It is almost impossible to spend any time on the internet now without pop-up advertisements and “click-here” links that seem to appear out of nowhere. They claim miracle weight-loss, or get-fit fast techniques that sound effortless, and sometimes I can’t help but wonder… is that possible? I have had years of medical practice and nutritional training, but still I wonder, have they found the secret? Can I really boost my metabolism overnight and lose 20 pounds in two weeks? The answer is no, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In my practice, I focus on healthy, sustainable, long-lasting solutions for boosting metabolism and losing weight — not trying to trick the body into dropping weight suddenly.
The best way to truly optimize metabolism, lose weight, and get fit is to make strategic changes to our daily lifestyle habits. If we can focus on understanding how to achieve great results in a natural and healthy way, we can get the results that we want and feel great.
I want to make it clear that we do have some control over how much we weigh! There are certainly factors that contribute to an individual’s shape, size, and weight, including genetic predispositions, but we still have a lot to work with, and contrary to popular belief, our metabolism is not totally outside of our field of control.
By understanding our metabolism, we can make adjustments that can change our overall health for the better– including a slimmer waistline, and so much more.
What is Metabolism?
In a nutshell, metabolism is the set of chemical processes that occur in all living things to maintain life. We are used to hearing the word “metabolism” in the context of weight loss, and it does play a huge role in the way we process and store energy from food, but it influences so much more than that, which is why boosting your metabolism in a healthy way has such a profound impact on the way you feel as a whole.
Metabolism is divided into two categories: anabolism, which is a series of chemical reactions to build up molecules by using energy, and catabolism, which is the breakdown of molecules to obtain energy.
Anabolism is like a builder that uses certain hormones to create a finished product – such as more muscle mass, or stronger bones. Some well-known anabolic hormones include insulin, estrogen, testosterone, and human growth hormone.
Catabolism is like a processor that uses certain biochemical processes to provide energy, so our body can actually move around and get things done! Some of these processes include breaking down proteins into amino acids to make glucose (blood sugar), nucleic acids which transmit our genetic information, and carbohydrates, which help fuel our body.
If you’ve ever heard anyone talk about the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), this is the amount of energy used by these two processes when a person is at rest. It measures how much energy is used to keep the body functioning — circulation, brain, breathing, body temperature, and other processes, and accounts for more than half of the calories burned each day.
Weight Loss and Metabolism: How Metabolism Impacts Weight Loss
So, how does all of this actually affect our weight? The basic concept is that catabolism (the amount of energy we use), minus anabolism (the amount of energy we make), equals our body weight. If we produce more energy than we use, we will store that extra energy in the form of fat.
Fat cells by nature are inactive, and do not use much energy. If they are not used, their storage contributes to a slower metabolism and excess body weight.
The concept of catabolism minus anabolism equaling body weight has led to the misconception— or the too-basic conclusion– that if we just eat fewer calories than we burn off through exercise, we will lose weight, but in reality, calories from different kinds of foods influence our bodies and metabolisms in different ways, and to go a step further than that, the inner workings of our bodies are all different.
For that reason, my approach to weight loss has never been a calorie-counting approach, or a drastic exercise plan. To improve our weight loss and metabolism, we not only need to move more, we need to ensure proper and adequate nutrition that is right for us.
When we eat, our body uses energy to digest and absorb nutrients, so the process is actually a cycle. Energy is needed to function, eating and movement use energy, requiring the need for more energy to keep functioning. In this process, raw materials are broken down, new molecules are made, heat and metabolic waste are generated, energy is used, toxins and unusable materials are excreted, and extra fat is stored for later use.
This explains the need for healthy foods and adequate exercise to process energy, remove wastes, and keep fat storage to a minimum. But remember we are all different. Some women do indeed have weight loss resistance, which means they eat well, exercise regularly and still are not able to lose weight.
Related article: Are You Someone with Weight Loss Resistance?
Improving Your Metabolism
How metabolism rates are determined varies from person to person. We aren’t sure why that is, but in his book, Ultra-metabolism, Dr. Mark Hyman explains that metabolism depends largely on mitochondria, the little powerhouses inside our cells that help generate energy. Dr. Hyman describes how the rate at which these mitochondria transform food and oxygen into energy is dependent on several things – including genetics, hormones, age, and body composition.
Everybody is different, but everyone can improve his or her metabolism, regardless of age, weight, or fitness level. There is no magic cure, or quick and easy method. I have often said that the success of our efforts is based in our own belief that we can achieve something, and the choices we make to get there. There is a unique recipe for each of us to regulate our metabolism, and with a realistic approach and natural support, we can do it.
What Nutrients Promote a Healthy Metabolism?
I mentioned that strict calorie counting is not an approach I recommend, because calories from different foods interact with our metabolism in different ways. Instead, I recommend focusing on getting your nutrients (and calories) from fresh, whole foods that have a positive effect on metabolism. Here are some of the best examples:
Nuts, soy, wild-caught fish, legumes, lean meats, and eggs (ideally organic) are great options.
Unrefined, natural products including whole grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables. Stay away from refined sugar and processed foods!
Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids including fish, eggs, and organic dairy. Omega-3 supplements are also a good way to receive this important nutrient.
Other vitamins, minerals, and enzymes
There are a number of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that can help to support metabolic function. These include B vitamins, green tea, magnesium citrate, D-ribose, chromium picolinate, alpha-lipoic acid, acetyl-L-carnitine, NADH (a coenzyme found in all living cells).
Spices like capsicum (paprika, chili and cayenne peppers), cinnamon, and turmeric are great for supporting healthy metabolic function.
What Kind of a Lifestyle Supports a Healthy Metabolism
Healthy, clean nutrition is the most important factor when it comes to boosting metabolism. Follow a plant-based, nutrient-dense, low-glycemic diet, along with taking a high-quality multivitamin and other supplements, as needed.
Time your meals
Eating a healthy breakfast is a surefire way to jumpstart metabolism. It helps regulate blood sugar both after we wake and throughout the day. Smaller meals that include protein, eaten more frequently (every two to three hours), helps keep the energy output working in our favor.
When we exercise, we use our stored energy and build muscle mass, which means more efficient metabolism. There are many forms of exercise. It’s important to find one you enjoy so you will do it consistently. I recommend four or five times each week, utilizing both aerobic exercise and strength training.
Getting enough sleep is so important to our metabolism. Lack of sleep is scientifically linked to an increased output of the hunger hormone ghrelin, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and weight gain.
Keep stress levels to a minimum
How we feel mentally and how we handle our emotions also contributes to our BMR. Stress hormones, like cortisol, can affect our metabolism greatly. In fact, cortisol can put the brakes on the required processes completely. And when we are stressed we may eat more, sleep less, and ignore our need for exercise. Over time, this will impede our metabolism too.
If you’ve made the necessary diet and lifestyle changes and are still struggling, it doesn’t mean that your metabolism is destined to work against you. There may be an underlying imbalance– often hormonal, or related to adrenal fatigue and stress– that is impeding the process. These imbalances should be explored in order to get to the root of the problem.
Follow Your Body’s Natural Lead for Healthy Weight Loss and Metabolism
Most importantly, I encourage you to follow the natural rhythms of your body, and adjust your lifestyle to enhance functioning. Each day is different, we have fluctuating energy levels, appetites, and emotional states. While there may not be one magic bullet to control our metabolism, when we balance our choices with our bodies and our minds, we can optimize our metabolic rate and improve our functioning starting at the cellular level. And that sounds a lot better to me than a “miracle” instant weight loss scheme!
For those wanting a program that will jumpstart the weight loss, see womens tranformationcenter.com. Almost all women using this program lose 20 lbs in the 6 weeks on the program when using the homeopathic combination with the food plan provided.
Reviewed by Dr. Mark Menolascino, MD