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Can You Heal Your Metabolism?

Your body has a way of telling you whether it is feeling cared for, nourished, neglected or abused – and it comes down to a word we throw around recklessly: metabolism.

We believe we are either born with a ‘fast’ one, which means we can be in the habit of hovering a few boerie rolls at a braai and still maintain our athletic speed and shape, or we inherited a sluggish one from our dad’s ‘bigger’ side of the family. Your metabolism, explains Christoph Lenz of ThinkFood, a pharmacist practicing in Functional Nutrition, can be thought of in simple terms like this: “Your body is a factory where you have food entering your mouth, travelling on a number of conveyor belts though your system, before exiting your body. The conveyor belts deliver nutrients to your organs, tissues and cells. Some people have conveyor belts that are broken in places or don’t work at all,” he says. This is what would be considered a ‘slow’ or ‘damaged’ metabolism. “Material piles up where it shouldn’t, doesn’t go where it’s needed or mixes where it shouldn’t,” he says. This blocks the effective use of energy, and calories get stored as energy in your bod in the form of fat to avoid toxic levels.

The faster or more effectively your metabolism runs, the faster you burn calories and you also therefore have more energy available to you. When it’s ‘slow’, it is because your cells are not getting or can’t utilise the energy they need to function properly, so your metabolism adjusts for it to do so. “While your basal metabolic rate (the number of calories your body burns while resting), will differ from person to person, it is only to a very small extent dependent on your genetic blueprint. Much more important are environmental factors (i.e. food and lifestyle). These epigenetic factors are the foremost influences that affect the rate at which you gain weight,” says Lenz.

There are therefore many lifestyle and dietary checks you can put in place to speed up your metabolism – not because you had a slow one to start with, but because it has become sluggish. Gerry Gerhardt, head of the BODYTEC® Training Academy cites various peer-reviewed publications from well-known scholars showing a positive relationship between strength training and increased resting metabolic rate (RMR). “In a published medical paper by Westcott (2012): Resistance training is medicine: effects of strength training on health, for example, it is reported that 10 weeks of resistance training may increase lean weight by 1.4 kg, increase resting metabolic rate by 7%, and reduce fat weight by 1.8 kg,” says Gerhardt.

BODYTEC® is a strength training programme introduced to South Africa in 2011 that sees users wear body suits attached to electrodes that send electric impulses through the body during a workout, which activates up to 90% of your muscles simultaneously. In addition to strength training, Lenz recommends doing the following to get that factory working as a well-oiled machine again:

  • Don’t overload your metabolism. Consider what, and how much of it, you eat. Eating food high in nutrients and vitamins to nourish your cells is essential (lots and lots of nourishing vegetables, some fruit and proper protein). Empty calories (sugar and simple starches) may give you short-term energy, but not the sustained energy your cells need to keep your body, and metabolism, balanced.
  • Don’t create ‘blockages’ in your system. A diet that causes inflammation or food that cause adverse reactions (such as grains if you are gluten intolerant) can do this by affecting how efficiently your gut processes food.
  • Chill and snooze. Stress and lack of sleep lead to a rise in stress hormones, which cause you to overeat, and poor digestion, which makes it harder for your body to metabolise carbs.
  • Don’t eat too little. Your body will slow down its calorie burning because it thinks you’re starving.

Source and image: BODYTEC®

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