How does metabolism affect your weight?

Heather Pierce

Heather Pierce

Is weight gain due to a slower metabolism? Most would say yes to this, but it is actually rare for a slow metabolism to be the main cause of weight gain. To gain an understanding into this concept, one must understand what metabolism is.

Metabolism is how your body turns food into energy. Sounds simple, but this is a very complex process that our bodies do in order to maintain normal functions. It takes calories not only to perform our daily tasks, but also to do other tasks we don’t think about such as breathing, adjusting hormone levels, circulating blood, and growing and repairing cells. The amount of calories we use each day for these complex, but not always thought of, functions is called our basal metabolic rate (BMR). The BMR represents the minimum amount of calories our bodies require to be sedentary. Most adults’ basal metabolic rates average 1,200-1,800 calories each day. More calories are needed beyond that to sustain any additional physical activity.

Knowing that information, think about what would happen if our calories averaged less than what our bodies required. At first you may see weight loss, but there comes a point at which your body will slow down the metabolic rate to prevent further weight loss. This is a survival mechanism our bodies have learned over the course of existence. That’s how eating too little can backfire when weight loss is the goal. That’s also why strict diets don’t work in the long run. This can actually slow down your metabolism, which is not what you want.

So how do we increase our metabolism? If you did a Google search on this, all kinds of products and supplements will be listed. Sure, there is some research that links green tea, spicy foods and supplements to increasing the metabolic rate. One must realize that these increases are typically very small. We also have to keep in mind that dietary supplements are not regulated by a governing body like medications are. Caution should be advised when purchasing any supplements that make claims to help with weight loss. If it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is.

The metabolic rate does increase after meals and snacks, so that is why eating on a regular basis is important when trying to lose weight. Smaller, frequent meals are best, although not always practical. Skipping meals is never a good idea because it will eventually lead to over consumption. A good, overall balanced diet including plenty of produce, lean proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy products gives us the best opportunity for achieving our desired weight. More guidance on meal planning can be found at www.mypyramid.gov.

The best way to increase the metabolic rate and sustain weight loss long term is activity. Aerobic activity is essential to burn extra calories, and strength training is effective in increasing the metabolic rate, thus helping the body burn more calories at rest. You can learn more on how activity can affect your metabolism and lead to sustained weight loss on Monday, Jan. 11. Michael Shipe, assistant professor of exercise science at Carson-Newman College, will be speaking at 6:30 p.m. at the Blount Memorial Wellness Center at Springbrook. The presentation is free, but requires registration due to limited seating. Call 865-980-7100 to register.

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