The word, “metabolism,” seems to confuse many people, appearing to be the mystery part of being human that eludes our personal goals to lose weight. Health and fitness advertisers seem to take advantage of this. There are quite a few supplement or food advertisements that claim to boost metabolism, promise a metabolic burn after a workout or promote supplements that offer a “miracle metabolic charge.” The reality is that these claims are suspect; there is no one supplement, workout or diet that can super charge our entire metabolism. That’s because it is a complex combination of several systems within the body.
Metabolism describes the sum of everything our bodies do in order to turn food into energy. There are many things that can affect that process. It is commonly thought that if we decrease calories and increase activity, it should help us lose weight. While that is the case for some, others may have intestinal bacterial problems, hidden food addictions, or hormonal or brain chemical imbalances which inhibit achievement of the goals. Ensuring all of the body’s systems are balanced and in good working order is crucial to a healthy running metabolism. Some of these systems are within our control and others are more elusive as they can’t be found without proper testing. Here is a checklist of things to consider when evaluating metabolism function for a weight-loss goal.
Cardio Vascular Training
First check to make sure we are physically active 5-6 days out of the week. The reality is many of us have difficulty finding the time to walk or workout. Once we do find the time, we need to make sure we are working within a heart rate training range appropriate to our goals.
We need to keep in mind that high-intensity workouts can sometimes miss the mark. We can regularly work out at a heart rate that is simply too high to produce the weight loss effects we want. Be mindful about goals; high-intensity workouts are great to balance the lower heart rate workouts but they shouldn’t be the only thing we do.
Eating is another metabolic sub-system that needs attention. Our metabolism loves food. It is unrealistic for anyone to survive on less than 1,400 calories a day for an extended period of time. That can be the main reason why so many people gain the weight they lost back or even more as soon as the diet ends. The body needs nutrients to create energy to be able to accomplish our daily tasks and to work out. When we restrict caloric intake, we are actually sending the brain messages that we are starving; that sends further messages via chemicals like cortisol or insulin to store more body fat so we can survive.
Rather than restrict calories and slow the metabolism down, try eating more frequently throughout the day. Eating several small meals full of protein, vegetables and fruits encourages our bodies to utilize those nutrients. The new habit being created sends the brain messages that more nutrients are coming and there is no need to conserve body fat anymore.
Gut imbalances can also affect our moods and ability to digest nutrients, thus affecting our energy levels and other vital functions in the body. These imbalances can then have a “domino effect” on chemicals and hormones within the body.
Chemical and Hormonal Balance
What about the times when we are eating properly, working out within the right heart rate range for our weight-loss goals and drinking plenty of water but we still can’t lose weight? Our metabolism may be affected by an imbalance in our hormones or brain chemicals.
If we have an imbalance in cortisol, homocysteine, estrogen, testosterone, serotonin, endorphin or any of the other 100 chemicals and hormones that can affect our metabolism, we will continue to have issues losing weight. This is what is dysfunctional about our current understanding of what is considered healthy weight loss in the fitness industry. The assumption that diet and exercise alone will get us to lose weight is flawed, especially if there are underlying brain and hormonal chemical imbalances.
If traditional methods are not helping someone lose the desired weight, it may be time to consider getting blood panels done by a metabolic physician. Many metabolic doctors will not only prescribe appropriate medications for chemical or hormonal imbalances, but they can recommend supplements and specific changes in diet that can help the metabolism work properly.
Mental and Emotional Balance
Thoughts create our reality and our behavior. Very often thoughts are the very things we should be changing most if we don’t have other imbalances. Emotional or mental stress has a direct impact on cortisol levels within the brain, and that affects metabolism. Other emotions like depression, anxiety, fear or anger can wreak havoc on our brain chemicals as well. We should be well equipped with coping strategies during our weight loss journey. Try meditation, find inspirational quotes, write down ideas or look for revelations from other people that helped them lose weight. Create a mantra journal of great things and ways to think about the weight loss goal; pull it out when times get tough.
Paying attention to all of these metabolic subsystems helps rule out ambiguity of how or what we should be doing. It will also give us the added advantage when trying to lose weight. And knowing these things will help our overall thought process and sense of accomplishment.