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Metabolism. The hottest facts to help you burn that fat

Metabolism. The hottest facts to help you burn that fat

Metabolism is a burning issue if you want to achieve your ideal weight. Understanding how it works is key to success. So check out our guide to the M-word and watch the fat fall off.

Basic Metabolic Rate (BMR)

BMR is simply the minimum amount of energy which needs to be burned in order to keep your most basic body processes going when at rest and not digesting food. This energy is usually measured in calories and BMR includes only those calories which keep your tissues and vital organs alive. Any activity beyond rest, such as physical exercise or digestion, requires additional calorie burning which is not covered by your BMR.

BMR accounts for anything between 40% and 70% of your body’s daily energy requirements. All extra requirements are created from our extra activities.

High metabolism vs. low metabolism

Love it or hate it, we’re not all born with equal metabolisms. Someone with a high metabolism burns more calories while at rest than someone with a lower metabolism. Men generally have a higher metabolism than women. This is because they tend to have more muscle mass, which burns more calories. You have little control over your BMR, it’s simply down to body size, gender, age and genes.

Can I really blame a slow metabolism for my weight?

 If you’re cutting down on calories, exercising regularly and still not losing weight you may be tempted to think you have a slow metabolism. However, numerous studies have failed to find any evidence for this.

Recent studies have also shown that there may possibly be a gene defect which causes human obesity. Researchers found that rare variants in the KSR2 gene caused children and adults to have significantly lower metabolic rates which predisposed them to retaining fat.  However, this research is nothing to get too excited over. Researchers emphasise the word ‘rare’ and state only about 2% of obese people carry this gene.

Instead, research shows that simply eating and drinking more calories than you’re burning off is the reason for being overweight. So forget blaming your faulty metabolism and start taking some real action.

How can I increase my metabolism?

The good news is that you do have some control over your basic metabolic rate. Here are the proven ways:

  • Increasing muscle mass is the main way to increase your metabolism. This is because muscle burns fat while the body is at rest.  A regular resistance training programme increases your muscle mass, which is beneficial for your health regardless of weight issues.
  • Drinking caffeine has been shown to temporarily boost metabolism by up to 10% for two hours. Smoking cigarettes – not that we’re advocating it of course - can have a similar effect. Both are stimulants which appear to increase nervous activity.
  • Keep cool. The newly discovered ‘brown fat’ is switched on in cold temperatures. This type of fat burns energy which makes you lose weight naturally. Unfortunately, brown fat will only be activated by cold exposure by one in three of us.
  • Fidgeting could help increase your metabolism. Much of what comprises metabolism is involuntary activity. So things like shivering, unconscious fidgeting and even our posture contribute to overall calories burned.
  • Eat regularly. Eating large meals lowers metabolism by triggering your body to produce more insulin. This means more energy will be laid down as fat. So eat breakfast, and definitely don’t leave all your meals to the end of the day.
  • Exercise regularly. Aerobic activity has been shown to boost metabolism. Doing it earlier in the day will keep your BMR elevated slightly throughout the day.

Increasing metabolism - a pointless exercise?

The bad news is that, even with the greatest efforts, it is hard to increase your metabolic rate by huge amounts.

To help you understand this, consider the most proven way to increase metabolism – building muscle.  Each pound of muscle adds around 5 calories each day to your BMR. By increasing muscle mass by 5 pounds your BMR would burn just 25 extra calories each day, or around a fifth of a pound of fat per month.

Is this a good return on your time and energy? Debatable. However, your efforts won’t be wasted because the changed habits are all recommended as part of a healthy lifestyle anyway.

Focus on physical activity and food intake

Forget metabolism, by far the most effective way to lose weight is to alter your calorie intake and physical activity levels to help you attain the calorie correct balance for a healthy weight. For example, spinning classes can burn between 500 – 1000 calories per hour, while body combat burns around 480.

Burning calories through exercise is something you have complete control over. To help, check out our tips for long term weight loss and the top fat busting foods. And of course, use the gym for regular aerobic activity and muscle training to burn plenty of calories and give you a good return for your efforts.