How Your Metabolism Works

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

Your body burns calories for energy like your car burns gas for energy.

You need calories to keep your heart pumping, you need calories to move from one place to the next, and you need calories to type at your desk.

To acquire calories, you have to eat.

Everyone wants a fast metabolism which means we burn a lot of calories. We all love to eat, even beyond our daily needs, and hence we want our metabolism to just burn those extra calories rather then store them (as fat).

If the goal is to lose weight, we need to burn more calories than we consume. 

There are three ways to burn calories:

Basal Metabolic Process

Basal metabolic processes: 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 burns calories to stay alive, hence the phrase, “muscle is an expensive tissue to maintain.”

Thermic Effect of Food

Thermic effect of food: It costs a bit of energy to digest food. Not a lot. Maybe at best, 10% of your daily intake.

Energy Expenditure

Energy expenditure from physical activity. These are the calories required to get you going. The more you move, the more you burn. The higher level of intensity of your movement the more you’ll burn. You will not lose much weight mowing the lawn or taking one flight of stairs every day. Even an hour of intense aerobic exercise might improve your daily calorie use by around 20%. 

That’s it.

How to Burn More Calories

The real way to burn calories is by increasing your muscle mass. That means consistent patterns of exercise (ideally including lifting weights) to build more lean muscle mass.

Let’s say you have a basal metabolic rate of 1,000 calories per day. You eat 1,500 calories per day (which is very low) and you do spin class for an hour. Let’s say your food choices are pretty solid.

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 want to boost your BMR. The ONLY way to do this is by building muscle.

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 while training will go up as well as the calories you burn to function.

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 … and the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn off. As we said earlier, muscle is an expensive tissue to maintain.

Creating a caloric deficit is the first step to losing fat. It’s not the only step. But if I were going to tell a person the first step to weight loss, I’d tell them to look into building muscle.

Want some help building muscle and improving your metabolism? Click the link below and let us help.

Inspiration provided by Chris Cooper at


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