Moving more and eating less may be the motto for losing weight, but keeping the weight off is so much more complicated. Losing the weight is often times the easy part, burn more calories than you consume. In order to keep the weight off you must exercise regularly, keep your metabolism running like a fine-tuned machine, and consume a very healthy diet. As if that wasn’t complicated enough, there are many things to take into account when it comes to metabolism. Your resting metabolic rate, eating frequency, macronutrient intake, sleep, and hormone levels all affect your calorie burning potential. In this article I will address the basics of your metabolism and how food plays a major role in sustaining weight loss.
Resting Metabolic Rate
Resting metabolic rate very simply defined is the amount of energy or calories burned to maintain daily physiological functions. These bodily functions include digesting food, repairing tissues, maintaining body temperature, and any other processes needed for homeostasis. There are many different variables that affect your metabolic rate including: age, gender, height, weight, activity level, and body fat percentage (1). I’m sure it seems common sense, but your exercise habits, eating habits, and food choices also affect your resting metabolic rate. In general, the more you exercise the higher your metabolism tends to be. To calculate your own metabolic rate click here and be sure to select your true activity level (2). Most people are in the sedentary or lightly active groups. If you feel you have a slow metabolism or have extreme difficulty losing weight consult your doctor because there may be an underlying reason.
Foods and Metabolism
Your diet greatly affects your metabolic rate with the timing of your meals and your food selection being equally important. Low-calorie diets are the equivalent of flushing your metabolism down the drain. A low-calorie diet tricks the body into thinking it is going into starvation mode, which greatly reduces the body’s desire to burn calories. I like to think about my metabolism as a camp fire, it takes a combination of sticks (snacks) and logs (meals) to keep it burning. All sticks and the fire will burn out quickly, but too many big logs and the fire won’t even get started. Appropriate meal timing is also essential for keeping your metabolism elevated and maximizing your caloric burning potential. I suggest you try to consume some sort of food source every 3 to 4 hours. I would recommend breakfast, a morning snack, lunch, an afternoon snack, and dinner. Depending on your activity level and fitness goals, an after dinner snack may even be warranted. Certain foods can raise your metabolic rate since these foods are more complicated to break down. This is called the thermic effect of food, a fancy term for the calories burned to break down food. Complex foods such as protein, fat, and high fiber food have higher thermic effects therefore keeping you fuller longer. In a study published by European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers examined the effect of a high-protein meal, high-carbohydrate meal, and a high-fat meal on subject’s satiety. Each meal was calorically equivalent, and the high-protein meal had a much higher thermic effect and satiety rating.
In conclusion, many factors can impact our ability to maintain weight loss with diet and exercise being the most important. Choose an appropriate daily calorie range, exercise multiple times per week, consume smaller meal portions, and snack frequently to keep your metabolism blazing.
Kelly, Mark P. "Resting Metabolic Rate: Best Ways to Measure It—And Raise It, Too." The American Council on Exercise. ACE Certified News, Oct. 2012. Web. 05 June 2015.
"BMR Calculator / Basal Metabolic Rate." BMR Calculator / Basal Metabolic Rate. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 June 2015.
Crovetti R, Porrini M, Santangelo A, Testolin G. “The Influence on thermic effect of food on satiety.” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1998 Jul;52(7):482-8.