Metabolism Boosters: How to Lose Weight,
in Spite of It All
By Kari Oakley
“It doesn’t matter what I do, I can’t seem to lose weight. I seriously have the worst metabolism! Is there any way for me to lose some pounds and get healthier?”
This sentiment is echoed all over the world. Most people want to be at a healthy weight but don’t know how to go about it. And some of the problem really does stem from a poor metabolism.
How does metabolism work?
Metabolism is a series of chemical processes within the body that converts the macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) from our food into energy or calories. Each of us has a different metabolic rate which determines how long it takes our body to process and burn those calories; and each of us has a unique basal metabolic rate (BMR) which determines the basic amount of calories we need to function while basically sleeping or sitting and doing nothing at all.
Studies show that on average, 70 percent of our daily energy use is from our BMR--we burn 70 percent of our calories each day from just being alive. So this means that if we follow a 2,000 calorie diet, 1,400 of those calories will automatically be burned and we just need to burn 600 calories to maintain our weight. We need to burn approximately 3,500 calories extra to lose a pound--that’s means we need to burn 500 extra calories a day to lose one pound a week or 1,000 calories a day to lose two pounds a week.
What influences metabolism?
Those of us with what we consider to be poor metabolisms don’t burn calories quite the same; our bodies don’t seem to need as many calories to function, or our bodies don’t burn calories quite as efficiently as someone else’s does. So what causes these differences? What influences our metabolism?
There are five main influences on BMR that we have little control over:
- Genetics. Genetics play a huge role in how our bodies metabolize what we eat. Obesity genes such as the FTO gene have already been discovered. There is also a fascinating study being conducted by 23andMe to link our ability to lose weight to our specific DNA.
- Body type. Tall people tend to have a higher BMR than short people; and men tend to have a higher BMR than women. In addition, muscular individuals have a higher BMR than those with little muscle mass.
- Age. After age 20, your BMR decreases two percent per decade, so the older you are, the fewer the calories your body needs to function.
- Health conditions. Some health conditions such as Cushing's syndrome lower the metabolic rate; some health conditions such as cancer raise the metabolic rate. Thyroid conditions also affect metabolism: hyperthyroidism raises BMR, while hypothyroidism lowers BMR.
- Medications. Medications such as antidepressants and steroids can also lower our BMR and cause us to gain weight even when we eat normally.
It can be frustrating to have our genes work against us or our height or our age or our health or even the medications we need to take. But even with poor metabolism from these uncontrollable influences, there are ways to boost our metabolism and successfully drop pounds.
How can we boost our metabolism?
In taking into account the influences on our BMR, we can work within our own BMR framework to develop a weight loss plan. First off, we can choose a diet we can stick to that will help us burn our macronutrients more efficiently. There are so many diets to choose from: the ketogenic diet, the paleo diet, the vegan diet, even a basic low fat diet...the list is endless.
When choosing a diet, remember that if you cut back your caloric intake too low over an extended period time, your body switches into starvation mode and you may actually reduce your BMR to a point that your body no longer requires as many calories to function. If you start eating a normal diet again, you may see the pounds pile back on. So even in dieting, moderation is key. It’s best to shoot for a pound or two of weight loss per week--nothing more. To lose this amount of weight, you will need to burn through an extra 500 to 1,000 calories each day at a minimum (with a slower metabolism, count on more than that to see these results or be patient as it will most likely be a slower process for you).
To burn through these calories, it’s best to combine diet with exercise. If you struggle to exercise or have a condition that limits what you can physically do, don’t worry--you can still lose weight through diet alone. It’s just that exercise increases muscle mass, and muscle mass increases BMR, making your body burn calories faster and more efficiently. So even if you can’t do high-intensity workouts, if you can at least start by lifting a can of soup, you can start to build muscles.
Besides increasing muscle mass, there are a few other things you can do to rev up your metabolism: eat smaller meals throughout the day (digesting food causes a thermic effect in the body, and keeps your metabolism revved up), eat protein (protein helps you up your post-meal caloric burn by 35 percent), drink cold water (cold water has been shown to raise BMR by 50 calories a day), and stand instead of sit (small movements such as stretching or standing can help you burn up to 350 calories a day).
Some individuals still struggle to lose weight even after following a lot of these metabolism-boosting tips; however, some of these individuals have discovered instead that, for them, the best fat burners are supplements that actually contain metabolism-boosting ingredients with lipolytic cortisol-reducing agents.
Each of us is different. What works for you, may not work for someone else. You may not have found what works for you yet, but the good news is that in spite of our genetics or body type or age or health, there are ways to work with the metabolism we have and boost our body’s ability to burn calories in a variety of ways that can get us on the path toward weight loss and better health.