Metabolism refers to all the chemical processes that take place in the body in order to sustain life. It allows you to breathe, pump blood, keep your brain functioning and extract energy from your food.
Metabolic Rate Explained
When you hear the term metabolic rate - more accurately called
basal (or resting) metabolic rate - that refers to the number of
calories your body at rest uses each day, just to keep all your
vital organs functioning.
You burn additional calories through your daily activities and exercise but, by far, the majority of the calories that you burn each day are your basal calories.
The number of calories that you burn is directly related to the composition of your body. Think of your body as divided into two compartments; one is all the body fat and the other is fat-free, everything that isn't fat (e.g. bone, fluid, tissue, muscle). The size of your fat-free compartment determines your metabolic rate, with every pound of fat-free mass burning about 14 calories per day.
Boost Your Metabolic Rate
Since the fat-free compartment contains muscle tissue, one of the best things you can do to boost your metabolic rate is to increase your muscle mass through exercise. If you build up 10 pounds of lean body mass, you'll burn 140 extra calories per day over and above the calories that you burn through exercise.
Age-related Weight Gain
People do tend to put on weight as they get older, but it isn't inevitable. As we age, we exercise less, or less vigorously, so fewer calories are burned. As activity levels and intensity go down, loss of muscle mass can occur. This then shrinks the body's fat-free compartment and leads to a lower metabolic rate. Prevent age-related weight gain through cardiovascular exercise and resistance training.
Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT)
It often seems that there are people who eat all the time and
never seem to gain weight, but many of these people burn calories
through what is called Non-Exercise Activity
NEAT is when an individual moves around a lot during the day. They might fidget more, get up from their desks frequently or are on their feet a lot. They build more muscle and then use it by moving around more throughout the day, burning calories in the process.
How Does Exercise Help Metabolism?
Dieting and exercise help to preserve the rate at which your body burns calories.
Your muscle mass works like a furnace, burning calories and stored fat for energy. The more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism and the faster you burn calories. Eating plenty of protein is essential to maintaining your muscle mass for good health, energy and effective weight management.
Metabolic Revving Tips
If you are trying to lose weight, keep your metabolism running high by building muscle through strengthening exercises. Muscle is metabolically more active than fat tissue: at rest, each pound of body fat burns just 2 calories per day but each pound of muscle burns 50 calories a day.
- Do 30 minutes of activity every day. Add strengthening exercises to your exercise routine, over and above aerobic exercise.
- Squats and lunges work the largest muscles in the body (quads, hams and glutes).
- Tone your muscles by weight training three days a week.
- Do not eat fewer than 1,200 calories a day; eating too little may slow your metabolism.
- Never skip breakfast. It may slow down your metabolism.
- Have a supply of protein-powered healthy snacks on hand as an alternative to carb-loaded junk food.