Metabolism: Everything You Need to Know

Learn everything you need to know about metabolism, including what it is, how it works, how to boost it, and what it means for your overall health and fitness. This comprehensive guide covers everything from metabolism disorders to the metabolic panel, and provides tips on how to eat a healthy metabolism diet and get regular metabolism exercises..

Isabella Ramirez

10/26/202318 min read

What is metabolism?

Metabolism is the process by which your body converts food into energy for various functions, such as breathing, circulating blood, building and repairing cells, digesting food, and eliminating waste. Your metabolism determines how many calories you burn each day, and therefore, how much weight you can lose or gain.

It consists of two main components: catabolism and anabolism. Catabolism is the breakdown of molecules into smaller units, such as glucose, amino acids, and fatty acids. Anabolism is the synthesis of larger molecules from smaller units, such as proteins, glycogen, and triglycerides.

Many factors affect your metabolism, such as your age, sex, body mass, body composition, physical activity, and illness. However, some of these factors are beyond your control, such as your genetics or your hormonal changes. So, how can you increase your metabolism and lose weight effectively?

In this blog post, we will share some tips and strategies that can help you boost your metabolism and achieve your weight loss goals. We will also discuss some common myths and misconceptions about metabolism and weight loss that you should avoid.

What is metabolic rate?

Metabolic rate is the amount of energy (calories) your body uses in a given period of time. It can be measured in different ways, such as:

  • Basal metabolic rate (BMR): This is the minimum amount of energy your body needs to maintain its basic functions at rest, such as breathing, heartbeat, and brain activity. BMR accounts for about 60-75% of your total energy expenditure.

  • Resting metabolic rate (RMR): This is the amount of energy your body uses when you are awake but not active. RMR is slightly higher than BMR because it includes some additional factors, such as digestion and thermoregulation. RMR accounts for about 65-80% of your total energy expenditure.

  • Thermic effect of food (TEF): This is the amount of energy your body uses to digest and absorb the food you eat. TEF accounts for about 10% of your total energy expenditure.

  • Thermic effect of activity (TEA): This is the amount of energy your body uses to perform physical activities, such as walking, running, lifting weights, or playing sports. TEA accounts for about 15-30% of your total energy expenditure.

  • Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT): This is the amount of energy your body uses to perform non-exercise activities, such as fidgeting, standing, or doing household chores. NEAT accounts for about 5-10% of your total energy expenditure.

How can I measure my metabolism?

There are different methods to measure your metabolism, but they vary in their accuracy and availability. Some of the most common methods are:

  • Indirect calorimetry: This is a device that measures the amount of oxygen you consume and the amount of carbon dioxide you produce when you breathe. This can indicate how much energy you are using at rest or during exercise. Indirect calorimetry is considered the gold standard for measuring metabolism, but it is expensive and requires specialized equipment and trained personnel.

  • Bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA): This is a device that sends a small electric current through your body and measures the resistance it encounters. This can estimate your body composition (fat mass and lean mass) and calculate your metabolic rate based on that. BIA is a simple and inexpensive method, but it can be affected by factors such as hydration, temperature, and food intake.

  • Online calculators: These are tools that estimate your metabolic rate based on some variables, such as your age, gender, height, weight, and activity level. Online calculators are easy and convenient to use, but they are not very accurate and may not account for individual differences.

What are the benefits of having a high metabolism?

Having a high metabolism means that your body burns more calories at rest and during activity than someone with a low metabolism. This can have several advantages, such as:

  • Easier weight management: A high metabolism can help you maintain or lose weight without having to restrict your calories too much or exercise excessively. You can also enjoy a more varied and satisfying diet without worrying about gaining weight.

  • More energy and stamina: A high metabolism can provide you with more energy and stamina throughout the day. You can feel more alert, focused, and productive at work or school. You can also perform better at physical activities and sports.

  • Better health and immunity: A high metabolism can improve your health and immunity by enhancing your blood circulation, oxygen delivery, hormone balance, and cellular repair. You can lower your risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. You can also fight off infections and illnesses more effectively.

How to get a faster metabolism?

Tip #1: Eat Enough Calories

One of the most common mistakes that people make when trying to lose weight is to drastically cut their calorie intake. While eating less than you burn can create a calorie deficit and lead to weight loss, eating too little can have the opposite effect.

When you eat too few calories, your body goes into starvation mode and slows down your metabolism to conserve energy. This means that you will burn fewer calories and store more fat. Moreover, eating too little can cause muscle loss, which further reduces your metabolic rate.

To avoid this, you should eat enough calories to support your basic bodily functions and your physical activity level. You can use online calculators or apps to estimate your basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is the minimum amount of energy you need to stay alive at rest. Then, you can multiply your BMR by an activity factor that reflects how active you are. For example:

  • If you are sedentary (little or no exercise), multiply your BMR by 1.2

  • If you are lightly active (light exercise 1-3 days/week), multiply your BMR by 1.375

  • If you are moderately active (moderate exercise 3-5 days/week), multiply your BMR by 1.55

  • If you are very active (hard exercise 6-7 days/week), multiply your BMR by 1.725

  • If you are extra active (very hard exercise or physical job), multiply your BMR by 1.9

The result is your total energy expenditure (TEE), which is the amount of calories you need to maintain your current weight. To lose weight safely and effectively, you should aim for a moderate calorie deficit of around 500 calories per day, which can lead to a loss of about one pound per week.

For example, if your BMR is 1500 calories and you are moderately active, your TEE is 2325 calories. To create a 500-calorie deficit, you should eat around 1825 calories per day.

However, keep in mind that these numbers are only estimates and may vary depending on your individual characteristics and goals. You should also consult with your doctor or a registered dietitian before starting any weight loss plan.

Tip #2: Eat More Protein

Protein is an essential macronutrient that plays a key role in building and maintaining muscle mass, which is important for your metabolism. Muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue, even at rest. Therefore, having more muscle mass can increase your metabolic rate and help you burn more fat.

Protein also has a high thermic effect of food (TEF), which means that it requires more energy to digest and metabolize than other macronutrients. TEF accounts for about 10% of your total energy expenditure. Protein has a TEF of about 20-30%, compared to carbohydrates (5-10%) and fats (0-3%). This means that eating more protein can boost your metabolism by increasing the number of calories you burn during digestion.

Moreover, protein can help you feel fuller for longer and reduce your appetite. This can help you eat fewer calories and prevent overeating or snacking between meals.

How much protein should you eat? The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day for adults. However, this amount may not be enough for people who are trying to lose weight or increase their muscle mass. Some studies suggest that eating up to 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day can enhance weight loss and preserve muscle mass.

For example, if you weigh 70 kilograms (154 pounds), you should eat between 56 and 112 grams of protein per day.

Some good sources of protein include lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, soy products, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, and protein powders.

Tip #3 Drink more water

Water is essential for every metabolic process in your body. It helps transport nutrients and oxygen to your cells, flush out toxins and waste products, regulate your body temperature, and lubricate your joints. Dehydration can slow down your metabolism and impair your physical and mental performance.

Drinking water can also boost your metabolism by increasing the thermic effect of food (TEF). TEF is the number of calories you burn to digest and absorb the food you eat. Drinking about 500 ml of water can increase your TEF by 24-30% for up to an hour.

Aim to drink at least 2 liters of water per day, or more if you exercise or live in a hot climate. You can also drink green tea, coffee, or other calorie-free beverages to stay hydrated and increase your metabolism.

Tip #4. Spice Up Your Meals

Spices are not only delicious but also beneficial for your metabolism. Spices contain natural compounds that can stimulate your nervous system and increase your heart rate and blood pressure. This can result in a temporary increase in your metabolic rate and calorie burning.

Some of the best spices for boosting your metabolism are:

  • Capsaicin: This is the compound that gives chili peppers their heat. Capsaicin can increase your metabolic rate by up to 8% and help you burn more fat.

  • Cinnamon: This is a popular spice that can lower your blood sugar levels and improve your insulin sensitivity. Cinnamon can also increase your thermic effect of food by up to 20%.

  • Ginger: This is a root that has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Ginger can enhance your thermogenesis (heat production) and increase your calorie expenditure by up to 10%.

  • Turmeric: This is a yellow spice that contains curcumin, a powerful anti-inflammatory agent. Curcumin can improve your fat metabolism and reduce inflammation in your body.

  • Black pepper: This is a common spice that contains piperine, a compound that can block the formation of new fat cells. Piperine can also increase the bioavailability of other spices, such as turmeric.

Tip #5: Exercise Regularly

Exercise is another effective way to boost your metabolism and lose weight. Exercise can increase your energy expenditure during and after the activity, depending on the type, intensity, and duration of the exercise.

There are two main types of exercise that can benefit your metabolism: aerobic and anaerobic.

Aerobic exercise, also known as cardio, involves continuous movement of large muscle groups, such as running, cycling, swimming, or dancing. Aerobic exercise can increase your heart rate and oxygen consumption, which can improve your cardiovascular health and endurance. Aerobic exercise can also burn a lot of calories during the activity, depending on the intensity and duration.

However, aerobic exercise does not have a significant impact on your metabolism after the activity. The excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), which is the amount of oxygen your body uses to recover from exercise, is relatively low for aerobic exercise. EPOC accounts for only about 6-15% of the total calories burned during aerobic exercise.

Anaerobic exercise, also known as strength training or resistance training, involves short bursts of intense activity that use your muscles against a resistance, such as lifting weights, doing push-ups, or sprinting. Anaerobic exercise can increase your muscle mass and strength, which can boost your metabolism at rest. Anaerobic exercise can also burn a lot of calories during the activity, depending on the intensity and volume.

Moreover, anaerobic exercise has a higher impact on your metabolism after the activity. The EPOC for anaerobic exercise is much higher than for aerobic exercise. EPOC accounts for up to 25% of the total calories burned during anaerobic exercise. This means that anaerobic exercise can increase your metabolism for hours or even days after the activity.

Therefore, a combination of both aerobic and anaerobic exercise can maximize your metabolic benefits and help you lose weight more effectively. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends that adults do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise per week, plus at least two sessions of strength training per week that target all major muscle groups.

However, you should start slowly and gradually increase the frequency, intensity, and duration of your exercise according to your fitness level and goals. You should also vary your exercises to avoid boredom and prevent plateaus. You should also consult with your doctor or a certified personal trainer before starting any exercise program.

Tip #6. Get enough sleep

Sleep is crucial for your metabolism and overall health. It helps regulate your hormones, appetite, blood sugar levels, immune system, mood, memory, and cognitive function. Lack of sleep can lower your metabolism by reducing your RMR,
increasing your hunger and cravings, decreasing your insulin sensitivity, and impairing your physical activity.

Aim to get at least seven hours of quality sleep per night. To improve your sleep hygiene, avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine before bed, limit exposure to blue light from screens, keep your bedroom dark, cool, and quiet, follow a regular sleep schedule, and practice relaxation techniques such as meditation or breathing exercises.

What is a metabolic panel?

A metabolic panel is a blood test that measures the levels of certain substances in your blood, such as glucose, electrolytes, and liver enzymes. This test can be used to assess your overall health and identify any potential problems with your metabolism. For example, high glucose levels can indicate diabetes, low electrolyte levels can indicate dehydration, and abnormal liver enzyme levels can indicate liver damage. A metabolic panel can also help you monitor the effects of medications or treatments on your metabolism.

What is fat metabolism?

Fat metabolism is the process by which your body breaks down fat into energy. Fat metabolism can be affected by a number of factors, including diet, exercise, and hormones. When you eat fat, your body converts it into fatty acids and glycerol, which are then transported to different tissues and organs. Some of these fatty acids are used for energy production, while others are stored as triglycerides in adipose tissue. The rate at which your body burns fat depends on several factors, such as the type and amount of fat you consume, the intensity and duration of your physical activity, and the levels of hormones such as insulin, glucagon, and thyroid hormones.

What is a slow metabolism?

A slow metabolism is a term that describes how the body uses energy at a lower rate than average. The energy that the body needs comes from the food and drinks that we consume, which are converted into calories. The calories are then used for various functions, such as breathing, circulating blood, maintaining hormone levels, and repairing cells. The rate at which the body performs these functions is called the basal metabolic rate (BMR), and it varies depending on factors such as age, sex, body size, and muscle mass. People with a slow metabolism have a lower BMR than people with a fast metabolism, which means they burn fewer calories at rest and during physical activity. As a result, people with a slow metabolism may have more difficulty losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight, as they tend to store more calories as fat. A slow metabolism can also be influenced by genetics, hormones, medical conditions, diet, and lifestyle choices

How to gain weight with a fast metabolism?

Gaining weight with a fast metabolism can be challenging, but not impossible. Here are some tips to help you increase your calorie intake and build muscle mass.

  • Eat more frequently. Aim for five to six meals a day, with snacks in between. This will help you consume more calories and prevent your metabolism from burning them too quickly.

  • Choose nutrient-dense foods. Opt for foods that are high in protein, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, and vitamins and minerals. Some examples are eggs, nuts, seeds, avocados, whole grains, lean meats, fish, dairy products, fruits, and vegetables.

  • Drink high-calorie beverages. Instead of water, tea, or coffee, drink milk, smoothies, juice, or protein shakes. These drinks can add extra calories and nutrients to your diet without making you feel too full.

  • Lift weights. Resistance training can stimulate muscle growth and increase your appetite. Focus on compound exercises that work multiple muscle groups, such as squats, deadlifts, bench presses, rows, and pull-ups. Aim for three to four sessions a week, with at least 48 hours of rest between them.

  • Get enough sleep. Sleep is essential for muscle recovery and growth. Try to get at least seven to nine hours of quality sleep every night. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and screens before bed, and stick to a regular sleep schedule.

What are Metabolism disorders?

Metabolic disorders are conditions that affect any aspect of metabolism, which is the balance of biochemical processes that allow the body to grow, reproduce, repair damage, and respond to the environment. Metabolic disorders can be caused by genetic mutations, organ dysfunction, or mitochondrial dysfunction. Some common examples of metabolic disorders are diabetes, Gaucher's disease, hemochromatosis, and phenylketonuria (PKU). Metabolic disorders can cause various symptoms and complications, such as abnormal blood glucose levels, fat accumulation in organs, iron overload, and neurological problems. Metabolic disorders are diagnosed by blood tests, urine tests, genetic tests, or biopsies. Treatment options depend on the type and severity of the disorder, but may include dietary modifications, enzyme replacement therapy, medication, or surgery.

What are metabolism boosters?

Metabolism boosters are foods or supplements that claim to increase the rate at which your body burns calories. Some of the most common metabolism boosters include caffeine, green tea, chili peppers, and protein-rich foods. However, the evidence for their effectiveness is mixed and some may have side effects or interactions with medications.

According to Healthline, caffeine can increase thermogenesis, which is the process of generating heat and energy from food. A review of six studies found that people who consumed at least 270 mg of caffeine per day burned more calories than those who did not. However, caffeine can also cause anxiety, insomnia, and heart palpitations in some people.

Green tea is another popular metabolism booster that contains antioxidants called catechins. These compounds may enhance the effects of caffeine and stimulate fat oxidation. A meta-analysis of 11 studies found that green tea extract increased energy expenditure and fat burning compared to placebo. However, green tea also contains caffeine and may have similar side effects.

Chili peppers contain a compound called capsaicin, which gives them their spicy flavor. Capsaicin may boost metabolic rate by activating receptors in the nervous system that increase heat production and energy use. A review of 20 studies found that capsaicin supplements increased calorie burning by about 50 calories per day. However, capsaicin may also cause stomach irritation and reduce appetite in some people.

Protein-rich foods, such as eggs, flaxseeds, lentils, and meat, may also boost metabolism by increasing the thermic effect of food. This is the amount of calories needed to digest, absorb, and process the nutrients in your meal. Protein has the highest thermic effect of food, requiring 20-30% of its calories for metabolism, compared to 5-10% for carbs and 0-3% for fats. Protein may also help preserve muscle mass, which is more metabolically active than fat. However, too much protein may strain the kidneys and liver and increase the risk of osteoporosis.

Metabolism boosters are not magic pills that can make you lose weight without changing your diet or lifestyle. They may have some modest effects on calorie burning, but they also have potential drawbacks and limitations. The best way to boost your metabolism is to eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep.

Metabolism and fasting

Metabolism and fasting are two important factors that affect the body's energy balance and weight regulation. Metabolism is the process by which the body converts food into energy, while fasting is the voluntary or involuntary abstention from eating for a certain period of time. Fasting can have various effects on metabolism, depending on the duration, frequency and type of fasting. Some of the possible effects are:

  • Fasting can increase the metabolic rate in the short term, as the body mobilizes stored fat and glycogen to provide energy. This can lead to increased fat burning and weight loss.

  • Fasting can decrease the metabolic rate in the long term, as the body adapts to lower energy intake and reduces its energy expenditure. This can lead to decreased fat burning and weight gain.

  • Fasting can alter the hormonal balance and circadian rhythm of the body, which can affect metabolism and appetite regulation. For example, fasting can lower insulin and leptin levels, which can increase hunger and cravings.

  • Fasting can induce autophagy, which is the process of cellular self-cleaning and repair. This can improve metabolic health and prevent or delay aging-related diseases.

Fasting is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and its effects may vary depending on individual factors such as age, gender, health status, activity level and genetic predisposition. Therefore, it is important to consult a doctor or a nutritionist before starting any fasting regimen, and to monitor one's health and well-being during fasting.

What is metabolism diet?

A metabolism diet is a type of diet that aims to boost the body's metabolic rate and burn more calories. The idea is that by eating certain foods and following specific patterns, such as intermittent fasting or cycling between low-carb and high-carb days, one can increase their metabolism and lose weight faster. There are different versions of the metabolism diet, such as the Fast Metabolism Diet, the Metabolic Factor, and the Metabolic Renewal. However, there is not much scientific evidence to support the claims of these diets, and some of them may be too restrictive or unhealthy for some people. Therefore, it is important to consult a doctor or a nutritionist before starting any metabolism diet.

How to test metabolism?

One way to test your metabolism is to measure your resting metabolic rate (RMR), which is the amount of calories your body burns at rest. RMR can vary depending on factors such as age, weight, muscle mass, and genetics. To measure your RMR, you will need a device called a metabolic analyzer, which can be found in some fitness centers or medical clinics. A metabolic analyzer uses a mask or a mouthpiece to measure the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in your breath, which reflect how much energy your body is using. You will need to fast for at least four hours before the test and avoid any strenuous exercise or caffeine. The test usually takes about 10 to 15 minutes and involves sitting or lying down in a comfortable position while breathing normally. The device will calculate your RMR based on the data collected from your breath. Your RMR can help you estimate how many calories you need to maintain, lose, or gain weight, as well as how your metabolism changes over time.

How to calculate metabolism?

There are different ways to calculate metabolism, depending on what you want to measure. One common method is to estimate your basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is the minimum number of calories your body needs to perform its most basic functions at rest. To calculate your BMR, you can use the Mifflin-St Jeor formula, which requires your weight in kilograms, your height in centimeters, and your age in years. The formula is different for men and women:

For men: BMR = (10 x weight in kilograms) + (6.25 x height in centimeters) – (5 x age in years) + 5
For women: BMR = (10 x weight in kilograms) + (6.25 x height in centimeters) – (5 x age in years) - 161

For example, a 35-year-old woman who weighs 75 kilograms and is 170 centimeters tall would have a BMR of about 1,478 calories per day.

Another method is to measure your metabolic equivalent of task (MET), which is the ratio of your energy expenditure during an activity to your energy expenditure at rest. One MET is equal to the energy you burn while sitting still, which is about 3.5 milliliters of oxygen per kilogram of body weight per minute. To calculate the calories you burn during an activity, you can use the following formula:

METs x 3.5 x (your body weight in kilograms) / 200 = calories burned per minute

For example, if you play tennis for 30 minutes, which has a MET value of 8, and you weigh 75 kilograms, you would burn about 306 calories.

What is the relationship between metabolism and weight loss?

Metabolism is the process by which your body converts the food you eat into energy. Weight loss occurs when you burn more calories than you consume. Therefore, metabolism and weight loss are closely related. A higher metabolism means you burn more calories, which can help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. A lower metabolism means you burn fewer calories, which can make it harder to lose weight or prevent weight gain.

What is fast metabolism?

A fast metabolism means that your body burns calories quickly. People with fast metabolisms tend to be thinner than people with slower metabolisms. However, having a fast metabolism does not necessarily mean that you are healthy or fit. A fast metabolism can also be caused by certain medical conditions, such as hyperthyroidism, diabetes, or cancer. These conditions can increase your metabolic rate and cause weight loss, but they can also have serious health consequences. Therefore, it is important to consult your doctor if you notice any sudden or unexplained changes in your weight or appetite.

What is a low metabolism?

A low metabolism means that your body uses less energy than average to perform its functions. This can be influenced by several factors, such as genetics, age, gender, muscle mass, activity level, and hormone levels. People with a low metabolism tend to have a slower digestion, higher body fat percentage, and lower calorie expenditure. They may also feel more tired, cold, and depressed.

What are metabolism issues?

Metabolism issues are any problems with the way your body metabolizes food and energy. These problems can be caused by a number of factors, including genetics, diet, exercise, and medical conditions. Some common metabolism issues include:

  • Metabolic syndrome: This is a cluster of risk factors that increase your chances of developing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. These risk factors include high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol, and abdominal obesity.

  • Hypothyroidism: This is a condition where your thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormones regulate your metabolism and affect many aspects of your health. Hypothyroidism can cause symptoms such as fatigue, weight gain, cold intolerance, dry skin, hair loss, and depression.

  • Hyperthyroidism: This is a condition where your thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormones. Hyperthyroidism can cause symptoms such as nervousness, weight loss, heat intolerance, palpitations, insomnia, and anxiety.

  • Diabetes: This is a condition where your body does not produce enough insulin or use it properly. Insulin is a hormone that helps your cells absorb glucose from the blood. Diabetes can cause high blood sugar levels, which can damage various organs and tissues in your body.

  • Cushing's syndrome: This is a condition where your body produces too much cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that helps your body respond to stress and inflammation. Cushing's syndrome can cause symptoms such as obesity, moon face, buffalo hump, thin skin, purple stretch marks, and high blood pressure.