Rev up your metabolism

The metabolism is often cited as a way to lose weight more quickly, or as a reason for difficulty in shedding those excess pounds. Yet how many of us really know what it is, what it does, and how it affects our weight? Take a look at the facts, and find out how your metabolism could help you to lose weight.

Boost your metabolism

Pic: Getty

What is metabolism?
Metabolism is the word that describes all the chemical processes that occur in the body, keeping the organs functioning. Energy is required for these chemical processes to happen, and the minimum amount your body needs to carry out such processes is known as the basal metabolic rate (BMR). Therefore, a slow or fast metabolism is a low or high BMR respectively.

Your metabolic rate
Size, age, gender and genes are all factors that determine your metabolic rate. For instance, since muscle cells require more energy to maintain than fat cells, those with more muscle mass tend to have a higher BMR. This explains why men - who generally have more muscle, heavier bones and less body fat than women - often have a faster metabolism, and therefore a greater recommended daily calorie allowance. As we age, we tend to lose muscle, which causes the BMR to decrease.

According to metabolism expert Professor James Timmons, from Loughborough University, a slow metabolism is rarely to blame if you are trying unsuccessfully to lose weight. Prof. Timmons points out that studies suggest overweight people may even have a higher BMR thanks to bigger muscles and internal organs.

However, crash diets and severe calorie-restricted diets can cause the metabolism to slow down, since the body has to break down muscle for energy, lowering the muscle mass.

How can I boost my metabolism?
From chillis to green tea, there are a host of foods and supplements that claim to speed up your metabolism and thereby aid weight loss, but the evidence to support these claims is far from rock solid.

By keeping active and increasing muscle mass though, you could give your body a helping hand when it comes to shifting the weight.

Try a mix of cardio and strength training, and get your body moving at every opportunity and you can boost your calorie-burning ability.

Aerobic exercise such as walking, cycling, swimming or running is great for burning calories, and five 30-minute sessions a week will set you on the path to a slimmer you. Twice-weekly strength training, including high-intensity exercise, lifting weights or even a spot of intense gardening will help to build muscle mass - and as previously mentioned, muscle requires more energy to maintain so it burns calories than fat.

But don't just rest on your exercise regime laurels - find ways to keep moving, whether it be taking the stairs, getting off the bus a stop early, or going for a lunchtime stroll. The more active your body is, the more calories you will burn.

And of course, stick to your recommended daily calorie allowance.

Have you tried boosting your metabolism with foods or supplements? Did they work for you? Leave your comments below...