Your Metabolism and Fat Loss
By: Dr. Donna Pontoriero, Chiropractor
If you know someone that has been trying to lose weight and get into shape, you have probably heard words such as, "I just eat one meal a day to lose weight" or "I'm afraid if I eat, I'll gain weight" but sadly, this misnomer is why so many people are in the "battle of the bulge". People all over the world still believe that eating breakfast, or even three meals a day will cause them to gain weight. In truth, as long as they are eating the right types of foods and exercising, then three normal meals or six small meals a day will actually work better with their metabolism than eating the wrong quantities or not eating often enough.
With more than half of Americans over the age of 20 now being considered "overweight", now more than ever, we need to understand how metabolism works in relation to losing weight. Why risk having a heart attack, a stroke, developing cancer, or diabetes when all you have to do is make a few mior changes and live a healthy life? First, a person's metabolic rate is determined by the number and size of respiring cells that compromise the body's tissue, and the intensity of the metabolism in these cells. These two factors combined are what make-up the physiological foundation of the amount of energy (calories) in which a body uses.
Keep in mind that energy cannot be created or destroyed, just changed. As we know, potential energy comes from the foods we eat. When talking about weight loss, there are three components of balanced energy, which include calorie intake, calories stored, and calories expended. The way it works is that if the amount of calories taken in equals the amount of calories being expended (burned), then there is balance and the body's weight is stable.
On the other hand, if the balance becomes positive, caused by more food being eaten than is burned, energy is destroyed or in better terms, stored as body fat. It is important to remember that you can be eating a diet considered low-fat and still gain weight. The reason is that most dietary fat is stored while the body is burning carbohydrates and proteins for energy. The problem is that when a person gains weight, the increased level of fat becomes stored energy until the calorie balance is negative. For that to happen, the amount of calories burned needs to exceed the number of calories being consumed, no matter what the macronutrient content.
Metabolism is the rate at which the body uses energy to support the basic functions essential to sustain life. The metabolism is comprised of three parts, which include physical activity (20%), Thermic Effect of Food, also called TEF (10%), and Resting Metabolism Rate or RMR (70%). Physical activity is the amount of energy your body burns up during normal, daily activities to include housework, recreation, work, exercise, and so on. Obviously, someone that is physically active will burn more energy than a sedentary person will. TEF accounts for the energy used in digesting and absorbing nutrients, which would vary depending on the meal's composition. When a person overeats, TEF is increased because more food must be digested. Here is where the metabolism becomes very interesting and what causes so much confusion.
One pound is equal to 3,500 calories, so let us say a person consumes 3,500 more calories than normal. That individual would not gain one pound because the TEF is accounted for but if 3,500 calories were cut trying to lose weight, then TEF decreases since there would be fewer nutrients to process. The result is that with energy expenditure would decrease, meaning that the individual would lose less than one pound in weight. In other words, by cutting out too much food, TEF cannot work as it was designed to do. Now keep in mind that you cannot go around eating a bunch of junk food. After all, the calories you do consume need to be healthy foods, but what this does mean is that when you do not eat, you are actually working against your body in fighting weight gain, not the other way around.
Finally, the RMR refers to the number of calories the body needs to run its essential functions, as well as chemical reactions while in a rested state. This aspect of metabolism accounts for the greatest number of calories burned every day. What happens is that if lean weight should be lost because of increased protein metabolism, then RMR decreases. Typically, you would see this happen when a person goes on a very strict diet. In this situation, the body is forced into a negative nitrogen balance, which means a greater amount of protein is lost than what is replaced because of less protein/energy intake. When this imbalance occurs, there is a gradual loss of lean weight, which then lowers RMR.
What happens many times is that dieters will limit the amount of lean weight loss with intense exercise for the musles to develop a need to maintain more protein. When this happens, the body is forced to use more energy from stored fats. If you want to put your metabolism to work for you, some simple steps can be taken:
- By adding a few extra pounds of lean muscle, the metabolic rate can be increased by up to 200% each day. Remember that lean weight can burn as much as 20 times more calories than fat weight. Regular exercise is one of the best ways to boost metabolism. By eating smaller meals and more often, you can boost your metabolism rate.
- While you need to eat healthy foods, studies prove that what matters most is how much of a person's body weight is attributed to fat. Remember, excess fat is what links to major health problems. Therefore, it is important that you maintain a healthy weight but more crucial that you monitor the fat-to-muscle ratio.
- For example, a woman standing 5'5" might weigh only 125 pounds but have 27% body fat ratio, which is not good. This individual worked hard to diet, while staying involved with aerobics. However, much of what she lost was not fat, but muscle. Even though this weight would be considered ideal for her height, her body fat to muscle ratio is too high.
- An excellent way to optimize your fat-to-muscle ratio is by getting involved with weight training in addition to the nutrition and cardio.
Remember, you are in control and need to make the decision to do something good for yourself. Therefore, now is the time to take control and fight to live a lean and healthy lifestyle.
Please contact our office if you would like further evaluation on your condition.
Dr. Donna Pontoriero can be reached at 299 Franklin Ave, Nutley NJ 07110, 973-235-9393.