Metabolism is a tricky thing. It’s not as simple as “eat a certain food” or “run a 10k every day”, and certainly not “take a certain diet pill”. But the right balance of factors can lead to a healthy metabolism that’s metabolically flexible. Here are 5 things that affect your metabolism.
Sleep is one of the most important factors in maintaining (or improving) metabolism. In fact, studies show that sleep deprivation leads to changes in glucose metabolism and hormonal functions. The result is decreased leptin (appetite suppressant) levels and an increase in ghrelin (invokes that hungry feeling), along with a host of other issues, known at metabolic dysregulation. Many studies have also found that chronic sleep deprivation also has links to an increase in obesity, and diabetes.
This one is obvious, what fuel you put in has an effect on how efficiently your body burns calories. Take carbs, for example. Consuming complex carbs versus simple carbs means that the body requires more effort to break down the foods. That’s why when you eat complex carbs, you feel full for longer. Another food group that requires more energy from the body to process is proteins. The amount of energy required to break down different foods is known as the thermic effect of food (TEF).Though it may seem too good to be true, simply staying hydrated with a cool glass of water can also give your metabolism a temporary boost. The amount of energy required by the body to heat cold water you consume accounts for a high percentage of the metabolic boost water provides.
Although it’s a myth that your metabolism is determined solely by your genes and cannot be improved, genes do play an important part in metabolic functions. About 70% of your basal metabolic rate (BMR), the numbers of calories your body burns at a resting state each day, is partially determined by genetics. However, how active you are, how many calories you consume, and how much muscle mass you have will also affect your metabolic rate. Genetic variations have a huge impact on your body’s default metabolism and can also determine your susceptibility to different metabolic disorders such as hypothroidism or hyperthyroidism. Despite the genetic component, genetics don’t have the final say in achieving metabolic flexibility.
The frequency, intensity, and length of workouts can greatly impact your body’s metabolic functions. Obviously, intense exercise increases metabolism during the workout itself, as the body is operating with a higher heart rate and a higher body temperature. As a result, you burn more calories. Even moderate aerobic exercise a few times a week can significantly increase the number of mitochondria in your muscles. This provides a great metabolic boost. The best workouts for maximizing your metabolic rate occur in high-intensity cardio where your heart rate is roughly 220 bpm minus your age.
Age ain’t nothin’ but a number…but it still affects your metabolism. The rumors on this one are true. From about age 25 until age 65, your metabolic rate decreases with each year by a rate of 2-5%. This means the number of calories your body burns without you doing any sort of physical activity actually decreases, and even more so for women. The best way to deal with the reduction in your BMR is to regularly exercise. Following a healthy eating plan helps as well. The more lean muscle you have, the more calories your body is burning.
There are numerous other factors that affect your body’s metabolism, and each person’s body is different. Understanding how your metabolism works can help you deal with the more than 20 metabolites in the body, and build a customized plan based on your metabolism. Lumen provides the science for a sustainable nutrition plan and meal recommendations to help you achieve your weight loss goals.
Emily is a marketing and communications specialist and a former elite level figure skater.