The link between Metabolism and weight loss - A complete guide


A complete guide on metabolism

Do you know people who constantly complain that they barely eat anything and still gain weight??

Or have you met people who complain about somebody they know who eats and eats, including large quantities of junk food, and apparently never gain weight!!

Yes, in both the cases, the scenario is similar to “It’s not fair” situation. All this is the effect of metabolism.

Our body’s metabolism is often touted as the hidden secret of weight-loss success. A fast one helps you lose weight and a slower one can work against you.

What is metabolism?

Metabolism is a mixture of physical and chemical processes in an organism, the material substance which can be produced, maintained and destroyed and by which energy is made available. 

In simple words, I can say- It is a process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy

How to increase metabolism to lose weight?

  1. Increase your protein intake- Protein increases the thermic effect of food, thus causing extra calories to burn in order to digest, absorb and process the nutrients.
  2. Drink cold water- Drinking enough water increases the metabolism according to studies by Vinu A Vij et al. J Clin Diagn Res .2013 Sept. The calorie burning effect may be even greater if you drink cold water, as your body uses energy to heat it up to your body temperature.
  3. Heavy lifting- Lifting weights will help you retain muscles and combat the drop in metabolism that can occur during weight loss.
  4. Green tea- green tea helps increase fat burning by 10-17% (Studies by Rick Hursel et al. Am J Clin Nutrition. 2013 December)
  5. Do a high intensity workout- High intensity workout helps you burn more fat by increasing your metabolic rate, even after you work out is over
  6. Stand up more- Constant sitting = The new Smoking.

Yes, I am absolutely right.

It is proved, that an afternoon of standing at work can burn an extra 174 calories.

  1. Get your nights Zzzz- It’s often seen that people who are sleep deprived, feel hungry and struggle to lose weight. Lack of sleep can decrease your metabolism and the number of calories you burn

Metabolism boosting foods

  1. Water- The simplest way to increase metabolism is to drink enough water and stay hydrated. Water helps transport energy to the body.
  2. Protein rich foods- Include proteins like pulses, legumes, sprouts, dairy, eggs, nuts and seeds to boost up your metabolism.
  3. Spices- Spices like peppers, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon increases your metabolism
  4. Hot peppers- Chilli peppers are particularly impressive in their spiciness level. Peppers contain capsaicin which boosts metabolism and speeds up weight loss ( Kristel Diepvens et al. Am J Physiol Regul Inter Comp Physiol. 2007 January)
  5. Seeds- The tiny seeds are nutrient packed always. They can be flax seeds, chia seeds, basil, sunflower or pumpkin seeds. Seeds are known to reduce inflammation, aids digestion and improve blood flow to the muscles, thus quickening up the metabolism.
  6. Coffee- Coffee helps burn body fat, fights fatigue and charges the body with energy. However, the sugar and creamer can be skipped and replaced by a black coffee for effective results.
  7. Whole grains- Whole grains like Brown rice, oats are relatively high in fibre, difficult to break down thus accelerating metabolism.
  8. Apple cider vinegar (ACV) - ACV is known to slow down hunger, increase fullness and thus boosting our metabolism. The best way to consume ACV is mixing it in a glass of lemon water, adding few chia seeds and consuming this magic drink before meals!!
  9. Cocoa- Did anyone ever had a thought that this delectable treat could benefit metabolism too!! Yes, Cocoa prevents the power of an enzyme necessary to break fat and carbs during digestion, thus preventing weight gain.
  10. Coconut oil- The high fat content in coconut oil can give a boost to metabolism as it contains medium chain fats, responsible for speeding up the metabolism.

How does metabolism help lose weight?

If you have ever struggled with the numbers on the scale, you have probably blamed your body’s metabolism for it!

Weight loss occurs when you consume less calories or exercise more, preferably both.

However, a higher metabolism causes a larger amount of energy utilised for body’s internal processes and thus more calories burnt overall.

This results into weight loss.

Does your metabolism increase when you lose weight?

When you restrict your calorie intake, and lose the kilos, what actually happens to your metabolism? The answer isn’t so simple.

When you restrict calories, your body will slow down its calorie burn and hold onto the energy it has.

This is also called as Starvation mode. In simple words, losing weight slows down our metabolism.

Physical activity and metabolism

Physical activity contributes up to 30% of the total daily calorie burnt and is one of the best ways to boost the metabolic rate.

Regular exercise increases muscle mass and teaches the body to burn calories at a faster pace, even when at rest.

However, with age, the metabolic rate slows down, tending to lose muscle

How to burn more calories?

If you are trying to lose weight, you need to cut back on the number of calories you eat or by burning more calories each day.

  1. Exercise- More the time for exercise, more the calories burnt. When you exercise, your body burns calories to fuel your activity, but exercise is the gift that keeps on giving. Thus, even after the workout has ended, your body is still burning the calories.
  2. Do strength training to build muscles- Strength training thrice a week can speed up metabolism
  3. Drink caffeinated green tea or black tea- - Coffee, mostly termed as the bad guy, helps increase the metabolism by 11%. Coffee helps burn body fat, fights fatigue and charges the body with energy.
  4. Do not skip breakfast- According to the recent editorial in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, skipping breakfast can increase body weight by increasing the number of meals consumed during the further hours of the day.
  5. Eat low fat dairy- Eating more calcium rich foods like low fat or skimmed milk and products is linked to lower amounts of belly fat, particularly in young adult males.
  6. Small Frequent meals- Every time you snack on or eat a meal, your gastrointestinal tract turns on, so to speak and start digesting the food. It costs calories to fire up the human digestion machine, thus helping burn more calories.
  7. Tank up on water and other fluids- Drinking almost 8 glasses of water a day helps burn extra 100 calories
  8. Fidget- Constantly fidgeting is qualified as a movement, making additional calories to be burnt each day.

How does your body burn calories?

Basal Metabolic rate or BMR is the amount of energy required to maintain basic and involuntary body functions while at rest.

This is the way our bodies burn calories even when at rest. It can be regulating body temperature, keeping our heart beating or breathing.

This BMR accounts for about 2/3rd of the total calories burned each day.

Some people have higher BMR than others. BMR can vary over time also- It may be higher when sick or slow down with age

How does Muscle burn fat?

We are all aware that muscles give us the power to lift boxes and babies. But, when it comes to helping you slim down, the real power of muscles lies in their ability to work like an anatomical pack of wolves.

Your muscles can expedite the process of burning extra calories. Adding muscles to your body burns fat because our muscles need energy to survive.

1 pound of muscle uses between 75 to 150 calories a day (when exercising). That’s because muscles serve as a primary energy consumer for the body.

On the other hand, fat is more like a one-lit match- It would take years for that match to burn the log.

Here are some Weight loss facts

1. Supplements can be rarely effective in losing weight

The main reason for any supplement to work for some people is the placebo effect.

People fall for the marketing tactics and want the supplements to help them lose weight, so they become more cautious of what they eat.

Most supplements are ineffective for weight loss. But the best ones can at best, help you lose a bit.

2. Good Carbs are a Must

Its completely true that keeping carb intake low and protein intake high can help you lose weight.

But this doesn’t mean that carbs cause weight gain and you completely omit them from your diet.

Foods’s high in complex carbs and fibre, like whole grains, are any time better than refined carbs like white sugar and Maida.

So, the next time you plan to shed those extra kilos, do not completely cut down the healthy carbs.

3. Fat doesn’t always make you fat

1gm of fat provides 9 kcal. But as long as your calorie intake is within the healthy range, fat does not always make you fat.

Healthy fats found in nuts and seeds, rich in omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, are vital for other body functioning and weight loss too.

So, it always makes sense to cut down the saturated fats like butter, fried foods and junk and include healthy fats.

4. Thin people are not always healthy

Plenty of obese people are metabolically healthy, while plenty of thin people may have some chronic diseases.

It seems to matter where your fat builds up and how your metabolism is.

5. More sleep helps weight loss

A study from the University of Michigan showed that just 1 hour more per night sleep could translate to weight loss too!

The metabolic take a way

So, are you having trouble shedding those extra kilos?? Well, the key to weight loss success may be understanding how your metabolism really works!!

There is no magic bullet. Don’t look to dietary supplements for help in burning calories or weight loss.

Products that claim to speed up your metabolism are often more hype than help, while some might cause undesirable or dangerous side effects.




Sneha Jain, Dietician

Sneha is a Post graduate with specialization in Nutrition and Dietetics. She is a university topper and holds 5+ years of experience in Apollo hospitals, VLCC, slimsutra and first cry fit-kids . She has successfully counselled clients all over India for weight loss, weight gain, diabetes, hypertension, PCOD, hypothyroid, Pregnancy and lactation and growth charts for children. She has her own diet consultation e-clinic (diet_diariez)

She believes in  customized diets and eating local and seasonal foods. Her counselling not only involves diet planning, but also lifestyle modification and stress relief strategies. 

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