What is this metabolism thing anyway? Most people know that a high metabolism is good for losing or not gaining weight. Most also know that it’s something that slows down as we age. Beyond that, it’s largely a mystery for many, yet it’s probably something you think you should be concerned about. Well it is, so let’s learn a bit more.
Simply put, metabolism is the energy that we use to live and do things. It’s also our calorie output, which for the “average human,” is about 2000 calories per day. Now, this average varies widely and is made up of 3 components:
- Resting metabolic rate: Basically the calories we burn by not being dead. So things like breathing, organ function, and basic cellular activity. This commonly makes up 65-70% of our overall metabolism.
- Thermic effect of food: These are the calories we burn while eating and digesting food. Usually, around 10% of total calories burned.
- Activity: Calories burned by doing pretty much anything more than the stuff above. This is an endless variety of stuff, all the way from sitting up straight to climbing a fourteener. This often makes up 20-30% of daily calories burned.
So now the bigger question is, can we affect these things in a positive way? Can we boost our metabolism? As you can guess based on the title of this article, the answer is a resounding “Yes!” Even better, it’s not super complicated and you can probably start today!
3 Easy Metabolic Boosters
Again, it’s pretty well known that our metabolism slows down with aging. This is not a myth, as it does seem to happen with the majority of people. It’s not so much from just getting older, however, but more about how our lifestyle changes as we age. In adulthood, many people stop doing activities that support keeping or building muscle. This can have a big negative impact on our resting metabolic rate.
Also, most adults who try to lose weight do so with some combination of cutting calories and cardio. Studies show that when weight is lost in this manner, about 25% of the weight loss is muscle. This results in a very significant drop in metabolism, which then makes it very hard to maintain the weight loss.
Thankfully, we have this great tool called resistance training, aka lifting weights, which drastically helps the above issue. A whole host of studies confirms that 12+ weeks of resistance training results in an average metabolic boost of about 7%. Even if your diet stayed exactly the same, that 7% boost should net you roughly 14lbs of fat loss over the course of a year. Studies also show that when we are restricting calories for weight loss, resistance training helps us maintain both muscle mass and metabolism. This offers an enormous advantage to those who are attempting to lose weight, making resistance training pretty much a requirement for long-term weight loss success.
Eating More Protein
That “thermic effect of food” thing mentioned above is significantly influenced by the type of energy nutrients we eat (protein, fat, or carbohydrates). When we eat protein we burn about 3 times the amount of calories in digestion compared to carbohydrates. Compared to fat, protein burns about 10 times as many calories! Point being, protein increases metabolism.
We are also going to need some extra protein to support all that resistance training we now know that we must do. So how much protein? A good basic answer that many nutritionists agree on is 1 gram per pound of lean body weight. So if you are 200lbs and your body fat is 30%, that means you are 70% lean weight. Just multiply your body weight by your lean weight as a decimal (70% = .7) to get lean weight (200 x .7 = 140). So when you aim to eat 140g/day of protein. Don’t know your body fat % and/or hate math? A good rough estimate is about 100g/day for females and 150g/day for males.
Protein bonus: It also helps keep you full, which is a huge benefit when restricting calories!
Getting More NEAT
This NEAT concept is actually very neat in that it can often be the overlooked secret to weight loss success. NEAT stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, and basically refers to moving around in ways that aren’t considered formal exercise. Things like taking the stairs, walking around the neighborhood, manual labor, and even fidgeting could all be considered NEAT. This extra physical activity can tremendously increase calories burned in a day or week, and is very often THE difference-maker in weight loss success.
Let’s say we have two friends Jen and Lynn, who are trying to lose weight together. They start at the same weight and have the same body type. They go on identical diets and they always do the same workouts with each other, yet after 6 weeks Jen has lost 10 pounds and Lynn only 5. What gives? NEAT of course. Jen has a dog that she walks in the mornings and evenings, and she has a 3 year old son that she plays on the floor with most nights. Lynn spends her evenings watching TV on the couch with her family. Those few extra activities make all the difference for Jen!
Okay, so I have to get a young kid to play with and a dog to walk? Of course not silly. There are endless ways to get more NEAT. Get a standing workstation, park further away at the store (house, office, six flags, etc.), set a reminder to get up and walk down the hall every hour while at work, and on and on. The old “10,000 steps per day” goal is a great way to get more NEAT, and your phone is probably already keeping track of steps for you!
Now you hopefully know some more stuff about metabolism, and how to increase it. Even if you knew all of this already, there is a good chance you’re not doing all of it. So how do you get it done?
A great way to start is to set some goals that involve action. Set one easy-to-achieve goal in each category above and get to crackin’! You don’t have to conquer the world, just do more than you are now. So let’s say you do no weight training, are not even sure what protein is, and the recliner at home is your soul mate. Great goals would be to:
- Hire a trainer to learn how to lift weights.
- Do some research on good protein sources, and aim to include one extra protein portion in your day.
- Aim to peel yourself off the recliner, walk out the door, and not come back for 20-30 minutes each evening. That would be an awesome start!
If you’re not getting what you want, you have to do something different. Also, a little structure and planning are pretty key. If you feel like you need help with all or some of this, we’ve got your back at Cherry Creek Athletic. We offer world class personal training, nutrition coaching, wellness coaching, and more! Let us know how we can help.
About the Author:
Matthew Luckie is a Fitness Professional at Cherry Creek Athletic with 18 years of fitness experience, including over 10 years of college/university teaching. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise and Sport Sciences, and a Master’s Degree in Kinesiology. His certifications include Certified Exercise Physiologist (ACSM), Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (NSCA), and Certified Health and Wellness Coach (WellCoaches). He loves enjoying the Colorado outdoors with his wife Stephanie, is a Florida Gator, and “skis pretty darn good for a Florida boy.” Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Halton, T.L. and Hu, F.B. The Effects of High Protein Diets on Thermogenesis, Satiety, and Weight Loss: A Critical Review. J. Am. Coll. Nutr. 23(5): 373-385.
- Mettler, S., Mitchell, N., and Tipton, K.D. (2010). Increased Protein Intake Reduces Lean Body Mass Loss During Weight Loss in Athletes. Sci. Sports and Exerc. 42(2): 326-337.