Metabolism 101

4 mins read
Written by:
The BodySpec Team

Have you ever wondered how to speed up your metabolism and burn more calories? How exactly do you figure out your metabolic rate, anyway? Let’s address some of those burning questions about metabolism in today’s post!

Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) is the minimum amount of energy your body requires to keep itself alive at rest – meaning, the number of calories needed to keep your heart beating and lungs pumping, regulate your body temperature, sustain your muscles, and more—while you lie in bed all day. In contrast, metabolism refers to your body’s total calorie requirements for a normal day with activity.

Of course, the higher your metabolism, the more calories you burn – and the more you can eat! Knowing these numbers also gives you a good baseline for calculating calorie goals when you’re trying to gain or lose weight.

How do you measure RMR?

RMR is determined most accurately by measuring the amount of oxygen you consume compared with the amount of carbon dioxide you expel over a certain period of time. This test requires you to fast overnight, and then rest with a mask over your face while the measurement is made. BodySpec offers RMR testing at our West LA office, find all the information and sign up here.


The alternative to such testing is to calculate your RMR using equations. The basic factors that these equations need are your weight, height, gender, and age; to make things more accurate, lean muscle mass should be factored in. But remember this will only be an estimation, to know for sure what YOUR metabolism is, you'll want to do the test.

So how do you speed your metabolism up?

1. Gain weight.

Surprised? The more you weigh, the higher your RMR and total metabolism, because your body now has more tissue to sustain.

A pound of muscle burns 6 calories at rest while a pound of fat burns 2 calories at rest. Obviously, most of us would want to gain any extra weight in muscle, not fat! So if you are trying to lose weight, your best bet is to make sure to strength train and gain some muscle mass to help offset the inevitable slowdown in metabolic rate that comes with weight loss.

2. Move your body.

The more active you are, the more you can shift your body into a lean, mean, calorie burning machine. We’ll talk about exercise next, but mainly—just get your butt out of that chair! Fidget, jiggle your leg, stretch, stand, bounce on a ball, and you will be helping your body burn more calories each day. In fact, studies have shown that people who are chronic fidgeters burn on the order of 300 - 800 more calories each day than non-fidgeters! Every little bit really does count.

3. When it comes to exercise, HIIT it!

HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training, and it involves short (30 to 60 seconds) of very high intensity work such as sprinting, alternated with short rest periods, for a total duration of 20-30 minutes. Tabata training is one example of HIIT. Research shows this type of training revs up your calorie burn for hours post-exercise.

4. Eat enough.

Besides losing weight, the next surest way to slow down your metabolism is to eat too few calories. Think about it like stoking the fire—when you nourish your system with plenty of healthful nutrients, your body will respond by utilizing those nutrients efficiently.

5. Digest complicated food!

The act of digestion itself burns calories. This is called the Thermic Effect of Food or TEF. To maximize your TEF:

  • Eat whole foods instead of processed foods (an orange vs a glass of orange juice)
  • Eat more protein-based instead of carbohydrate-based meals. In fact, a protein-based meal elicits a TEF of around 30% of the calories eaten, meaning you’ll burn about 180 calories just by digesting a 600-calorie protein meal! In contrast, the TEF for carbs is 5-6%.

6. Finally, some proven quick fixes.

  • Green tea—research has shown 3-5 cups per day may burn about 70 extra calories.
  • Coffee—many studies show that a cup of coffee with 100-150mg of caffeine increases metabolic rate anywhere from 3-7% in the hours after drinking it.
  • Water—dehydrated tissues struggle to process calories into usable energy, so staying optimally hydrated will keep your metabolism from becoming sluggish.
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