Do You Need to Increase Your Metabolism?

By Mary Shomon

RapidEye/Vetta/Getty Images

RapidEye/Vetta/Getty Images

Have you wondered how to lose weight with a slow metabolism?

Will efforts to boost a slow metabolism help you lose weight and gain energy? Do you need to speed up your metabolism in order to lose weight or break through a weight loss plateau? These are important questions for anyone trying to lose weight, but particularly for thyroid patients, who may be struggling with an impaired metabolism.

What is Metabolism?
When you eat, food is converted into energy.

The term "metabolism" refers to the way -- not the speed -- that your body processes and uses the food you eat. Rather than "faster" or "slower" metabolism, it's most accurate to describe metabolism as efficient or functional versus inefficient or dysfunctional.


Metabolism is made up of several components:

Basal metabolism -- From 60 to 65 percent of the calories you eat each day are spent just keeping you alive and providing the basic energy you need to live. Even if you were to lay in bed all day, you would still need these calories to support your basic body functions.
Physical activity -- About 25 percent of your calories go to movement and physical activity.
Thermic effect of food -- About 10 percent of calories are spent processing the food you eat. For example, if you eat 2000 calories a day, you would typically be burning 200 calories a day simply eating and digesting your food.

The Metabolism Formula

The winning formula to maintaining your weight is what you take in should equal the calories you expend...




To lose weight, you have to reduce calories taken in from food, increase calories expended, or both.

Surprisingly, many overweight people -- and thyroid patients in particular -- do not take in any more calories than people of average weight, and can sustain or even gain weight at far lower calorie levels.

 If you fit into this category, your basal metabolism is lower, your physical activitymay be reduced, and/or the thermic effect of food you eat is blunted. The end result: you don't burn as many calories as someone of a similar weight with a functionalmetabolism.

For you, losing weight requires that you change the output side of the metabolism equation -- you need to boost your metabolism and make it more efficient.

The Hypothyroidism / Metabolism Connection

If you have undiagnosed hypothyroidism, or your condition is not adequately treated by your doctor, almost anything you do to raise your metabolism on the output side may fail. So the first, essential step is to get a thyroid test. And if you have been tested and are being treated, you need to make sure your treatment is optimized -- including the proper drug and dosage, as well as supplements to support thyroid function.

Increase Your Basal Metabolism

Metabolism is somewhat a function of genetics, but you can increase basal metabolism by building muscle.

 Muscle cells are up to eight times more metabolically active than fat cells, and muscle burns more calories than fat. Adding weight-bearing or resistance exercise – such as weightlifting or exercise bands -- is one of the only ways to increase basal metabolism.

An efficient metabolism also requires the smooth running of many complex body processes that rely on sufficient antioxidant vitamins such as vitamin C and the B vitamins. Supplements to correct any deficiencies are therefore important.

Finally, dehydration can contribute to an inefficient metabolism, by affecting body temperature. When you are dehydrated, your body temperature drops slightly, and causes your body to store fat as a way to help raise or maintain the temperature. Making sure you drink enough liquids, preferably at least 64 ounces of water per day, to avoid this metabolic pitfall.

Increase Physical Activity

Aerobic exercise that increases the heart rate can raise metabolism while you're exercising. Some experts believe that aerobic exercise also boosts resting metabolism for several hours, as muscles burn calories to recover and repair themselves.

Increase the Thermic Effect of Food

Resting metabolic rate typically increases as much as two to three times more after eating proteins versus carbohydrates and fats. Complex, high-fiber carbohydrates -- like high-fiber vegetables and cereals, however -- burn more calories than simple carbohydrates. You can increase the thermic effect on metabolism by focusing on quality protein, high-fiber fruits and vegetables, with an occasional high-fiber grain.




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