When one talks about wellness, one of the things to consider must be the overall metabolic rate of the body. What is metabolic rate and why is it so important? Simply put, metabolic rate or basal metabolic rate (BMR) refers to the amount of energy (or calories) the body burns to carry out basic maintenance activities. This includes activities like breathing, protein synthesis, heartbeat regulation, cell production and so on. The higher the BMR, the better your metabolism. If your metabolism becomes sluggish due to any reason, your body will burn fewer calories and not only will your bodily functioning be less efficient, you will also start piling on weight.
What are the factors that can affect metabolic rate?
Metabolic rate is impacted by a number of factors, of which the leading ones are:
- Gender – Men tend to have faster metabolisms than women due to higher muscle ratio.
- Age – Metabolism tends to slow down with age due to loss of muscle, hormonal changes etc.
- Genetics – Our genes can also decide to an extent whether we have a slow or fast metabolism.
- Body size and composition– Usually, people with bigger bodies will have a higher metabolic rate due to the need to maintain organs of a relatively larger size. Similarly, those with a higher proportion of muscle tissue in their bodies will need higher amounts of energy to maintain these, and will, therefore, have a faster metabolism.
- Environmental factors – People living in very hot or very cold climates tend to have a faster metabolism. This is because the body has to work harder to maintain a normal temperature in these climates.
- Activity level – The more physically active one is, the better his or her metabolism will tend to be. This is simply because exercise helps to improve muscle mass in the body and keep the fat ratio low.
- Diet – What we eat regularly has a significant impact on our metabolic rate.
- Chemicals and drugs – Certain chemicals like pesticides, and various drugs like steroids, antidepressants and so on, can bring down a person’s metabolic rate. On the other hand, nicotine and caffeine are known to increase BMR.
Now we know what metabolic rate is, and how it gets impacted. We also understand that having a slow metabolic rate will lead to weight gain. So basically, if a person wishes to be fit as he or she grows older, it is important to ensure that metabolic rate remains high.
Ways to boost metabolic rate for improved health
- Get sufficient sleep. Studies in the US have linked insufficient sleep with hormonal imbalance and a slowdown in the metabolic rate, causing weight gain.
- Go organic. Pesticides in fruits and vegetables have a damaging effect on the thyroid gland, making it sluggish. Widespread use of pesticides in the modern world is believed to be one of the causes of the hypothyroid mini-epidemic that one sees today. A sluggish thyroid slows down the metabolism drastically.
- Add mineral supplements to your diet. If you are not getting enough iron, calcium, zinc, magnesium and vitamin D in your diet (a blood test will be enough to tell you this), it might be a good idea to add these to your day as supplements after consulting your doctor. These minerals are all essential for proper functioning of various essential processes.
- Exercise. To ensure that you don’t lose muscle mass as you grow older, ensure that you develop an exercise routine. This will be crucial especially from middle age if you wish to avoid the pitfalls of a sluggish metabolism. Weight training and HIIT (high-intensity interval training) are ideal for this. Exercise boosts metabolism, not only while you are working out, but also for a period of time afterwards.
- Eat protein. Protein is not only essential for cell growth and repair but also takes longer to digest compared to fat or carbs. The net effect of increasing protein in your diet is a boost in your metabolism. Protein sources include legumes, fish, cheese, curd, seeds etc.
- Add omega 3 fatty acids to your diet. These not only improve your metabolism but also reduce inflammation in the body and protect the heart. Moreover, these fatty acids are essential for the proper functioning of leptin, the hormone associated with fat burning. Sources of omega 3 fatty acids include salmon, walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, oysters, cod liver oil, etc.
- Don’t diet too much. If you cut down calorie intake beyond a point, the body goes into starvation mode. The metabolism will actually slow down further and after a point, the body will start attacking muscle cells for energy. Instead of starving yourself, concentrate on giving yourself a healthy and balanced diet.
- Eat small, frequent meals. Instead of loading the system with three heavy meals, try to change things. Start having six small meals every day, so that you are giving your body slow bursts of energy on a sustained basis throughout the day. This should be a better way to kickstart a sluggish metabolism.
What steps do you take to ensure that you remain healthy and your metabolism doesn’t become sluggish? I’d love to learn some more tips if you’d care to share!
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All my earlier posts in this year’s AtoZ Challenge