5 ways to increase your metabolic rate
It is no secret that in the general world of fitness, everyone is looking for the secret to easy weight loss. Some try detox tea’s, some try excluding certain macronutrients from their diet for extended periods of time, some even go as far as starving themselves, but what is occasionally missed is that your metabolic rate predominately determines weight loss/weight gain, once energy input/output have been factored into the equation, of course. There are countless factors that are involved in any catabolic/anabolic, or lipolytic/lipogenic process (the breakdown/building of muscle, and fat, respectively), however metabolic rate plays a highly significant role in these process’. With this typically ushers the question “Well then, how do I speed up my metabolic rate?”, and thankfully the answer(s) to that question, when applied, can encourage far greater results than any answer given to you when asking “What’s a quick and easy way to lose weight?”.
- Muscle Mass
A proven scientific fact, is that the more skeletal muscle mass you have, the higher your metabolic rate will be. If two genetically identical twins, both weighing 100kg, but of different body fat levels, both had their Basal Metabolic Rates (BMR) measured, and one was of significantly lower body fat (inferring higher muscle mass), that twin would invariably have a higher BMR. Assuming no diseases that impact metabolic rate, I.e. hypothyroidism. As Skeletal Muscle mass is metabolically active tissue (requires energy/calories to survive), it stands to reason that the more muscle one has, the greater the energy requirement to maintain such tissue will be.
Like most things in life pertaining to increasing one’s health, exercise is the answer! Well, at least one of them. Exercise can have influence on metabolic rate through direct and indirect measures. Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC), is the increased amount of oxygen that has to be consumed following strenuous exercise. EPOC has its supporters and its naysayers (in the scientific community) regarding a direct effect upon metabolism. But it indirectly influences metabolic rate, as with increased respiratory function (inhaling more air), comes increased cardiac function (increased heart rate), and thus creating greater energy expenditure to meet the energy requirements of the organs involved. An indirect beneficial effect of exercise is that it will very commonly increase the amount of skeletal muscle an individual has, vicariously increasing BMR, circling back to the first point of this article.
There are ways to influence BMR through manipulation of an individuals macronutrient intake. A factor to consider when seeking to optimise your BMR, is the Thermic Effect of Food (TEF), which simply put is the amount of energy your body expends when breaking down and digesting any macronutrient you have consumed. Approximately 5-15% of the energy consumed from fats, goes into digesting it, 10-20% of the energy consumed from carbohydrates, goes into digesting it, and 20-35% of the energy consumed from protein, goes into digesting it. The added benefit to this is, by manipulating your macronutrients ratios to a higher protein intake, you can have beneficial impacts upon your metabolic rate. Food choices can also impact metabolic rate; such as the Ingestion of spices like chilli, which can cause a temporary increase to an individuals metabolic rate, furthermore they also have been found to help aide in satiety (feeling full), which in the event that weight loss is the goal, can be beneficial.
- Pharmaceutical Intervention
The thyroid gland, a butterfly shaped organ situated anteriorly on the trachea (front of lower neck), is responsible for the production and secretion of the thyroid hormones – T4 & T3. These hormones, when found in lower concentration in the blood than what is usually seen amongst an individual of same age bracket and gender, is a diagnostic tool to diagnose hypothyroidism. When an individual has hyperthyroidism, their doctor will very likely prescribe Levothyroxine (an orally available pharmaceutical reproduction of the T4 hormone, with high bioavailability), this is used to provide the body with the hormones it is currently unable to produce, for a variety of potential reasons. Some individuals choose to self-prescribe themselves with the T3 / T4 hormones, this is highly unrecommended, and should never be done without medical supervision.
- Caffeine Intake
Caffeine is one of the most commonly used ergogenic aids in the health and fitness industry, however it also can have a profound effect on increasing metabolic rate and beta-oxidisation (fat burning). Studies have shown when ingesting caffeine with a meal, that there is an increase in the TEF. Another benefit to caffeine consumption is that it inhibits an enzyme called phosphodiesterase (PDE), thus increasing the levels of Cyclic Adenosine Monophosphate (cAMP) in a cell. The reason this is desirable is because PDE if left uninhibited it decreases cellular levels of cAMP, and cAMP is involved in the regulation of fat burning. HOWEVER, this should not be implemented year-round, or even for weeks/months on end, this should be used sparingly as high levels of caffeine consumption can cause great distress to the adrenal glands, subsequently increasing cortisol levels. Not to mention the effects of caffeine supplementation become less and less profound, with prolonged exposure.
There are many ways to influence your metabolic rate and BMR, some effects can be long lasting – such as someone who exercises regularly and has a bit of additional muscle mass to their frame, some effects can be temporary – such as the use of caffeine. The goal for most people who wish to increase their metabolic rate is typically for better body composition and/or a higher energy expenditure, as it is correlative to an increase in daily calories (who doesn’t want to eat more food?!). Depending on the need / want one has to increase their metabolic rate, will impact which avenue(s) one wishes to exploit, when seeking to do so. There are multiple benefits from having a higher metabolic rate, and thankfully there are options out there for everyone!