Determining A Metabolic Rate
Metabolism is a word that likes to get tossed around. So let’s dive into what your metabolism is and how you make it more efficient. Metabolism is a word used to describe the rate that our bodies burn calories. Meaning that this is the speed that your body converts food into energy and use that energy for functions of that day. The rate at which we burn calories is known as a metabolic rate. Your metabolic rate is something that is may change depending on how active you are on any given day. For example, if you are sick in bed you are likely to burn less calories compared to a day you went on a hike.
However, there is another category of metabolism that we should think about too. This is known as you basal metabolic rate. Your basal metabolic rate is the number of calories needed to fuel your body’s essential functions, like breathing and circulating blood. Your basal metabolic rate stays fairly steady and is the most significant component of your total metabolic rate.
Determining Your BMR
There are several different ways to determine your basal metabolic rate. One of the most accurate ways to measure BMR is to have it tested in a lab. Some health clubs also do metabolic testing for a fee. However, you can calculate your basal metabolic rate at home using an online calculator. In fact you can calculate your BMR on one of our blog posts. There you can learn more about BMR and it’s basis in the Harris-Benedict Equation.
How You Can Control Your Metabolism
So there are plenty of different factors that affect your metabolism. Your metabolism grows slower with age, your gender can affect your metabolism, being pregnant, overall body size and other factors can contribute to how efficiently your metabolism works. However, there are two areas that effect your metabolism that are in our control. Which is nutrition and exercise.
When it comes to food and metabolism many people think that going on a juice cleanse or eating spicy food will rev-up their metabolism. However, it’s important to think of food as a tool that can help support a more efficient metabolic rate. Meaning that food can be great way to set your body up to burn-up those calories in a way that is sustainable and long term.
The main idea to take away when it comes to protein helping out your metabolic rate is that more protein you eat, the more muscle you are likely to gain. This gain in muscle means that your body needs to burn more calories to operate.
To determine how protein intake influences metabolism, researchers with the Pennington Biomedical Research Center put 16 healthy adults on high-calorie diets that were composed of different amounts of protein (5 percent, 15 percent, and 25 percent) for eight weeks. All of the participants ate 40 percent more calories than they needed to maintain their weight, and all gained similar amounts of weight.
In fact, those who ate a normal to a high protein diet (15 and 25 percent) stored 45 percent of the excess calories as muscle. While those on the low-protein diet (5 percent) stored 95 percent of the excess calories as fat.
So how much protein should you be eating regularly? The study results suggest that for a supercharged metabolism, between 25 percent and 45 percent of your calories should come from protein. (Each gram of protein contains four calories.) If you’re on a 2,000-calorie diet, that comes out to about 125 and 225 grams of protein a day, which is similar to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ recommendation to consume 20 to 30 grams of high-quality protein after exercising and every four hours while you’re awake to increase your muscle growth.
Bonus points to protein is that eating protein has also been shown to help you feel more full and prevent you from overeating.
Don’t Forget Fiber
Fiber is kind of the area of nutrition that many people forget about. Thinking about fiber is reminiscent of those food pyramids from middle school gym class. However, fiber is a great way to regulate your daily diet. Fiber actually slows down the absorption of carbohydrates and keeps blood sugar levels steady. In addition, soluble fiber can help reduce blood cholesterol and glucose levels. Your body needs some cholesterol to produce bile acids that aid digestion of fats. When soluble fiber cruises through your small intestine, it binds to bile and blocks the absorption of excess cholesterol and ushers it out of your body.
Experts recommend a daily goal of 25 to 35 grams of fiber — more than double the 12 grams most of us consume. However, fiber can be a bit tricky because if you consume too much you might run into the common feeling of bloating or cramping. To pace fiber properly, have 5 to 7 grams of fiber in each of your three meals and, in between, two snacks with 3 to 5 grams of fiber each. Also, an extra boost of fiber towards the end of the day should help you feel full to avoid late night snacking. Oats, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley, psyllium, peas and beans provide soluble fiber. Green beans, cauliflower, potatoes, wheat bran, nuts and whole-wheat flour are good sources of insoluble fiber.
The microbiome is the gut’s ecosystem and is filled with bacteria, both good and bad. Processed foods, environmental toxins and heavy dose antibiotics can wipe out entire colonies of good bacteria. When the ratio starts tipping in favor of the “bad” bacteria in the gut a variety of unwanted effects can occur. Everything from thinning hair and nails, to allergies, sinus infections, gas/bloating, dental decay, and yeast infections can result from an imbalance of gut bacteria.
Probiotics and prebiotics can help bring your microbiome back to balance, which is the key to how we digest, absorb, and metabolize our food. Feed the gut the right stuff and all the metabolic processes will begin to fall into place. In fact, a recent study found that treatment with probiotics helped to further metabolize bile acids, whose purpose is to breakdown fats. This means that probiotics could change how much fat the body absorbs and stores.
Also, gut bacteria regulate the secretion of hormones that control blood sugar, and hormones. They control satiety (when we feel full). With an unbalanced microbiome, we might find we’re hungry all of the time, craving carbs and sugar, and unable to lose weight.
Foods rich in prebiotics include asparagus, artichokes, leeks, onions, garlic, whole grains, legumes, cruciferous vegetables, and leafy greens. Aim to consume at least four cups of high-fiber vegetables like these every day.
Caffeine & Waking Up Your Metabolic Rate
Caffeine has been long rumored to amped up your metabolism. But is this really true or is that morning brew just giving you the jitters? Well, a Harvard study of more than 19,000 men found those who got 200 milligrams of caffeine a day (similar to the amount in an 8oz coffee) were less likely to gain weight over a 12-year period than those who didn’t. It has also been shown that caffeine helps stimulate fat use, especially during exercise.
So although caffeine direct relation to coffee hasn’t been proven, caffeine can help you kick a couple of pounds.
Water is always as a good idea
The flagship study on water and metabolism was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. Researchers tracked fourteen healthy men and women to study how much energy they were expending (read: how high their metabolism was) after drinking about 17oz of water.
The results? The subjects’ metabolic rates jumped by 30% for both men and women. That increase happened within ten minutes of drinking water, reached its peak 30-40 minutes after drinking, and lasted over an hour. The researchers estimated that drinking 1.5 more liters of water than you normally do would translate to increasing your daily energy expenditure by about 200kJ (about 50 calories). Sure, it’s a small amount, but when you’re trying to lose weight it can really add up.
Using Training To Boost Your Metabolism
Metabolic Benefits of Lifting
We’ve now established that building muscle helps boost your metabolism. If you increase your muscle mass by 20%, you’ll increase your resting metabolic rate by 4–5%. One way to make sure you’re adding more lean muscle is to make a few changes to you exercise schedule. Studies suggest that the order of your cardio and weights can make a difference in how much muscle you retain from your training.
While muscle growth adaptations are often best retained when you follow cardio with weight training, it’s not a hard-and-fast rule. If you plan to lift heavy, then it doesn’t make sense to pre-exhaust yourself with cardio first. Try mixing cardio into circuits one day and increasing your weight-training pace to bump up your heart rate on your next session.
Also, don’t be afraid to pick up a bigger weight off the rack. In general, lighter weights may help increase muscular endurance, but they don’t do much to stimulate muscle growth. The best way to do that is to lift loads that exhaust your muscles during the final few reps.
What Exercises To Do
If you want to train to build muscle mass, focus on integrating at least three strength-training workouts into your weekly exercise routine and prioritizing large, compound movements—which require multiple muscle groups to work at once—over small, isolation exercises. Squats, deadlifts, shoulder presses, lunges, rows, and bench presses are all great options for stimulating the most muscle growth possible with each and every rep.
Similarly, lifting weights that are heavy enough that you can eek out only 6 to 12 reps per set with proper form will help increase muscular size as opposed to muscular endurance. Compound exercises make it possible to lift heavier, so the two pair nicely.
Lifting weights will boost your metabolism in all three ways and should be your first priority if you really want to burn more fat more easily. Have you ever noticed that men can lose weight by cutting out their nightly ice cream while women have to count calories like crazy before the scale will even budge? That’s because men tend to have more metabolically active muscle than women. Complete a total-body strength-training program two to three days a week to build significant lean muscle mass and boost your metabolism, even if you’re cutting calories.
HIIT May Be The Key
This type of cardio workout, in which you push your exercise intensity for a short period of time and then recover, will burn calories during exercise as well as give you an afterburn effect. In one study comparing the effects of 15 weeks of interval training with 20 weeks of steady-state endurance training, researchers found that the participants who completed interval workouts lost nine times more fat than those who completed endurance workouts.
The “Afterburn” Effect
EPOC is more commonly known as the afterburn effect. It refers to all of the oxygen (and energy, in the form of calories) that your body takes in and uses after exercise to help repair your muscles and recover. Research shows that strength training is especially effective at raising EPOC. That’s because, generally speaking, strength-training sessions cause more physiological stress to the body. Compared to cardiovascular exercise, even higher-intensity cardio intervals.
However, it’s worth noting that overall exercise intensity is what makes the biggest impact on EPOC. So squats, deadlifts, and bench presses with heavy weights are going to be much more effective at raising EPOC. Compared to bicep curls and triceps extensions with light weights.
How much of a difference does EPOC make? Well, in one research study of young women, basal metabolic rate spiked by 4.2 percent 16 hours following a strength-training session that lasted an hour and 40 minutes—the equivalent of burning an extra 60 calories, on average. That’s a long workout, and 60 extra calories isn’t exactly huge.
Plus, EPOC is not a permanent boost. Research suggests it may last anywhere from 12 hours to a few days. The calories you burn through EPOC can add up over time, especially if you’re lifting weights three or four times a week. However, it doesn’t have a very big effect on your metabolism.
In the end, the exact EPOC boost you get from your strength-training workouts depends on the exercises you perform, weights you use, reps and sets you perform, rest you take, and total time you spend sweating it out. Not to mention your genetics and current fitness level and muscle mass.