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Metabolism and Weight Loss Refresher

1 week, 1 day ago

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Posted on Nov 20, 2020, 4 p.m.

For those struggling to shed unwanted weight, learning a little bit about how your metabolism works may help you to reach weight loss success as many factors such as diet choices, exercise habits, and underlying health will affect how your body will burn or store calories.

According to the NIH, the term metabolism refers to the processes in the body that use energy, but the word is most used when we talk about weight. When a person says they have a fast/slow metabolism they are typically referring to their ability to lose weight or maintain a normal weight. Generally, most people can increase/decrease the rate at which they burn calories but many don’t know how to or that biological sex, daily habits, and health status can affect their metabolism. 

The term metabolism can refer to any number of chemical processes that occur within the body, but in terms of weight loss what most people are interested in is BMR. BMR is how much energy a person uses every day to stay alive, and according to the National Strength and Conditioning Association, it accounts for around 65-70% of total caloric expenditure. There are many online calculators that attempt to estimate your BMR but they don’t take into account muscle to fat ratio, for a more accurate figure talk with a specialist for a calorimeter test to determine your BMR. 

The more muscle mass you have the more calories your body will burn even while at rest. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, this is because at rest each pound of muscle on your frame expends about 6 calories per day, while on the other hand a pound of fat uses around 2 calories. The best way to build muscle is by doing strength training exercises. A report published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that 9 months of strength training 3 times per week raised participants' resting metabolic rate by 5%. 

Digesting food also burns calories, and of the 3 macronutrients protein burns the most. Increasing protein intake has been shown to temporarily boost metabolism by 15-30%. A protein-rich diet encourages healthy levels of lean muscle mass to increase basal metabolic rate. Protein can come from lean cuts of meat, chicken, fish, dairy, whole grains, and other plant-based sources such as beans, lentils and nuts, but for the best effects spread your protein intake out throughout the day. 

Typically men will have more total body mass and higher levels of testosterone which influences calorie burning, as such research shows that within the first months of a weight loss regimen men can lose twice as much weight as women do. This fact can be a little disconcerting for women exercising with a male partner who are losing weight more slowly. Keep in mind that this is not necessarily a sign that you are doing something wrong, every body works uniquely just focus on yours. 

Women also get the short end of the stick when it comes to metabolism and menopause as this process can lower the body’s ability to burn calories. During menopause estrogen levels decrease which can reduce the metabolic rate, and it can also cause the accumulation of more belly fat which will further influence metabolism. To add to this research also shows that age-associated declines in muscle mass can make matters even worse. A review published in Menopause suggests that combining a healthy diet and exercise is the best bet and more effective combined than on their own to preserve muscle mass during menopause. High fiber meals may be beneficial and researchers suggest keeping daily protein intake to be 0.36 grams per pound of ideal body weight.

Specific illnesses or medication can also affect the rate at which one burns energy. Insulin resistance, unhealthy thyroid function and certain medications can affect metabolism and cause weight gain according to Harvard Medical School. The University of Rochester Medical Center says that some steroids, blood pressure reducing medications, epilepsy medications, and some antidepressants are linked with weight gain. If you think that you are in this category speak to your doctor or medical professional to explore this potential issue. 

The ever-important vitamin D contributes to many aspects of human health including bone health, moods, immunity, and research has also shown that the sunshine vitamin also plays a role in metabolism and weight change. Sadly most people are lacking in this essential vitamin, and each person absorbs different amounts of it. To determine your levels speak with your doctor or certified medical professional. According to the NIH potential signs of a deficiency include bone pain and muscle weakness. 

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