Increase your metabolism, burn more calories and lose weight. That sounds about right to most people, so let's all rev-up our exercise which in turn will kickstart our metabolic function and poof, fat's gone. Well, hold up just a minute, all you soon-to-be metabolic fat burning machines... it just is not that simple.
Like almost everything health and fitness related, it is never that simple. To add to everyone's confusion about metabolic rates and calorie burn is a vast multimedia marketing machine that will sell you all manners of food, supplements, and equipment to increase your metabolic rate. Sorry folks but your body will outsmart all those pills, food choices and exercise equipment by maintaining a reasonably regular rate of metabolic function.
Research has found that your body has mechanisms in place to hold your metabolism in check to help ensure long term survival. For a simple understanding of metabolic function, it's best to view it as the engine which drives your biology. The food you eat is your fuel, and various cells in your body such as glucose and fat cells are your gas tank. Running your cardiovascular system, muscular system, nervous system, and even your brain requires energy to drive all the cells in your body. Your basal metabolic rate uses the most significant number of calories for energy each day up to eighty percent for a reasonably active adult. Another minor way you burn calories is through the thermic effect of digesting food, roughly three percent, and the thermic effect of activity.
The chief traffic cop of your metabolism is your thyroid whose job is to keep things in balance. When your thyroid has problems, this gland can create hypothyroidism which can cause many health problems and keeps your metabolism low. Your thyroid can also have the problem of hyperthyroidism which can cause irregular heartbeat and many other health issues while increasing your metabolism. My point here is your body uses hormones and other complexed factors to regulate your metabolism, all to keep the body in balance and in a somewhat stable metabolic rate. So yes, you can increase your metabolic rate through exercise and even change calorie burn through certain types of foods, but both will only be for a short time and then your body will regulate your metabolic rate back to within a set range. Keep in mind that a constant higher metabolic rate places demands on calorie consumption and hormone balance which would have risked our survival during our evolutionary process.
Now if we understand that chasing a higher metabolic rate will not last long enough to burn fat (which is why most people get their running shoes on and try to rev things up), then what is the next best course of action? The answer is threefold.
First, limited caloric intake. If the average adult needs 2000 or more calories a day to feed and store energy in their body, then the obvious first step to making your body retune itself is by restricting your caloric intake. Reduce the number of calories you eat in a day to fall short of what your body needs. By creating a calorie deficit each day, your body will start using stored energy from cells. The trick here is to point your body to pull it's energy requirements from fat cells to fill in the deficit loss and keep you going. This means you need to consider the second step.
The second step is to turn your body into a fat burning machine. So what do I mean by fat burning? On average, most people eating from a Standard American Diet (SAD) is consuming 80 percent of all their calories in the form of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates turn to simple sugars in our bodies and are the first responders to feed our energy systems which are a complexed set of systems that react to anaerobic and aerobic activity for quick and easy energy requirements. Since we eat so many carbs all day long, our body learns to just burn sugar using the glycolytic system. In the last few years, you have probably heard of ketogenic diets. This is a process where if you limit carbohydrates enough, your body will create ketones and these ketones target fat cells as an energy source. So for the second step to burn fat, restrict carbohydrates instead of shooting for a high metabolism.
The third step to round out a well-balanced metabolism and achieve great results with fat burning plus the bonus of good body composition is to build muscle. Muscle is a great friend to your metabolic function and helps support proper overall health and mobility. Your muscles are the sworn enemy of fat because muscles need to be fed and it loves to eat fat for energy. The trick is to follow the second step and reduce carbs and start feeding the demands of your muscular system with fat. Once you find the balance between your health and a set metabolic rate, feeding solid well toned muscle with fat and not glycogen, your overall weight, energy levels, and even cognitive power will improve.
There you have it, a simple understanding of why forcing your metabolic rate up does not burn enough fat to make it a viable option. It comes down to restricting your calorie consumption. In other words, don't overeat, eat from a low carbohydrate nutrition plan, and build a lean, toned full body musculature system that keeps it all tight along with making you a fat burning machine.
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A recognized health and wellness presenter, fitness trainer and now primal health coach in the Inland Northwest. Now in his eighth year of bringing health and wellness through his writing, teaching and coaching, Judd delivers his well-rounded message of mindfulness, nutrition and fitness to readers and clients alike.