Metabolism. People are always talking about theirs, lamenting their slow ones or boasting about their fast ones, but how much do we actually know about our metabolisms?
Health and fitness coaches Brittney and Josh Banning told Newsweek that the metabolism is a multitude of processes that your body goes through to convert food into energy. "Even at rest, your metabolism does what it's designed to do...convert calories into energy or store it as fat for later," said Brittney Banning, 39. "Because metabolism controls so many aspects of our bodies, I believe it's the core indicator of a healthy body."
A common myth that surrounds information about the metabolism is that it gets less effective with age, making it harder to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight. However recent studies appear to contest this. It can be hard to focus on daily health care in this fast-paced modern world but with these three ways you can easily improve your metabolism, and create healthy habits to help maintain bodily health.
What Is the Metabolism?
The metabolism is defined by the Cleveland Clinic as the metabolic processes that take place as your body converts food and drinks into energy. "It's a complex process that combines calories and oxygen to create and release energy. This energy fuels the body functions," it said on its website.
The metabolism is always working, even when the body is at rest, and it constantly creates energy for basic body functions including breathing, circulating blood, digesting, growing and repairing cells, regulating body temperature, and managing hormone levels. So it's pretty essential to keep it in tip-top condition, but there's no one size fits all.
"Everyone's metabolic rate is different and there are many factors that influence it," Brittney Banning told Newsweek, "Much of it is lifestyle-dependent based on how much movement you get through things like exercise and day-to-day activities, as well as how much muscle you have on your body."
Some other lifestyle factors that influence metabolism are what we put in our bodies and whether we have a history of either over or undereating. "Closely followed are stress management, sleep quality, sun exposure, and supplements," said Banning. Genetics also plays a part and height and weight can also affect the metabolic rate.
"More than likely, it's a combination of any of these factors that causes one person's metabolism to vary from another," said Banning.
How Can I Improve My Metabolism?
Protein is often referred to as the "building blocks of life" for its ability to repair and grow cells and to keep the body moving, and can be found in every cell in the body.
"Adequate [daily] protein intake is around 0.8 grams per pound of body weight," explained Banning, "and its essential for your body to build and maintain muscle."
Banning prefers animal protein and likes to incorporate as many kinds of it as possible into her diet to give her metabolism the biggest boost. "I like leaner cuts like chicken breast, ground meats for convenience, and organ meats for even more nutrient density. I also use protein powders almost daily that often include whey and collagen, as well as high quality cheese, yoghurt, and other dairy products."
According to the World Animal Foundation, approximately six percent of the population of the U.S are vegan and there are many vegan protein supplements available. "I recommend a wide range of vegan protein including protein powders, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, and grains," said Banning, "Again, the more variety you incorporate the more nutrients you'll assume."
Banning referred to muscle as "expensive tissue" meaning it requires more calories to maintain. "Therefore," she said, "the more muscle you have on your body, the more calories it's able to burn at rest."
Resistance training is an effective way to build muscle and involves physical exercises that are designed to improve strength and endurance like weight lifting.
In her line of work, Banning has found that many people are more likely to enjoy working out if they can do a lot of it at home. "Invest in a few gym basics like dumbbells, furniture sliders, resistance bands, and a stability ball," said Banning, "Joining a gym is a great option as well and a coach can help you tailor your workout to your specific bodily needs."
Banning recommends starting out with three 15-minute workouts per week, or possibly one longer session on your lunch break. "Make it work for you," she said, "The key is to make your goals as easy as possible to achieve consistency. If you can make it a habit that you enjoy you're more likely to see results fast. Whereas if you try and overhaul your lifestyle all at once, you're more likely to burn out and give up entirely."
According to Banning, eating a good nutritious breakfast within 30 minutes of waking up immediately signals to your body that there's food available and calories to burn, kick starting your metabolism and burning fat.
"Eat a balanced breakfast that can be anything you want with adequate carbohydrates, fats, and non-starchy veggies is a great way to start the day," she said, "Some ideas include:
- "Eggs and spinach with toast or potatoes.
- "High protein overnight oats.
- "A protein powder smoothie.
- "Yoghurt topped with fruit and hemp seeds."
Does the Metabolism Get Worse With Age?
It is commonly believed that as we age our metabolism becomes less effective and we struggle to lose or maintain a healthy weight. However a study from 2021 has begun to challenge this idea, at least in the way it has come to be accepted.
The groundbreaking study found that the metabolism peaks at around age one, when babies are able to burn calories 50 percent faster than adults, and then it gradually declines at a rate of roughly three percent a year until the age of 20. From there, the study, which was published in the journal Science by Pontzer et al., found that the metabolism essentially levels and remains stable until the age of 60, when it only begins to decline by less than one percent annually. The study also found that menopause also had no effect on metabolic rate.
The study was conducted by Herman Pontzer, an associate professor of evolutionary anthropology at Duke University, and colleagues who studied a database of more then 6,400 people aged eight to 95 from 29 countries who participated in "doubly labeled water" tests.
This method involved the individuals drinking water where some of the hydrogen and oxygen had been replaced with isotopes that can be traced in urine. Using this method the study could observe how much oxygen they lost per day and therefore how much carbon dioxide the body produced. As carbon dioxide production is a precise measurement of how many calories the body burns in a day, this was a key indicator of metabolic rates.
Banning cites lifestyle changes, not metabolism, as one of the main reasons that it gets harder to maintain a healthy weight as we age. "When we're young it's natural to be more active and spend time outdoors. As we get older we're more likely to be less active, working a desk job or maybe struggling with an injury with very little sun exposure. This in turn zaps our energy and consumes our time and we're more likely to choose easy, calorie-dense low nutrient foods. So while it may seem your metabolism is slowing with age, it's really a collective of lifestyle choices adding up that continue to slow it down."
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