Last week, inspired by the controversy surrounding the latest winner of the reality TV show, ‘The Biggest Loser’, we had a look at healthy weight loss and what it means to shed the pounds in a sustainable, healthy way. In the weight loss world, we often hear of metabolism, how it affects our bodies and our weight, and how we can give it a ‘boost’. But what exactly is metabolism? How does it work, and how can we make it work for us when getting fit and losing weight?
Metabolism is the rate at which your body uses energy, or, burns calories. It is an endless, two-part cycle of anabolism (when energy is created and stored) and catabolism (when energy is used or released). This process is directly dependent on our endocrine system, or hormones. Simply put, if our hormones are at all out of balance, then so too will be our metabolism, meaning the rate at which our body uses calories is not optimized.
In addition to considering our hormonal balance (which controls a lot more in our bodies than just our metabolism; like cell and tissue growth, mood regulation, etc.), there are other key factors to consider when considering our weight. Although metabolism does have the major role of serving our body’s energy needs, our weight is based predominantly on calories consumed and physical activity. If you consume more ‘energy’ than you expend, you will hang on to some of that energy in the form of excess weight. Keeping this in mind, and supposing we are doing our best to output more energy (exercise) than we are inputting (calories), what can we do make sure that the calorie-burning going on inside of us is optimized? How can we make sure our metabolism is running at its very best?
Eat regularly, and consume 2/3 of your calories in the first 9 hours of your day. If you skip meals or intensely reduce calories, your body’s metabolism slows way down, and your body hangs onto those calories to fuel basic functions.
Strength training: More muscles = faster metabolism! Muscle burns calories more efficiently than fat; the more muscle you have in relation to your body fat, the higher your metabolism will be. So integrate the weights or resistance training.
Good nights: Lack of sleep over a prolonged period (‘sleep debt’) can seriously alter our hormonal balance, which in turn can negatively affect our metabolism. Aiming to get 7-8 hours of truly restful sleep will promote hormonal balance, along with all the other benefits of getting a good night’s rest!
Stress: Cortisol, the stress hormone, can wreak havoc on our hormonal balance when our stress is not kept in check. Engaging regularly in relaxing activities like massage, meditation, walking in nature, even simple deep breathing, will not only help your state of mind, but your hormonal balance as well.
Keep in mind too that our metabolism, like many aspects of aging, slows down, which helps to explain why many people in their 40s and 50s notice that they are unable to lose weight like they were in years past. To maintain weight as we age, we need fewer calories than we did as spring chickens.
In addition to these tips, Dr. Edward Geehr, M.D. and writer for Lifescript.com, has summarized all the tips he learned at Mountain Trek on how to boost your metabolism. And of course, there is always the option of trying all these tips for yourself, in a metabolism reboot at Mountain Trek!
No matter what our age, exercise (both aerobic and strength training), nutrition, and engaging in healthy hormone balancing habits are the keys to losing weight, feeling fit and living with vitality!