What's The Deal With: Boosting Your Metabolism
- Written By:Dr. Jaime Schehr N.D, R.D
"What's The Deal With" is a series from Dr. Jaime Schehr (N.D., R.D) that explores the latest health news, buzzy ingredients, and answers your most asked wellness questions.
Is a slow metabolism a real thing? Is metabolism really the culprit? And if so, is it possible to rev up your metabolism to burn more calories?
It's true that metabolism is linked to weight, but rarely is it the sole cause of weight gain. Metabolism is driven by Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR is determined by body composition, gender and age), thermogenesis (the energy needed to digest), and physical activity.
Age: As you get older, muscle mass decreases leading to lower BMR. This is driven by many factors (reduction in endocrine function, physical activity, and nutrition) and it’s also a common reason why many women in menopause struggle with weight gain despite exercise efforts. Muscle mass can decrease up to 8% per decade after the age of 30 and this rate of decline is even higher after the age of 60 if interventions and lifestyle modifications are not considered.
Thermic effect of food: Sure you can argue calories in/out is what matters, but some calories take a lot more energy for the body to digest, like fats, fiber, and protein.
Activity level: Muscle is active tissue, fat cells are not. Even at rest, muscle requires energy (calories) and after exercise muscle continues to need energy. Therefore, the more muscle you have the greater your BMR.
So, Can You Boost It?
What about all the pills and powders? Well they may be “aiding'' one of the processes I just described, but they are not directly increasing metabolism. While I’m not against trying something that has a low risk-benefit ratio, I do believe it’s vital to understand that it’s not going to work if you don't put in the work.
If you want to optimize your metabolism, you need to optimize the fibers, healthy fats and proteins in your diet and exercise to increase muscle mass. Including both insoluble and soluble fibers is important in the diet, this includes foods such as seeds, vegetables, fruits and unprocessed grains. Healthy fats include avocado, fish, olives and various seeds to name a few. Protein needs for muscle optimization generally included those from lean animal sources.
And if you want to get really fancy you can get an RMR (resting metabolic rate) test to ultimately determine exact caloric needs and which foods your body burns most effectively. RMR represents the amount of energy needed to sustain physiological function at rest, so basically the amount of calories you burn at rest. There are equations that can be used to predict an RMR, but studies have shown predicted results are not statistically accurate and are often higher than measured RMR. The best way to understand your body's caloric needs is to have your RMR tested by a doctor, or an exercise physiologist.
Dr. Jaime Schehr, a nationally recognized expert in integrative medicine and nutrition holds duel licenses as a Naturopathic Physician and Registered Dietitian.