So you have cut down your calories and are active more than ever before but still the fat doesn’t seem to budge off from your body. And you almost always end up blaming your poor metabolism for that and deep within you wonder Can you really speed up your metabolism? Can your weight woes really see its end someday? Are there any ways to increase metabolism? How come so many people can just develop a fast metabolism by magic while you can’t figure this out? Well before we dig deeper into this discussion let us get to know what is metabolism.
What is metabolism?
Metabolism can be defined as the sum total of all chemical reactions occurring inside our cell helping in our bodily functions ( respiration, digestion, excretion, and other processes) thus keeping us alive. They are essentially the reason that we are living every single day. According to researchers at NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) if we know about metabolism in more details we will get to know about the origin of life in more detail. It is essentially divided into two categories:-
- Catabolism- the metabolic processes helping in the breakdown of complex molecules by breaking down simple molecules. E.g.- the breakdown of glucose.
- Anabolism- the metabolic process helping in the synthesis of complex substances from simpler ones. E.g.- synthesis of glucose.
Energy is required to keep these body processes going. The minimum amount of energy required to carry out these processes is called Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). According to a report published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of The United Nations (FAO) in 2001, it is responsible for 40-70% of our body’s daily energy requirements. Fundamentally “slow metabolism” accounts for low BMR.
Why do some people have a fast metabolism?
Our metabolism is partly determined by our genes and partly by our age, body size, and gender. According to a study by Harvard Medical School, “If your metabolism is “high (or fast), you will burn more calories at rest and during activity. A high metabolism means you’ll need to take in more calories to maintain weight. A person with “low” metabolism will burn fewer calories at rest and during activity and therefore has to eat less to avoid becoming overweight.”
In general, people having more muscle than fat tend to have a fast basal metabolic rate (BMR) than others as muscles require more energy to maintain than fat cells. As we age, our muscle content decreases which lead to a decrease in our basal metabolic rate (BMR).
Does my slow metabolism make me fat?
Though many people are quick to blame their ” slow metabolism” for their inability to lose weight, evidence shows otherwise.
According to a report published Harvard Medical School, the United States “ It’s part truth and part myth that metabolism is the key to weight. The rising tide of obesity in this country cannot be blamed entirely on an inherited tendency to have a slow metabolism. Genes don’t change that easily. The reality is that for most people, excess weight is not all due to bad luck, thyroid trouble, or some unexplained uncontrollable external factor. It’s simple accounting involving calories in and calories out that determine changes in weight over a lifetime.”
It is actually believed that fat people tend to have fast metabolism because larger bodies require more energy to maintain than smaller ones. Most probably, the reason for putting on weight isn’t because of a slow metabolism rather it’s because of the consumption of more calories than you are burning calories.
Can I really speed up my metabolism?
In this era of losing and gaining weight, we speak of metabolism as something that can be controlled by some magic pill or a diet or any other fancy tea. Well, it’s nothing more than a metabolism myth. No there are no particular ways to increase metabolism but through certain diet and exercise you can try to have a good metabolic rate.
“While there are certain foods like coffee, chili and other spices that might be some ways to increase metabolism the effects are too negligible to address our weight loss problems.”, explains Michael Jensen, a researcher who studies obesity and metabolism at Mayo Clinic, However, increasing muscle mass can marginally be more helpful as it will result in a marginal increase of our metabolic rate. However here’s a caveat too according to Michael Rosensaum, a Professor at Columbia University studying weight loss and metabolism, “If you have more muscle, it burns fuel more rapidly. But that’s only half the digestion. If you do gain more muscle and effectively speed up your metabolism, you have to fight the natural tendency to want to eat more as a result of your higher metabolism.” Jensen noted that it’s practically difficult for people to continue the workouts that are required to maintain the muscle they have gained. He added “There isn’t any part of the resting metabolism that you have huge control over, the control tends to be relatively modest and unfortunately it also tends to be on the downside.”
So, we don’t have much control over our metabolism and there are no specific ways to increase metabolism, though we have the ability to control the number of calories burnt through various levels of physical activity. So, the more active you are, the more calories you burn through varying degrees of physical activity.
So here we have made a list of the 5 easiest and effective ways to increase metabolism-
The term aerobic means “with oxygen”, thus it essentially means that the oxygen intake by the muscles to burn fuel and move will be regulated by our breathing during these exercises. Aerobic exercise refers to any form of exercise that uses up oxygen to fuel our muscles. These types of exercises provide cardiovascular conditioning. Incorporating any kind of aerobic activity is the most effective way to burn calories as it increases oxygen intake which results into the burning(oxidation) of the triglycerides (a type of fat found in our blood, the body stores unused calories as triglycerides into our fat cells) into building blocks thus leading to fat loss.
A study by Harvard Medical School in the United States stated that 120 calories (125-pound), 149 calories (155-pound) and 178 calories (185-pound) were burnt respectively after a 30-minute session of water aerobics; stationary or moderate bicycling for a period of 30 minutes led to a loss of 210 calories(125-pound), 260 calories(155-pound)and 311 calories(185-pound)respectively while stretching or doing yoga for 30 minutes led to a loss of 120 calories(125 pounds), 149 calories(155 pounds) and 178 calories(185 pounds) respectively.
According to The American Heart Association incorporating a minimum of 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercises such as walking, swimming, or cycling every single day on a consistent basis can go a long way to help you control your weight.
Strength training exercises are exercises that increase the strength and endurance of our bodies. The basic moves of strength training exercises include squat, hinge, push, pull, and core work. These exercises help us to build lean muscle which in turn uses more calories to maintain homeostasis in our body. Thus muscle burns more calories than fat so increasing our muscle mass will help us to lose weight. These exercises are one of the most optimal ways to lose those stubborn fats.
According to a study by Harvard Medical School in The United States, 30 minutes of vigorous weight lifting led to a deficit of 180 calories (125 pounds), 223 calories (155 pounds) and 266 calories (185 pounds) respectively while general circuit training led to a loss of 240 calories(125 pounds), 298 calories(155 pounds) and 355 calories (185 pounds) respectively. You should incorporate activities to strengthen your major muscle groups like legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, and shoulder at least 3 days a week for 30 minutes to help build up muscle to aid in more calorie burning.
Exercising helps us to burn calories and helps us to stay fit. However, more subtle forms of physical exercise can also help us to burn calories. This process is known as Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) which includes fidgeting.
Fidgeting refers to constantly moving our body parts in a restless manner like tapping fingers, bowing legs, etc.
According to a study, published in the journal Science fidgeting while sitting or standing can actually increase the number of calories burnt by 29% and 38% respectively( as compared to lying still). As a result of this it can account for 100 to 800 calories burnt off as heat energy per day.
According to an estimate by The World Health Organization (WHO) we only need to eat 100 to 200 calories more than we expend to incrementally gain weight and this can be amongst many ways to increase metabolism. So, the amount exerted by fidgeting will be enough to address this imbalance.
Sit on a Stability ball
Swapping your desk chair for a stability ball will help you to strengthen your core and also burn more calories at the same time. In a study conducted by The National Institutes of Health (NIH), the United States sitting on the stability ball resulted in 10-16 % higher VO2(maximum oxygen uptake during exercise). This higher VO2 suggests increased energy expenditure. Consequently, the addition of this ball could increase energy expenditure by 10% or more. So if a person has 20 minutes of 3 sessions per week, there will be an additional loss of 1/6 kg of fat in a year as compared to sitting on a chair.
According to Jill Koegel, RD, sports certified registered dietician, sitting on those big sports balls during your workday can burn up to extra 100 calories a day. If there are 30 workdays in a year- that could add up to an extra 30,000 calories in a single year.
Last but not the least, a sedentary lifestyle will never aid in your weight loss. To read from the report of National Institutes of Health (NIH), “The relation between sedentary lifestyle and obesity is well established. Sedentary behavior occurs during work and while at home. Many people spend the majority of their weekly waking hours at work and so solutions to reserve sedentariness and promote physical activity are necessary.” Many Scientists studying the ill effects of a decrease in physical activity at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have revealed a multifaceted relationship between energy expenditure, health, and physical work.
The study at Harvard Medical School stated that for 30 minutes sessions of each of the following:- a 125-pound person could lose up to 135 calories, a 155-pound person up to 167 calories and a 185-pound person up to 200 calories by indulging in general gardening activities for 30 minutes; a 125-pound person can lose up to 135 calories, a 155-pound person up to 167 calories and 185-pound person up to 200 calories respectively by doing heavy cleaning work (washing cars and windows) and moderate playing activities with kids could create a loss of 120 calories (125-pounds), 149 calories(155-pound) and 178 calories (185-pound) respectively while for computer work a deficit of 41 calories(125-pound), 51 calories (155-pound) and 61 calories(185-pound)respectively was noted: for sitting in meetings , a deficit of 49 calories (125-pound person), 60 calories(155-pound) and 72 calories(72-pound) respectively was noted and for light office works a loss of 53 calories (125-pounds), 56 calories(155-pounds) and 67 calories (185-pounds) respectively was noted.
The difference between the energy expenditure of an active lifestyle and a sedentary lifestyle has been substantially proved by these findings. Hopefully, this report might help you to decide the next time whether you want to use the lift or use the stairs instead, whether you should do that gardening work that needs to be done or whether you should do the cleaning of your house yourself instead of for opting for other people to do it for you and well this might also end up with an addition of a dedicated playtime with your kids instead of sitting in front of your computer and might be amongst the best ways to increase metabolism.
The Bottom Line
To put in the words from the report of Harvard Medical School, “When it comes to weight, metabolism is important and does have a genetic component, there are no specific ways to increase metabolism. Whether you can change your metabolic rate, however, is a matter of considerable debate. Clearly, you can change how you balance the calories you take in against the calories you burn up through activity, which can change your weight.”
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