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ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT METABOLISM

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Simply put, metabolism is the rate at which your body burns calories and for most people the simplicity ends there. While there are people who seem to eat in kilos and not gain a gram, there are others who struggle to keep the weight off even if they follow a healthy diet. If rumors are to be believed, metabolism is the main reason behind why people find it difficult to shed weight and keep it off.

Now, it’s not as big of an obstacle as everyone makes it out to be. Metabolism is the rate at which your body converts food into energy. This rate of conversion can be boosted, regardless of your age or gender. Our body needs energy—even while it is at rest—for basic functions such as blood circulation, breathing and cell repair. This is called the resting metabolic rate (RMR) or basal metabolic rate (BMR). Up to 75% of the calories we consume every day are used by the body for RMR.

What’s left over goes into your daily activities and digestion duties. Most men require up to 1600 calories a day inclusive of the ration for daily activities (depending on what activity you do). Anything more that you consume is converted into fat and stored in our bodies. As this fat accumulates, your midriff starts to expand, you begin to grow man boobs and your thighs begin chaffing because they’ve begun to rub together because you’re fat.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s delve into the nitty gritties of what affects someone’s metabolism.

Age

After 25, the BMR drops by 5-10% each decade in both men and women. This is mostly because of the loss of muscle mass. Muscles require more fuel to maintain than fat, so the ratio of fat to muscle in a person determines their RMR to a significant degree. People who continue to exercise regularly after 25 drop their RMR only 0.3% per decade so don’t blame your age and get moving.

Thyroid

Fluctuations in this hormone can slow down your metabolism. The solution is to see a doctor and make sure your thyroid hormones are functioning optimally. The doctor may ask you to avoid certain foods like cabbage, broccoli and strawberries which interfere with the functioning of the thyroid gland.

Protein

If you want to increase your metabolic rate, increase protein intake and correspondingly, go easy on carbohydrates and fats. Protein requires more energy to be digested and metabolized than carbohydrates or fats. Your body burns twice as many calories digesting high-protein foods than it does with other food groups.

Small, frequent meals

Long gaps between meals make your body go into starvation mode, which decrease metabolism to conserve energy. Eating small portions with 2- to 3-hour gaps keeps your metabolism spiked throughout.

Exercise

Weight training is the best way to increase metabolism. The more muscle you build, the higher your RMR will be. Weightlifting and highintensity Interval Training also burn more calories for a few hours after exercising than any other form of exercise.

Fact: Every 0.5kg of muscle uses about six calories a day just to sustain itself, while each pound of fat burns only two calories daily.

Sleep

Less than 7 hours of sleep can decrease the number of calories your body burns just while resting, which it does for basic necessities like pumping blood, breathing, etc.

Water

The body needs water to process calories. If you are even mildly dehydrated, your metabolism may slow down. Include fresh fruits and vegetables, which are full of fluid, rather than high-salt potato chips which cause dehydration. Drinking up to 2 liters of water a day is recommended. However, if you have diabetes or any heart condition, speak to your doctor first.

Black coffee

Coffee can help a short-term increase in metabolic rate, when had in moderation (four cups a day is described as moderate). Caffeine can help increase your endurance while you exercise, so you can work out longer and harder too. Do not overdo coffee consumption, as excess can cause acid reflux, insomnia, increased heartbeat, etc.

Green tea

Drinking green tea or oolong tea offers the combined benefits of caffeine and catechins, substances shown to rev up the metabolism for a short period of time. It is safe to have a cup after every meal.

Spice

Five grams of Tabasco can increase metabolism for up to 2 hours after you are done eating. This is because of the presence of capsaicin, the ingredient that makes chillies hot. If you suffer from gastric ulcers, don’t consume any form of capsaicin.

Omega-3

Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, found only in fish oil, can dramatically boost your metabolism, which is why they are so commonly recommended by gym instructors. Fish oil increases levels of fat-burning enzymes and decreases levels of fat-storage enzymes in the body. Capsules containing at least 300mg of EPA and DHA total are best for increasing metabolism.

Crash diets

Eating fewer than the required number of calories (estimated 1800 in men) a day makes no sense for anyone hoping to quicken their metabolism. Although these diets may help you drop weight temporarily, this loss is mostly muscle, and not fat. The lower your muscle mass, the slower your metabolism. In the long run your body burns fewer calories and you end up gaining more weight, so it is best to avoid crash diets.

Vitamin D supplements

When you’re low in vitamin D, not only do you lose weight slowly, you also have high levels of the hormone ghrelin, which causes hunger. Since there are few dietary sources of this vitamin, get a test done to know the level of vitamin D in your body. If you are low, the doctor will put you on a supplement.

Stress

When you are stressed you activate the hormone cortisol. One of the functions of this hormone is to put your body in fat-conserving mode, so de-stress to regularize your metabolism.

Hereditary

Yes, you can inherit a slow metabolism from your parents, but that does not mean genes have to rule your fate. Exercise, drink plenty of water, eat more proteins— you can work at improving your RMR.

So before you go blaming your metabolism, look into these factors. Remember, a slow metabolism certainly isn’t your fate.

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