The human metabolism is simply the process by which the body converts foods to energy for use by the body. Through metabolism, the body constantly burns calories from food, even during sleep. The rate of metabolism differs from one individual to the next. Metabolism is affected by several factors, including gender, age and body composition. It can also be affected by behavioral and lifestyle factors, such as type of food eaten, exercise, sleep and various herbs and supplements. Many people attempt to control metabolism through such methods in order to speed up metabolism and lose weight.
There are some factors beyond an individual's control which affect metabolism. As the body ages, the metabolism slows down. Usually, a high body fat percentage equates to lower metabolism, and more muscle means a higher metabolism. Since most men have more muscle than their female counterparts, they typically have a faster metabolism.
Lifestyle choices are those factors which can be changed and chosen. It is in this manner that people can best control metabolism. Planning meals carefully, for instance, to include foods known to speed up metabolism is one recommended way to help control metabolism. Others may choose to add or increase exercise programs, which can help increase both short-term and long-term metabolism. There also are several supplements and herbal remedies available, which may positively affect metabolism.
The first step in learning to control metabolism typically is to change dietary habits. Eating moderate amounts frequently often will increase metabolism. Some health and fitness experts suggest eating six small meals a day. Experts also suggest eating as many whole, natural, unprocessed foods as possible. The body tends to work harder to digest and use these foods, which burns more calories. Another way to increase metabolism is to eat spicy foods, such as peppers. Coffee and tea also can raise metabolism, due to the caffeine contained in these beverages, though keeping amounts moderate to avoid negative side effects from the caffeine is normally advised.
Other than dietary changes, participating in a variety of exercise and other physical activity can help increase metabolism. Cardio exercise, for example, can increase metabolism both during exercise and afterward. To raise metabolism for as long as possible following cardio activity, fitness experts recommend exercising continuously for at least 45-60 minutes. While it likely will burn the same number of calories to exercise in 10 or 15 minute spurts for the same cumulative time, it may not raise the metabolism for as long after the physical activity has been stopped. Strength training is also a great way to raise metabolism and increase the number of calories burned. This is because muscle burns more calories. It also may be important to note that all types of exertion burns calories. Incorporating this idea into daily life by walking instead of driving, playing active games with the family and taking the stairs instead of the elevator can all have an accumulative effect in raising metabolism.
Metabolism can also be controlled through sleep. Experts recommend that most adults get between six and eight hours of sleep every night. When the body is sleep deprived, several things may occur which affect metabolism. Cortisol levels can increase, making a person hungrier. Also, when people are tired, they're naturally less likely to engage in physical activity, further lowering metabolism. The body also releases less leptin when deprived of sleep. Reduced leptin tells the body that it may be starving, resulting in cravings for carbohydrates for quick energy. Taken all together, lack of sleep over a period of time can keep an otherwise successful weight loss program from working. Adequate sleep helps ensure that other lifestyle changes made to control metabolism will be successful.
There are numerous supplements and herbal remedies on the market which claim to raise metabolism and increase calories burned as well. Common ingredients in these products include caffeine and other natural stimulants, such as kelp, nettle and cayenne. Effectiveness varies widely, and it may take some searching to locate a product which works well. The effectiveness of these are not well studied, however, so precautions should be taken. If questions exist, a family physician may be consulted.