What is Metabolism?
Growing up as an athlete I always had the mindset of "calories in vs calories out" as well as "fueling your body for performance." Over the years and through the roller coaster of hormones, I’ve found that counting calories does not work for me, it can easily become obsessive and overwhelming. I get so stressed out that I end up feeling worse and my family needs me to be at my best!
Now, I try to focus more on fueling my body with appropriate nutrients especially around exercise. For me, it boils down to eating high quality food, lots of fruits and veggies, lean protein (grass fed/finished, humane certified), nuts and seeds. Pro tip… make sure you have plenty of these foods on hand to eat. As a busy mom, I put a lot of value in meal prep. If you’re short on time, use a local store that delivers or a meal kit service. I get how being busy blurs all those good intentions. Invest in your diet and reap the rewards.
I eat. A lot. I do my best to follow my body’s lead and eat whatever and whenever. I just try to keep it balanced and delicious. If I’m at a party and I feel like eating something “not so good”, I indulge and leave the worries at the door. I know I’ll get back to healthy eating the next day. So in my experience as long as I’m eating high quality, nutritious foods and making sure my food is delicious and satisfying and balanced, I feel my best. The key, I believe, is to listen to our bodies so we don't overeat and become more aware of the reaction of different foods on our body.
The value of “bio-individuality” is key. Each person will react differently to weight gain + loss. Yes, there are great guidelines like crowding out bad foods and adding in good ones, that should be at the heart and center of any person’s diet. Overall, there are so many different factors and circumstances. A food journal is a fantastic way to start. This is a perfect way to figure out what foods produce the most benefits for you, mentally and physically.
What is Metabolism?
This word “metabolism” is thrown around a lot these days.
You know that if yours is too slow you might gain weight. But what exactly does this all mean?
Well technically “metabolism” is the word to describe all of the biochemical reactions in your body. It's how you take in nutrients and oxygen and use them to fuel everything you do.
Your body has an incredible ability to grow, heal, and generally stay alive. And without this amazing biochemistry you would not be possible.
Metabolism includes how the cells in your body:
● Allow activities you can control (e.g. physical activity etc.).
● Allow activities you can't control (e.g. heartbeat, wound healing, processing of nutrients & toxins, etc.).
● Allow storage of excess energy for later.
So when you put all of these processes together into your metabolism you can imagine that these processes can work too quickly, too slowly, or just right.
Which brings us to the “metabolic rate”.
This is how fast your metabolism works and is measured in calories (yup, those calories!).
The calories you eat can go to one of three places:
● Work (i.e. exercise and other activity).
● Heat (i.e. from all those biochemical reactions).
● Storage (i.e. extra leftover “unburned” calories stored as fat).
As you can imagine the more calories you burn as work or creating heat the easier it is to lose weight and keep it off because there will be fewer “leftover” calories to store for later.
There are a couple of different ways to measure metabolic rate. One is the “resting metabolic rate” (RMR) which is how much energy your body uses when you're not being physically active.
The other is the “total daily energy expenditure” (TDEE) which measures both the resting metabolic rate as well as the energy used for “work” (e.g. exercise) throughout a 24-hour period.
What affects your metabolic rate?
In a nutshell: a lot!
The first thing you may think of is your thyroid. This gland at the front of your throat releases hormones to tell your body to “speed up” your metabolism. Of course, the more thyroid hormone there is the faster things will work and the more calories you'll burn.
But that's not the only thing that affects your metabolic rate.
How big you are counts, too!
Larger people have higher metabolic rates; but your body composition is crucial!
As you can imagine muscles that actively move and do work need more energy than fat does. So the more lean muscle mass you have the more energy your body will burn and the higher your metabolic rate will be. Even when you're not working out.
This is exactly why weight training is often recommended as a part of a weight loss program. Because you want muscles to be burning those calories for you.
The thing is, when people lose weight their metabolic rate often slows down which you don't want to happen. So you definitely want to offset that with more muscle mass.
Aerobic exercise also temporarily increases your metabolic rate. Your muscles are burning fuel to move so they're doing “work”.
The type of food you eat also affects your metabolic rate!
Your body actually burns calories to absorb, digest, and metabolize your food. This is called the “thermic effect of food” (TEF).
You can use it to your advantage when you understand how your body metabolizes foods differently.
Fats, for example increase your TEF by 0-3%; carbs increase it by 5-10%, and protein increases it by 15-30%. By trading some of your fat or carbs for lean protein you can slightly increase your metabolic rate.
Another bonus of protein is that your muscles need it to grow. By working them out and feeding them what they need they will help you to lose weight and keep it off.
And don't forget the mind-body connection. There is plenty of research that shows the influence that things like stress and sleep have on the metabolic rate.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to metabolism and how so many different things can work to increase (or decrease) your metabolic rate.
Here’s a special bonus recipe that includes macronutrients that can increase your metabolism!
Recipe (Lean Protein): Lemon Herb Roasted Chicken Breasts
Tip: You can add a leftover sliced chicken breast to your salad for lunch the next day!
Leave a comment below and let me know how it goes. Also, take a photo to share on Instagram! Tag me @naturewellnessbeauty so I can see, and give me a follow if you don’t already! I’d love to stay connected!
Thank you for being here on this journey with me. I'm truly honored you're here.
With Love & Gratitude,
Hello! I’m Jess – I’m a small town Oregonian, a scientist, and a crunchy mom. Passionate about essential oils, long distance cycling, cooking with my littles, cashew milk ice cream + margaritas (on the rocks - salt, please!). My purpose is to help people and nature, both in my professional career and in my personal life. I have spent my career helping bridge the gap between commercial development and preserving nature. Essential oils have become my way to do the same between all the commercial products in our home and creating simple, products on my own. This blog shares my journey to a more natural lifestyle using essential oils, including the science behind essential oils, DIY recipes, tips, and ways to save money using plant-based alternatives. Check out my free email course ditch + switch – natural living with plant based products and learn the steps you need to take to kick those toxins to the curb.
I am not a doctor. I am not here to diagnose, treat, or cure any of your illnesses. The content I share is for informational purposes only.
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