In your previous column, “Interview With an Endocrinologist,” you caught my interest regarding metabolism and the weight loss connection. I’ve lost significant weight over the past six months. But I’m frustrated because I can’t seem to lose any more weight. I am careful about what and how much I eat and I’m often hungry on my current diet. Would you explain why I’m at a standstill in my weight loss process? Is my weight plateau related to my metabolism?Sincerely,
Seeking a Metabolic Connection
Dear Seeking a Metabolic Connection,
Congratulations on your weight loss. It is important to recognize your accomplishments and hard work. You mention that you’re careful about what and how much you eat. Well, that was a big help to you in being successful! I understand your frustration being at an impasse, especially if you are feeling hungry. There certainly is a connection between weight loss and metabolism … I’ll explain.
Definition of Metabolism:
Metabolism refers to the chemical (metabolic) processes that take place as your body converts food and drinks into energy. It’s a complex process that combines calories and oxygen to create and release energy. This energy fuels body functions.
Purposes of Metabolism:
1. Conversion of the energy in food to energy available to run cellular processes.
2. Conversion of food to building blocks for protein, lipids, amino acids and some carbohydrates.
3. Elimination of metabolic wastes.
Your metabolism never stops, even when your body is at rest. It constantly provides energy for basic functions, such as breathing, circulation, digestion, growing and cell repair, hormone level management and regulation of body temperature.
Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR):
Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) refers to the minimum number of calories your body needs to function at rest. This varies from person to person. Your BMR expends 60% to 70% of the energy your body uses. Rapid weight loss and aggressive calorie restriction decrease your BMR. This is one reason weight loss is usually not linear and may stall at some point.
And did you know? Your body uses one-tenth of its energy to process food into fuel. The remaining energy fuels the other bodily functions.
How Metabolism Affects Weight:
People often blame metabolic problems for weight struggles. But your metabolism self-regulates itself to meet your body’s needs. It’s rarely the cause of weight gain or loss. In general, anyone who burns more calories than they take in will lose weight.
Fast and Slow Metabolisms
Someone with a fast metabolism or fast BMR burns more calories even while at rest. If you have a slow metabolism or slow BMR, your body needs fewer calories to keep going.
A fast metabolism does not necessarily lead to thinness. In fact, studies show that people who are overweight/obese often have fast metabolisms. Their bodies need more energy to keep basic body functions going.
Other Factors That Affect Metabolic Rate:
Muscle mass: It takes more energy (calories) to build and maintain muscle than fat. People with more muscle mass often have a faster metabolism and burn more calories.
Age: As you get older, you lose muscle which slows down the metabolism.
Gender: Men tend to have faster metabolisms than women. They have more muscle mass, larger bones, and less body fat.
Genetics: The genes you inherit play a role in your muscle size and ability to build muscle mass.
Physical activity: Walking, chasing after your kids, playing tennis and other forms of exercise cause your body to burn more calories versus being sedentary.
Smoking: Nicotine speeds up metabolism and burns more calories. This is why people who quit smoking often put on weight. But the health consequences of smoking—cancer, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease—outweigh any benefit from burning a few extra calories.
For years, researchers have been documenting a phenomenon called “metabolic adaptation” or “adaptive thermogenesis.” As people lose weight, their basal metabolic rate—energy used for basic functioning—slows down to a greater degree than would be expected from the weight loss.
Do You Lose Weight Faster If You Have a High Metabolism?
Having a higher metabolism can help you lose weight and keep it off, if that’s your goal, while keeping you more energetic.
Weight Loss Tips
1. Don’t skip breakfast.
2. Eat regular meals.
3. Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables.
4. Exercise! Be more active.
5. Drink plenty of water.
6. Eat high-fiber foods.
7. Read labels.
8. Use a smaller plate.
Back to Our Question
So, dear letter writer, from the information above there are many factors that affect metabolism. If your weight has plateaued, perhaps your caloric intake is too low. You mentioned you are often hungry on your diet. You might be inadvertently slowing down your metabolism by consuming an extremely low caloric diet. And keep in mind, weight loss, slows metabolism and BMR.
To help increase your metabolic rate try: 1) Eating healthy snacks between meals like fruits, vegetables, lowfat cheese; 2) Track your daily caloric intake; and 3) Add exercise into your weight loss equation. Exercise boosts metabolism and contributes to good health and wellness.
“Seeking a Metabolic Connection”: Have you been exercising? Even walking helps boost metabolism. If you are not exercising, get going!
There are many reasons for weight loss plateaus. At Nutrition Transformations we encourage adequate oral intake while promoting weight loss. Eating adequate calories maintains a healthy nutrition status and regulates metabolism. Remember, exercise is also important to help boost metabolism and keep the body and mind healthy.
Yours in good health,
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