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Why Your Metabolism Isn’t Slow

I bet you have heard by now that losing weight comes down to creating a Calorie Deficit

What does this mean?

Essentially, this means on average, you are burning more Calories than you are taking in.

So how is this done?

You’ve probably also heard the phrase:

“I have a slow metabolism”

Heck, you may have even said it yourself.

Now, it is true that people’s metabolisms differ slightly due to genetics.

But what is more true is how our bodies respond slightly differently to the same factors of energy output and energy in.

In today’s blog, I’m going to discuss energy output and how you can manipulate this in your favour.

First up, is our body’s BMR

This stands for basal metabolic rate, which make up for approximately 70% of our overall energy output.

Essentially, this is the energy we require simply for being alive.

This is set in stone for us, and is dictated by our age, size, weight, and genetics.

Two people could be of the same stats, but have different BMRs due to genetics.

Muscle mass very slightly affects BMR, so strength training can have its place in improving body composition and staying lean.

You can estimate yours using a simple equation, personally, my favourite to use is the Harris Benedict Formula which is below:

For men: 66 + (13.7 x BW in kg) + (5 x Height in cm) – (6.8 x Age)

For women: 655 + (9.6 x BW in kg) + (1.8 x Height in cm) – (4.7 x Age)

Now these equations are just a guess, and merely provide a starting point.

The magic comes from applying the next components, and adjusting based on results.

NEAT is next

This stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis and accounts for roughly 15% of our energy output.

This is defined as: “The energy expended for everything we do that isn’t sleeping, eating, or sports-like exercise.” (Levine, 2002)

Essentially, this one of the most manipulative factors (outside of exercise) you can use in your favour.

Have a think of your day to day life and how much movement is involved.

Probably not a lot.

This is where having a step counter and a target can really help. Set yourself a target of steps to hit each day.

Easy ways to up your step count could include:

  • walking to and from the shops
  • walking for 30-60 minutes each day before/after work or at lunch
  • taking a break from your desk every 30 minutes for a lap of the office
  • getting off the bus/tube/train one stop earlier and walking
  • taking the stairs everywhere
  • going for weekend walks/hikes
  • parking far away from entrances

Be inventive with it! Just know, NEAT is usually the difference between someone with a ‘slow’ metabolism and a ‘fast’ metabolism.

Also be aware of how your body may lower this if you’re trying to lose weight.

If you find yourself getting tired and wanting to move less when dieting, this is your body trying to save energy, so overcome this by moving as much as you can.

Then we have the Thermic Effect of Food – TEF

Exactly what it says on the tin here, energy burned from digesting food.

This slightly increases as the Calorie density of the meal increases, as it takes more energy to digest more food.

There is also a difference in amount of energy used depending on the macronutrient of the food.

In order, it goes like this:

  1. protein
  2. alcohol
  3. carbohydrate
  4. fat

Another reason why a higher protein diet could help you in your weight loss journey.

Last, but by no means least, we have Exercise Energy Expenditure (EEE)

This accounts for only about 5% of our daily energy output (depending on time spent).

This is again, variable depending on the person, the type of exercise, the duration and intensity.

It’s safe to say, the longer and more intense the work, the more Calories you burn.

So yes, high intense exercise may be short, but it could burn the same Calories as a long run (or less) depending on the overall intensity.

This part is hard to estimate, but you can always give it a go by using a metabolic equivalents calculator.

METS is essentially the amount of energy burned in exercise.

You could also wear a heart rate monitor or Calorie tracker, but remember, these are also estimates/guesses and the magic comes in adjusting based on results.

Exercise should be done for enjoyment and health benefits, and can add to Calorie burning.

However, it is very easy to over-eat while exercising for long periods of time, so if your exercise is on point, it’s your energy input halting your progress.

In Summary

The body uses energy in multiple different ways, and through some manipulation you can adjust this in your favour (apart from your BMR which will remain unchanged).

If you’re struggling with weight loss, consider the points above and what you can change.

Remember also, that food/drink intake can overcome changes in energy output if you’re not careful.

But components of energy in will be a blog for another time.

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