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Q & A: Learn how to master your metabolism

Q: What is metabolism?

A: Metabolism is a combination of physical and chemical processes, occurring within a living cell or organism, that are necessary for the maintenance of life. During the process of metabolism some substances are broken down to create energy for vital function while other substances, necessary for life, are synthesized within the body. This energy, measured in calories, is used to keep the body functioning and to fuel daily activities and exercise. Resting metabolic rate (RMR) is the number of calories your body burns at rest. At rest your body is using energy, the heart is pumping blood, the lungs are processing oxygen, the liver is detoxifying, the kidneys are filtering and so on. Each one of these functions comes with an energy cost, as every cell of the body is consuming energy constantly.

Q: What makes up total metabolism?

A: In general, resting metabolism accounts for 70 percent of your energy expenditure throughout the day, and the rest comes from physical activity and the thermic effect of food, which is the heat created when you eat food. Some foods cause more heat to be produced than others. Protein has approximately 27 kcals per 100 kcals that are burned during their digestion process. Whereas carbohydrates are about 6-9 kcals for every 100 kcals and fats are only 2 kcals for every 100 kcals. Fibrous foods are also important in calorie burning as they require more calories to digest, resulting in less calories being absorbed. If women eat the recommended 24 grams of fiber per day, instead of 12 grams that is considered an average, they would absorb 90 fewer calories per day.

Q: Why does my metabolism slow down?

A: Aging, dieting, menopause, inactivity, or a combination of these will cause metabolism to decrease in its burning capacity. Metabolic rate begins to decrease around the age of twenty and then it drops by about 1-5 percent per decade. When a women passes through menopause, her energy requirements is about 15 percent less than it was when she was in her twenties. A slower metabolism is a natural part of aging, so to maintain a stable weight you must adjust your caloric intake and/or physical activity as you get older. While age is a factor in determining our metabolism, it isn’t the bottom line!

A: Short Term Factors Affecting RMR

Illnesses such as a fever, high levels of stress hormones in the body, and either an increase or decrease in the environmental temperature, will result in an increase in RMR. Fasting, starving, malnutrition all result in lowering of RMR. This lowering of RMR can be one side effect of following a diet and not including exercise in your daily routine. Solely dieting, will not be as effective as dieting and increasing exercise together because the negative effect of dieting on RMR can be offset with a positive effect from increased exercise.

Q: What determines my RMR?

A: RMR is determined by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, as follows:

Genetics – Some people are born with faster metabolisms; some with slower metabolisms.

Gender – Men have greater muscle mass and a lower body fat percentage; therefore, they automatically have a higher resting metabolic rate than women.

Age – RMR reduces with age; after 20 years, it drops about 2 percent, per decade.

Weight – The heavier your weight, the higher your RMR. One reason for this is that it takes much more energy for the body to cycle blood and oxygen throughout the larger amount of mass. Also, the more weight you have on your body, the more energy it takes to move the body itself.

Body Fat Percentage – The lower your body fat percentage, the higher your RMR. The natural lower body fat percentage in the male bodies is one reason why men generally have a 15% faster RMR than women.

Diet – Starvation or serious abrupt calorie-reduction can dramatically reduce RMR by up to 30 percent. Restrictive low-calorie weight loss diets may also cause your RMR to drop as much as 20%.

Body Temperature/Health –The chemical reactions in the body actually occur more quickly at higher temperatures. So a person with a fever would have an increased RMR of about 50 percent.

External Temperature – Temperature outside the body also affects basal metabolic rate. Exposure to cold temperature causes an increase in the RMR, so as to create the extra heat needed to maintain the body’s internal temperature. A short exposure to hot temperature has little effect on the body’s metabolism, but prolonged exposure to heat can raise RMR.

Glands – Thyroxin (produced by the thyroid gland) is a key RMR-regulator which speeds up the metabolic activity of the body. The more thyroxin produced, the higher the RMR. If too much thyroxin is produced (a condition know as thyrotoxicosis) RMR can actually double. If too little thyroxin is produced (myxoedema) RMR may shrink to 30-40 percent of normal. Like thyroxin, adrenaline also increases the RMR but to a lesser extent.

Exercise – Physical exercise, not only influences body weight by burning calories, it also helps raise your RMR by building extra lean tissue. Lean tissue is more metabolically demanding than fat tissue. So you burn more calories even when sleeping.

Q: How do I balance out my metabolism and make it more productive?

A: Strength Training: Studies have shown that adults who did 2 sets of 12 reps, of 4 basic exercises, 3 times a week boosted their metabolic rate by 15% after 3 months, which translates into burning an extra 200-500 calories per day, depending on your size. Protein in the form of muscle mass burns about 35-50 Kcal/pound per day.

Doesn’t Aerobic exercise burn more calories than strength training you ask? Yes, Aerobic exercise burns more calories as it is being done, but the metabolism slows back down to a normal rate after about half an hour; whereas strength training keeps the metabolism elevated even after the workout for as long as 8 to 10 hours post exercise. This is known as EPOC (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption).

A: HIIT training. This is a type of strength training that elevates the heart rate quickly to your fat burn zone. When doing these types of exercises the body also begins to produce more human growth hormone (HGH). HGH is an anti-aging hormone that will promote the increase in metabolism and also keep you looking and feeling young. HIIT Training and strength training in combination will allow 10 times the amount of calories burnt then the average cardio training.

A: Diet, Don’t Fast or Skip Meals! Your body needs a certain amount of calories and nutrients each day for normal function. Denying the body of these essential elements throws the system into survival mode, slowing metabolism and encouraging the storage of energy in the form of fat. Also, lack of water can slow the metabolic rate, just as lack of food can. Since water is the body’s most important nutrient, the liver will turn its concentration to water retention instead of doing other duties, such as burning fat. A Starvation diet for women would be considered limiting your consumption to only 1200 calories per day and for men 1800 calories per day. You must be consuming more than those calorie amounts per day or your body will break down in various ways.

Your diet should be high in healthy fats, proteins and fibers, while reducing the amount of overall sugar consumption. Eat wild caught proteins such as salmon, grass fed beef, and organic chicken or turkey. Protein supports fat loss and building lean muscle tissue, which increases the body’s metabolism. Eating healthy fats such as coconut oil, organic butter, and avocado will also increase the body’s metabolism. High fiber foods such as flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts, berries, almonds, and vegetables will help you feel full and suppress appetite. These foods will also slow the absorption of sugar into the body; therefore, decreasing the amount of sugar stored as fat in the body. Junk-foods are high in calories and offer nutritional depletion instead of nourishment. These “foods” do nothing to supply the essential nutrients our bodies need. Fat, processed, refined and packaged foods we choose for convenience contain few nutrients, essential vitamins and minerals, which have been destroyed in processing and replaced with synthetic elements that the body does not recognize, and stores as impurities in our fat cells (cellulite).

A: RELAX and Get enough sleep- Increased stress levels damper your health, including your metabolism. Cortisol, the hormone your body produces when you’re stressed, increases appetite and promotes inflammation throughout the body, reducing the body’s sensitivity to metabolic hormones. To reduce cortisol levels and normalize your metabolism, we must relax and get enough sleep (8 hours a day is optimal)! Mind/Body practices such as yoga, tai chi, and mediation can help reduce stress. Relaxing can also be as simple as slowing down long enough to be aware of our breathing for a few minutes each day. Read a book rather than watch TV before you go to bed. This has been proven to be more calming and allows you to fall asleep faster.

A good technique to help eliminate stress and promote happiness in your life is to take out a piece of paper and on the left side write all the things that stress you out in your life. On the right side then write down all the things that make you happy and are fun. When you are done with this list look to the left side of the paper and figure out some ways to eliminate these stresses in your life. Then look to the right side and begin planning and scheduling times each day for some of these stress relievers in your life.

Sweat! Pesticides, chemicals from manufacturing, and metals such as mercury and lead from air, water, and food, circulate in the blood and wind up in body fat. In the blood, these toxins sabotage the body’s main metabolic regulator, the thyroid gland. When you burn fat, the toxins stored in the fat are released and enter the bloodstream. The best solution is to sweat out these toxins rather than sending them to circulate throughout the entirety of the body.

Q: What’s my metabolism and how many calories should I eat?

A: For the average woman, resting metabolic rate is ten times weight in pounds and for the average man it is 11 times weight in pounds. That number represents the bare minimum number of calories your body needs to stay alive. When you eat less than your RMR your body perceives danger and sounds the alarm to begin initiating starvation mode and this slows your metabolism.

Q: How should I eat to keep my metabolism stable and my weight healthy?

A: Your metabolism works best when it is well fed throughout the day. Beginning the day with breakfast, spreading meals throughout the day with no more than 3 hours apart, and healthy snacking will keep the metabolism burning. Therefore, if you eat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day, you will burn more calories. Make the first 2 meals of the day (breakfast and lunch) the larger meals of the day too. Diets with lots of fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, “good for you” oils, fish and lean meats, result in a more stable and productive metabolism as well.

Q: What are some foods that slow down my metabolism and what are good replacements for those foods?

A: The following foods cause inflammation in the body, digestive issues, and hormone imbalance; whole grains, peanut butter, and canola oil.

Whole grains are empty calories that contain phytic acid that inhibits the body from absorbing important nutrients and minerals. They also contain gluten which has been linked to slowing metabolism, digestive issues, and thyroid problems. A good substitute to whole grains is sprouted grains or coconut flour both of which kill off fidic acid and promote the growth of good bacteria in the stomach that allow for better digestion.

Peanut Butter is linked to hormone issues and can kill off probiotics that are known to help increase metabolism. A good substitute for regular peanut butter is almond butter because this kind of butter increases the production of human growth hormone, which was discussed in a previous section. One tablespoon a day of almond butter is proven to rev up your metabolism.

Canola Oil is a partially hydrogenated oil that causes inflammation throughout the body and decreases metabolism. In previous studies it was said that canola oil was a healthier substitute to butter, but is now proving to be the opposite. Grass fed or pasteurized butter are better options because they contain CLA, which is a fatty acid that helps burn belly fat.


Surprising Foods that slow your metabolism by Dr. OZ, M.D.

How to boost your metabolism in 3 Easy Steps by Dr. Josh Axe, M.D.

The Diet Cure and The Mood Cure by Julia Ross, M.D.

Releasing Fat by Ray Strand, M.D. (

Fight Fat After Forty by Pamela Peeke, M.D., M.P.H.

UltraMetabolism by Mark Hyman, M.D.

Women, Exercise & Metabolism by Ginger Patterson, RD with Exercise Etc. Inc.

Body+Soul Magazine, with Mark Hyman, M.D. and Leo Galland, M.D.February 2007

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