Your metabolism is very adaptive.
And it’s a reflection of the choices you have made over time.
Yes, there are exceptions where genetically someone may have a slower metabolic rate than others.
But it’s due to the choices you have made, whether you realize it or not.
Before we dive in, your metabolic rate can also be called total daily energy expenditure, your metabolism, etc.
Basically, it’s just the amount of calories you burn throughout each day.
Here is a breakdown of what makes up your metabolic rate:
Resting metabolic rate (RMR): is the energy burned for basic bodily functions. One way to think of it is the amount of energy used when you are at rest. This makes up a large portion of the energy out side of the equation, about 60-75% (going to vary from person to person).
Thermic Effect of Food (TEF): is the amount of energy burned via absorption and digestion. Yes, the calories you consume require calories to digest and absorb. This makes up about 8-10% of the energy expenditure side.
Exercise Activity (EA): this is the activity that is deliberate exercise: running, weight lifting, sports, etc. This factor can have a high variability from one person to the next. For example, a sedentary person could burn 100 calories per day, whereas an athlete could burn 3,000 calories per day from activity.
Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT): this is all of your movements that are not deliberate. Talking, blinking, fidgeting, walking to do everyday chores like going to the bathroom, cleaning etc. In a previous article, I went over how NEAT goes down as you lose weight and how to increase NEAT levels.
These four factors make up the energy expenditure side of the equation. There can be a huge variability between two people (which is why there is no magic calorie amount to lose or gain weight).
Summary: Energy balance is energy in (calories consumed) – energy out (RMR, NEAT, EA, TEF).
With online clients, our goal is to get their metabolic rate as high as we can over time. We want them to be a gas-guzzling car, and not a prius.
This is important because the environment we live in today punishes those who have a slower metabolic rate (easy access to tasty foods, sedentary environment etc.).
In saying this, there is going to be a point where you can’t do much more (ex: getting someone’s metabolic rate to expend 5000 calories per day isn’t likely).
However, it doesnt mean we can’t try and maximize your metabolic rate as best as we can.
By increasing your metabolic rate you can expect to maintain and lose weight on more calories.
Let’s dive into the ways we work on this:
Adding muscle is going to help your body utilize the nutrients you give it much better. This is why people who consider themselves “skinny fat” or overweight with little to no muscle feel like every they eat just sticks to them.
Muscle is also very energy costly to build and maintain. Increasing your metabolic rate.
Lastly, it can also help you burn more calories for every movement you do throughout the day.
I wrote an article going over how weight loss shouldn’t always be the goal and how weight can lower your metabolic rate HERE.
Moderate to high level of daily physical activity
Physical activity burns calories. It’s too easy to be sedentary in today’s world. It also is going to help you regulate your appetite much better.
Not only will you expend more calories, but you also will be more likely to eat less as a result of staying active.
HERE is a good podcast going over a high energy flux and its importance in weight management.
Not to mention you will feel much better overall by staying active throughout the day.
For online clients we have them im for a minimum of 6k steps per day.
Dont always restrict calories
In order to lose body fat, you need your calories in to be less than calories out. Read HERE to see the fundamental principle for losing body fat.
The downside to this is that your body will adapt to this energy deficit by increasing things like hunger and cravings, lowering energy levels and libido etc.
HERE is an article going over metabolic adaptation.
If we always are aiming for a calorie deficit your body is going to continue to adapt to that over time. Essentially instead of increasing your metabolic rate, you will be decreasing it.
This is why with online clients we work in phases with nutrition. We arent always trying to diet for fat loss.
For online clients we find that fat loss phases of 8-12 weeks seem to be best, then we will transition out for a period of time based on their goals.
Poor sleep isn’t going to cause you to burn fewer calories, but it is going to have indirect effects on calories in/out and your body composition.
A study had two groups, one was sleep-restricted the other was getting normal sleep, and they put both groups in a calorie deficit.
Both groups lost weight, however, the sleep restriction group lost more weight from lean body mass (think muscle).
As I mentioned earlier muscle is going to increase your metabolic rate, if we lose muscle this is going to do the opposite.
Studies show that calorie intake increases following poor sleep. You also will potentially have less energy to move around, causing a decrease in your metabolic rate.
If you want a more detailed overview of how poor sleep can affect your progress read HERE.
Adequate protein intake
Adequate protein is going to help with building and maintaining muscle, but it also increases your metabolic rate slightly.
As I mentioned earlier your body burns calories through digestion, chewing, and absorption.
Protein uses the most energy to chew, absorb, and digest.
We aren’t talking hundreds of calories here, but every little bit can add up, plus it will help build and maintain muscle.
For online clients looking to improve their look we have them aim for around .8-1g per pound of body weight per day.
This is another factor that won’t directly improve your metabolic rate, but it does more so indirectly.
When we have high levels of stress (listen HERE to see what stress is) your body is going to have reactions to that to lower your stress.
One example, is an increase in cortisol, while we do want some cortisol, too much or too little is problematic.
When cortisol increases this is going to shift your body from anabolic to a more catabolic state, not great for muscle growth.
Chronic high levels of cortisol are also going to shift where your body stores fat.
Again, some cortisol is good and needed, but it’s problematic when it’s too much, too often.
When we are stressed we are more likely to make less than ideal choices, including overeating tasty foods.
To help clients manage stress we look at their total training volume and intensity and make sure it is in line with what they can recover from.
For example, if someone has a high-stress job, has 3 young kids and another on the way, does it make sense to have them train 6+ times per week and also have them diet for fat loss?
We also have clients manage stress by finding activities that get them in a relaxed state. These can be hobbies or things like meditation/reading.
Basically, something that relaxes you but also gets you out of your own head.
Hit the genetic lottery
Lastly, hitting the genetic lottery is another way to increase your metabolic rate.
Some people just naturally have metabolic rates that are much higher than others.
You can thank your parents for that one.
This is out of our control but it really can make a difference and you need to realize it does play a role.
You shouldn’t use this as an excuse, but just realize it does happen and can make a difference.
If you have a “slow” metabolism realize your genetics do play a role, but your lifestyle also plays a big role in this and you can change it.
If you need more help or guidance with this, looking into our 1:1 online coaching program might be for you. Click HERE to see what it entails.
IF you are ready, click the link HERE and lets get to work.