Does your metabolism confuse you? Find out the truth once and for all with our myth busting guide...
The poor metabolism gets blamed for everything these days. Weight gain, lack of energy, even our day-to-day health. But what actually is it and more importantly – can we learn how to speed up metabolism?
We went on a quest to find out and asked diet and fitness expert Alessandro Alviani from Nordic Balance to give us the low down on this chemical reaction. Most of us are guilty of blaming our sluggish metabolisms for our inability to shed weight, so we reckon it’s time to find out more about it and how to speed up metabolism once and for all!
‘The metabolism is the sum of the physical and chemical processes in an organism by which its material substance is produced, maintained, and destroyed, and by which energy is made available,’ Alessandro explains.
‘Basically, its the entire chemical processes going on continuously inside your body to allow life and normal functioning.’
All metabolism processes are controlled by hormones and the nervous system and influenced by your age, gender, muscle-to-fat ratio, eating, physical activity and overall lifestyle, Alessandro explains.
‘The total amount of calories we spend every day to run all these processes is called total daily energy expenditure (TDEE), and it’s spent as follows:
- 60-70% just to maintain vital functions such as breathing, regulating the temperature and the heart beating – this is the BMR (basal metabolic rate).
- 15-30% to do our daily activities (working, training, commuting, etc.)
- 10-15% to break down the food and assimilate it.
‘Basal metabolic rate, daily activities and food eaten are the key factors that affect our total daily energy expenditure (daily metabolism).’
So, now that we know what we are talking about, let’s debunk the 5 biggest myths and discover how to speed up metabolism…
'If you are overweight your metabolism is likely to be actually running fast because the more you weigh and the larger you are, the harder your body has to work to carry itself around and to avoid heat dispersion,' reveals Alessandro.
'As a result of that the metabolism of an overweight individual runs faster than the one of a slimmer person. So, apart from some rare metabolic diseases, you are very likely overweight because you eat too much and exercise too little!'
Alessandro's Top Tip: 'Go by foot instead of taking the bus, walk up the stairs instead of using the lift, go to the shops instead of shopping on-line. Those are just a few examples of activities that can impact your metabolism substantially increasing your daily energy expenditure, and speed up weight-loss.'
'The primary reason the metabolism slows down as you grow older is because your hormone levels drop down and you lose muscles,' continues Alessandro.
'If you keep up with your training, get good sleep and eat adequate levels of lean protein, vegetables and fruit, you should prevent hormones from falling down and muscle mass being lost.
'Don't use your age as an excuse - it's not uncommon to see 50-year-old people being fitter than someone half their age and you can bet their metabolism is faster as well.'
Alessandro's Top Tip: 'The way we breathe affects our metabolism since the amount of oxygen we make use of determines how many calories we burn. Learn the proper breathing basics and try specific breathing exercises to increase metabolism.'
'If you consider that your body adapts in order to overcame hostilities and survive, why would someone who's going to run and burn hundreds of calories each session need a higher metabolism as well? The reality is that steady-state aerobic exercises causes a temporary increase in the energy expenditure but as a rebound, slows down the basal metabolic rate (BMR),' Alessandro says.
'At the opposite, strength exercises don't burn many calories themselves but by leading the body to build functional lean tissue (anabolism) they consistently rev up the metabolism. So non-aerobic exercises but a smart resistance-training programme should be at the very top of anyone's metabolism-boosting regime!'
Alessandro's Top Tip: 'Alongside cardiovascular training, focus on building muscle through big compound body weight exercises (squats, press-ups, pull-ups etc.) and strengthening exercises.'
'Higher is not necessarily better,' argues Alessandro.
'It's true that an ultra-fast metabolism allows you to eat more, recover faster, sleep less and generally live life at a superior gear but the downside of an ultra-fast metabolism is pretty obvious: people with a faster metabolism show signs of cellular ageing faster than people with slower metabolisms and are perhaps more likely to develop diseases sooner. Scientists think this is a major reason why women so often outlive men.
'Now nobody is saying you should be spending your life sat watching the TV and trying to slow down your metabolism, just try to not get obsessed by having an ultra-fast metabolism and envious of anyone who's got it, all that glitters is not gold!'
Alessandro's Top Tip: 'Drink plenty of water: proper hydration is key to a fast metabolism. The amount a person needs to drink to avoid getting dehydrated will vary depending on a range of factors, including their size, the temperature and how active they are. As a general guideline drink at least 30ml of water per kg of body weight.'
'You have full control over your metabolism!' explains Alessandro. 'There is no proof or scientific indication to state that we inherit our metabolisms or the speed at which they work.
'Quite simply, you can't blame weight gain or energy loss on the speed of you metabolism. You control it and can make the difference with a few simple steps.'
Alessandro's Top Tip: 'The amount of rest you get each night doesn't only affect your mood and productivity the next day, but it also affects your metabolism. The need for sleep is individual but as a general rule try not to sleep less than 6 hours per night, 7-8 hours is still the ideal for most people.'