How Your Metabolism Helps Maintain a Healthy Weight

Just like diet, metabolism is vital for maintaining a healthy weight. Learn how metabolism operates to help keep the weight off.

How Your Metabolism Helps Maintain a Healthy Weight

What Is Your Metabolism?

While the metabolic system is rather complex, metabolism is basically the physiological processes in which the body transforms calories from food into usable energy. The energy is used to carry out vital processes, including moving the body, breathing in oxygen, circulating oxygenated blood, and growing and repairing cells each second. Ultimately, metabolism is ongoing and continues even when the body is at rest, more formally known as basal metabolic rate (BMR). But metabolism's association to weight largely stems from balancing food intake; if the body is over fueled and does not need the extra calories for energy, they can become transformed and stored as fat. Unfortunately, though, weight gain is quite complicated and relies on much more than restricting calories. Metabolism is largely effected by the following factors:

Body Composition
Size and weight plays a large role in metabolic needs, as body composition (muscle versus fat tissues) mostly determines the rate at which energy is produced. In fact, every pound of muscle requires approximately six calories a day to purely sustain itself, while each pound of fat burns only two calories daily!

Men tend to have faster metabolisms than women, primarily related to a lower body fat percentage and greater muscle mass.

Age plays a large role in metabolism, particularly as fat tends to displace muscle mass. Metabolism has shown to slow down even in the early to mid-20s and an approximate two percent decrease every 10 years after.

The thyroid gland and the hormones it produces (such as thyroid stimulating hormone) are associated to metabolic regulation. If the thyroid is underactive (a condition known as hypothyroidism), weight gain is likely; conversely, if the thyroid is overactive (known as hyperthyroidism), weight loss can occur. Hypo- and hyperthyroidism is detected through lab work and managed primarily with appropriate medication. Abnormal responses in cortisol and insulin levels can also alter metabolic rate.

The fate of metabolism has a well-established genetic component, as some people inherit quicker and more efficient metabolisms than others.

How to Maintain Weight

Even though metabolism and weight do exhibit unmodifiable factors such as genetics, age, and gender, there are general guidelines to nourish a healthy metabolic rate to maintain or lose weight:

Eat A Balanced Diet
Eat a balanced diet filled with the three macronutrients, including protein, carbohydrate, and fat. Nutrition experts further encourage choosing whole grains over refined and processed products, consuming non-starchy vegetables, swapping sweet treats with fruits, selecting lean proteins and dairy products, and complementing meals with healthy fats.

Start with Breakfast
A lean protein paired with a combination of complex carbs and healthy fats is ideal for kicking off your day. Not only can these foods get your metabolism amped, but keep you feeling fuller for longer and prevent the risk of pesky cravings between meals. From mini egg frittatas to Greek yogurt parfaits, you do not want to miss these 11 high-protein breakfast ideas.

Consume Enough Calories
Though weight loss can arise from reducing calories, it is imperative to consume enough of them, as the body requires their inclusion to carry out vital processes. Low-calorie diets are often an unsustainable method for a healthy metabolism and the reason why nutrition experts discourage them.

Practice Smart Snacking
Ditch the chip bag and snack on a protein-rich source paired with fiber or healthy fats. The balance of satiety-inducing nutrients keeps the body energized and lessens the risk of overeating come mealtime. Convenient snacks to keep on hand include hummus and carrots, apple slices and peanut butter, mixed nuts, beef jerky, cheese sticks, and Greek yogurt.

Exercise On a Regular Basis
Though diet is recommended over exercise for weight loss, physical activity is imperative for weight maintenance and boosting metabolism. At least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise is encouraged to balance calories and foster overall health, while strength and resistance training twice a week maintains and preserves muscle mass to accelerate metabolism and counteract the effects of aging.

Manage Stress
Chronic stress cannot only be damaging to psychological health, but tarnish metabolism by mostly affecting cortisol levels. More specifically, cortisol rises and may cause the body to carry onto fat when the body is stressed. To lower such risk, manage stress with various techniques, including the practicing yoga and meditation, exercising on a regular basis, and talking with support systems.

As mentioned, metabolism is continuous even when the body is at rest. Adequate sleep helps control hunger hormones and supplies energy to keep active. Sleep deprivation has also been linked to heightened cravings towards high-sugar and fat products, which may ultimately lead to weight gain. The National Sleep Foundation encourages adults to sleep at seven to nine hours of quality sleep per night.

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