Medically reviewed by Shahzadi Devje, Registered Dietitian (RD) & Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE)
This word “metabolism” is thrown around a lot these days.
You know that if yours is too slow you might gain weight. But what exactly does this all mean?
Well technically “metabolism” is the word to describe all of the biochemical reactions in your body. It’s how you take in nutrients and oxygen and use them to fuel everything you do.
Your body has an incredible ability to grow, heal, and generally stay alive. And without this amazing biochemistry you would not be possible.
Metabolism includes how the cells in your body:
- Allow activities you can control (e.g. physical activity etc.).
- Allow activities you can’t control (e.g. heart beat, wound healing, processing of nutrients & toxins, etc.).
- Allow storage of excess energy for later.
So when you put all of these processes together into your metabolism you can imagine that these processes can work too quickly, too slowly, or just right.
Which brings us to the “metabolic rate”.
This is how fast your metabolism works and is measured in calories (yup, those calories!).
The calories you eat can go to one of three places:
- Work (i.e. exercise and other activity).
- Heat (i.e. from all those biochemical reactions).
- Storage (i.e. extra leftover “unburned” calories stored as fat).
As you can imagine the more calories you burn as work or creating heat the easier it is to lose weight and keep it off because there will be fewer “leftover” calories to store for later.
There are a couple of different ways to measure metabolic rate. One is the “resting metabolic rate” (RMR) which is how much energy your body uses when you’re not being physically active.
The other is the “total daily energy expenditure” (TDEE) which measures both the resting metabolic rate as well as the energy used for “work” (e.g. exercise) throughout a 24-hour period.
What affects your metabolic rate?
In a nutshell: a lot!
The first thing you may think of is your thyroid. This gland at the front of your throat releases hormones to tell your body to “speed up” your metabolism. Of course, the more thyroid hormone there is the faster things will work and the more calories you’ll burn.
But that’s not the only thing that affects your metabolic rate.
How big you are counts too!
Larger people have higher metabolic rates; but your body composition is crucial!
As you can imagine muscles that actively move and do work need more energy than fat does. So the more lean muscle mass you have the more energy your body will burn and the higher your metabolic rate will be. Even when you’re not working out.
Build those muscles
This is exactly why weight training is often recommended as a part of a weight loss program. Because you want muscles to be burning those calories for you.
The thing is, when people lose weight their metabolic rate often slows down which you don’t want to happen. So you definitely want to offset that with more muscle mass.
Do quick bursts of activity
Aerobic exercise also temporarily increases your metabolic rate. Your muscles are burning fuel to move so they’re doing “work”. According to research, a high intensity workout, like HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) not only revs up your metabolism but may also help to burn fat.
It’s always a wise move to vary up your exercise regimen to prevent boredom and stay physically challenged.
Just stand up
Are you sitting down reading this? How about you stand up? It turns out that simply standing is good for your health; people who sit for extended periods of time have a higher risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and other related lifestyles diseases. Standing actively engages your leg, back and abdominal muscles.
Don’t forget the mind-body connection
There is plenty of research that shows the influence that things like stress and sleep have on the metabolic rate.
This reason is often the most overlooked. Studies have shown that lack of sleep is not only linked to higher rates of obesity, but sleep deprivation can increase food cravings and reduce appetite control (yes, those dreaded cravings). Get a handle on food cravings by learning what could be causing them and how to curb them – once and for all.
Pay attention to the food
The type of food you eat also affects your metabolic rate!
Your body actually burns calories to absorb, digest, and metabolize your food. This is called the “thermic effect of food” (TEF).
You can use it to your advantage when you understand how your body metabolizes foods differently.
Protein, fat and carbs
Fats, for example increase your TEF by 0-3%; carbs increase it by 5-10%, and protein increases it by 15-30%. By trading some of your fat or carbs for lean protein you may, in fact, slightly increase your metabolic rate.
Another bonus of protein is that your muscles need it to grow. By working them out (remember the weight training and HIIT) and feeding them what they need may help you to lose weight, and keep it off.Do you know which macronutrient can increase your #metabolism the most? Want a delicious #recipe to make this work for you? Get it here. Click To Tweet
Glad to hear this one? Well, some research indicates that coffee, a stimulant, may boost metabolism. This golden milk turmeric coffee is health in a cup; milk infused with turmeric, ginger, cinnamon and coffee to create a spicy, warm, and creamy brew. It’s delicious!
Remember, go easy on this one, as coffee can have a disruptive impact on sleep. According to Dietitians of Canada, women of childbearing age should have no more than 300 mg caffeine/day and for healthy adults – no more than 400 mg caffeine/day.
Hot chilly peppers
Capsaicin, a substance found in peppers has shown in some studies to help boost your metabolism, however I’m not convinced; the dose required to achieve this effect is not tolerable for most of us and the effect is short-lived.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to metabolism and how so many different things can work to increase (or decrease) your metabolic rate. What have you tried to boost your metabolism? Leave me a comment below.
Recipe (Lean Protein): Easy Lemon Pepper Salmon – with a whopping 36 g protein per serving.
Easy Lemon Pepper Salmon | Low Carb, 20-minute Recipe
- 450 g salmon fillets MSC certified, frozen
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 2/3 tsp sea salt
- 1 tbsp lemon zest
- 1 lemon juice, small
- 1 tomato small
- 4 slices lemon
- 1/2 tbsp olive oil extra virgin
- Thaw, drain and dry salmon ﬁllets
- Preheat oven to 420 degrees Fahrenheit. Lay parchment paper in oven-proof sheet pan or dish and place ﬁllets
- Combine pepper and salt. Season ﬁllets on both sides with salt-pepper mixture
- Sprinkle lemon zest evenly over ﬁllets
- Combine lemon juice and oil and mix. Pour over ﬁllets
- Wash and cut tomato and lemon in medium slices and arrange on ﬁllets
- Place in the middle shelf of the oven and bake for about 15 minutes. Since the cooking time depends on the ﬁllet thickness and oven temperatures, check with a fork to conﬁrm that ﬁsh is fully cooked
- Defrost salmon in the fridge
- Use paper towels to dry the salmon fillets thoroughly dry before preparation
- When choosing lemons, go for unwaxed
- When baking, check the fish after 10 minutes in case it's already cooked through. You want to prevent overcooking the fillets
- Leftover will keep well in the fridge for 2 days
- Leftover can be eaten cold with salad or can be reheated until piping hot all the way through
Please note the nutritional analysis values are estimates and suggestions. This nutrition facts table does not know your life - your body, including your hunger and satiety cues, change daily. It's okay to eat more or less. Say no to food guilt and instead embrace mindful eating.
Shahzadi is an award-winning registered dietitian (RD) regulated by the College of Dietitians of Ontario and certified diabetes educator (CDE), approved by the Canadian Diabetes Educator Certification Board. A YouTuber and notorious foodie, she’s dedicated to helping you end your cooking wars, transform your health, and be the best version of yourself! Shahzadi is an on-air nutrition expert for CTV Your Morning and a regular contributor for Global News and other national media outlets.