I often hear clients blame a slow metabolism for the reason they can't lose body fat and ultimately weight. It's true that there isn't much you can do to alter your basal metabolic rate (BMR) which is the energy your body needs to function vital organs per day at rest, is largely down to two things; your genetics and your size. If your parents had slow metabolisms, its likely you will too. If you were fortunate enough to inherit a speedy metabolism, then you are quids in and the larger you are (or the more muscle you have) the faster your metabolism, on the flip side the smaller you are the slower your metabolism. That's because it takes less fuel or energy (ie calories) to run a tiny person than it does to move a large person. This is often disappointing news for obese people trying to lose weight and get into shape. Men also usually have less body fat and more muscle than women of the same age and weight which means they burn more calories at rest and as you get older, your metabolism slows as the muscle tends to decrease naturally and fat accounts for more of your bodyweight.
So, we've stablished that you can't swap your metabolism with a smaller leaner person, but there are a few things you CAN do, to increase the number of calories you burn per day. And like I always say - small progress is still progress, and a few calories here and there can add up in the longer term. In addition to your BMR, two other factors determine your metabolism. Food processing and your physical activity & exercise.
Thermogenesis is basically the calories your burn eating, digesting and absorbing food. It varies depending on the macro type being digested - protein burns most, then carbs then fat. Also eating REAL whole food, burns more than drinking calories, or processed junk because your body has to work harder to break down fibre and protein - hence why my number one advise for fat loss clients is to eat plenty of lean protein, with green veggies & fruit. Not only is it better for your health, it also helps you look better too.
The activity that you do all day (that isn't formal exercise) is called NEAT. This is walking and moving between normal daily activities and can vary between 100 and 800 calories a day depending on how active a person is. This is the easiest way to burn more calories. Increase your non formal exercise activity. Move more. Sit less. It's that simple.
Muscle speeds the metabolism. Simply because muscle burns more calories than fat. Put simply, this translates into - a size 10 woman with a larger percentage of muscle and lower percentage of body fat than her friend, also a size 10 but who is 'skinny fat' and has more body fat and less muscle, will burn more calories at rest and when active! So, even if you aren't interested in gaining a lot of muscle it is in your best interests to at least maintain what muscle you have. How? By lifting weights & including weighted exercise in your gym sessions. My advice for women of ANY age, aim to get a minimum of 2 and ideally 5, strength training workouts per week. Both for health reasons AND for weight control & loss. The idea that strength training, makes women look bigger is outdated and incorrect. Lifting weights, makes you grow lean muscle, which makes you look leaner & tighter (toned) and the more lean the less fat, the more calories you burn. All the more reason to get off the treadmill or ditch the slow, steady running and learn how to squat & deadlift. Your body and your life will thank you for it!
Take away points. A slow metabolism is rarely the reason behind excessive weight gain. Too much body fat is down to consuming too many daily calories and not enough daily activity. There are however, a few things you can do to get the best out of your metabolism. and a little adjustment here and there can make a big difference over time.
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