The Metabolism Paradox: Why Focusing on Boosting Your Metabolism May Be a Bad Idea
Have you always been advised to boost your metabolism to lose weight? Before you implement metabolism-boosting strategies, there’s an important concept you need to think about: the metabolism paradox.
What’s the Metabolism Paradox?
It’s true that people with faster metabolism burn fat faster, but the downside to having a fast metabolism is animals with the fastest metabolism also usually live the shortest. Always trying to rev up your metabolism or your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is not healthy. There is actually an increased survival advantage for people who have slower metabolism.
Your BMR refers to the amount of energy or the number of calories your body needs to function while at rest. You can think of your BMR as a form of fire burning within you to keep you functioning at rest. How high is that fire? Is it a big or small fire? All of us have a metabolic rate that is determined by various factors, some of which are lifestyle or hormonal factors like your thyroid hormone.
Two Factors That Lower Your Metabolic Rate Abnormally
Stress and lack of sleep.
When you’re overstressed and not sleeping enough, your metabolic rate dives in a bad way. Your BMR has to be appropriate for the activities you’re doing.
As you get older, your BMR continues to slow down. That's mostly a result of a whole host of things, but you can understand why this happens by looking at the muscles of someone who is aging.
As we age, we start getting little bits of fat in the muscle if it's not being challenged through resistance activity. The muscle slowly turns into more and more fat and when you have a decrease in muscle mass through this natural aging process, you get an increase in fat.
Muscle is metabolically more active, so if you're not doing resistance training and you're not eating well, the muscles will be gradually replaced by fat. This will also lower your metabolic rate because it's turning into a less metabolically active tissue. Fats are not as active as your muscles.
We don't want our metabolic rate dropping because our muscle is turning into fat. In addition, fat is also going to increase inflammation. Fat is not just sitting there; it actually releases signals that cause inflammation.
Because your metabolic rate drops, your energy needs are also going to decrease. You may eat less as a result and you may not get enough of the phytonutrients and nutrient-dense foods. This is going to impair your immune system. It’s a vicious, debilitating cycle. This is why it's important to preserve the muscle and we can do that through resistance training.
Now when you think of muscles, bodybuilders may the first people who’d come to your mind. The bodybuilding community is probably the most efficient at losing and gaining weight when they need to. They do this through techniques that are good at shedding pounds, but not necessarily at prolonging life. This is why we see that bodybuilders don't have significant increased longevity.
5 Ways to Increase Your Metabolic Rate Without Decreasing Longevity
Don't fall into the pleasure trap of eating fat, salt, and sugar.
In prehistoric times, getting a lot of fat, salt, and sugar in a meal gave humans a survival advantage. But it’s a different story now that the combination of high fat, salt, and sugar are always available in modern diets. These have been linked to serious conditions that shorten lifespan, including heart disease, hypertension and diabetes.
Instead of falling into the trap of eating high-fat, sugary and salty foods, we need to make sure that we are getting nutrient-dense foods. Per calorie, we want to make sure we're getting the most nutrients possible. Deep green leafy vegetables are going to provide these phytonutrients in your diet that can lower your appetite and your metabolic rate as well as feed the cells in your body with anti-aging nutrients that will help you age better and live healthier. This is one of the main strategies to speed up metabolic rate, but with a survival advantage.
Beware of strategies that make you lose weight in the short term.
There are weight loss strategies that can help you shed off pounds for a short period of time, but can also potentially shorten your life plan. These include strategies like eating frequently and excessively increasing protein consumption by making sure that protein is in every meal and snack.
More studies reveal that high intake of protein is bad for your kidneys. It also increases mTOR, a protein associated with accelerated aging and decreased longevity.
In my previous blog, I talked about AMPK, the body’s master switch to burn more fat and prolong life. AMPK and mTOR go hand-in-hand. When one goes up, the other goes down. It is a cycle and you don't want to abnormally lower all these things and throw the cycle off balance. There is a time and place for protein. Trying to hack the body to increase your metabolic rate is not something that should be done on a regular basis.
Drink green tea.
Green tea is a high nutrient-dense drink that has longevity benefits. Populations that have been drinking green tea have been found to live longer. Coffee is also a nutrient-dense drink because it does have a lot of phytonutrients in it. But if you find that you need coffee because of caffeine, then that's something that needs to be addressed.
Do high-intensity interval training (HIIT).
HIIT, a form of workout that mixes short bursts of activity and periods of rest, is also going to push your metabolic rate up and improve longevity at the same time. HIIT preserves the muscles while burning fats. On the contrary, long cardio sessions and extreme exercises have been shown to damage the heart.
Include resistance training in your fitness routine, whether that's body weight exercises or lifting weights. This is critical to maintaining a normal metabolic rate as it prevents muscles from turning into fat. When you're capable of maintaining some of that muscle, your metabolic rate is going to be normal. Your energy level is also going to be normal, which is going to give you the appetite that you need.
If you focus on getting the most nutrient-dense foods, mostly plant-based foods that are pigmented, leafy green vegetables and berries into your diet, that's going to help decrease hunger.
What’s amazing about eating all of these phytonutrients is we are nourishing ourselves with miraculous compounds, many of which haven't even been discovered yet. Scientists are hundreds of years away from being able to duplicate what happens when you eat a piece of broccoli for example. There are chemicals in there that haven't been identified yet that have unknown health benefits. This can be said about every single vegetable and fruit out there. These phytonutrients, which have no caloric value at all, can nourish you, lower your cravings and allow you to thrive on less calories. We need to avoid lowering our food intake too much because that can lower our metabolic rate in a way that isn’t healthy and normal.
Instead of obsessing about your metabolic rate, just focus on these healthy weight loss strategies that contribute to longevity. I encourage you to join our Weight Loss Awakening Friendship Group on Facebook to get community support.