The misconception people have surrounding us teeny tiny folk (by this I mean petite people, not pixies) is that we don’t eat an awful lot.
It’s down to the general idea that the smaller you are the less you eat; the bigger you are the more food you need. Which, if we are going to generalise things, is true.
Then when people see what I do eat, they are kind of taken aback at how much I actually consume in a day. Now this is generally down to the fact that I have built up a very fast metabolism with the amount of training I do, thus my body a) needs more food for fuel and b) burns more of this fuel as a result.
To begin with, let’s define metabolism:
Metabolism is the chemical processes that occur within a living organism in order to maintain life.
Metabolism is all the chemical processes that happen inside our body to keep it functioning, including digesting food. This differs from person to person, due to our metabolic rate:
A metabolic rate is the rate at which metabolism occurs in a living organism.
Thus, if we have a poor metabolic rate, our body will take longer to use the food as fuel and is more likely to store it in our bodies. Someone with a fast metabolism will, generally, put this food to good use, ensuring that it is used as energy rather than stored up to then become fat and slow down our progress.
The minimum amount of energy needed to ensure these chemical processes occur in our bodies is called our basal metabolic rate, and differs from person to person.
Your BMR can be fast or slow due to factors such as age (unfortunately the rate decreases as we get older – although it does not stop), our genes (some people are naturally ‘slim’ etc), and gender (typically, men have a faster metabolic rate than women).
But, in spite of these contributing factors, you can increase your metabolism by changing your diet or your exercise regime. Which all sounds pretty simple, right?
In a sense we aren’t strictly increasing our BMR, what we are doing is increasing the rate at which our body uses these chemical processes to burn fat.
As stated by Professor James Timmons, a metabolism expert:
Muscle cells require more energy to maintain than fat cells, so people with a higher muscle to fat ratio tend to have a higher BMR.
So in order to increase our BMR, we need to be gaining muscle. If we have muscle, our metabolism will be faster because muscle requires more energy than fat. And in order to gain muscle, we need more food. Because food = growth.
It’s all very circular and a simple formula when broken down: the more you train; the more you eat, and the more you eat; the more it uses this food to fuel your training. Especially strength training, because like the clever professor said, muscle cells require more energy than fat cells.
People who eat less food, such as those who start crash diets in which their calorific intake is dramatically decreased will actually find it hard to lose weight once the initial weight loss has occurred.
Interestingly, it has also been suggested that the more you weigh, the faster your metabolism likely is:
The fact is that the extra weight causes your body to work harder just to sustain itself at rest, so in most instances, the metabolism is always running a bit faster. (eMed Expert)
Which means that when you cut your calorie intake, you will see a weight loss early on, which will then mean your body needs fewer calories to sustain itself, thus meaning weight loss will be harder after this initial period because your metabolism will slow down.
This is because you are starving their body of what it needs and it will then hold on to everything it can to allow it to function. Your metabolic rate becomes poor because it thinks that it doesn’t need to work as hard anymore.
This is why crash diets don’t work for the long term. Short term options to long term problems are not the answer. To continue this weight loss progress we need to provide your body with optimum conditions for continuing to use calories and burn fat.
The answer? (Or one of them): combine strength training and gradually increase calorie intake will build muscle, burn fat, and increase our BMR all in one go. Happy. Days.
As a result, I, (let’s use myself as an example, why not) standing at 5 ft 1 and 7 stone 4 lbs, consume on an average day 1,800-2,000 calories (day dependent).
I have built my BMR up and yes it helps that I am still only twenty-two, so young enough to have a good metabolism anyway (I’m not denying that). However, this does not mean that anyone older can’t change their diet and alter their metabolism.
A fantastic case in point is this guy, Joe Wicks aka The Body Coach, who designs programmes for his clients based on high intensity exercise (with weights) and a diet that does not restrict nor deplete their body. The transformations, from all body types shapes and sizes, both genders, and all ages, serve as a fantastic example of how anyone can change their lifestyle, up their metabolism and drop fat.
So, what am I trying to say?
Metabolism matters because you don’t actually have to be in a serious deficit to lose weight and burn fat.
Understanding metabolism is crucial to losing weight or gaining muscle. If your metabolic rate is low and you dramatically drop your calories, your body will find it hard to lose fat. Understanding the metabolic process and how it is affected by your diet and exercise, and how it in turn affects your body, will help you reach your goals – aka losing fat aka building a bit of muscle aka having a banging bod you’re proud of.
You can aid the process by doing the following: weight and strength training, HIIT workouts, eating regular meals (every 3-4 hours), keeping yourself hydrated.
I’ll do a post soon to cover what I eat in a day to give you an idea of how I reach my goals and my eating patterns.
eMed Expert (2014) How to Raise Metabolism [Online] eMed Expert. Available from: http://www.emedexpert.com/tips/metabolism-tips.shtml
NHS (2016) How can I speed up my metabolism? [Online] NHS. Available from: http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/loseweight/Pages/how-can-I-speed-up-my-metabolism.aspx