metabolism-300x300Metabolism is a buzz word in regard to health and weight control. It is simply the speed with which your body burns through food. The faster the better.60-70% of your metabolism is affected by family history, size, age, hormones and muscle mass.1About 10% is affected by the thermic effect of food or the energy our body uses when consuming and processing food.And finally, 10-30% of your metabolism is affected by physical activity.

Your family history is what it is. You have no control over it. Your size as far as height is also beyond your control. But your size regarding body composition can be manipulated. The amount of lean muscle compared to adipos tissue (fat) you have affects your metabolism. Therefore, adding more muscle can help to speed up the rate of metabolism.

Age and physical activity also affect metabolism. We lose 5-7 pounds of lean muscle mass every decade, which slows the metabolism 5% (women after menopause lose 10 pounds). A 50 year old who weighs the same as they did at 20, will likely have 21 pounds more fat and 21 lbs less muscle, unless they did strength training.

Tufts University did a study on the affect of exercise on metabolism. Their study group of older adults increased their metabolisms 15% and reversed 14 years of aging. They did this by gaining a little over 6 pounds of muscle in 12 weeks.

Our hormones, which affect metabolism, are affected by many factors including age. As we age our metabolism's go from a Lipolytic (fat burning), Anabolic (muscle building) environment (at varying levels) to a Lipogenic (fat building), Catabolic (muscle burning) one.


Our hormones are also affected by what we eat, when we eat, how much we eat and how often we eat. The two main metabolic hormones are insulin and glucagon. Insulin removes sugar from blood and stores it as fat. Glucagon takes the stored fat and breaks it down into sugar, thus, “burning fat.” Both hormones are secreted when carbohydrates are eaten. They ebb and flow unless the meal is imbalanced with too many carbohydrates. In this case, the insulin overwhelms and shuts off glucagon. This blocks muscle maintenance, blocks fat burning and slows metabolism. It also makes us sluggish, drowsy, irritable and anxious within an hour-the classic after lunch crash.

Not eating enough protein releases Cortisol, causing muscle loss, thus, slowing metabolism. Eating less often forces your body to burn calories slower in an effort to maintain energy equally in between meals, thus, slowing metabolism. This also negatively affects your thyroid hormones.

There are several keys to increasing the rate of metabolism by what you eat and how you eat. One is to eat the right foods frequently. This starts with breakfast which jump starts your metabolism which naturally slows during sleep. Eating small to medium sized balanced meals every 3-3 ½ hours is optimum. A balanced meal is one which has proper portions of the most natural unprocessed protein, carbohydrate and fat. Eating unprocessed food increases it's “thermic effect,” thus, requiring more energy to digest, burning more calories and raising metabolism. Refined/processed foods are simple to digest and and have no thermic value because they've been striped of their complex components. Spicy foods have been found to raise metabolism.

Being dehydrated, even by 2%, releases cortisol and slows metabolism. Dehydration forces your liver to assist your kidneys instead of performing its main function of burning stored fat.

How you sleep affects your hormones and metabolism. Sleeplessness is a stress and causes the release of Cortisol, a hormone which halts fat burning and muscle maintenance/building.

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