How Metabolism Works (and how to speed yours up!)

Nov 10, 2023

 by Abby McCoid

Your metabolism is the rate at which your body burns energy.

 Your body uses calories for energy kind of like your car uses gas to go.

 You need calories to power all of your body’s systems like digestion and circulation. You also need calories to move.

 You want a FAST metabolism, meaning your body burns a LOT of calories. If you’re trying to lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories than you use. But there are four ways you burn calories:

 Basal metabolic processes (BMR): the number of calories your body burns when you’re not moving. This is measured as “basal metabolic rate,” or BMR. The more muscle you have, the higher your BMR will be. The less muscle you have, the lower your BMR will be. Muscle is expensive- it uses more calories to stay alive.

 Thermic effect of food (TEE): It costs a bit of energy to digest food but not much. It takes a bit more energy to break down proteins and fats than to break down carbs. This is maybe 10% of your total daily intake.

 Exercise energy expenditure (EEE): deliberate physical activity like the hour you spend in the gym. If you’re spending a good portion of that gym time strength training and building that expensive muscle tissue, you’ll speed your metabolism long term- not just for the time you’re in the gym. 

Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT): This is your physical activity outside the gym- walking, running errands, chasing kids… any activity. NEAT is the real bang-for-your-buck when it comes to fat loss. The more we move, the more energy (calories) we need, especially if we have muscle on our frames.


 The real way to burn calories is to increase your muscle mass. That means strength training.

Let’s say you have a basal metabolic rate of 1,000 calories per day. You eat 1,500 calories per day (I hope you’re not eating that little, but for argument’s sake) and do and hour long spin class. Let’s say your food choices are pretty good, and you have protein with every meal.

 Your BMR + thermic effect from food + exercise = 1,300 calories. You’re still gaining weight. If you did this exact thing every day, you’d gain a pound around every 18 days.

 Now let’s say you boost your BMR by switching that spin class for a strength training/conditioning combo like, oh say, a CrossFit class. 

 If your new BMR is 1,200, and you eat the same 1,500 calories per day, the thermic effect of food will be the same. But the calories you burn during exercise will go up along with the calories you burn to live.

 Your new BMR, thanks to a bit more muscle, is 1,200.

 Your BMR + thermic effect from food + exercise = 1,530. You’ve actually lost a bit of weight.

You burn calories right after exercise, when your muscle feeds itself. But you burn far more just walking around. The more muscle you have, the more calories you use.

A small, sustainable calorie deficit (not a big one- that will slow your metabolism WAY down, not what we want and that’s a whole other blog post) and strength training is the killer combo for fat loss. 

Side note: strength training while in a small deficit that includes plenty of protein will also signal your body to hang on to muscle. 

Need some guidance? Grab a Beo Nutrition coach and have a chat. We’ll steer you in the right direction!