Metabolic Rate: A Key Metric for Weight Loss (and Gain)

Metabolism is the involvement of reactions conducted by all living organisms. These reactions are chemical in nature, and involve two main aspects; anabolism and catabolism. Anabolism is the process of assembling, or creating things. This process requires energy derived from food. Examples include the growth of hair, nails, new skin, bone tissue, muscle repair after a hard workout, etc. Catabolism is the opposite. It is the process of disassembling, or breaking things down, such as in digestion. Other examples include the constant breakdown of bone tissue, and the breakdown of fat and protein molecules to provide energy to the body. Both, anabolism and catabolism require energy.

The term Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) refers to the absolute minimum rate your body will work at to accomplish the regular tasks (even while you are at rest) such as breathing, digesting, repairing, etc. BMR accounts for about 75% of our daily caloric expenditure. So, as you can see, the higher ones BMR the more calories they will burn.

Metabolism, sometimes referred to as metabolic rate, has often been heard in the field of fitness, weight loss, and weight gain. To measure ones metabolism expensive equipment is required, to be able to calculate how much energy one is using at rest and at various tasks. This is a test very few of us will ever have a chance at participating in.

The reason this topic is of interest to fitness experts and people interested in weight loss or gain is because a person's metabolism will determine how many calories are used during rest and during physical activity. You may have heard the expression, "He's got a fast metabolism and he never gains weight no matter what he eats."

So, someone with a high metabolism will burn more daily calories even though they may be less active.

Important notes:

  • Metabolic rate is not related to heart rate
  • You can not 'feel' your metabolic rate
  • Metabolic rate decreases with age, more so if muscle mass decreases
  • Men tend to have higher metabolic rate than women, which may be due to the higher muscle mass in men
  • Bigger people tend to have higher metabolic rates than smaller people
  • The following may cause your metabolic rate to decrease. and once it decreases it is very hard to bring it to what it used to by
    • Starvation, or missing meals
    • Drugs (e.g. weight loss pills)
      • Pills may temporarily increase your metabolic rate, but, once you stop them it will drop to even lower values than what it was before
      • If you think you will use pills forever, you should also know that the body will build a tolerance. Meaning, with time, you will need higher and higher doses to have the same effect
    • Weight gain or weight loss
    • Being sedentary
    • Prolonged lack of sleep

Here are a few things you can do to try and elevate your metabolic rate, but don't expect miracles because altering your metabolic rate is not as easy as some would have you believe:

  • Exercise regularly (daily)
  • The more intense and the longer the exercise session is the more success you will have
  • Get in the gym and lift weights. Muscles is metabolically active tissue, as opposed to fat which just 'sit's there
  • Eat small meals throughout the day
  • Add some spices to your meals
  • Take a sauna, but don't over do it as it can be dangerous
  • Being in the cold causes your body to increase heat production which increases metabolic rate
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