When it comes to weight loss, we hear a lot about metabolism.
The internet is filled with gimmicks that promise quick ways to boost your metabolism so that you can become a “fat burning machine”.
Supplements that will negate diet and exercise by giving you a metabolism so fast you’ll be able to eat whatever you want.
A plethora of misleading information aimed at taking your money.
So what IS the truth on metabolism and what key components does your metabolic rate consist of?
Well, first, the truth is that though we can in fact influence our metabolism, we cannot so easily nor so quickly impact it to such an extent that is promised by “internet fitness experts”.
Having said that, we can aid in an increased metabolic rate overtime through certain honest and practical methods.
Below we’ll go over these methods as well as what our metabolic rate consists of.
4 Key Components of Your Metabolic Rate
Before getting into the strategies it is best to learn what key components make up your metabolism.
Knowing these components allows you to see why certain strategies work and why others are just gimmicks.
To not keep you waiting too long though, I’ve added how you can TRULY influence each of these components.
With that being said, let’s get started!
Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR):
Accounts for: ~60% of TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure)
What is it?
RMR is the energy your body expends by simply maintaining itself (fueling the processes to keep us alive). If you laid in bed all day doing nothing you would still expend this amount of calories.
What you can do?
Focus on preserving muscle mass when dieting and/or on gaining muscle mass through resistance exercise when not.
Note: Women should know that becoming “big and bulky” from resistance training is a myth. Without the use of anabolic steroids, it would be extremely unlikely (and arguably impossible) for you to get that big.
If you want to lose fat and keep it off, increasing muscle mass can be an extremely beneficial strategy.
Muscle is very active tissue. Higher amounts of muscle mass will lead to higher energy expenditures.
Thermic Effect of Food (TEF):
Accounts for: ~10% of TDEE
What is it?
TEF is the energy expended during the process of digestion, absorption and utilization of food ingested. Each macronutrient (protein, carbohydrate, fat) has a different TEF.
What you can do?
Eating more protein and fiber rich foods would increase the amount of energy you expend each day (relative to a lower protein and fiber diet) due to their higher thermic effect. It should be understood that this would not produce a significant increase in energy expenditure, however, because of all the health benefits of both protein and fiber it would be an effective weight loss/maintenance strategy.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, proper intakes are as follows..
Daily Protein Intake:
- 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight for a sedentary individual
- 1.2-1.7g per kg of body weight for an active individual
–Daily fiber intake:
- 25 g for women
- 38 g for men
These intakes can and do vary depending on varying factors such as age.
Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (EAT):
Accounts for: 15-30% of TDEE
What is it?
Exercise Activity Thermogenesis is pretty straight-forward, it is the energy expended during purposeful exercise. The reason this component has such a wide range is because it is dependent on how frequent an individual exercises. Someone who walks on the treadmill once a week would obviously have a lower EAT percentage than an individual exercising 5 days a week for 30-60 minutes.
What you can do?
Exercise more! Aim to exercise 3-5 days a week
Recommendations for exercise vary greatly depending on exercise experience, age, past injuries, preferences, goals, etc.
For more information on exercise guidelines see this article by the American College of Sports Medicine here.
Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT):
Accounts for: ~10% of TDEE
What is it?
NEAT consists of the energy expended from doing non-purposeful exercise/activity such as walking to your car, fidgeting with something, tapping your foot, doing yard work, etc.
What you can do?
-Move more! (i.e, walking your dog, mowing your lawn (push mow and/or walk behind mower), taking the stairs everyday, walking to the mailbox, etc).
Strategies to speed up your metabolism
Now we get into the strategies!
One thing that you will notice is that NONE of these strategies are one and done, produce drastic results overnight.
Such strategies do NOT exist.
However, when you put all of these strategies together they truly make a difference.
Resting Metabolic Rate: Your best way to increase your RMR is to increase your muscle mass. Now, this is one of the least quick ways to speed up your metabolism but likely one of the most effective. The reason this can be so effective is not because muscle mass will increase your RMR significantly. Rather it is because your resting metabolic rate accounts for the greatest amount of your metabolic rate (~60%). Building muscle mass is definitely no easy task. But for those of you who are just starting out, have not exercised in a while, etc it will be much easier. The keys to building muscle are;
A progressive resistance training regimen, i.e, resistance training in which you continually increase the training stimulus. This can be done by things such as increasing load, reps, sets, duration, or frequency. You must always remember (especially for beginners) that you do NOT need to follow some bodybuilding workout to gain muscle. You do not need to spend 45-60 minutes in the gym to develop solid muscle mass (you don’t even need a gym at all, though everyone has their poison). The key is finding a form of resistance training which YOU enjoy, being consistent, and continually slightly increasing certain training variables (e.g, reps, sets, frequency, etc). Learn more about this topic here. Always consult your physician before adopting a new exercise regimen.
Proper protein intake. The key is aiming to get a sufficient source of protein at every meal. While it is not necessary, a whey protein powder can help you get in sufficient protein each day. Learn more about protein and weight loss here. You can also check out this article on protein intake by the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics.
Sufficient sleep. Getting 7+ hours of sleep every night is important for every health and fitness goal. Whether you want to lose fat, build muscle, improve general fitness, or just be healthier you need to get sufficient sleep. If you want to build muscle and you are not getting 7+ hours of quality sleep, you should start aiming for it. Learn more about sufficient sleep for weight loss and general health here.
If you do not have the above 3 things accounted for you should not be worried about anything else (especially supplements).
Get those down and you will be well on your way to increasing muscle mass and therefore increasing your resting metabolic rate.
Note: I didn’t mention a caloric surplus because I assume the key goal of most reading this is to lose weight. While a caloric surplus is not needed to build muscle you will do so much more efficiently if using one.
Thermic Effect of Food: The best way to speed up your metabolism with this component is to eat more protein and fiber rich foods. Now, you don’t want to just go out there and drastically increase your consumption of these nutrients (nor do so with a supplement). Your best bet is to slowly add in some of the below mentioned foods;
Fiber: Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains..
Protein: Lean meats, eggs, low fat dairy products, nuts, navy beans.
The key is choosing foods which you truly enjoy and making small, gradual changes rather than large leaps.
If you don’t like Greek yogurt, don’t use it to increase your protein intake. Or find a flavor or brand that you do like!
If you can’t stand carrots, don’t eat them!
I love apples! So I’ve made them a staple within my diet. I mix it up here and there with some other fruits but because I like apples so much I focus on them.
Take the time to find foods that you enjoy that can help increase your protein and fiber intake.
Exercise Activity Thermogenesis: To speed up your metabolism with this one is pretty straightforward. Exercise more! If you are only exercising 2 days a week, add in another session to make it 3. If you exercise for about 20 minutes, increase the duration to 25 or 30. As always the key is making, slow gradual improvements so that the changes last. Doing too much too soon will almost always lead to failure. Speeding up your metabolism for a few weeks is not worth your time. If you want to get lean and stay lean you need to build habits! So, whether increasing frequency or duration aim to make some slight increases over the next few weeks to help speed up your metabolism with exercise activity thermogenesis.
Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis: Want to speed up your metabolism with NEAT? Simple, just move more. Park further from the store, walk around/pace every time your on the phone, get up and move every 20-30 minutes. Just get more active and start moving more! Remember to start small and focus on building habits. If every 20-30 minutes is too frequent, simply start with moving for 20 seconds every 45-60 minutes. When that becomes habitual (taking little effort and thought) switch to every 30-45 minutes, and so. You would be amazed on how all of these little bouts of movement can benefit your weight loss goals as well as just how you feel overall. If you want to speed up your metabolism you need to skip the gimmicks and start moving more.
(Get a FREE copy of my NEW Ebook “Eat Better, Move More: A Simple Practical Guide to Successful Weight Loss” here!). This 48 page Ebook guides you through a simple, practical path to creating a healthy lifestyle that promotes a leaner, stronger, healthier you.
That’s it. If you focus your time and effort on those strategies you’ll find losing weight and keeping it off much more simple.
Now, none of the above strategies that I mentioned to speed up your metabolism are going to produce night and day differences. The whole “turn your body into a fat burning furnace” hype is just nonsense.
It also must be noted that it is the combination of these strategies which produces the greatest benefit.
When they are paired together they are truly powerful. The power comes not only from their effect on metabolism but your overall health.
Increasing muscle mass, eating more protein and fiber rich foods, exercising more, and living a more physically active lifestyle are all far more beneficial than just to increase your metabolism.
If you want to be healthy and fit, these are the behaviors which you want to make habitual.
To summarize the above information, our metabolic rate consists of 4 key components;
- RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate)
- TEF (Thermic Effect of Food)
- EAT (Exercise Activity Thermogenesis
- NEAT (Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis).
We can elevate our metabolic rate (and therefore increase our likelihood of weight loss and weight maintenance) by:
- Increasing muscle mass (overtime) through resistance exercise (muscle mass influences RMR)
- Taking in an adequate amount of protein and fiber (influencing TEF)
- Exercising more frequently (directly influencing EAT)
- And aiming to move more in our daily lives (influencing NEAT).
I hope that you have found this article helpful in better understanding your metabolic rate and what you can do to influence it.
If you liked the article and/or feel someone else may benefit from it, please feel free to like and/or share.
Best of luck with all your fitness goals! Keep pushing forward!