Your metabolism is the rate at which your body burns energy. We can measure the bodies use of energy in calories, like you measure your cars use of petrol in litres per 100 kilometres.
You need calories to power your body’s systems, such as digestion and circulation. But you also need calories to move.
When you consume too many calories, you store them as fat. This is where things get complicated and we need to understand that not all calories are equal: Calories from sugar are more likely to be stored as fat because sugar tricks your body into thinking “here come a lot of calories.” And it’s usually right: It’s easy to pack a LOT of calories into sugary foods. .
You want a FAST metabolism, meaning your body burns a LOT of calories. If you’re trying to lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you eat. There are three ways you burn calories:
Basal Metabolic Processes
The number of calories your body burns when you’re resting. This is measured as “basal metabolic rate,” or BMR. The more muscle you have, the higher your BMR will be. The less muscle you have, the lower your BMR will be. Muscle burns calories to stay alive.
Thermic Effect of Food
It costs a bit of energy to digest food. Not much, 10% of your total daily intake, at best. It takes slightly more energy to break down proteins and fats than to break down carbs. A high carbohydrate diet will have a lower thermic effect than a high fat diet.
Energy Expenditure From Physical Activity.
These are the calories required to move you. The more you move, the more you burn. Walking and shopping don’t count for much, despite what our Ministry of Health tells you. You will not lose weight mowing the lawn or taking one flight of stairs every day. Even an hour of intense aerobic exercise might improve your daily calorie use by around 20%.
How to Burn More Calories
The real way to burn calories is to increase your muscle mass. That means lifting weights.
Let’s say you have a basal metabolic rate of 1,000 calories per day. You eat 1,500 calories per day and you do spin class for an hour. Let’s say your food choices are pretty good, and you have protein or fat with every meal.
Your BMR + thermic effect from food + exercise = 1,300 calories. You’re still gaining weight. If you did this exact thing every day, you’d gain 1/2 Kg around every 18 days.
Now let’s say you boost your BMR. The ONLY way to do this is by building muscle (or maybe sleeping on the sun, or eating those chemical foot-warmers, or taking thermic steroids. Superfoods won’t do it. Neither will apple cider vinegar nor laxatives nor cigarettes.)
If your new BMR is 1,200, and you eat the same 1,500 calories per day, the thermic effect of food will be the same. But the calories you burn during exercise will go up along with the calories you burn to live.
Your new BMR, thanks to a bit more muscle, is 1,200.
Your BMR + thermic effect from food + exercise = 1,530. You’ve actually lost a bit of weight.
You burn calories right after exercise, when your muscle feeds itself. But you burn far MORE just walking around … and the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn off.
Creating a caloric deficit is the first step to losing fat, but it shouldn’t be done by eating less. If I were going to tell a person the first step to weight loss, I’d tell them to lift weights. The second step: Cut out sugar.
Inspiration provided by Chris Cooper at Catalystgym.com.