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 body 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 so-called “epigenetic factors” are the foremost influences that affect the rate at which you gain weight,” says Christoph.
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. You can do the following to get that “factory” working as a well-oiled machine again by taking note of these says Christoph: