“Running to the refrigerator is not considered exercise…. unless it is a moving refrigerated truck you’re running after”

As we watch our female counterparts fight the battle of the bulge and attempt to defy gravity, with a secretive smirk, we erroneously assume that we, as males, are somehow immune to the ravages of time. Suddenly the day arrives when we look in the mirror to find a softer, rounder stranger staring back at us with the same look of denial upon his face as is upon our own. With a sense of both horror and dismay, we grasp at straws, assuming a trick of the light has diminished our reflective self. You guessed it; middle age and fat sucks, and yes, slow metabolism affects ALL OF US!!

As we age, our bodies become less effective at handling metabolic processes such as simple digestion and the assimilation of food. This is not because we are “getting old” as some may suggest, but there is a direct correlation between the life that we have lived and the hormones our bodies produce as a result. Due to the increase in fast foods containing trans-fats, found in man-made hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils such as margarine, butter, cookies etc.; and endless exposure to and overconsumption of simple sugars, we become somewhat, or even clinically, insulin insensitive or resistant. This is results in our bodies processing carbohydrates poorly, predominantly storing them as fat. As a result, our muscle tissue receives fewer nutrients, needed for growth and repair, whilst the adipose sites, or fat cells, feed ravenously. Advanced insulin insensitivity is called type 1 diabetes and daily insulin injections become essential. More about insulin at a later stage.

Metabolism: Can we control it?

The body’s metabolic process is unique to each individual, as are our fingerprints. No two people metabolise food at the same rate therefore no two people have the same metabolism. We all utilise calories at different rates, with different results. However, the need to understand and accommodate this metabolism is an issue we all have to face. The dictionary defines metabolism as “the sum of all biochemical process involved in life, or the sustaining of life.” Metabolism relates to the intake and use of food, more specifically our ability to utilise the food we eat to the fullest extent.

Right now, the most efficient way of raising our metabolism is through exercise and through building lean muscle mass, while reducing our body fat. By increasing muscle mass, the body burns more calories, which in turn elevates our metabolic rate. Our metabolic function also depends on how well we have taken care of our nutritional needs. Some people have really high rates of metabolism. In other words, when they consume food, their bodies burn it up almost as fast as they consume it. Then there are those of us who use our food intake so slowly, as to not even notice that we’re burning calories. Those people who burn calories quickly are often slim and trim; the people who burn calories more slowly are the people with a tendency towards obesity.

For years, people have sought ways to raise their metabolic rate. If you can raise someone’s metabolic rate, you are then better able to control the burn of calories, especially for overweight or obese people. This would make the goal of better, improved health more attainable for those people. Efforts to date have produced very little in terms of results. There are foods that we can consume that naturally raise our metabolic rate, but not to a very great extent. What we need is a way to directly alter the rate. We need to be able to raise our metabolism to a point where we can actually see a benefit. This is where the effort to stay physically fit and active provides tremendous payoff. Over the course of your life, if you stay active, exercise; and maintain optimal lean muscle mass, you will see a tremendous difference in the rate that your body metabolises food. As people age, their metabolism quite naturally slows down. The greatest way to slow this process down is through exercise and staying fit.

The best way to date to control your metabolic process is through proper nutrition, daily exercise, eating the foods known to have an effect on our metabolic rate; and plenty of rest. The metabolic processes can be indirectly controlled by the methods we just discussed. The more healthy and fit you are on a daily basis, the more energy you have, the better you will look and the better you will feel! When we are bombarded with images of gorgeous celebrities who seem to lose weight in the time it takes us to wolf down a Danish pastry, it’s nowonder we’re often tempted to cut our already low calorie intake in an effort to shift an extra pound or two each week. However, surprisingly, rather than helping us to reach our target weight more quickly, severe calorie restriction actually prevents our bodies from burning unwanted fat stores effectively. Unfortunately, this means that weight loss slows down.

Why does a very low calorie intake slow weight loss down?

Quite simply, your body goes into ‘starvation mode’. This mechanism, which is thought to have evolved as defense against starvation, means the body becomes super efficient at making the most of the calories it does get from food and drink. The main way it does this is to protect its fat stores and instead breaks down lean tissue or muscle to provide it with some of the calories it needs to keep functioning. This directly leads to a loss of muscle, which in turn lowers the metabolic rate so that the body needs fewer calories to keep ticking over and weight loss slows down. Of course, this is the perfect solution if you’re in a famine situation. However, if you’re trying to lose weight, it’s going to do little to help you to shift those unwanted kilos.

How many calories should I consume daily to prevent starvation mode?

Unfortunately, there is no single answer to this question. As everyone’s metabolism varies in the first place, so too will the point at which the body starts to use muscle to provide it with calories in a ‘famine-type’ situation. That’s why DB4E works out a suitable eating plan for each member on an individual basis and never lets you opt to lose more than 1kg a week. In other words, if you stick to the calorie intake recommended by Db4e, you can be sure your body won’t go into starvation mode. As a general rule though, most nutritional experts recommend never going below 1 000 and 1 200 calories a day if you’re dieting on your own. It’s also worth bearing in mind that the body doesn’t suddenly ‘enter’ and ‘leave’ starvation mode, like crossing the border from Zimbabwe to South Africa. It’s a gradual process, so you don’t need to panic if you do go below your calorie intake very occasionally.

What is the link between muscle and metabolism?

Our metabolic rate, the rate at which the body burns calories, is partly determined by the amount of muscle we have. In general, the more muscle we have, the higher our metabolic rate; the less muscle we have, the lower our metabolic rate. This explains why men, who have a higher proportion of muscle, have a faster metabolism than women; and why a 20-year-old has a higher metabolism than a 70-year-old; again by virtue of the fact that they have more muscle. Ultimately, muscle burns a lot more calories than fat does, so when we lose muscle, our metabolic rate drops and we burn fewer calories. In fact, research shows that the body loses a proportionately high amount of muscle with a very low calorie intake and this may considerably suppress metabolism by up to 45 percent.

This is why it is crucial to do as much as you can to protect your metabolic rate, especially when you’re dieting. This means dieting sensibly with a suitable, rather than a very low calorie intake, in order to lose fat rather than muscle.

Is there anything else I can do to stop losing muscle when I’m dieting?

As well as making sure you have sufficient calories to burn fat rather than muscle, it is also possible to build muscle, which in turn boosts your metabolism. The way to do this is, of course, to increase the amount of exercise you do. While aerobic activities such as jogging, swimming, fast walking and aerobic classes help to tone muscle and burn fat, strength or resistance training in particular will increase the amount of lean muscle you have in your body. This is really good news because, for every extra half kg of muscle you have, your body uses around 50 extra calories a day! This means an extra 5 kgs of muscle will roughly burn an additional 500 calories a day, without you doing anything different. A calorie deficit of 3 500 calories a week will translate to half a kilogram of fat lost.

Doesn’t your metabolism drop when you lose weight?

Yes, your metabolic rate naturally slows down a little when you lose weight, but this isn’t necessarily because you’ve lost muscle. When your body has less weight to carry around, it needs fewer calories. If you weighed 70 kgs to start with and now weigh 60 kgs, you need fewer calories to maintain your new lower body weight. Simply put, there’s 10 kgs less of you to carry up and down the stairs, into the bath, around the supermarket and to the bus stop and because your body doesn’t have to work as hard as it did in the past, it can survive on fewer calories! This is why you should regularly update your goals and results, as your weight drops. Db4e matches your eating plan to ensure that you keep losing weight at your chosen rate.

Will yo-yo dieting have damaged my metabolism permanently?

Fortunately not! The idea that yoyo dieting permanently lowers your metabolism has been relegated to the archives. However, if you’ve frequently crash dieted and severely restricted your calorie intake without exercising, it’s likely you’ll have a lot less muscle now compared to the very first time you dieted. As a consequence, it’s likely your metabolism will also be slower and you will need fewer calories to maintain your current weight. When you follow a very low  calorie diet, you lose muscle as well as fat, as explained above. However, when you gain weight again, it’s usually fat and seldom muscle. Your metabolic rate is likely to have dropped a little every time you’ve dieted, making it slightly harder each time for you to lose weight. The good news is that you can increase your lean muscle by increasing the amount of exercise you do. This will, in turn, rev up your metabolism so that you can finally lose weight on a slightly higher calorie intake than before.

8 Ways to Boost Your Metabolism

1. Get active, including resistance training: it’s a sure-fire way to increase the amount of muscle you have, which in turn will speed up your metabolism. Do a mixture of aerobic and resistance training for best results. Don’t forget to be more active in everyday life too.

2. Eat little and often: there’s evidence that eating small, regular meals throughout the day, rather than one or two large meals, may help to keep your metabolism ticking over. Surprisingly, around 10 percent of the calories we use each day go on digesting and absorbing food. The more frequently you eat, the greater this effect is likely to be.

3. Eat plenty of protein-rich foods: research shows that around 25 percent of calories in a protein-rich meal may be burnt off, merely by digesting the protein. Make sure you choose low-fat protein foods such as lean meat, skinless chicken and low-fat dairy products.

4. Spice up your meals: it’s not an old wives tale after all! Spices like chilli and peppers are thought to raise metabolism by up to 50 percent for up to three hours after eating, as a result of increasing your heart rate. However, before putting the local Indian takeaway on speed dial, ascertain which curries have the lowest calorie and fat content.

5. Swap your daily cuppa for green tea: there’s evidence that it contains antioxidants that speed up metabolism.

6. Try a db4e metabolite fat burner supplement: inquiries

7. Chill out: research shows that being very cold can increase metabolism by up to 20 percent.

8. Have a sauna: being very hot is also thought to boost metabolism by about 20 percent. Check with your doctor as with some underlying medical problems, you shouldn’t go in saunas or steam rooms.