What Is a Fast Metabolism and How to Make Yours Faster
We've all heard of the importance of our metabolism. We're bombarded with the term in commercials, online ads, and emails—usually regarding weight loss or maintenance. But what exactly is your metabolism, why does it slow, and how can you boost your metabolism?
What Is Metabolism, Exactly?
Simply put, metabolism is your body's way of expending energy and burning calories. It runs all the time to keep your body working, whether you're sweating at the gym, watching TV, or sleeping. Metabolism is converting the food and nutrients you've eaten into the energy your body needs to carry on the functions it needs to survive—things like breathing, growing and repairing cells, circulating blood, and everything else.
Metabolism works at different rates for different people, depending on a range of factors.
- Age. Your metabolism slows as you get older. This is one reason people gain weight as the number of candles on their birthday cakes increases.
- Muscle mass. The calories you burn go up as your muscle mass increases.
- Body size. It burns more calories to move a big body than a small one.
- Environmental temperature. Your body burns more calories when exposed to cold to prevent your body temperature from falling.
- Physical activity. Your metabolism speeds up as your activity level increases.
The role that age plays in metabolic rate is worth a closer look.
Why Metabolism Slows with Age
Many people accept the fact that their metabolism will slow down when they get older—that they'll gain weight and won't have the energy they used to in their younger days. Is that the scenario we all have to look forward to, or can we keep our metabolism revved up as we age? To answer that, we must look at the reasons for a slow metabolism later in life.
Reduction in Activity Level
Your activity level has a significant impact on the speed of your metabolism. Ten to 30% of the calories you burn each day result from your activity level. For people who are highly active, the percentage can go as high as 50%. Older adults are less active, however, and burn fewer calories. One-quarter of Americans between the ages of 50 and 65 get no exercise outside of work and normal activities. This number increases to over one-third after age 75.
Muscle Loss with Age
In older adults, inactivity—including bed rest—causes an accelerated loss of muscle mass, power, strength, and functional capacity. This slows your metabolism and can lead to weakness, fractures, and even death.
There are other reasons for the loss of muscle mass as we age, including a natural decline in the production of hormones, such as testosterone, estrogen, and growth hormone, which also contribute to muscle mass loss.
Cellular Processes Lose Efficiency
You burn calories through two chemical reactions: your sodium-potassium pump and your mitochondria. The sodium-potassium pump helps generate nerve impulses that prompt muscles to move, including the heart. The mitochondria generate the energy you burn. Both components slow down and function less efficiently as we age.
Dietary Changes as We Age
Older people usually eat less, which causes a decrease in their metabolic rate. It can be counterproductive if you set your calorie intake too low. Your body will sense that you're getting less nutrition and lower the rate at which it burns calories. Consuming less than 1,000 calories a day can have a negative impact on your metabolic rate.
Getting adequate amounts of protein is necessary to maintain or increase your body's rate of burning calories. Eating protein has been shown to temporarily increase metabolism by 20 to 30%. By comparison, carbs increase metabolism by 5 to 10%, and fat raises your metabolic rate by only 3%.
Six Ways to Boost Your Metabolism
Just as your actions can slow your metabolism, there are several ways to kick your metabolism into gear and get it running faster.
Get More Exercise
Increased muscle mass is one way to boost your metabolism. One of the best ways to build muscle mass is by lifting weights. Aerobic exercise, such as running, walking, swimming, cycling, and hiking, can help burn calories and improve muscle tone.
If you really want to go for it, and you're already doing cardio or physical exercise, try adding a few sessions of high-intensity interval training. This form of training can give you that extra boost in metabolism you're looking for.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
Your body can't process calories without water. Metabolism slows down if you are even slightly dehydrated. Drinking more glasses of water each day can increase the number of calories you burn. You should drink a glass of water or your favorite unsweetened beverage before each meal and snack.
If you want an extra boost, add ice to your water. Drinking cold water may increase your metabolism for a brief time, possibly as long as one to two hours.
Get More Sleep
Sleep and your body's hormonal and metabolic processes go hand-in-hand. Sleep deprivation and sleep disorders may greatly impact metabolism. Metabolic regulation can go haywire if you're suffering sleep deprivation, sleep-disordered breathing, or a misalignment of your Circadian Rhythms.
Drinking beverages with caffeine, like a hot cup of coffee, speeds up your central nervous system, and that may boost your metabolism. Coffee also improves energy levels when you're exercising, helps you work harder and longer, and makes you burn more calories.
Build Muscle Mass
People with more muscles have a higher metabolic rate when they're resting. You burn up to six calories a day just to maintain one pound of muscle mass, while a pound of fat only burns two calories each day. After you complete a session of strength training, muscles all over your body activate, and this raises your average daily metabolic rate.
It takes more calories to digest protein than it does to digest carbohydrates or fats. Replace some carbs with lean, protein-rich foods to give your metabolism a boost at mealtime.
Keep Your Fast Metabolism Going for the Long Haul
As you age, your metabolism is going to take a hit, but we've highlighted here some choices you can make to counter the natural slowing down that comes with age. Looking for more information or supplements to boost your metabolism? See what Tiger Fitness has in store for your metabolism-boosting needs.