By: Miami Beach Personal Trainer Ted Ryce
Many people talk about metabolism, “Oh, I have a slow metabolism and that’s why I gain weight easily.” or “She has a fast metabolism and can eat anything she wants without getting fat.” However, many people aren’t familiar with what your metabolism actually is, what contributes to it and how you can use this information to stay lean.
4 General Components of Metabolism
I’m going to share with you the 4 general components of metabolism and how you can use them to improve you fat loss.
1. Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)
First is your Basal Metabolic Rate. This is the minimum amount of energy required to maintain vital functions of the body. In other words, this represents how many Calories it takes to keep you alive without moving or digestion (digesting food actually takes Calories to do as we’ll see below). Many people think exercise is the the most energetically costly thing we do, but our basal metabolic rate accounts for around 70% of our daily energy. More Calories get burned just to keep you alive than any other activity your body does. Because BMR is very difficult to determine, it is usually estimated with a mathematical equation. A true measure of BMR requires the use of something like Indirect Calorimetry in a laboratory.
How to increase your metabolic rate?
Easy. Build more muscle. Muscle is metabolically expensive to maintain. If you build more muscle, it will take more calories just to keep it from shrinking away and will contribute to your overall metabolism. Another thing you can do is to make sure you eat a nutrient-dense diet high in vegetables, high quality proteins like grass-fed beef and wild caught fish, will help to make sure your metabolism is working at it’s best.
In addition, hormones also play a big role in your basal metabolic rate. Get a full hormonal panel from a doctor that specializes in optimizing hormonal physiology for health to make sure your sex hormones, growth hormone, thyroid hormone, and insulin are in proper balance.
2. Thermic Effect of Feeding (TEF)
As I mentioned above, the act of eating, digesting and using the digested food to replenish energy and rebuild tissues is an energetically costly process. It is estimated that around 10% of your daily Caloric energy is spent to digest and assimilate your food.
How to increase TEF to burn more calories?
Proteins tend to have the highest thermic response when eaten. Making sure all your meals contain a serving of high-quality protein. Grass-fed beef, free-range chicken, omega-3 eggs, wild caught fish and grass-fed whey protein are all examples of good sources of protein.
3. Purposeful Exercise
Purposeful exercise is more than just “being more active.” We’re talking about exercising to increase markers of performance. For example, to improve your aerobic conditioning or to build muscle and strength through a specific exercise program. Exercise programs are estimated to make up around 10-15% of your total daily Caloric needs. In highly physically active people, Caloric expenditure through exercise may be around 30% or more. Although, as we’ll see ahead, things like taking the stairs instead of the elevator are helpful, it is not what we’re talking about.
How to increase your metabolic rate through exercise?
The best ways to to exercise to increase your Caloric expenditure are strength training and interval training. Because of the intensity involved in strength training and interval training, you get a higher level of excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). What does that mean? It means after you perform high intensity exercise, your metabolic rate stays elevated AFTER your done working out. This could be many hours depending on the intensity of exercise you performed.
IMPORTANT -Does this mean you should go do intervals or strength train if you’ve been sitting on your butt for the past 6 months? No. You want to work up to this if you’ve been sedentary. I recommend you start slowly and develop an aerobic base and movement skills before you start with any for of intense exercise to get the best results without risking injury.
However, if you’ve been doing predominantly aerobic exercise, you will see quick improvement in your body if you switch to higher intensity exercise. In my experience, aerobic endurance athletes are the easiest people to get physique improvements with once we make dietary and exercise modifications.
4. Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT)
NEAT is another contributor to your overall metabolism. This would include walking the stairs, going for leisurely walks or bike rides, mowing the lawn, and just being more active in general. Although NEAT is the smallest component of your metabolism, it is still considered to be an important factor in weight gain and weight loss.
How to take advantage of NEAT to improve your metabolism?
Examples would include taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking farther away and walking to your destination, carrying groceries instead of using the cart, taking your dog for regular walks, going for a leisurely bike ride, getting up and moving around the office regularly, adopting a standing work place, etc. These are just a few of the possibilities. Find the ones that work best for you.
Understanding the components of your metabolism will help you make better choices in exercise, nutrition and everyday activity to improve your wellness and maintain a healthy weight and body fat to lean mass ratio.
Do you need more help than what I offered here? If so, contact me for an online training/nutrition/hormonal optimization program that will get you results or your money back. Yep. That’s how confident I am that I can help you.
Berardi, John. The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition. Precision Nutrition, Inc., 2010.
Stanfield, Cindy L. Principles of Human Physiology. Pearson Benjamin Cummings, 2009.