Metabolism - Is it slowing down and effecting my bodyweight?


There is often a lot of confusion about our metabolism. People often wonder if their metabolism is slowing down and search out for foods that will speed it up or whether dieting will affect it. This article will try to break the myths around metabolism and bring you the facts you need.


Put simply, metabolism describes a series of many reactions in our body that results in our cells receiving the energy that they need in order to keep us alive….so pretty important!


We’ve all got that friend who, it seems, can eat anything and never put on weight. Whereas us, we just look at a cake and our belts feel a bit tighter. Why is this? It could be to do with the rate at which we burn energy, our metabolism. 




Our metabolism refers to chemical processes that keep our bodies alive, these require energy to function. It works 24/7 converting energy to fuel the body.  


Genetics play a large part in how fast or slowly we burn energy. Other predictive factors include age, percentage of lean muscle/body fat and sex. Women have a higher metabolic rate in the second half of their menstrual cycle. Men usually have a significantly higher metabolism than women. 


Between 60 - 80% of our total daily energy expenditure is taken up by just being alive (breathing, circulation, cell renewal etc). This is known as our basal metabolic rate (BMR). A ‘slow metabolism’ can be more correctly called a low BMR. The remaining 20-40% is where we can make a difference, it’s used by physical activity and digesting food. This combines with the BMR to make our total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). 


Can we boost our metabolism? 


Our metabolism isn’t an organ that can be flexed and there’s many theories as to how we can support it. It’s thought that the following factors can have a positive effect: 


·        A fibre rich diet. Fibre is indigestible yet our bodies try to digest it, using up energy. Tips on how to boost your fibre intake can be found here - How to get more fibre into your diet - How to get more fibre into your diet - NHS (


·        Strength training. This tears muscle tissue, which our bodies have to use energy to repair and restore.  


·        Having more muscle. It’s made of ‘metabolically active’ tissue. This needs energy to be built, used, and maintained whereas fat tissue just lazes around not burning energy at all.  


·        Eating protein. It takes the body considerable energy to digest protein, plus it’s filling, making us less likely to reach for snacks. For ideas on how to increase your protein intake, click here - Protein - British Nutrition Foundation


·        Foods like coffee, chilli and ginger are thought to speed up the BMR. The bad news is the difference is minimal and won’t impact your jeans size. 


·        HIIT workouts. This type of exercise involves short, intense bursts of exercise followed by periods of active recovery or rest. It’s great for cardio fitness but studies suggest it can increase the ‘afterburn’ effect whereby our bodies continue to burn more energy for up to 24 hours after the session. 


Nothing will magically make our metabolism turn into a ravenous beast that quickly consumes all the energy we eat. Yet, small gains add up to big changes. If we work out and build muscle, we’ll be burning more energy. If we eat foods that require lots of energy to digest, we’ll be burning more energy, and so on. 


What slows it down? 


·   Rapid loss, crash diets can cause our metabolism to slow more than would be expected from the overall weight loss. Our metabolism is hard to speed up but frustratingly easier to slow down.  

·   Chronic dehydration is associated with a lowered metabolic rate. 

·   Getting older. Firstly, remember, the aim of good health is for us to get older, we want to live and thrive. There’s an inevitable decline in metabolism as we age, we simply don’t need the same energy at 60 as we did at 21. We can take steps to mitigate the years by eating well and keeping fit. 

Even if our BMR is lower than average, we can support it by building lean muscle tissue. Making sustainable, incremental changes to our lifestyles is the best way to lose weight — and keep it off.  


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