What Is Your Metabolism?

You've probably heard the word "metabolism," especially as it relates to weight loss or gain. But what is your metabolism, what does it do, and do you have any control over it? Get-Fit Guy Brock Armstrong explains.

Brock Armstrong
7-minute read
Episode #424
The word metabolism in the dictionary

Capsaicin is the chemical that puts the "jala" in jalapeños and it is said that capsaicin can boost your metabolism. But a review of 20 research studies found that capsaicin only increased the number of calories burned by a measly 50 per day. Spend a few minutes walking up some stairs and you have that beat!

Chromium is a mineral that your body uses in small amounts and is said to help raise metabolism. But a study reported in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that chromium picolinate supplements actually had no effect on weight loss.

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) also has mixed results. A review of studies published in the European Journal of Nutrition found that CLA may help with modest weight and fat loss, but the effects were small and uncertain.

And finally, resveratrol was found to burn fat in rats. But the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences found that there is not enough evidence to support its use in humans yet.

It is important to keep in mind that dietary supplement manufacturers in the USA are not required by the Food and Drug Administration to prove that their products are effective before they are sold, so view these products with caution and skepticism.

Factors That Can Lower Your Metabolic Rate

Now it is quick and dirty tips time! Here are a few ways that you can slow down your metabolic rate. A few of these are borrowed from my friend Monica Reinagel’s (the Nutrition Diva) article called Is Your Metabolism to Blame?

Losing weight. The fact is that the smaller your body, the fewer calories it takes to keep it moving. And this effect is amplified if you have lost weight quickly.

Living in a caloric deficit. Restricting calories for more than a few days at a time will also affect your metabolism. In fact, researchers at the National Institutes of Health discovered that people with certain physiologies lose less weight, especially when on a calorie-restricted diet.

Losing muscle. Muscle tissue is more metabolically active than other tissues in your body (such as bone and fat). So if you lose muscle, your metabolism will be affected. You can lose a significant amount of muscle if you lose weight too quickly, so you will have a double whammy on your metabolic rate.

Aging. We all tend to lose muscle tissue as we get older but physically inactive people can lose as much as three to five percent of their muscle mass each decade after the age of 30.

Low thyroid function. If your thyroid gland is not producing enough thyroid hormone, your metabolism can slow down. Conversely, if your thyroid is producing too much hormone, your metabolism can go through the roof but before you get excited, hyperthyroidism is a serious condition, not a great weight loss strategy.

Factors That Support a Healthy Metabolism

Daily movement. Moving more during the day and increasing your overall daily movement is a great way to boost your metabolism. Simple day-to-day tasks such as climbing the stairs, carrying groceries, and simply walking more require your body to work harder and burn more calories.

Exercise. Muscle tissue is metabolically active. Moving those muscles makes them more active. The more active the better. Need I say more?

Build muscle. Muscle uses more calories than fat, so strengthening your muscles will make you into a more metabolically active machine (even when you are at rest).

Eat more protein. Protein takes a little more effort for your body to digest than fat or carbohydrate, so increasing the amount of protein in your diet can help you rev the metabolsm. Plus it helps you put on and maintain muscle mass.

Eat enough calories. Too many calories can cause you to gain weight. But eating too few calories can cause your metabolism to slow down. Finding the right balance will support your metabolism without increasing your waist size.

NOT eating many small meals during the day. You have likely heard this myth that eating five or six small meals during the day can boost your metabolism. Well, unfortunately, there is no scientific evidence for this claim. Check out the Nutrition Diva’s article called Metabolism Myths for more info about that.

Ultimately, your metabolism can and will change slightly from day to day on its own. But you can help your metabolism stay healthy by using the tips I covered in this article.

For more metabolic info, boosting tips, and to join the basal conversation, head over to Facebook.com/GetFitGuy, twitter.com/getfitguy or BrockArmstrong.com.

Also don't forget to subscribe to the Get-Fit Guy podcast on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, Google Play or via RSS.

Metabolism image courtesy of Shutterstock.


About the Author

Brock Armstrong

Brock Armstrong is a certified AFLCA Group Fitness Leader with a designation in Portable Equipment, NCCP and CAC Triathlon Coach, and a TnT certified run coach. He is also on the board of advisors for the Primal Health Coach Institute and a guest faculty member of the Human Potential Institute. Do you have a fitness question? Leave a message on the Get-Fit Guy listener line. Your question could be featured on the show.