Metabolism is a biochemical process describing how food is transformed into energy within the body. It is a continuous process, so it has to work constantly, even when you are resting or sleeping, for your body to do its basic functions.
What Determines Your Metabolic Rate?
Your metabolic rate is largely determined by three factors:
- Body composition – Larger or more muscular bodies require more energy. Muscle also burns more calories than fat while in a state of rest.
- Gender – This factor is very closely related to body composition. Men typically burn calories more easily than women because of a lower body fat percentage and more muscular physiques (even if out of shape).
- Age – As we get older, our ability to build and maintain muscle typically decreases. As a result, our tendency to gain fat increases, and our metabolism slows down.
Why Is Your Metabolism Important?
Your metabolism contributes to your ability to gain and lose weight. People with a higher metabolism are able to burn more calories each day and, as a result, are able to eat more calories on a regular basis without gaining weight.
Conversely, people with low metabolic rates are more likely to eat more calories than their body requires to function and run a higher risk of gaining excess weight.
Your metabolic rate is a function of your body composition, so it is possible to increase it by working out regularly. Building muscle increases the number of calories that you burn while at rest, which inherently increases your metabolic rate.
Our metabolism is also inclined to slow naturally as we age.
So is my slow metabolism the reason that I can’t lose weight?
Weight gain and loss is a complex subject, and those who struggle to manage their weight do so for a number of reasons, many of which are not directly related to metabolism or dieting.
- Some people are genetically predisposed to overweight tendencies. Though hereditary obesity can be offset by dedicated exercise and dieting habits, the truth is that some people are genetically inclined to have a harder time managing their weight.
- If your body overproduces insulin – a not uncommon side effect of Western diets – then your fat cells may store more energy than your body actually requires. This means that you have to work harder to burn fat while working out.
- Your body’s hormone balance (or imbalance) affects the way that it stores and releases chemicals, including those that affect your appetite and energy levels.
- Some medical conditions can lead to rapid weight gain or loss. Additionally, many medications have side effects, including weight gain or loss of appetite.
Most of the reasons listed above are difficult to control. While your metabolism may not specifically be the reason you have a hard time losing weight, increasing your metabolism CAN help offset the reasons you struggle to do so.
Why Shouldn’t I Use Weight Loss Medication?
Prescribed medications are typically designed for individuals with severe weight issues, either in the form of general obesity or as a result of a medical condition. If you simply want to shed a few pounds to get ready for a summer at the beach, then medications should not be your answer.
There is plenty of over-to-counter and prescribed medications designed to help you manage your weight. Some help to block the buildup of fats in the body, while others seek to curb your appetite or trick your brain into thinking that you are full to decrease your desire to eat.
While drugs can be effective at helping you lose weight, they also can come with a barrage of side effects, including but not limited to:
- Trouble sleeping
- Increased blood pressure
- Excessive gas
- Dry mouth
- Low blood sugar
Furthermore, taking prescription drugs to lose weight can cause you to become dependent on them to maintain your weight loss.
Most prescriptions are only effective initially, and many users find that their weight bounces back.
So How Can I Naturally Boost My Metabolism?
Your metabolism is naturally a function of your body composition and activity level: the more active you are and the more muscle you build, the more calories your body will need to burn on a daily basis. Additionally, healthy diet habits and lifestyle choices will help to keep your body working like a well-oiled machine.
However, if you still struggle to lose weight, you can try one of these natural ways to boost your metabolism:
1. Work egg whites into your breakfast
Egg whites are loaded with healthy proteins, and ensuring that your breakfast comes with a healthy dose of protein will put you well on your way to staying energized throughout the day and will also kick start your metabolism.
Egg yolks contain plenty of nutrients as well, but eliminating the yolk from your breakfast also drastically cuts the amount of cholesterol in your meal.
Directions: Try one (or all!) of these simple but delicious recipes to incorporate egg whites into your breakfast routine.
2. Drink a cup of coffee during your mid-morning slump
Drinking a cup of coffee every day comes with a number of health benefits. Coffee contains antioxidants and vitamins, helps to protect your liver, lowers the risk of developing diabetes or heart disease, and even kills bacteria in your mouth that can lead to tooth decay!
Studies have also shown that supplementing your healthy eating habits with caffeine can have a profoundly positive effect on your metabolism.
Drinking coffee increases your overall caloric output, as well as an overall increase in activity levels and physical exertion. Drinking coffee may even curb your appetite!
Directions: When you start to feel tired mid-morning, or perhaps a little “bored and hungry,” pour yourself a cup of coffee instead of reaching for a sugary snack.
3. Add some peppermint essential oil to your bath
Peppermint essential oil is powerful stuff. You can inhale it to reduce your appetite or increase your mental energy levels.
You can also drink it to soothe an aching or unsettled stomach or dilute it with a carrier oil and massage it directly into the skin to increase blood flow to sore or tired muscles.
Peppermint oil is also known for its ability to stimulate metabolism.
Drinking the oil can also assist in increasing your metabolism, but soaking in a peppermint-infused bath allows the oil to be absorbed directly into your pores while you are relaxing while also allowing its scent to invigorate your mind.
Directions: Add 5-10 drops of peppermint essential oil to a bath, with or without other products. This essential oil is quite strong; in order to minimize the risk of being overpowered by the scent, start with 5 drops and add additional oil to the bath as desired.
4. Drink milk regularly
Regularly consuming a healthy dose of calcium may allow your body to break down fats more readily.
Calcium is a critical part of your body’s metabolic process. Studies show that increased calcium intake can lead to both decreased fat accumulation as well as increased fat metabolism.
Drinking water is an important part of maintaining a healthy weight – staying hydrated help to keep your body processes running smoothly – but supplementing your other drinks for milk can have a positive impact on your metabolism.
Directions: Swap out your daily dose of juice or soda for a glass of 1% milk. Alternatively, if you have already cut sugary drinks from your diet, drink a glass of milk with at least one meal each day. You can also drink a glass of milk with a cup of fruit or a granola bar for a healthy mid-afternoon snack.
5. Add grapefruit essential oil to a glass of tea or smoothie
Many essential oils have weight-loss-boosting effects, but grapefruit essential oil is one of the best.
Using this oil can positively supplement your weight loss efforts in a number of ways. It can decrease inflammation and general bloating, cut down your sugar cravings, control your appetite, and remove excess toxins from your body.
In addition to these effects, this essential oil can boost your metabolism naturally because of its active ingredients, making it a favorite of those looking for natural detox methods.
Directions: Add 2-3 drops of grapefruit essential oil to a glass of fluid and drink. You could simply use a glass of water, or incorporate the oil into a cup of tea, a glass of fruit juice, or a healthy smoothie.
Before turning to medications and pills to solve your weight loss woes, try one of these five natural ways to boost your metabolism.
Losing weight can be tricky, but increasing your body’s ability to burn fat can be a powerful supplement to your other weight loss efforts.
Trying one of these natural fixes will also help you to avoid the negative side effects and risk of dependency that can come with using medications to achieve the same results.
Remember, though, that it takes time to build a strong base of healthy habits. So keep working toward your goal, and don't let anything stand in your way!