At least three times a day, I see a commercial on television for a product that promises to “boost metabolism.” Magazines, the radio and the Internet also tout metabolism-boosters, including vitamins, hot pepper, green tea extract and garlic.
On a weekly basis, any number of my clients wants to know about foods that ignite metabolism and ways to effectively get more energy, burn more fat or do both.
The answer I give them is not what they want to hear, but it’s an education nonetheless, and they leave my practice smarter and more aware. So, this week, I thought I’d share my insights with you, in an effort to clarify what energy metabolism is and how it works.
Metabolism is a biochemical process that is essential to sustaining life. It supports growth, cellular repair and reproduction, among other things. Our metabolism is driven by a highly complex system of hormones and enzymes, and “metabolism” is really a function of anabolism and catabolism.
Anabolism is about growth — from building muscle and bone to repairing tissue and regenerating cells. (Some familiar anabolic hormones are insulin and testosterone.)
Catabolism involves using energy to do anything from wound healing and digesting a meal to running a marathon; catabolism provides the energy our bodies need for physical activity.
Our basal metabolic rate (BMR) is determined by the amount of energy we expend (catabolism) minus the amount of energy the body produces (anabolism). Simply stated, if we produce more energy than we expend, the extra energy is stored as fat.
No shake is going to fix that problem.
Metabolism rates vary individually. Your BMR is influenced by age (metabolism decreases 5 percent per decade after 40), your gender (women burn fewer calories than men) and the amount of lean body mass you have. The more muscle you have, the higher your BRM. One pound of muscle burns up to nine times more calories than one pound of fat.
It takes work to get anabolism and catabolism working for and not against you, but I believe that success is a result of our own effort and the ability to achieve our goals.
Diet: It’s your first line of defense. Food plus oxygen equals energy, so you need to eat to boost metabolism. Studies have shown that women who have restricted calories by skipping meals or following fad diets have been effective at slowing their metabolism, so eating three meals and two snacks daily can turn a caloric ebb tide into floodwaters.
Nutrient Timing: Eating breakfast is great way to kick your BMR into gear, but emphasize fiber-rich carbohydrates and protein to keep full. When it comes to snacking, skip the grazing and the grab-n-go veggie chips, “coffee”drinks, bottled smoothies and gluten-free goodies; they’re junk food in disguise. Fresh is best.
Get Active: Aerobic, anaerobic and agility exercises are essential to building muscle mass and burning calories. Exercising consistently four to five times a week is the minimum to keep energy output working in your favor.
Tina Ruggiero, M.S., R.D., L.D., is a nutrition expert and award-winning author. Her newest book is “The Truly Healthy Family Cookbook.” Find Tina at www.TinaRuggiero.com.