This is post numero uno in my Building A Bangin’ Metabolism Series…..
The past few weeks I have had many, MANY questions on the mysterious metabolism. MANY. And in the past I’ve probably shied away from this topic because it involves a ton of work to lay a foundation of truth, provide detail and facts, and….well, sometimes I’m just running low on coffee and energy and the idea of talking AGAINST what is preached at us on social media, and spewed through shares of “truthful” information, well…it sometimes seems like a big damn task.
However, women deserve and need quality information, and need to know their “big dial movers” when it comes to metabolism and what things they can do to help themselves. Said another, how can we spend most of our energy on the few things that ACTUALLY matter most?
And with many questions like :
“Whyyyyyyyy is my metabolism so slow?”
“How much does my metabolism slow down every year?”
“Why can’t I have one of those metabolisms like skinny people have, the people who just eat and eat and eat and never gain weight?”
Well, I knew it was time. Time to break down metabolisms, and their mysteriousness. Because I get it. I spent loads of years floundering around wondering if I was wrecking my metabolism by eating too many carbs, or toxins, and other food groups. I also spent loads of time gaining and losing the same 15 pounds, and either feeling fabulous or feeling like shit, depending if I was up or down. And, I was FRUSTRATED, because WHY was this so hard to understand. And, of course, I was using crap information to base my decisions off of. So, basically, here is the anti-crap so YOU can take the easy route and skip all the bullshit I waded through for so damn long 🙂
Like anything I find as a nutrition and strength coach, the answer always lies in the “it depends” arena on this topic. Everything depends on a whole lot of things. Which makes sense, of course, because there are lots of things at play here.
So maybe it makes sense to start from the beginning in this post.
Like….the foundation. So we can help break down the actual foundation of metabolism. You know, the building blocks. The brick and mortar.
I mean, we can’t put a roof of knowledge on a house and foundation made of fluff, can we? I mean….who can make educated decision on that? How do we build a bangin’ metabolism without knowing what actually goes into the equation first?
So, this post we are deep diving into just that. The foundation.
Let’s learn exactly what makes up the mysterious metabolism……
In general terms, your metabolism is basically what is costs to exist everyday. That’s really it. Just “exist.” But that sort of simplicity is what makes us all go “but what the hell,” right? So let’s break it apart a bit better. Because “existing” is one piece of the equation, and we need to talk about three other pieces (called living, real life) to kind of understand how this all fits and works. Before going into the pieces though, I want you to understand something. There are always degrees of variation in these pieces. I can toss out some percentages, but to be honest, “it depends” on each individual, their genetic makeup and habits, their lifestyle, gender, and other stuff. So….just know, I’m giving you the four pieces, and the percentage of how they make up or impact your metabolism, but….it varies a bit on either end, too, ok?
Piece 1 – Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR). Ladies, this is the biggest piece, and what we think of as metabolism and what we reference when we toss out phrases like “I have such a slow metabolism!” Roughly 60% of our total output (or what it takes calorically/energy needs wise for us to live our life everyday) is RMR. Remember, though, “it depends,” and the variation of a few percentage points, of course. So what actually goes into this piece? This is basically, you, existing without doing a whole lot. Think laying on the couch and not moving, and catching up on Real Housewives of Orange County….barely lifting an arm except to fast forward through the commercials.
I find that this tends to be the piece that trips ladies up. This tends to be the piece that many use as a calorie calculation/target each day. The amount of energy it takes us to “exist.” And, well, there is MUCH more to the story, seeing as this only accounts for 60% of our energy output, give or take. So I like to highlight this because calculating our energy needs solely off this number is just usually not enough, because there is 40% (give or take) of the equation to still account for. Eating enough for just THIS often leads to massive undereating, which can bring on cravings and then going off the rails, then a cycle of guilt, and gaining and losing the same pounds year after year.
Piece 2 – Thermic Effect Of Eating (TEE, sometimes called TEF/Thermic Effect Of Food). Yes, it COSTS energy to eat and digest food. You know, because that’s additional, on top of laying on the couch watching Housewives, only moving to run the remote or blink. This is 5-10% of the equation (give or take a few points as always). It costs energy to chew, to swallow, to digest, and then it costs more or less energy based upon if you eat more whole foods (takes a bit more to digest) than it does if you eat things like smoothies or highly processed foods (those things are easier to digest).
I like to talk about this piece because honestly, so many women struggle with fearing food, and viewing food as the enemy, and dang, we get to burn calories from eating calories (of course, strategically, and being mindful, and other things are at play here). But it helps us see that food is not something to fear. And, if you are struggling with preparing foods, I’d love for you to give my FREE #20Under20 meal system a run! 20 simple and tasty and healthy meals prepared in less than 20 minutes, yo!
Piece 3 – Physical Activity (Sometimes called Training, Intentional Movement, etc). This piece is what you actually make an effort to get your body some movement in during the day. Maybe you strength train three times per week. Maybe you run three days a week. Maybe you make an effort to go for a walk each and every day, or do a 30 minute yoga flow every morning when you wake up. This piece is intentional, and what you are doing to move your body in a specific way. Here’s the dealio on this piece, though. It’s highly specific as far as output goes. It obviously depends on your height, weight, gender, intensity or selection of exercise, etc.
I like this piece. Because, well, if you are stuck in chronic diet mindset, we get caught up in physical activity being a way to burn off our food choices. And really, we can use it as an intentional way to better our bodies, and help our output. It can actually be a helpful tool to better our RMR, but we will talk about that in future posts, mmmmmkay?
Piece 4 – Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT). This is basically every move we make besides “just existing” and physical activity. Like tapping your foot when you are impatient. Or scratching an itch, standing and chopping veggies, or brushing teeth and doing your hair. Literally every move you make aside from existing and intentional exercise. Again, the percentage of energy output here is based on LOTS of factors – weight, height, gender, lifestyle, etc.
I think most people hear “eat less, move more” and interpret that as eat less and exercise more. Welllll…..for many, it means literally MOVE MORE in this non-exercise fashion. Less sitting, more doing and moving and such. Moving more in a non-exercise fashion is an excellent tool in our toolbox that doesn’t usually create an uptick in hunger or compete with life much, or recovery from workouts. Not to sound corny, but it is neat to get NEAT, lol.
So, a quick summary, yes?
RMR (sort of our actual metabolism) is roughly 60% of our energy (calorie) output every day. RMR is existing, bare minimum…not really living your normal life.
Eating costs energy, too. Somewhere in the 5-10% of our energy output everyday, but again, it depends on certain factors.
Physical activity and NEAT fill the roughly 30% gap that is leftover. So you can see, these two combined carry a nice chunk of output. But, they depend on YOU.
We tend to think about our metabolism as a calculator. We want the input and output to reconcile and work out according to our goals. But, it’s not as simple as a daily target all the time. We need to think of metabolism as shifting and averages. And not get so damn caught up in specific numbers.
So, this is meant to help lay the foundation on metabolism so we can see what carries the most weight (pun always intended), and where we can be strategic. I hope this was helpful for you! If it was, please pass this on to your best girlfriend who could use some crazy helpful info.
Over the next few posts, I’m going to dive deep into:
- The typical reasons women usually struggle with a “slow metabolism” and feeling frustrated
- Ways that women can strategically help out their metabolic game, AKA build a bangin’ metabolism
- Things women can strategically avoid to hurt their metabolism
- Provide actionable steps to take to audit your own metabolism
Sound good? Stay tuned! We have LOTS to cover!
References for this post:
Precision Nutrition – I’m a certified nutrition coach