What is metabolism and how does it affect weight loss?

Published 9:45 pm Thursday, September 10, 2015

By David Crocker

Why is it, some folks can eat everything in sight, and not gain an ounce, while others can look at a candy bar and gain five pounds?

The answer has three parts. Individual differences in metabolism, muscle mass, and physical activity. Today, let’s focus on metabolism.

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Just what is metabolism, and how does it affect weight loss? Simply put, metabolism is the process by which we establish the rate our bodies burn or use the calories we consume. It’s true our metabolisms are influenced by genetics and age (metabolism naturally slows 5 percent per decade after age 40), but there are ways we can increase it.

Here are a few. 1. Build muscle: Muscle cells expend more calories than fat cells do. A pound of muscle burns 35 to 45 calories a day (at rest), while a pound of fat tissue burns only one or two calories. In fact weight training can increase metabolism lost with age, by 50 percent. Get expert instruction, after checking with your doctor, then begin a weight training program.

2. Consume Omega 3s: Omega 3 fatty acids found in fish such as salmon, herring, and tuna boost metabolism in two ways. First, these fatty acids help balance blood sugar and reduce inflammation, then omega 3s reduce the body’s resistance to the hormone leptin. Leptin sends signals to the hypothalamus in the brain, which then tells you it’s time to stop eating when you’re full. Other sources of omega 3 fatty acids include flaxseed, walnuts, omega 3 fortified eggs, and supplements.

3. Drink green tea: In addition to its antioxidants, green tea contains an ingredient called catechin. Catechins are flavonoids (compounds synthesized by plants) that researchers believe may  increase metabolism by improving fat oxidation, thermogenesis (the body’s heat formulation), and energy production.

4. Sit, don’t slouch: That’s right. Did you know you’ll burn about five percent more calories if you watch TV, work on your computer, or read while sitting in an upright rather than in a reclining position?

5. Eat breakfast:  Some folks think that by skipping breakfast, they’re cutting calories, but by midmorning they are usually starved. Studies show, individuals who skip breakfast sometimes tend to nibble throughout their day, and then binge at lunch and dinner. Also, breakfast eaters have a greater leptin output, and since leptin suppresses appetite, those who eat breakfast usually take in fewer calories throughout the day.

6. Plant a garden: Working a garden is a great way to boost your metabolism. Did you know, just 40 minutes of weeding, digging, raking, and the like, can burn 200 calories? Another benefit is you’ll end up with nutritious vegetables, and beautiful flowers to enjoy.

7. Don’t cut too many calories: Remember, your body can’t tell the difference between what you are forced to do, or choose to do. When you drastically reduce your caloric intake, your body doesn’t know you are choosing to do that, it just thinks food is no longer available. Your body will then go into starvation mode, where it will try to hang on to all its fat. When you eat tiny meals several times a day, two things happen. First, your body says “Food’s coming through here all the time, so I don’t need to hang on to all this fat.” Also, eating cranks up your metabolism. In fact, processing nutrients you consume accounts for ten percent of the total calories you burn each day.

If there is a special topic you’d like me to address email me at dwcrocker77@gmail.com or visit fitness4yourlife.org. David Crocker of Landrum has been a nutritionist and master personal trainer for 27 years. He served as strength director of the Spartanburg Y.M.C.A., head strength coach for the USC Spartanburg baseball team, S.C. state champion girl’s gymnastic team, and the Converse College equestrian team. He served as a water safety consultant for the United States Marine Corps., lead trainer to L.H. Fields modeling agency, and taught for four semesters at USC Union. David was also a regular guest of the Pam Stone radio show.