What is metabolism?

It can be difficult to understand exactly what "metabolism" is, so let's look at some of the different components.

Resting metabolism

Even when you lie completely still, your body needs fuel to function. In simple terms, metabolism is the fuel your body burns to stay alive. This includes the countless processes going on inside your body that we don't even have to think about, such as breathing, blinking, and pumping blood. These functions combine to burn up a considerable amount of kilojoules.

Metabolic rate

While the basic survival functions are your resting metabolism, the rate of fuel used to carry them out is called your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR). Your RMR determines how quickly you burn off kilojoules.

Using a car engine as an example, if you are alive, your engine is running and you are burning fuel. If the engine idles fast, even while at rest, it burns more fuel. If you press the accelerator (physical activity), you burn fuel at an even higher rate.

The Metabolic afterburn

Depending on the nature of any physical activity, it can keep your metabolism ticking over faster afterwards (hence the "afterburn"). In essence, your body will continue to burn a higher rate of fuel, even after your workout is done.

So boosting your metabolism really means to elevate your metabolic rate, and increase the amount of fuel your body uses. There are a number of factors that may play a small role in your metabolic function, such as medication, caffeine, alcohol, temperature, illness, hormones, and diet (such as chillies)

4 ways to boost your metabolism

  • Get a good night's sleep

    Getting enough sleep is vitally important for healthy metabolic function. Nothing causes your metabolic rate to plummet more than sleep deprivation. You'll feel sluggish and tired, and unmotivated to prepare healthy food or perform physical activity.

    Aim to go to bed early, establish a pre-sleep ritual, avoid caffiene, alcohol and screen time before sleep, and ensure your room is cool, dark and well ventilated
  • Interval training

    The surest way to elevate your metabolic rate is to exercise, especially vigorous types of activity such as high intensity training. It's like pressing the accelerator to the floor in your car, which increases the amount of fuel that you burn.

    What's more, your metabolic rate stays elevated for some time afterwards, especially for intense workouts, or those of a longer duration
  • Resistance training

    While interval training gets your engine turning over quicker, resistance training gives you a bigger engine. Resistance training allows you to build muscle, or at the very least (and especially for women) prevent the loss of muscle from dieting, inactivity and ageing.

    Muscle is a metabolically active tissue, and uses a lot of fuel to be sustained. Strong muscles also help to power your activities, giving you energy and a greater capacity for an intense workout
  • Don’t sit still

    It may be surprising to know that fidgeting is very effective at keeping your metabolic fires burning. A small shift in the chair here, a hand gesture there, and before you know it, these small but continuous movements throughout the day help to burn up a lot of kilojoules.

    Other fidgeting movements include standing up often, stretching, maintaining good posture, toe tapping, and just an inability to remain still. Even small amounts of movement all add up