Understanding Our Metabolisms

Ah, the joys of understanding our metabolisms!

It can be so frustrating when some people seem to eat as much as a hummingbird- all the time taking in food, all the time buzzing with energy, and staying thin. And some of us are thrifty with our food: we eat small meals but seem to keep weight on as a natural preference, working super hard to shed pounds. Human bodies are amazing- with significant ranges in size, shape, and ability to burn the fuel that we put in.

There are several influences on metabolism, and some of these can be controlled somewhat while others cannot. If you have questions about how to increase your metabolism, it's essential to know what your intention is: do you want to be more fit, do you want to lose weight, are you looking to have more energy?

You see, the human body has three primary forms of metabolism, or energy expenditure, which include physical activity, the thermic effect of food, and resting metabolism (or Resting Energy Expenditure, REE), which makes up almost 70% of the body's energy expenditure. Most of our metabolism is happening all the time: while we're sitting, thinking, working, even sleeping!

While we cannot change our gender, genetic predisposition, age, or certain aspects of our endocrine system, such as thyroid hormones, we CAN impact our energy levels in other ways. This leaves us looking at the smaller share of the energy pie: how do physical activities and the thermic effect of food contribute to energy gains and losses throughout the day?

Exercise increases how much energy we are using, and this is an important key when we are trying to improve our overall metabolism. Certain forms of exercise that help to build our skeletal muscle mass can especially increase our metabolism because muscle is more metabolically active than fat mass is at rest. We can lift weights, do squats, or even use our own body to challenge strength in meditative movement practices like yoga or Pilates. The next time you're in chaturanga (a low yoga push-up), you can remember that you are helping to build muscle and metabolism that will last for hours or even days! Doesn't that make it just a little more fun? Also, it's vital to avoid dieting patterns that starve the body because starvation has a significant impact on decreasing our Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR). Make sure you eat when you're hungry and try not to skip meals!

Some other fun facts about our resting metabolism: when we exercise at an elevated altitude it will increase our RMR. Other things that improve our RMR include being in an environment with cold temperature and staying hydrated. Studies show that when we drink water, our RMR is elevated for more than an hour!

We can also look at the thermic effect of food. Because the digestion of protein requires significantly more energy as compared to carbohydrates or fat, eating a diet high in protein can help to increase our metabolisms. Be sure not to over-do it; there are plenty of reasons to keep your protein levels balanced to maintain gut health and to honour environmental sustainability. When it comes to dietary advice, it's always great to respect the middle path of moderation, listening to your body, and choosing healthy and organic options when possible. Our bodies are truly our temples.

Isn't it great to know that you are helping yourself by staying hydrated, increasing your physical exercise goals, and eating a diet that includes protein and that avoids patterns of starvation or severe food restriction? Thank goodness for that middle path. I also like to pepper in a healthy dose of gratitude for this fantastic form that is our body: what a miracle that we get to experience the joy of our physical forms. The science of metabolism may not support it, but I firmly believe that bringing in gratitude, breath, and kindness supports and nourishes us in ways just as important as the physical habits that we are practising daily.

Written by Guest Editor and Brand Ambassador:

Cynthia Abulafia