Metabolism – time to face the truth

By: Quinton de Bruin

Having been a taller than average bloke since I can remember – or as those horrid school photos remind me – I am used to being larger than most guys. What I never got used to was the stage were not only was I tall but I was a little bit wider than the BMI calculation would suggest I should be – let's leave it at that.

Years later and after using every excuse under the sun as to why I couldn't lose the extra weight in my armoury, is now the time to address this metabolic force within us that dictates weight loss? I believe it is. To clarify, metabolism is a term for a chemical reaction which is responsible for keeping us alive. The term is often used interchangeably with metabolic rate which is the number of calories you burn. That being the case, the faster your metabolism the more calories you burn and the quicker you burn fat and easier it is to keep off…. Right?

As a big guy, it is easy to say "I'm big boned" or "I can't lose weight because my metabolism is just really slow". Yet to my horror there is very little to support the idea that our metabolism vary greatly from one person to the next – I will elaborate on that shortly.
From Authoritynutrition.com, here are 10 easy ways to boost your metabolism.

  1. Eat plenty of protein at every meal
    Eating food can increase your metabolism for hours after eating. This is called the Thermic effect of food (TEF) which is caused by the extra calories required to digest, absorb and process the nutrients in your meal. Protein causes the largest rise in TEF by increasing the metabolic rate by 15-30%. Protein also keeps you fuller for longer which results in fewer calories being consumed.
  2. Drink more cold water
    Drinking water over sugary drinks is clearly a better choice, not only do sugary drinks contain loads of calories but research shows that drinking 500ml of water also lifts your metabolism for about an hour. Drinking water before a meal also fills you up and a further study showed that overweight people who drank 500ml of cold water before a meal lost 44% more weight than those that didn't.
  3. Do a high-intensity workout
    High-intensity interval training (HIIT) involves quick and intense bursts of activity. It can also burn more fat than other forms of exercise by increasing your metabolism.
  4. Lift heavy things
    Muscle is more metabolic than fat. Increasing muscle mass means your body burns calories faster, which means it burns fat at a faster rate. "In one study, 48 overweight women were placed on a diet of 800 calories per day, along with either no exercise, aerobic exercise or resistance training. After the diet, the women who did the resistance training maintained their muscle mass, metabolism and strength. The others lost weight, but also lost muscle mass and experienced a decrease in metabolism."
  5. Stand up more
    We lead such sedentary lives these days. Sitting burns far fewer calories so simply standing is in effect increasing your ability to burn calories.
  6. Drink green tea
    This tea increases your metabolism and help convert fat stores into free fatty acids which then increases fat burning. This tea also helps prevent the fat loss plateau.
7. Eat spicy foods
Peppers and chillies contain a substance called capsaicin which can boost your metabolism. In short, eating spicy food can help you burn fat and maintain a healthy weight.
8. Get a good night's sleep
Lack of sleep can decrease the number of calories you burn, change the way you process sugar and disrupt your appetite-regulating hormones.
9. Drink coffee
Apparently, there is a study that shows caffeine increases your metabolism a bit like the green tea. However, it does seem to lean in favour of lean people.
10. Replace cooking fats with coconut oil
Coconut oil contains medium-chain fats which increase your metabolism more than long- chain fats do.

And those would be great tips. Here are a few myths about our metabolism that hit home for me:

1. Eating breakfast jumpstarts your metabolism – apparently, there is no evidence of this in comparative studies.

2. Eating smaller and more frequent meals during the day speeds up your metabolism – nope wrong again.

3. Certain foods can fire up your metabolism – the magic pill we all want – it does not exist. As we state above, all foods fire up your metabolism and there is no silver bullet.

4. Skinnier people have faster metabolisms (oh this is my favourite) – here's a quote for the foodinsight.org website:
A study published in Nature found that of the 35 obese and 28 normal-weight participants, the obese subjects on average had proportionally higher metabolisms. The amount of calories burned daily was most closely related to an individual's lean body mass, which includes muscles, bones, and organs. So chances are, the more you weigh, the higher your metabolism actually is!

The thing I love about exercising and training in the gym is that it is objective – it never changes, the 10kg weight will always weigh 10kgs. The treadmill level 12 will always be 5 minute kilometres. It is a true measure of your physical and mental strength from one day to the next. Hearing that my metabolism is ultimately the same, that the speed and effectiveness with which I will lose weight once again comes down to what I choose to put in my mouth…. and no magic bullet – what a night for breaking news.

The small print: now is probably a good time to encourage you to have a discussion about your personal situation with your doctor, a nutritionist and the Body and Motion trainers to work out how best to achieve any challenges you have in mind. The thoughts in these blogs are my own personal opinion and shouldn't be taken as direct advice. Some of the choices around what I consume or what activity I partake in may not be endorsed by Body and Motion. However, the team will always be keen enablers of your fitness goals! Talk to us today.


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