Edited by Lynn Yudofsky, MD, Director of Behavioral Health at Found
I’m sure you’ve heard of the word “metabolism.” Perhaps you’ve also wondered what it means to have a “fast” metabolism. Interestingly enough, when it comes to your metabolism, it varies greatly based on your lifestyle, genetics, activity, and many other components. You are not, in fact, born with a set metabolism. You can alter, manipulate and increase your metabolism, no matter how slow it is to begin with. If you have a faster metabolism, your body will naturally burn more fat just to maintain your current lifestyle and continue to function.
The number of calories you eat sends a signal to your body and tells your metabolism to either slow down or speed up. If you underfeed yourself for an extended amount of time, your metabolic rate will adapt to that calorie amount, and therefore slow down your metabolism. Your body will learn what you feed it and continue to adjust accordingly.
A high-protein diet is important because it will help your body retain and promote the growth of muscle. Increased protein can boost calorie-burning by 20–30%! Remember, the more muscle you have, the more calories you naturally burn. So incredible!
Lifting weights builds more muscles and sends the signal to your body that you need more strength. Strength training alerts your body that it doesn't need tons of endurance, but requires more strength. Consequently, more strength = more muscle, and more muscle burns more calories.
Exercise can work against building a faster metabolism if you’re doing too much cardio and under-eating calories and protein. In other words, when you under-eat and do too much cardio, it signals to your body that it needs more nutrients. Your body will hold on to those calories because it learns that it may not be getting more or enough. Many people believe that it works the other way around, but in reality, overworking your body with cardio and under-eating is detrimental to your metabolism.
Ever have a day where you feel foggy and terrible after not sleeping for a full 7-8 hours? Lack of sleep causes stress on your body, and this can make your body burn fewer and cling on to more calories. Poor sleep can negatively impact your hormones as well - cortisol, the stress hormone, can be good for your body when it’s in fight or flight mode (like if it’s making the snap decision to run from a bear that starts chasing you!)