When you’re trying to lose weight — or maintain your current weight — you think about fats, carbs, calories, when you are ever going to find the time to workout and, for many of us, how good a slice of that chocolate cake would taste… and maybe it’s okay if we only have one bite. But, one important part of weight loss, that you are probably not thinking about, is your metabolism.
When you’re trying to shed extra pounds and keep the weight off, it’s smart to understand how your body uses the food you eat. Metabolism is the way the body processes everything eaten and drank, converting to sugar, protein and fat into energy. While there is no controlling how your metabolism works, you can control what you eat, how much you eat and how much physical activity you get every day. These factors have the power over your metabolism. It always comes back to diet and exercise, doesn’t it?
Your metabolism is uniquely based on your genetics, age, gender, muscle mass, and your environment. Those around you who seem to stay slim and have a faster metabolism probably just found, either through work or good luck, the perfect ratio of lifestyle factors. They have an established balance of caloric intake, exercise, muscle mass and effective sleep. When you skip meals or severely reduce your caloric intake, your body compensates by slowing down your metabolism, saving calories for energy your body needs for basic functions. When you eat too many calories without also increasing your physical activity, those unused stores mean weight gain.
Be more active and burn more calories. Your amount of physical activity determines how slow or fast your metabolism gets around to converting your food. When trying to lose or maintain weight, physical activity is one of the most important factors. A 150-pound person who runs for 60 minutes (with a pace of a 10-minute mile) will burn about 680 calories, or roughly the number of calories in a Whopper from Burger King. But even the most lazy of us is still burning calories, just not a good amount. Our bodies use about 10 percent of the calories from the foods we eat to process that food.
Muscle mass makes us strong and, hooray!, burn calories. Strength training helps build muscle mass and keep your bones strong. One pound of muscle burns about 15 calories a day, and while that’s still not much, it’s more than what one pound of fat will do for you.
If you are still having trouble shedding pounds it may be your sleep patterns are sabotaging you. A study conducted at the University of Chicago found that when we don’t get enough sleep, “sleep debt” changes the way our endocrine system functions. That includes our metabolism . If you’re normally getting about seven or eight hours a night, adding or subtracting about an hour won’t make much of a difference. But if you’re not getting more than four or five hours of sleep a day, add another two or more and kick start your weight loss.
To help boost your ability to lose weight, choose foods that are high in protein (lean meats, fish, soy) and fiber (pick whole grains over refined carbs) and keep your portions under control.