By Daphne Baldwin Kornrich, MS, RD, CDN
Many of us believe that we are unable to lose or maintain weight due to our slow metabolism. However, it’s very unlikely that our metabolism is the problem. Metabolism is our body’s way of converting the foods and beverages that we eat and drink into fuel that helps sustain all our body processes, including physical activity.
What factors affect our metabolism?
- Gender: Men generally have less body fat and more muscle mass than women of the same age, which leads to their burning more calories.
- Body size and composition: People who are larger or more muscular burn more calories.
- Age: As we get older we lose more muscle and gain more fat decreasing our metabolic rate.
What is Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)? Our body at rest or awake is using calories to sustain vital functions such as respiration, heart pumping, regulation of temperature and hormones as well as other necessary life sustaining purposes. The total number of calories used for these vital functions is known as our basal metabolic rate (BMR). The calories needed for our BMR compose about 70% of the calories we burn throughout the day.
Thermogenesis of food: This refers to the calories our body uses to process our food through digestion, absorption, transportation and storage of food.
Physical Activity: Physical activity and exercise are responsible for the rest of the calories we burn each day. This is the most important variable to help us burn the most calories and boost our metabolism.
- Aerobic exercises such as walking, biking and swimming are great ways to burn calories. A goal of 30 minutes per day is generally recommended. However, if you need to lose weight you may need to increase your aerobic activities beyond that guideline.
- Strength training is a way for us to increase our muscle mass, which increases our metabolism. Using weights and resistant bands can help us fight off the loss of muscle with aging.
- Lifestyle activities are another way to help us burn calories throughout the day. Try to find ways to walk more throughout the day by taking the stairs, parking further from your destination, and/or walking during lunch. We just need to keep moving as much as we can!
Weight gain is multifaceted and complicated. Genetic predisposition, hormonal irregularities, lifestyle, stress, sleep disturbances and environmental factors all contributes to our weight struggles.
Our metabolism is somewhat determined by genetics and there are certain diseases, such as hypothyroidism, that may influence our metabolism. In general, it is not our metabolism that is responsible for our weight gain; it is our consumption of excess calories from food or beverages and the amount of physical activity we get that are responsible for our weight.
Daphne has been a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for the past 30 years, working in a wide variety of clinical and outpatient settings. Daphne currently specializes in Bariatrics and Weight Management.