For many people, the only time they hear the word metabolism is in the context of having a high or low metabolism. You have probably known one person who can eat a fully loaded hamburger, large fries, and a milkshake and never gain a single pound. That person more than likely has a high or fast metabolism.
What Is Metabolism?
To put it simply, metabolism is the process your body performs to turn the food and drinks you consume into usable energy. The body takes in calories in the form of all the foods and drinks you take in during the day, these are combined with oxygen and other compounds the body synthesizes, and at the end of the process, your body has the energy to think, move, and regulate life.
Slow Vs Fast Metabolism
For everyone metabolic functions are the same; however, the rate at which your metabolism functions vary from person to person. This metric is called your basal metabolic rate or BMR for short. There are some general concepts that hold true, but our discussion is very simple by design.
Assuming that a person eats the same amount of food on a daily basis there is potential for a slow or fast metabolism. A slow metabolism will burn fewer calories and store more fat in the body. A fast metabolism will burn more calories and store less fat in the body. Those with fast metabolisms can have difficulty gaining weight and those with slow metabolisms can have difficulty losing weight. This is obviously over-simplified.
So how is BMR defined? Well, this is a calculation of the minimum number of calories your body needs to function during rest. There is a formula used to determine BMR:
Men: BMR = 88.362 + (13.397 x weight in kg) + (4.799 x height in cm) – (5.677 x age in years)
Women: BMR = 447.593 + (9.247 x weight in kg) + (3.098 x height in cm) – (4.330 x age in years)
So, what do you do with this information? Your BMR is the minimal number of calories your body needs to stay alive. Yes, you can eat at the calculated calorie amount from your BMR, but that calculation does not account for calories needed to walk, talk, exercise, etc. Yes, you would lose weight, but it is not sustainable. Bear in mind, if you are storing excess energy in the form of adipose tissue, there is a ready supply of molecular energy available to meet the needs of BMR quite easily.
Can You Speed Up Your Metabolism?
Yes, it is possible to speed up a slow metabolism! Actually, that is not really true. Most people exist within a very tight range of daily calories burned. A hunter-gatherer in the wilderness will burn the same number of calories as a sedentary office worker as an example. However, you can do things that harness the power of your existing metabolic infrastructure and potentially burn more calories. The best way to speed up your metabolism is to adopt a new lifestyle. So, what can you do to pick up your metabolism rate?
HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workouts can help your body rev up your metabolism for as long as a day. One of the simplest HIIT workouts you can do is during a walking or jogging workout you can increase your speed for 30-60 seconds before going back to your regular pace.
Most HIIT regimens involve very high heart rates for short periods of time, so check with your physician first. The best thing you can do to ‘improve’ your metabolism is to gain muscle mass, or lean body mass. The amount of muscle a human carries is responsible for a lot of daily caloric needs.
High protein diets are believed to help speed up metabolic rate through what is called the thermic effect. A higher thermic effect results in the body taking longer to burn off the food. Protein has a higher thermic effect when compared to fats and carbohydrates.
The body will need to expend more energy and work harder to metabolize these molecules. This is because the bonds of the proteins must be broken to harness the amino acids. That said, a high-protein diet (or only protein diet) is not generally recommended for anyone as a sustainable practice.