You’ve probably heard the word “metabolism” in reference to weight loss or weight gain, but what exactly is metabolism and how does it affect your ability to achieve your weight loss goals? Is it true that people with a “slow” metabolism struggle to lose weight, while those with a “fast” metabolism can eat whatever they want without gaining weight?
Here’s what you need to know about metabolism and how it is related to weight loss or weight gain.
Metabolism is the process through which your body converts what you eat and drink into the energy it needs to function. It is a process of all living things during which calories are combined with oxygen to release energy.
Even at rest, your body requires energy for basic life functions, such as breathing, circulating blood, growing and repairing cells. Your basal metabolic rate—or metabolism—is the number of calories your body requires to carry out these basic functions.
There are a number of factors that can influence your metabolism. These include:
While metabolism is certainly linked to weight and it is true that a “faster” metabolism burns calories more quickly, a slow metabolism is not always the cause of excess weight gain. How much you eat, what foods you eat, and how much you exercise are more influential factors and ultimately determine how much weight you gain or lose than your body’s metabolism rate.
Weight gain is a complicated combination of genetic factors, hormones, diet, environment, sleep, physical activity and stress. Rare medical problems, such as Cushing’s syndrome or an underactive thyroid (hypothyroid) can significantly slow metabolism and cause weight gain.
It is true that some people tend to lose weight more easily and more quickly than others, but everyone will lose weight when they eat fewer calories than they burn. In order to lose weight, you must create an energy deficit by eating less or increasing physical activity, or both.
There is little you can do to alter the speed of your basal metabolism, but it is possible to increase calorie burn by altering your diet and increasing physical activity. It may be that people who have a “fast” metabolism simply move more than those with a “slow” metabolism.
Many weight loss programs are designed to help you increase calorie burn in order to reach your weight loss goals. Standard weight loss programs include an exercise regimen and weight loss diet.
Weight loss exercise programs should include a combination of aerobic/cardio exercise as well as strength training. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderately intense aerobic exercise each week. That breaks down to about 30 minutes, five days a week. If you cannot fit a 30 minutes of cardio workout into your day, try breaking it up into three 10-minute exercise segments throughout the day.
Strength training increases muscle mass. Because muscle burns more calories than fat, the more muscle mass you have, the more calories your body will burn. Most experts recommend at least two strength training workouts each week. These workouts can include weightlifting and/or bodyweight exercises.
Making changes in your daily lifestyle activities can also help increase your energy expenditure throughout the day. Look for ways to get more movement in during your daily routine, such as parking at the back of the parking lot at the store, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or holding walking meetings at work. Don’t be afraid to get creative; the more active you are, the more change you’ll see.
No matter how much you exercise, no amount of physical activity can make up for a bad diet. If you are serious about achieving your weight loss goals, take time to evaluate your diet. How many calories do you consume on a daily basis, and what are the sources of those calories?
Here are a few tips for a healthy weight loss diet:
If diet and exercise alone have not helped you achieve your weight loss goals, consider seeking help from a weight loss doctor. Contact First Baptist Medical Center today to schedule an appointment with an experienced weight loss doctor who can recommend medical interventions to help you lose weight and keep it off.