From the Desk of Joleen Wilson, Pathway Dietician: Metabolism is King, Part 2

Joleen Wilson - Dietary Manager

Joleen Wilson, CNSC

Written by: Joleen Wilson, Registered Dietician, Certified Nutrition Support Clinician, for Pathway for Eating Disorders Treatment at Brookhaven Hospital

There are several things that affect your metabolic rate, so let’s examine why and how one’s metabolic rate becomes damaged.

Things that damage metabolic rate are:

  • Doing constant, steady state/low intensity cardio (spin class, walking on the treadmill, stairmaster, elliptical, etc). You lose the fat burning component of steady state cardio very quickly. I will never understand why people do two cardio sessions per day when they are not getting a fat burning effect, but instead just eating up muscle and reducing metabolism.
  • Restricting calories too much. More specifically, not having enough fats and good carbs in your diet.
  • Not understanding the math behind what you are doing. If you are eating 1200 calories per day and burning 500-1000 in your workout, you are damaging your metabolic rate.
  • Finishing everyday at a caloric deficit will damage your metabolic rate because the body will go into “panic mode” and store everything that comes in.

Things that increase metabolic rate are:

  • Lifting weights, building muscle. High intensity lifting.  I cannot stress this enough for women.  You need to lift often.  Women don’t get bulky from lifting weights, as they do not have the hormone profile to support this.  Adding muscle adds to metabolic rate; more specifically, the more muscle you have the more calories your body burns.  Your “after burn” after lifting weights is twice that of steady state cardio, meaning that your metabolism is consistently elevated for a longer period of time following a weight lifting workout.
  • HIIT cardio, High Intensity Interval Training, is the only type of cardio the body does not adapt to.  It supports metabolic rate and also includes the fat burning component.  Examples include sprint intervals (30 seconds on, 1-2 minutes off) and EMOM (every minute on the minute) workouts (doing a particular movement like burpees or squats as fast as you can for 15-20 seconds, then resting the remainder of the minute to only do it again at the top of the next minute).  The idea is that, allowing your body to recover between intervals, you can perform at a higher intensity and therefore burn more calories during the session.
  • Getting enough quality calories. You need to eat to lose fat.  This is called the “thermic effect of food”, meaning you burn calories when your body digests food.  You need to eat to build muscle.  If you starve yourself, you will sabotage any fat loss.

Next time, I will talk about how food intake (and metabolism) is chemically regulated by the body through the release of three very important chemicals.


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