If you are overweight, chances are it’s a problem of metabolism. Your metabolism is not working properly. By nature, animals (including humans) do not become overweight unless there is some kind …
My name is Patrick McGilvray, and I’m an experienced marathoner, ultra runner, Sports Nutritionist, Master Life Coach, and weight loss coach for runners. I’ve dedicated my life to helping runners just like you properly fuel your body and your mind. So you can get leaner, get stronger, run faster, and run longer than you ever thought possible. This is Running Lean.
Hey there, and welcome to episode 141 of Running Lean. My name is Patrick McGilvray, the weight loss coach for runners and today how to fix your metabolism. If you are overweight, carrying around more body fat than you’d like, then chances are it’s a problem of metabolism, your metabolism is not working properly.
By nature, animals, like animals in the wild, including humans do not become overweight, unless there’s some kind of dysfunction happening in the body most likely a dysfunction of metabolism. One of the most common dysfunctions in humans is that we have either purposely or accidentally slowed down our metabolism. Okay, this is where the body is not burning enough calories to maintain homeostasis, which just means, you know, stable and optimal health.
And I usually don’t talk about burning calories here on the podcast. But today, I’m gonna make an exception because I believe this is an important topic. And I really want to share this information with you. So today, it’s all about how to fix your metabolism here on the Running Lean podcast.
And I read a lot of books on the topics of metabolism and in the art and the science of exercise and running and mindset and building strength and nutrition. Like I’m always reading books and listening to books and listening to podcasts on these topics. And one thing that I’ve found to be 100% true from everything I’ve read and listened to, is that while books might provide you with some knowledge, the personal application of that knowledge is a whole other ball of wax.
Okay, this is why I do what I do as a coach, because what’s written in a book is going to be generalized information. It’s not a specific plan that’s created just for you. Okay, listen, you have your own goals, maybe you want to run a half marathon, or maybe you want to lose 30 pounds.
And the way that you get there will look different for you than it will for somebody else, maybe somebody else is pretty lean, they just want to drop 5 or 10 pounds, maybe they want to qualify for Boston, these are different people with different goals and different body types. The same plan is not going to work for these two people, right?
So and then we talk about how we structure workouts, how much muscle we’re trying to build, the different food preferences that we have, our different lifestyles, work schedules, travel schedules, cultural differences, there are so many differences, like we’re all individuals. And so this is why I do what I do as a coach, because there’s not one book that’s going to work for everybody. There’s not one plan is gonna work for everybody.
And this is why I offer coaching because what works for them probably won’t work for you. So in my program, you and I sit down together, we put together a plan that will work for you based on your goals and your life and your preferences.
So if you’re ready to make some changes that are designed for you, specifically for you for your goals and your lifestyle, maybe you want to lose weight or get stronger or run faster, then come and join me in the Running Lean coaching project.
This is my unique coaching program for runners to help you crush both your weight loss and your running goals because you can do both. To learn more, just go to runningleancoaching.com/apply. And get started I’d love to have you in the Running Lean coaching project where the project is always you.
All right, fixing your metabolism. How do you fix your metabolism? Why am I even talking about this today? Well, like I said at the beginning here, if you’re overweight, it’s most likely a problem of metabolism. There’s some kind of dysfunction happening there. And in order to get your body to where it needs to be to get your body into homeostasis to lose weight, we need to fix the metabolism. And I think we all kind of know this on some level that there’s some metabolism dysfunction and happening. But I want to talk about this kind of frankly today and I want you to understand what your metabolism is and what it’s not. Maybe dispel a few myths about metabolism because there’s a few myths floating around out there that you may think are true but maybe they are not.
I want to share some key lifestyle choices that really affect your metabolism, you know, sometimes positively, sometimes negatively. And then there are certain things to consider, especially if you’re a runner, and a fat adapted runner. Okay, so we’re gonna get into all of that, let’s first talk about what metabolism is. So metabolism is a term that describes really, it describes all the chemical reactions in your body that keep your body alive and functioning, right, the main way, we’re going to be using metabolism today.
And the main way that I think we all understand metabolism is how we convert nutrients from the foods we eat into fuel that we can use for our bodies. Okay, so we convert our food into energy. And, and our body needs energy to breathe and to digest food and to circulate our blood and to breathe our lungs and to repair damaged tissues and cells and all those things, right.
So our body needs energy, and we get it from the food that we eat. And when our metabolism is working properly, our body is in a state of homeostasis when it’s not working properly, we’re out of that state. Okay, so what we’re really talking about is, you know, the process our body uses of converting our food into energy. And really, we’re talking about, you know, broadly we talk about calories, you know, it’s like, okay, we’re burning more calories. Okay.
So, metabolism is why some people seemingly can eat a lot of food without gaining weight, while others seem to eat a lot less and still maintain their weight or get fatter because their metabolisms are working differently. Some of this has to do with genetics, some of it has to do with lifestyle, we’re going to talk about all that in a second here.
But I want you to understand that really, your metabolism, the speed of your metabolism is how you burn calories, how you burn calories at rest, how you burn calories during exercise. And this is commonly called like your metabolic rate, sometimes they call it the resting metabolic rate or, or basal metabolic rate, those two terms are very similar. And we can kind of use them interchangeably. Okay?
If you’re a scientist, don’t give me a hard time about that. Because I don’t, there’s a subtle difference there. But I don’t want to confuse you with that. But let’s just say resting metabolic rate is what your body is burning, while you’re just sitting around not doing a whole lot just sitting around, right, which we do a lot of the time, right, you want to increase your resting metabolic rate, if you want to increase your body’s ability to burn calories. Okay?
So one thing that is very, very important, and I want to color this whole conversation with this is, what are you metabolizing? What types of calories are you burning? Because this makes a huge difference. We talk about how we want to burn more calories, and everybody’s talking about calories and how calories are so important. We got to burn the calories burn the calories, but what calories are you burning? Are you burning carbohydrates? Are you burning fat?
Because if you’re trying to lose weight and become fat adapted and improve your endurance as a runner, you want to be burning more fat, you just do, you can’t lose weight without burning fat, you got to burn the fat that’s on your body. Unless you have liposuction, right, you can certainly do that and lose some weight that way for sure.
But if you want to change your body composition, and lose fat and gain muscle, then we have to be training our body to burn more fat, we got to get more efficient at burning fat. And eating a diet that’s super high in sugar. And super high in carbs means that you’re just going to be burning mostly sugar and carbs. Right.
And for some people, this is fine. Maybe they haven’t gained weight. Their diet is mostly carbohydrates and sugars and, and they burn that stuff just fine. And they don’t gain weight. That’s great. But for most of us, probably 80 to 90% of us, that doesn’t work, especially as we get older, right? So if your goal is to lose weight, all the sugar and all the carbs, it’s going to make it very difficult for you right?
Losing weight means we got to be burning, we want to be burning mostly fat, right. So when you ditch the carbs, when you ditch the sugar, even as a runner, you get fat adapted and you train your body to be really good at burning fat. This means you’re going to be burning more fat at rest and during exercise.
So when we increase our metabolism, that means we’re actually going to be increasing the amount of fat that our body is burning, because our body is focused on fat as our main source of fuel instead of carbohydrates as our main source of fuel. I want to make this very, very clear at the beginning here so that when I talk about what I’m going to be talking about today, the factors that affect your metabolism, how we can increase your metabolism, the diet matters, it really, really matters, okay?
We want to be metabolizing more fat instead of carbohydrates, okay. And especially if you’re an endurance athlete, and especially if you’re an endurance athlete who also wants to, you know, change the body composition and lose some fat, we got to increase the fat metabolism, it’s also called fat oxidation, the more fat we’re oxidizing, or more fat, we’re metabolizing, then the more energy we have, and, you know, that’s how we lose weight, too. So it’s a win-win, it really is okay.
And that typical runner’s diet that I’ve talked about before of all sugar, no carbs, is probably not going to get you there. Because your body always wants to prioritize the carbohydrate metabolism, because it’s just an easy source of fuel for your body to use. And as long as you’re filling your body with that stuff, you’re never going to be really getting into fat burning mode. Okay?
So step one is to ditch the sugar, ditch the carbs, let’s get into fat burning mode. That’s really the first step here. Okay, that way, when we increase our metabolism, when we’re burning more calories, we will naturally be burning more fat, we’ll be using fat as fuel. And this is our goal here. Okay.
So let’s get into what affects your metabolism and how we can fix the metabolism, how we can increase the metabolism. And some of this is pretty interesting. And some stuff that I, in my research for this, I think, is kind of new data. And there’s some new studies out there. So I think you’re gonna find this pretty interesting.
So the first thing that affects your metabolism, of course, is going to be the foods that you eat, how much food are you eating, how often are you eating, you know, the amount of food you eat, can really affect your metabolism positively or negatively. If you’re over eating constantly, if you’re constantly eating more food at each sitting than your body really needs, you will slow down your metabolism, you know, your body just cannot handle that much.
And so what we want to do is not overeat, we want to eat just enough, okay, when we want to eat enough to be satisfied, you don’t have to count calories to know if you’re overeating or not, right. If you’re eating to the point where you get uncomfortable, you’re eating too much. Okay. But then we talked about the types of foods and already mentioned, you know, that we want to be, we want to get off the sugar and the grains in the refined carbohydrates.
And when we do that, we’re going to be obviously metabolizing more fat. But for example, if we increase our protein intake, you will actually increase your metabolism, at least temporarily, at least for a few hours. But if you’re eating plenty of protein at each meal, you’re going to do yourself a big service, because you’re going to have an increase in your metabolism overall.
And the reason for this is something called the thermal effect of food or TEF. So when you eat the food, your body has to burn some calories to digest that food, okay? And protein between the three major macronutrients, you know fat, carbohydrates, and protein, protein causes the largest rise in the thermal effect of food, meaning that your body will use more calories to process and digest protein than carbs or fat.
So dietary protein requires 20 to 30% of its usable energy to be used for metabolism of the protein. So that is huge, because 20 to 30% of the calories that you’re eating from protein is actually being used to digest the protein and to metabolize the protein compared to 5-10% for carbs and 0-3% for fats. So your body does not use much energy to digest and metabolize fats, it uses a little bit for carbs, but a lot of energy for protein.
So right there, eating protein will help you to increase your metabolism, right. It also helps you to feel more full, and helps to prevent you from overeating, because it’s really hard to overeat a lot of protein, sit down and try to eat, you know, a pound of chicken breast. I’m going to tell you right now it’s gonna be really hard to do. So, a lot of food and you know, but you could eat, you know, a couple pounds of pasta probably pretty easily without really feeling that full from that. Okay.
So people that have a drop in metabolism, when they lose a lot of weight, we’ll get into this in a second here. When people have a drop in their metabolism from losing weight, a lot of this is due to losing muscle mass and eating enough protein can help prevent this, right? One of the things that we want to do when we are setting out to lose weight is we want to lose fat weight, we don’t want to lose muscle weight.
So we got to make sure we’re maintaining some sort of strength training and getting enough protein. And that’ll actually help to keep your metabolism going. You know, because more muscle means you’re burning more calories in general. Again, I’m gonna talk about that in just a second. But listen, like we got to make sure we’re getting enough protein at every single meal, it’s definitely going to affect how your metabolism functions.
Okay, body size. Another thing that affects your metabolism. In general, larger people typically have faster metabolisms, right, it just requires more energy to maintain a larger body. So people that are larger, will generally have faster metabolisms. This is not to say that you should become larger.
That’s not what I’m saying here at all. But people with larger frames, even obese people tend to carry around the who are carrying around way more body fat and muscle, then than typical people, their their metabolisms are actually going to be a little bit faster, which sounds kind of counterintuitive, but there’s other things happening there. There’s some other dysfunctions happening there. But just understand that if you’re a bit of a larger person, your metabolism might be a little bit faster, okay?
Sleep is a big one. Sleep will really increase your risk of fat storage, okay, Sleep is linked to major increases in weight gain and the risk of obesity, and partly because of the negative effects of sleep deprivation on your metabolism. So lack of sleep actually increases blood sugar levels and increases insulin resistance. It increases your risk of developing type two diabetes, it affects your hunger hormone ghrelin, and your fullness hormone leptin.
And this explains why some people who are sleep deprived they’re often pretty hungry, and they have a hard time losing weight, you know, you’re in this, you’re putting your body in this chronic state of stress when you don’t get enough sleep. Right. So if you’re having a hard time losing weight, if you’re having a hard time metabolizing fat, one of the things you have to look at is getting good sleep consistently.
And good quality sleep on a regular basis, this is going to get your body out of that stress mode, and get your body working the way it’s supposed to. Another thing that affects your metabolism in a good way is caffeine. And I know some people don’t don’t do caffeine at all. And that’s great. But studies have shown that caffeine in coffee and green tea can have a little bit of a temporary boost on your metabolism and promote more fat burning.
So if your goal is to lose weight and burn more fat, then coffee can definitely help you there. I know that’s good news. For some of us, it’s good news for me, I love coffee, and I drink a little bit of coffee every day. And I really love it. And you know, I’m one of those people I don’t, I don’t drink alcohol, I don’t eat sugar. And really the only the only thing that I ingest that gives me a different feeling is caffeine, it does give me a little bit of a boost of energy in the morning when I’m drinking coffee and especially helps me with workouts. It’s a good performance enhancing drug, so to speak, right. So I’m cool with that.
And, you know, I think I live a very clean life. And if caffeine is the one thing that I use to kind of give me a little bit of a boost in the morning, then I’m happy to just keep doing that. Okay, maybe one day, I’ll decide that it’s just not for me anymore. But for now, I love my coffee and I’m gonna keep doing it. And it does help with weight loss, it does help with weight maintenance. And it does help with metabolizing fat. So there’s a lot of good things about caffeine if you like it if that’s something that you want to do.
And then another thing that can affect how your metabolism functions is the types of workouts you’re doing. So I used to be like, oh, just cardio, cardio, cardio all the time. And this is all anybody talks about: burn calories, burn calories. But one of the types of workouts you may want to consider if you’re not doing it already, is HIIT training. So this is high intensity interval training.
So this is where we’re doing very quick, very intense bursts of activity could be sprints, you know, sprint repeats, 400 repeats, it could be more of a group class where you’re doing, you know, high intensity intervals in a different way. But basically what happens here is that when you do these types of exercises, you increase your metabolic rate. And even after you’re finished with the workout, right?
So they found that the effect of increasing your metabolism is greater for HIIT workouts than for most other types of exercise. And that hit has also been shown to help you burn fat. And this is one of the reasons why I talk about intervals so much. Like we don’t want to be doing all this, what I call like chronic cardio where you’re just like, always doing the same kind of long ish runs at a, at a medium pace, like all the time, we want to be really doing some short bursts of intense activity, and some longer slower running as well to improve endurance, but the HIIT types of workouts are going to help you to increase your metabolism for sure.
And then kind of along with that is weight training. So increasing your muscle mass will help you to burn more calories and burn more fat. Muscle is more metabolically active than fat, your body requires more energy and will burn more energy carrying around muscle, then fat. So the more muscle that you have on your frame, the more calories you are burning each day even at rest, right. So lifting weights can help you build muscle and maintain muscle.
And like I said, a lot of people that that do what I call like dieting, or you know they try to lose weight by restricting calories or something like that, a lot of times they’re just losing muscle along with fat, we don’t want to lose muscle, you know, we’re athletes, we want to maintain our muscle mass, or we want to build some muscle.
And when you build muscle, you will increase your metabolism and it’ll stay increased even at rest. So this is a really important thing. I talk about the importance of strength training all the time. This is one of the reasons why it’s important. And then they did this review of 58 different studies. So this is what they call a meta study where they study studies. And so they looked at 58 different studies.
And they said that resistance training was significantly more effective at reducing body fat percentage, total body fat mass and belly fat compared to a control group. So resistance training is going to be one of the best things you can do for yourself. If you’re not doing this currently, get into it. Okay.
Another factor that will affect your metabolism is how much water you drink. And they did a study, an older study back in 2013, but it was a study that showed that drinking 17 ounces of water. So roughly about a pint of water increases your resting metabolism by 30% for about an hour. That’s pretty interesting. So if you’re drinking more water throughout the day, you know, you are just going to naturally have a faster metabolism. Plus, we need water, water is good for you, we have to have it or we will die.
And then there’s something I want to talk about. I’ve kind of touched on this a little bit. But people that do like the crazy calorie restriction type of diets, they kind of put their body into what is called starvation mode. It’s also called metabolic adaptation or adaptive thermogenesis. But you know, I think we’ve all heard the term starvation mode. What does this mean?
So, starvation mode is when your body adapts to a calorie deficit. So when your body isn’t getting enough food, it will compensate by reducing its metabolic rate and the number of calories that you’re actually burning. So when you restrict calories too much for too long, then your metabolism will slow down significantly. This is one of the main reasons why I do not focus on just you know, restricting calories to lose weight. If you restrict calories as a weight loss method, it’s going to be problematic, you know, you can restrict a little bit, but you got to be careful not to restrict too much or for too long.
Because it can have a rebound effect, you will lose weight, but it’s also not sustainable. It’s one of those things where you might lose weight in the short term, but long term, your metabolism is going to slow down and then you’re going to start gaining that weight back again. And then you’re going to try to reduce calories even more and it’s going to have just a negative effect. And so this is just not a good way to go and think about us as human beings.
We don’t need to count calories. We’ve never counted calories until the last 50 years or so, like, do we need to be doing this? No, we don’t, there’s a better way. Just eat real food, eat food, our answer shows we have been eating for thousands of years. And I promise you, you won’t need to count another calorie again, okay. But when you look at shows like The Biggest Loser, you know, they have these obese people, and they lose a ton of weight by really restricting calories for a long time, and they’re doing tons of cardio or whatever. And they lose the weight, but then they gain it all back.
And then some, I think something like 96% of people on that show have gained the weight back or more, which is not a good, that’s not a good number. Okay. So starvation mode is a real thing. And we got to be careful not to do that. So that’s why I don’t preach restricting calories really, I don’t right.
And then there’s some other things that affect your mere metabolism. And things like hormone disorders, okay. So hypothyroidism will slow down your metabolic rate, causing a higher risk of weight gain. And then there’s genetics that can play a role here. But listen, genetics alone does not mean that you’re going to gain weight, or that you can’t increase your metabolism. So you might be predisposed to a slower metabolism or to obesity.
But if you maintain healthy eating habits, and healthy exercise habits, and you know, have a good, you know, quality of life, good lifestyle, good sleeping habits, things like that, you won’t become obese, you know, it’s kind of like saying, you have a genetic predisposition for alcoholism.
But if you don’t drink alcohol, you’re not going to become an alcoholic. So what I’m saying here, lifestyle matters. It really, really matters, okay. And one of the big myths I wanted to talk about here is age and how getting older affects metabolism, because I think that most people I’ve talked to have told me they’re just like, well, as, as you get older, you know, your metabolism just slows down. And as you age, you’re just gonna start gaining more weight. And it’s really hard to lose weight, because you’re getting older.
And they did a study back about a year ago, so this is a pretty new study in August of 2021. And this was in the Journal Science. And that suggests something very different. So thinking that your metabolism will decline, as you reach middle age and beyond. They’ve done this very intensive study. And I think this is pretty interesting. So they looked at over 6000 people, like 6400 people, ranging in age from eight days old, I know, pretty young to 95 years old. And they looked at their height, their weight, their body fat percentage, their average metabolic rates for when men, women and people in different age groups, like they looked at all these different people in all these different age ranges, okay.
And they put together a pretty clear picture of how our metabolism changes during our lifetime. Okay. And here’s what they came up with. I think this is really interesting. from infancy to one year old, your metabolic rate surges, right? It’s about 50%, higher than at any other time during your life. Okay, so from zero to one, it’s the highest right, then from one to 20 years old, your metabolism decreases by almost 3% a year.
So this is the biggest drop in your metabolism actually between one and 20 years old. From age 20 to 60, your metabolism doesn’t really change. That’s interesting, right? Most people think that between, you know, you know, 20 to 60 years when your metabolism really slows down. And it doesn’t really change at all. This is good news, right?
And then after age 60, the average metabolism decreases by 0.7% annually, which is not much that is not much. So just know that if you’ve been using, oh, I’m getting older as an excuse up to this point. We can’t use that as an excuse anymore. Okay. I just want you to think about that. Okay.
So these studies are showing us that your metabolism doesn’t have to slow down as you get older, and that it’s much more likely that changes in our behavior. Changes in our lifestyle are responsible for our metabolism, you know, increasing or slowing down. And this includes pre menopausal women and postmenopausal women. These same principles apply.
Just because you’re going through menopause does not mean that you will automatically gain weight. This is really good news. So whether you are male or female, whether you’re going through menopause or not, as you get older, stay active, get good sleep, maintain muscle mass, do some, you know, hit workouts, practice healthy eating habits, make sure you’re getting plenty of protein, and drink lots of water.
And you should be able to keep your metabolism burning nice and hot, nice and strong for the rest of your life. Okay, so this is all good news. I hope you guys got something out of this episode today. It was really fun. Putting this together. I think increasing our metabolism is really an interesting and really achievable goal for us. Okay.
And if you ever want help with this, if you want me to help you put together a personalized plan, reach out, I’d love to help you with that. We’ll put together a plan that’s based on you and your goals and your lifestyle and what we think will work for you. And then as we go through the process of change as we go through the process of changing your lifestyle and changing some of the eating habits and exercise habits. We’ll see what’s working and what’s not.
And we just continue to make progress, we continue to course correct as we go. That’s the power of coaching. It’s designed specifically for you and if you want a little help, just go to runningleancoaching.com/apply Apply for coaching and you and I will have a conversation we’ll see if this is a good fit for you. Cool. Right on you guys love you all keep on Running Lean, and I will talk to you soon.
If you’re a runner and you’ve been struggling to lose weight or you keep losing and gaining the same 10 pounds over and over again. Or you’re finally ready to get to your natural weight and stay there for good this time then I have something you will love. I’ve created a powerful new training just for you called running lean for life. You’ll learn exactly how to transform yourself into a lean fat-burning running machine. So you can run without bonking, lose weight without calorie counting and develop the habits required to make it last for life. To get this free training right now go to runningleanpodcast.com/leanforlife and start your transformation today.