What is Metabolism?

The word “metabolism” is used quite a bit these days.

You know that if yours is too slow you might gain weight. But what exactly does this all mean? Does being plant-based affect your metabolism? 

First of all, it’s worth understanding what metabolism actually is. 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. heartbeat, wound healing, processing of nutrients and toxins, etc.).
●    Allow storage of excess energy for later.

That’s a lot! 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”. 

Metabolic rate

This is how fast your metabolism works and is measured in 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.

If this all sounds like a lot to take in and you’d like help with improving your metabolism so you can achieve the weight loss you want, book yourself a call with me now. We can discuss areas you are having difficulties with and talk about how I can help you. 

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.

This is exactly why weight training is often recommended as a part of a weight loss programme. Because you want muscles to be burning those calories for you. It’s also a good idea in general. As we age our muscle mass decreases. It’s not something I started focusing on until I was in my 40s and I wish I’d started sooner. I have really noticed the difference to my physique. It’s something that you can just do for a few minutes each day too, you don’t have to spend hours working out to make a difference.

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.

Aerobic exercise also temporarily increases your metabolic rate. Your muscles are burning fuel to move so they're doing “work”.

The type of food you eat also affects your metabolic rate!

Your body actually burns calories to absorb, digest, and metabolise your food. This is called the “thermic effect of food” (TEF).

You can use it to your advantage when you understand how your body metabolises foods differently. 

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 plant-based protein you can slightly increase your metabolic rate.

Another bonus of protein is that your muscles need it to grow. By working them out and feeding them what they need they will help you to lose weight and keep it off.

And 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 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.

Some great sources of plant-based protein include:

Seeds – especially hemp
Nut butters
Teff flour – this might be unfamiliar to you, but it’s a naturally gluten-free flour that can be used to make things like pancakes. It has a delicious chocolatey, nutty taste. 
Pseudo grains such as quinoa and amaranth. 

Ensure you are eating a wide variety of these foods and you will get all the protein you need.



If you’d like help with improving your metabolism so you can achieve the weight loss you want, book yourself a call with me now. We can discuss areas you are having difficulties with and talk about how I can help you. 

Click here to schedule a day and time that is good for you. 

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