Winning without the battle

Re-defining the struggle with metabolism


We all have friends who can eat anything they want and not gain weight while we, on the other hand, suffer in all of the appropriate ways, avoiding everything that doesn’t show up at the store with soil on it, and the pounds come on anyway. Often when carrying extra weight it is easy to blame slow metabolism. But is the culprit that easy to identify and, if so, what is the mystery behind it?

Let’s start by looking at the American Council on Exercise’s breakdowns of different fat-burning pathways.


“Don’t I burn a lot of fat during my workout?” No. Movement metabolism, known as Exercise-Associated Thermogenesis, or EAT, accounts for only 15 percent to 30 percent of your total daily calorie burn on average. In general, the amount of calories we use up during exercise is never as high as we think it is. Just because the elliptical machine is giving you an impressive readout of burned calories doesn’t make it so.

Digestive metabolism

The metabolic result of eating, digesting and absorbing nutrients from your food is called the Thermic Effect of Food, or TEF. The Thermic Effect of Food burns around 10 percent of your daily calories.

Resting Baseline

Basal Metabolic Rate, or BMR, accounts for 60 percent to 75 percent of total metabolic activity. BMR represents the calories you ignite basically sitting and doing nothing.

When Basal Metabolic Rate is combined with Thermic Effect of Food, 85 percent of your fat burn has nothing to do with movement.

Does that mean we stop working out? No way. We still need exercise to trigger our BMR engine.

Fat on the BMR level ends up slowing metabolism. Muscle, on the other hand, is comparatively very active while “resting” — burning three times as many calories to sustain itself. Also, research shows that a single weight-training session can affect muscle to elevate your calorie-burning for up to 39 hours after the workout.

So we know muscle burns calories, and healthier, more active muscle burns even more calories. The punch line here is we need workouts that optimize muscle recruitment, preferably with the whole body involved.

What To Do

Lift heavier or slower: Lifting heavier is not always a healthy option for most people. We can achieve the same or better training effect on muscle by using lighter weights but performing the lift phase more slowly.

Intervals: Mix up the cardio portion of your routines by throwing in some high-intensity intervals. Add in several faster bursts of 30 seconds or one minute. Not only will they help you burn more calories, they can also send your post-exercise fat burn rolling downhill.

Reduce rest periods: Another simple, yet highly effective, way to increase your afterburn rate is to reduce your rest intervals in between sets — where it makes sense. Shorter rest basically gives you less time for recovery, thus requiring more time after the workout — and more calories — to replenish the overall oxygen consumed during the workout.

Matt Hoskins is the founder of the Cheetahfit Training & Massage Center.