We’ve all heard the phrase “fast metabolism” to describe someone who can quickly lose weight or keep it off. But what does it actually mean to have a fast or slow metabolism? Here’s how this body process affects weight loss and other aspects of health.

What Is Metabolism?
Metabolism is the process by which your body converts the food you eat into energy not only for exercise and movement, but also for breathing, blood circulation, hormone release, cell growth and repair, and other functions that happen at rest. People with a “fast” metabolism have a higher basal metabolic rate: the number of calories used to perform these functions. Simply put, the higher the metabolism, the more calories burned at rest.

What Affects Basal Metabolic Rate?
Metabolism is affected by a complex combination of factors, including body size and weight, percentages of muscle and fat, age, and gender. Because men tend to have more muscle than women, they also tend to have higher metabolisms. And as we age, muscle tends to decrease, which lowers metabolism. In some cases, a medical problem such as hypothyroidism, Cushing syndrome, adrenal fatigue, or gut issues can slow metabolism dramatically.

How Does Metabolism Affect Weight Loss?
While those with a higher metabolic rate do burn more calories, everyone gains weight when they consume more calories than they burn. Weight loss involves increasing physical exercise to burn more calories and/or consuming fewer calories. Building muscle can also raise your basal metabolic rate, increasing the calories you burn at rest.

While metabolism plays a role in weight loss, achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is a complex process affected by sleep, stress, diet composition, hormones, and genetic makeup. A physician who specializes in non-traditional wellness and weight loss can help you develop a diet and exercise plan that works with your metabolism and other lifestyle factors. Learn how our life coaching packages at Refresh Wellness can help provide you with the tools and motivation to make successful lifestyle adjustments.