It’s likely you’ve heard someone refer to metabolism when talking about body weight – what impact it might have on weight, alongside methods of improving metabolism, and how it helps weight loss. But what exactly is metabolism? And how does it impact your weight? In this article, I hope to shed some light on these questions and more, alongside how metabolism can be improved with simple changes to lifestyle.
Metabolism is a process in the body which converts food and drink you consume into energy. The calories in the food you eat are combined with oxygen to produce the energy that your body needs, and the speed of this is determined by your metabolic rate, a base measurement of the metabolism in your body. Having a high metabolic rate will mean your body will break down more resources into energy for use, and visa-versa. This means that people with a higher metabolic rate will generally lose more weight, as their bodies are breaking down the stored energy in fat to use as energy.
Metabolism can be changed. However, there’s some factors that are inherited from DNA that can impact a person’s base metabolism, and can’t be changed. Body shape and composition can impact metabolism massively for instance, where someone with a larger body – taller, or more muscle mass – will burn more calories in their body resting than a smaller person with less muscle mass, resulting in their metabolism being higher.
Age can be an important element to metabolism too – as your age increases the amount of muscle in your body will decrease, your metabolism will subsequently decrease meaning more food is stored as fat. Your gender can have some impact on your metabolism – males usually have more muscle mass than females and therefore have a higher metabolism as the muscle mass will burn more calories.
Aside from genetic factors that affect your metabolism, it can also be changed through lifestyle choices. People who exercise less frequently will have less need in their body for calories due to a lower metabolism, and the food they eat will be therefore stored as fat in the body, resulting in weight gain. People who exercise regularly, on the other hand, will have more of a need for calories due to their increased muscle mass and calorie usage, causing weight loss.
According to the NHS, aiming to do at least 150 minutes of aerobic activities (walking, or cycling for instance) is the baseline for achieving a healthy body, so to increase metabolism you should aim to do more than that, alongside making changes to your normal diet in a healthy way. You can fit this aerobic activity into your daily routine easily just by walking instead of taking the bus or cycling to places you would usually use the car to get to.
Adversely, your metabolism can be impacted by hormones which can cause weight loss and gain. A small gland in the neck called the thyroid gland has a large impact on metabolism. Some diets can cause specific levels of hormones in the thyroid to drop, affecting the way you burn calories to generate body heat. This can cause a decrease in metabolism and can be a cause of being overweight when on varying diets for a long period of time. To avoid this, always maintain a sensible diet containing healthy foods.
Weight gain or loss is related to your metabolism. However, it’s important to remember that metabolism is a natural process. Your body is capable of regulating the amount of energy it needs, and it’s, therefore, more important to focus on factors that you have to regulate for your body.
Simply changing your daily calorie intake, and focusing on doing more physical activity during the day can make a massive difference to both your metabolism over a long period of time. Sleep is also essential to maintaining a stable metabolism – sleep is essential for resting your body, and for cell regeneration and growth.