When you’re younger, metabolism is something that barely registers on the radar. The post-school run is one that saw you consume a whole bag of hot chips on the train ride home, the chicken salt attaching itself to your body like an antibody. There were the sweets scoffed at recess, the array of cakes and pastries eaten at will after a sporting match, and just about every other processed carbohydrate you could imagine. But as we age and our metabolism slows down, suddenly those things that barely caused a blip in our health begin to come to the fore.
Metabolism refers to the biochemical reactions in your body that use nutrients and oxygen to create energy. Your metabolic rate is the speed the metabolic actions occur and is measured in kilojoules, so basically a fast metabolism converts food into energy quicker than slow. This generally sees those with a fast metabolism able to eat more food without gaining weight, than someone with a slower metabolism.
But what affects our metabolism? Some common reasons your metabolism may be slow include your size and body composition, how active you are and how much sleep you’re getting. Our metabolic rate isn’t fixed for life and as our muscle mass naturally decreases, this in turn affects your metabolism.
Thankfully, if you think your metabolism is a bit sluggish of late, it’s not all bad news – there are some foods that will help speed it up. You need to ensure you’re eating enough protein, as the body burns calories to absorb, digest and metabolise food. By swapping some of your fat or carbs for plant-based protein, you can slightly increase your metabolic rate.
So, just what are these metabolism-boosting forms of protein? Consider sources like tempeh, tofu, lentils, beans, chickpeas, nuts, seeds, nut butters, teff flour – a gluten-free flour that can be used to make things like pancakes – peas, and whole grains.
Another way to boost metabolism is by doing exercises using weights – or your own body weight. The idea is to increase the amount of muscle you have and the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn.
Aside from that, sleep. If you’ve ever craved sugary foods when you’re tired, it’s likely you’re aware of just how much lack of sleep can impact your food choices. The general recommendation for good health is to get 7-9 hours of sleep every night.