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Written by Morgan Schaack, RD, LD
on September 23, 2019

We have all heard about the connection between your metabolism and your weight. But do you really understand what that means? In this blog we are going to dive into the basics of your metabolism and how it affects your weight.

Metabolism is defined as the process of converting your calories into energy, otherwise defined as how fast your body will burn the calories you consume. People with a higher metabolism are often times more slim, while people with a slower metabolism find it hard to lose weight and especially maintain that weight loss. 

That explains why your friend can eat 10x more than you and not gain a pound, yet when you increase your caloric intake for a week you gain 5 pounds. 

Understanding Metabolic Differences 

How metabolism affects your weight and what is metabolism You are probably asking right about now: "So, how can I increase my metabolism to eat more and still lose weight?!"

Yes, there are ways to increase your metabolism, but it is important to remember that we are all different in our genetic makeup. Some people are born with a fast metabolism and carry that with them through the years. While other people have to really work at their weight loss and weight maintenance

Along with genetics, everyone has a different basal metabolic rate (BMR). Your BMR is the number of calories your body needs to support vital bodily functions such as breathing, digesting, and storing nutrients. Your BMR only includes those calories burned at rest and not the calories you burn when performing normal daily activities. 

Although metabolism does play a role in your weight, the primary factor, aside from genetics, that impacts your weight is how much you are eating and drinking. That is why we tell our patients all the time that if they want to lose weight, they have to reduce their caloric intake, stop drinking liquid calories, and cut the carbs. 

Factors That Affect Your Metabolism 

There are a few factors that impact your metabolism and the rate at which you burn calories that are out of your control. I list 3 of them below. 

1. Body Size and Composition

Contrary to popular belief, overweight and obese individuals do not always have a terribly slow metabolism. In fact, people with a higher BMI are more likely to burn calories even at rest. The same thing is true for individuals with a higher muscle mass. 

It is important to note that although your metabolism does not slow down the more weight you gain, a slow metabolism from the start can cause weight gain. So yes, genetics and your metabolism (and caloric intake) does play a role in you inability to lose weight. 

2. Gender 

Studies have proven that men are more likely to have a higher metabolism than women. This is primarily a result of the fact that men are likely to have a lower body fat percentage and more muscle mass than women. 

3. Age 

We all know this to be true. The older you get, the slower your metabolism becomes. This is a result of the loss in muscle mass and the conversion of your muscle to fat.

What You Can Do 

Weight gain is complicated and although your metabolism does play a role in how you burn calories, your metabolism is a natural process. Weight gain is most often a result of a caloric imbalance (too many calories in, not enough calories out). Therefore, it is unfair to blame your weight solely on your metabolism. Only in a few rare cases are individual's weight a direct effect of their metabolism such as having hypothyroidism or Cushing's syndrome. 

I don't want to leave you feeling defeated. There are ways to increase your metabolism that are in your control. In future blog posts, I will go into the details of how to naturally increase your metabolism. Yet, I want to emphasize that if you are looking to lose weight, do not solely rely on your metabolism to do the job. 

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