Most of us think of energy production when we discuss metabolism. This is where cells break down nutrients to release energy which can then be used for keeping the entire body functioning. It is one aspect of metabolism. The rate at which this our body produces energy is known as the metabolic rate and it varies from one person to another. In other words some people have a higher metabolic rate than others.
What controls the metabolism?
The thyroid hormone play an integral role in the metabolic rate. In conditions like hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland), low levels of thyroid hormones results in a lower metabolic rate. A person feels lethargic due to the low energy levels and there is moderate weight gain. With hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid gland), the thyroid hormone levels are higher than normal. It results in increased hunger and weight loss.
However, this is a highly simplistic. The metabolic rate is influenced by a host of different hormonal, nutritional, lifestyle and dietary factors. Even a person’s psychological state and quantity of sleep can affect the metabolic rate. The thyroid gland is also impacted upon by various factors within the body. Therefore to say that the metabolic rate is only affected by the thyroid hormones in isolation is untrue.
Read more on basal metabolic rate.
Does low metabolic rate cause obesity?
The metabolic rate is said to be higher in people who have higher energy levels and can consume a higher calorie diet without proportional weight gain. Conversely, people who have lower energy levels and tend to gain weight with moderate calorie intake are said to have a lower metabolic rate. However, the metabolic rate alone does not explain low energy levels and excess body weight.
Naturally in people who are inactive, the metabolic rate will be lower than normal. People who are sedentary are more prone to weight gain. Furthermore these people may be more prone to eating above the calorie needs for a day and possibly indulging in foods that promote weight gain and body fat. Therefore it is not the metabolic rate that leads to weight gain on its own but both dietary and lifestyle factors also play a role.
Read more on slow metabolism.
In terms of the weight gain, the problem is usually due to a very high calorie intake with very low calorie output in the form of physical activity. The metabolic rate is not significantly reduced or permanently low in people who are overweight or obese. Simply reducing calorie intake in food and increasing calorie output through exercise is sufficient for weight loss.
Ways To Speed Up Metabolism
Speeding up the metabolism requires a multifaceted approach. It requires both dietary and lifestyle factors. The use of stimulants and medication to speed up the metabolism is never advisable, unless the metabolic rate is low due to a medical condition that needs to be treated. There are many ways to boost the metabolism for short periods of time. However, this is of little benefit to prevent weight gain and increase energy levels on a continued basis.
Read more on how to boost the metabolism.
Foods play an important role in regulating metabolism. For the body to produce energy, a constant supply of fuel in the form of food is necessary. A low calorie intake will reduce the metabolism, which is one of the reasons why strict dieting does not work for long term weight loss. However, the choice of foods and spacing of meals are important in speeding up the metabolism.
Certain foods like those laden with sugar give a short term boost. Other foods, specifically those with a low glycemic index (GI), provide a sustained release of nutrients and are the better option. Eating more frequently is also important. Rather have many small meals instead of a few large meals. Iodine and calcium are two important substances for a healthy metabolism and foods rich in these substances should be included in the diet.
Drinking sufficient water is often overlooked as an important way to speed up the metabolism. It is known that dehydration slows down the metabolism and many people have mild dehydration without knowing it. Although a person may drink plenty of fluids, it is the water intake that is essential. In fact some beverages like alcohol and coffee dehydrate the body.
However, caffeine is a stimulant and can give a short term boost. It may be useful in the mornings when most people feel sluggish. By providing a short term boost, a person then becomes more active which in turn boosts the metabolism further. Do not overdo the coffee. Also ensure that sufficient water is consumed if drinking caffeinated drinks like coffee to prevent dehydration.
The metabolic rate increases with physical activity and even to some extent with mental activity. Initially the metabolism is given a short term boost but with repeated physical activity it has a sustained effect. Any type of exercise is beneficial in speeding up the metabolism although vigorous physical activities, like swimming or jogging, are often better metabolism boosters.
Muscle mass is another factor to consider. The muscle cells are laden with mitochondria which are the energy factories. Even at rest the muscles are consuming calories to produce energy. Therefore weight training is equally important to speed up the metabolism as it increases the size of the muscles. This in turn has an effect on the metabolic rate of the body.
Sufficient sleep is crucial for speeding up the metabolism. It may seem contradictory since physical activity increases the metabolism and resting is the opposite of this. However, sleep has a host of beneficial effects on the body. It stabilizes many different processes and this can impact on the way nutrients are utilized and energy is produced in the body. Studies have shown that obesity and diabetes are more likely to occur in people who do not sleep sufficiently.
Another benefit of resting is that it reinvigorates the body. Naturally a person feels more energetic after a good sleep and is therefore more likely to become physically active. The human body needs between 7 to 9 hours of sleep daily and the quality of sleep is equally important. Ensure that the surroundings are comfortable and disturbances are kept to a minimum to maintain a proper sleep cycle for at least 7 hours straight.