Studies show that eight out of 10 dieters are attempting to lose weight all on their own. While eating better is essential for any weight loss journey, many people find that without the proper knowledge that comes from working with a personal health coach, healthy eating isn’t as simple as it sounds. And diets aren’t a one-size-fits-all system. Understanding your own genetic makeup and how your body responds to certain foods and exercises is invaluable. One commonly misunderstood concept that gets dieters in trouble is metabolism. Let’s talk about what this term really means and how it can affect your own personal weight loss practices.
Metabolism is technically defined as the organic and chemical processes inside of organisms that are needed to maintain life. But you’ve got a lot going on inside your body, so let’s narrow this down a bit. Through the process of metabolism, the body produces the energy we need for activities like digestion, movement, tissue repair, thinking, etc. Those activities expend energy. How does metabolism produce energy? From the nutrients we consume. That’s where food comes in.
Fast vs Slow Metabolism
You’ve heard people blame their weight loss struggles on their “slow metabolism,” and while it’s much more complex than that, they may not be entirely wrong. A slower metabolic rate can decrease the rate at which you burn fat. Metabolism is measured in calories; or rather, calories (which come from food) are required for metabolism to produce energy. A person with a slow metabolism will use fewer calories both while they are resting and while they’re active. Someone with a fast metabolism with burn through their calories much quicker and must eat more to maintain their weight.
Factors That Determine Metabolic Rate
Metabolism varies from person to person, but it is not fixed. The following factors can affect metabolic rate:
- Genetics: Some people have a naturally fast or slow metabolism
- Gender: Men typically tend to burn calories faster than women.
- Age: Beyond age 40, metabolic rate usually decreases about 5% every 10 years.
- Muscle Composition: Heavier people with greater muscle mass tend to have a higher resting metabolic rate (RMR) than thinner or leaner individuals.
- Physical Activity: RMR increases with exercise.
- Medications: Certain medications may speed up or slow down metabolism.
- Diet: When combined with other factors, what you eat can also affect your metabolism. For instance, studies show that lean proteins may speed up metabolism while simple carbs like white bread can slow it down.
Yes, metabolism can be fast or slow, but there are ways you can take control of your metabolic rate. A healthy diet and physical activity may do more than you realize to improve the way your body produces and uses energy.