories consumed each day is an important factor in weight control. Severe calorie restriction is not a good idea because it is ineffective for long-term success. A severe drop in calories may trigger the body to alter its metabolism so that much less energy is burned, while at the same time storing any energy it can find and very low-calorie diets affect motivation. Make sure to consult a well-qualified dietitian, nutritionist, or doctor.

Weight gain is primarily due to energy imbalance. Regular physical activity like walking, cycling and swimming, 30 minutes per day, five days a week, is the best way to burn calories. The more active you are, the more calories you burn.

The impact of sleep on weight is also significant. Lack of sleep can contribute to a disturbance in neuroendocrine control of appetite. This may lead to overeating, altered insulin resistance, and an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes – all of which can lead to weight gain. Several studies have shown that sleep deprivation damages the body’s ability to regulate eating by lowering levels of leptin, the hormone that tells the body when it is full. However, if you feel that your body is not responding to lifestyle changes, seek medical advice.

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