Hey Angels and Alphas,
Did you know that the majority of your calorie burn doesn’t come from the puddles of sweat after a tough workout? The majority of your calorie burn is actually driven by your metabolism.
The metabolism is the body’s natural process of converting calories into energy for you to use. It’s not just about burning calories. It’s also about storing and managing calories. Your metabolism creates the basis for how many calories you need daily to maintain a healthy weight, as well as how many calories you need to lose and gain weight.
It’s a vital part of the entire process of reaching your fitness goals and staying healthy, so today, I hope to clear a lot of the misinformation around the topic of metabolism so you can make smarter, more informed choices in the future!
Let’s get right into it…
What are the different types of metabolism?
There are many ways calories leave your body, as opposed to the means in which they can enter your body.
The three biggest factors that affect your metabolism and overall calorie burn are your basal metabolic rate, your food thermogenesis, and the calories you expend while moving. Let’s talk about each in a little more detail.
1. Your Basic Metabolic Rate (BMR)
This amounts to around 65 percent of the calories you burn daily.
This rate is the number of calories your body needs while resting – to support the vital functions keeping you alive. Your BMR doesn’t include calories you burn through exercising or daily activities.
Here’s how your BMR is determined:
- Body Composition: Muscle is naturally more metabolically active than fat, meaning that more calories are burned to maintain a pound of muscle than a pound of fat. Since women, on average, have more fat mass compared to men, they usually have lower BMR when compared to men of the same height and weight.
- Body Size: The bigger the individual, the more calories it takes to sustain their body – even at rest.
- Hormones: Hormones are basically chemical dials, turning your metabolism up and down depending on your body’s needs. Hormones like thyroxine and triiodothyronine have the direct purpose of raising BMR.
- Age: Your BMR is usually higher when you’re younger! Especially considering that calories are necessary for your body’s optimal growth.
- Genetics: Some people are just born with a lower BMR than others. It’s not something you can fix, but it’s usually something you can work with.
- Health: If your body is trying to fight off an infection or heal from a wound, your BMR is going to be higher – naturally, because your body needs more calories to accomplish these tasks.
There are just so many factors! And because there are so many, calculating someone’s specific BMR is extremely difficult (without high-tech equipment.) Instead, most people use an approximation based on the Mifflin-St. Jeor equation. However, there are just speculations, and they’re not an accurate predictor of your daily calorie goals – that’s why usually, online calculators aren’t as effective as seeking help from a professional.
2. Food Thermogenisis
Food thermogenesis accounts for 10 percent of the calories you burn, and it’s a measure of the calories your body needs to process food.
Different macronutrients require different workloads from your body.
For example, 1-3 percent of the calories from the fat you eat will support its digestion, whereas that number is 5-10 percent for carbs and 25-30 percent for protein.
That’s why high-protein, low-carb diets usually try to leverage this phenomenon to burn calories. But since food thermogenesis only accounts for 10 percent of the calories you burn, an increased protein intake might have an insignificant effect on your metabolic rate.
3. Exercise and Physical Activity
Physical activity will result in about 20 percent of the calories you burn daily – on average. That number will usually be higher on your intense workout days.
Keep in mind, this also includes the calories you’ll lose through daily activities such as picking up things, walking around the office, or going for a jog in the morning.
Understanding how your body fuels itself
Now that you know how your body loses calories, let’s talk more about how it gains them.
Our bodies extract energy from the three big macronutrient fuels in every meal – carbs, proteins, and fats. But depending on what we’re doing and what type of stress we’re under, your body will determine which kind of fuel it prefers to use.
If you’re doing an overnight fast, your metabolism slows down during your sleep. However, calories are still required to repair cells and maintain body functions. In this scenario, your body will use fat to fuel its tissues, and carbs to fuel the brain. More specifically, glucose fuels your brain, and it’s usually stored as glycogen in the cells. If you don’t happen to have enough, your blood sugar drops and protein starts being used for fuel. That’s because you can convert protein into glucose to bring your blood sugar back up to adequate norms.
If you’re exercising ABOVE 70 percent of your max heart rate, your body turns to carbs for fuel – because carbs can be burned quickly and can be used even when your body is deprived of oxygen. Usually, at this intensity, your body is going to be focused on breathing to deliver oxygen to your working muscles.
If you’re exercising BELOW 70 percent of your max heart rate, your body will prefer fat for fuel – especially if you have excess. At this intensity, you’ll be able to get enough oxygen and even talk to someone while you’re jogging along.
If you’re starving your body, your metabolism plummets! This makes you tired, moody, and edgy. Protein and fat become the primary sources of fuel for the body, and after around 48 hours of staying hungry, your body runs out of glycogen. Therefore, it can’t fuel the two organs that it *really* wants to fuel – your brain and your blood cells.
And while glucose is the only fuel your blood cells can run on, the brain will adapt and start powering itself with fat – in the form of ketone bodies.
How do we boost our metabolism?
There’s a lot to learn out there about metabolism, but most people just want to learn how to increase it. Here are three science-backed ways to do precisely that.
Meet Your Protein Goal – Eating food increases your metabolism for a few hours, and this is known as the thermic effect of food. It’s caused by the extra calories you usually need to digest, absorb, and process the nutrients you take in. But protein causes the largest boost in TEF! It increases your metabolic rate by 20-30 percent, compared to 2 percent for fats and 7 percent for carbs.
Include Resistance Training In Your Routine – Building muscle mass increases your BMR, the most significant contributor to your total metabolism. This will naturally allow you to burn more calories while you’re in a resting state – what a deal!
Increase Exercise Intensity – If you’re doing cardio or aerobic exercise, try gradually switching to HIIT for a week. Adding intervals of high intensity to your cardio will help you benefit from the “afterburn” effect, meaning you’ll be burning extra calories for the rest of the day after you exercise.
Drink Cold Water – Yes, you read that right. Studies have shown that drinking half a liter of water increases your resting metabolism by 10-30% for the next hour. The calorie-burning effect is higher when you’re drinking cold water because your body uses energy to bring it to your body temperature.
Putting it all together
Learning more about your metabolism is perhaps one of the best things you can do to understand how diet and nutrition work. That’s because it’s all about the management of calories and energy inside your body – a topic crucial for anyone from casual fitness readers to pro athletes.
If you want to start adapting your diet and lifestyle so you can lose weight and have a “faster” metabolism, the first step you need to take is to begin journaling about it.
Start writing down your meal macros, your weight, your exercises, and other factors that go into tracking and measuring the results of weight-loss. But in general, the real hardcore, down-to-the-number measurement of metabolism is usually only available to experts and professionals.
The good news is – you don’t need all of that. All you need to do to reap the benefits is have a basic understanding of how your metabolism works, what speeds it up, and how it affects the body in certain situations – all of which you just happened to learn in this article!