Busting Food Myths with Nicole Senior

I can’t lose weight because I’ve got a slow metabolism
Fact: Many people believe they have difficulty losing weight because they have a 'slow metabolism' implying this is outside their control when in fact this isn’t true. (An exception is poor thyroid function which slows metabolism and requires treatment with medication). Boosting your own metabolism is possible, but perhaps not in the ways you think.

Nicole Senior

What is metabolism?

The term metabolism (or metabolic rate) refers to the amount of energy the body uses each day – like a daily energy budget - and is measured as kilojoules/Calories. Spending more energy than your daily budget means you need to dip into your energy savings -body fat. Unlike a financial deficit, an energy deficit can be a good thing because it causes weight loss. Metabolism consists of three basic components: Basal Metabolic Rate; thermogenesis; and physical activity. There are ways you can boost spending on all three fronts.

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR also called Resting Metabolic Rate or RMR) is the energy you spend to sustain basic physiological processes such as keeping your heart beating, your brain and nervous system firing and your liver and kidneys working. Your BMR is primarily related to your lean body mass, so developing and maintaining muscle is a great way to spend more energy (even when you’re sitting still!). There’s no need to sign up for Mr/Ms Universe, but ensuring you do some resistance (strength) training as part of your fitness regime is recommended. Remember not all resistance training is lifting dumbbells in a gym, you can also use your own body weight such as lunges, squats and push-ups, or therabands (large rubber bands used for resistance exercises). Many yoga and pilates exercises build muscle strength as well as flexibility. Talk to a fitness professional about a suitable resistance training program for you.

Thermogenesis is the energy you spend to digest and metabolise your food. Starving yourself actually lowers your energy budget as well as having the obvious negative physical and psychological consequences. Interestingly protein needs more energy to utilise and this one of the reasons higher protein diets seem to work. Ensure you eat enough food at regular intervals and include protein foods such as lean meat, skinless chicken, fish, eggs, dairy food, legumes and nuts in your meals and snacks. There’s no need to go to extremes with the protein and squeeze out smart carbs such as wholegrains, fruits and legumes, but simply balance your meals with some protein foods. For example, rather than just a salad sandwich on wholegrain bread, ‘beef’ things up a little by adding some lean meat, chicken, salmon, tofu or cottage cheese.

Physical activity is perhaps the most obvious way to increase your metabolism, and the more you do the more energy you’ll spend. You can start today and the effects are immediate. Before you say, “I don’t have the time to exercise” you need to know that just moving your body more can help. Being more active can mean sitting less and standing more, driving less and walking more for short trips (and always taking the stairs rather than the escalator), or taking time for active recreation such as gardening or visiting the park. If you do some high intensity exercise, you will continue to spend energy for hours after you stop exercising.

Boosting your metabolism is within your reach and one example of when spending up big is a good thing!

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Dietitian Nicole Senior is Nutrition Editor for Super Food Ideas and author of Eat to Beat Cholesterol. Check out: www.eattobeatcholesterol.com.au