Breathing in air from the atmosphere burns calories, so does your heart when it skips a beat [or just simply beats!], either when you see your latest phone bill or that special someone!
Sounds funny? Well that’s what is called your [basal] metabolic rate, i.e. the energy you require to carry out the most vital processes in your body—even when you aren’t even lifting a finger. So what if you are just sitting and watching a movie? You are breathing, your heart is beating, and your glands are functioning, right? Well all these processes require energy. Moreover, each person’s metabolism is as unique and pre-decided as his or her fingerprint.
Men v/s women: Well you may not like to hear this, but men have five per cent higher muscle as against women, who have a higher body fat percentage, naturally. So men have a higher BMR than women and can burn more calories doing the same activity as women.
Age: The BMR is high in children below two years and in adolescents between the age of 15 – 21 years. As you age [after age 35] and if you are used to a sedentary lifestyle, the body loses roughly 1 lb of muscle/year, which in turn, will lower your metabolic rate.
Body temperature: Ever wonder why losing weight is so easy when you have a fever? Heat acts as a catalyst to all chemical reactions making them happen faster, so for every 1 degree celsius rise in body temperature the BMR also rises by 13 per cent.
Seasonal changes: When the surrounding temperature drops, your body starts working harder to keep you warm and produces heat thereby elevating your metabolic rate. Ironically, the BMR is also raised when it gets hotter, in order to keep the body temperature constant!
Hormonal changes: Thyroid and adrenal gland secretions [yes the same one that secretes the love hormone adrenalin] have a stimulating effect on the metabolism. That is why people with hypothyroidism [low thyroid function] gain weight while people with hyperthyroidism [high thyroid function] lose weight automatically.
Sleep: Since almost everything slows down while we sleep except the main organs like the brain, lungs and heart. During this time our BMR also drops by 10 per cent.
Food habits: When you starve, your BMR drops by 20 per cent as the body tries to save energy anticipating a future bout of starvation! So remember, you burn very less calories if you don’t eat right!
You can alter your metabolism
Yes, you read it right the first time around. You can increase your metabolic rate so that even while you are just reading this article you will burn more calories than you normally would.
Exercise: Training with light to moderately heavy weights at least thrice a week can boost your metabolism by almost 20 per cent. This is because when you develop your muscle mass, muscle being a highly active tissue, requires more energy to just be maintained! So it’s like a good friend in a bad time, just because it’s there, it helps! What’s more, weight training not only elevates your metabolism while you exercise, but also gives you an ‘afterburn effect’ i.e. you continue to burn more calories for up to 12 hours after your train.
Aerobic exercise: Walking, cycling, jogging or even doing aerobics will help increase your metabolism rate. But unlike with weights, the metabolism stays up only while you do the workout not post workout. Meaning you only burn calories on the spot.
Once you understand your metabolism and what makes it tick, I don’t see why you wont be able to fit into that pair of jeans from your college days!
Diet, don’t starve
If you want to lose weight but you don’t want to put a stop to eating all that you like read on:
Eat at two hour intervals: Eating at regular intervals is recommended by experts for losing and sustaining weight loss. Keeping short gaps between meals ensures that your metabolism is raised as a result of which you burn more calories even when you do nothing. Do not skip breakfast, It is the most important meal in your day and it plays a major role in weight loss.
Drink enough fluid: Make sure you meet your day’s requirement of water by drinking a glass or two at regular intervals. Including other liquids like fresh lime water, coconut water, lassi and chaas between meals can also help control hunger and prevent hunger pangs without adding to your calorie intake!
Eat your fruits and veggies: Eating enough fibre daily is a must. Research shows that increasing your daily fibre intake by adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet can almost guarantee a slimmer waistline! So add more veggies to your meals by combining them with your atta, pulao or add vegetable raita, soups, fruit milkshakes, and fruit salads to your daily meals.
Learn portion control: Teach yourself to make judicious food choices while you eat out. Instead of fried food, choose grilled, baked, stir fried options, which cause lesser damage to your system, calorie wise. Start with a soup or a salad so that you are semi-full and then eat the foods you like, but in a smaller quantity.
Indulge once in a while: Indulging your sweet tooth once in a while is not a crime. Share your dessert with someone or pack half of it and take the rest of it home.
This was first published in the July 2009 issue of Complete Wellbeing.