It's interesting. The word "metabolism" is thrown around a lot these days in the weight loss world. For women especially, we stress over our metabolism. When the scale doesn't move, we naturally start to blame our metabolism. So what is our metabolism exactly? How does it work?
Well technically “metabolism” is the word to describe all of the biochemical reactions in your body. It's how you take in nutrients and oxygen and use them to fuel everything you do. In layman's terms, it's how our bodies convert what you eat and drink into energy.
Even when you're at rest, your body needs energy to fuel functions and processes that you aren't aware of. These processes include breathing, blood circulation, adjusting hormone levels and more. Your body has an incredible ability to grow, heal, and generally stay alive. And without this amazing biochemistry you would not be possible.
So when you combine all the intricate processes that make up your metabolism, you realize that how efficiently your metabolism works varies from person to person. Things like our nutrition and our lifestyle also heavily influence how well our metabolism runs. This means if yours is slower, there are things you can do to boost it up so you feel more energized and can maintain a healthy body weight.
And this brings us to metabolic rate which is just how fast your metabolism runs and is measured in calories. The calories you eat can go into 3 different areas:
When it comes to our metabolic rate, there are a lot of factors that affect how efficiently - or inefficiently - our metabolism runs.
One of the key influencers on our metabolism is our hormones. Any kind of hormonal imbalance is going to affect how fast our metabolism runs. If your thyroid isn't working well or if you have elevated levels of cortisol in your body, this will slow down your metabolism. If you suspect a hormonal imbalance, I recommend discussing it with your doctor.
Another vital component to how well your metabolism runs is your overall body composition. Lean muscle mass helps burn more calories - even at rest. So people with higher levels of lean muscle will have a metabolism that runs much faster than someone who has a lot of body fat. People with a lot of lean muscle mass will also naturally burn way more calories, even when their body is at rest.
Age is another factor in how fast - or slow - your metabolism runs. Women who are entering menopause will start to notice that their metabolism is slowing down. If you were able to easily maintain your weight in your teens and your 20's but now that you're hitting your 30's and 40's you're finding that weight is creeping up, especially in the belly, this is a sign that your metabolism is slowing.
And last but not least, your health impacts your metabolism too. Women who are serial dieters will find that those low cal diets have caused their metabolism to slow down over time. Undereating makes your body prioritize which systems it's going to run and when the choice is between your brain and your metabolism ... well your brain is going to win out. So if you have a history of serial dieting, it will take you working with someone like me - a nutrition coach - to reverse diet out of that low deficit and get you to a place where you are fueling your body for optimal health.
The metabolism is a fluid and dynamic series of processes so it's absolutely possible to take steps to help it work more efficiently and reverse any kind of metabolic damage.
Improving your nutrition and making the shift away from low-calorie diets is an excellent first step for many women who have a history of serial dieting. Eating a healthy amount of food with a focus on whole foods including lean protein, fruits and vegetables, healthy fats & complex carbs is a good start. Not only will it help your body run more efficiently, but this will also help balance hormones so you can curb those sugar cravings & improve your energy levels.
Plus, your body actually burns calories as it absorbs, digests and metabolizes food. By increasing your lean protein and healthy fats, and decreasing carbs, you boost your metabolism because your body works harder to process those two macronutrients.
Adding strength training to your workout regimen is another critical step to boosting your metabolism. Strength or resistance training builds lean muscle mass and this naturally boosts your metabolism so you burn more calories, even when you aren't working out. Additionally, for women who are entering menopause, strength training helps offset conditions like osteoarthritis and osteoporosis that make us weaker as we age.
Last, but definitely not least, creating a healthy lifestyle is key to balancing your hormones and optimizing your metabolism. This entails doing things like managing stress levels, getting enough sleep and taking care of your body on a daily basis.
Just as you are unique, so is your metabolism and how efficiently it runs. While there are a lot of factors that will affect your metabolism, there are also lots of positive steps you can take to ensure that it runs quickly for optimal health and wellness.
As a nutrition coach who specializes in working with women over 35, I teach them a step-by-step process so that they can build a healthy, strong metabolism and get lean and strong.